What is my Yoga personality?

So, you are fully committed to practicing Yoga at home. You have your equipment, you have set aside time and carefully considered your goals and intentions. You have experimented with different teachers and different practices. You are beginning to feel the energetic and emotional benefits of Yoga in addition to the physical ones. Now, it is time to figure out what yoga practice is therapeutic for you and your needs. You may find it interesting to learn that the answer to this question is seldom the type of yoga you LIKE the most. When we begin to look at Yoga as a tool for health and well-being, we can rely on the guidance of Ayurveda, the “sister science” to Yoga. One of the key principles of Ayurveda is the idea that “like attracts like”. This means that a person will be attracted towards the very thing that has the greatest potential to create imbalance.

photo credit: Ekhartyoga.com

The first step towards this knowledge is to determine your pakriti, or baseline dosha. There are 3 doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each dosha is made up of 2 of the 5 universal elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. There are many online tests that will give you a good idea of what elements and qualities drive you. You can also spend a little time reviewing your “type” online and reviewing the strengths and the symptoms of imbalance expected for each dosha. Everyone has a little bit of each of the 3 which make up their basic nature. Most are predominantly a combination of 2 doshas (Pitta-Vata, for example) and some, rarely, are all 3, or Tri-doshic.

Vata is made of the elements of air and space. It is, therefore, light, dry, diffuse, cool and contains the energy of movement – motivated, quick, and agile.

Pitta is made up of fire and water. It is, therefore, hot, steady, sharp and contains the energy of transformation – digestion and assimilation.

Kapha is made up of water and earth. It is, therefore, wet, warm, stable, slow-to-move and it contains the energy of cohesion – bringing things (or people) together.

There is no set prescription of poses for each dosha, but rather an attitude towards practice that will acknowledge your tendencies and assist in bringing you into balance rather than accelerating you towards imbalance.

Vatas, for example, are creative, talkative and energetic when in balance. They may be drawn towards practices with a lot of pose changes and rapid movement, such as sun salutations and power vinyasa classes. However, when this is their primary practice, they are likely to become erratic, depleted of energy and less-focused. A balancing practice for Vatas should be slower, grounded and intentional. This includes, but is not limited to, restorative practices. They can still enjoy a vinyasa flow but may want to keep their eyes downward and focus on exhalations, and lower body strength. Their mantra for yoga is “Slow Down!”.

Pittas, at their best, are passionate and strong, quick to learn and love challenge and change. They are, however easily over-heated so a strong hot yoga practice may bring out their competitive, judgmental and reactive nature. A balancing practice for Pittas will include many seated and prone poses especially twists and forward folding. They can still enjoy strong standing or backbending poses, like Chair or Upward Bow with shorter “holds” or from a well-supported position. Their mantra for practice is “Chill Out!”

Many Kaphas love yoga because their bodies (and minds) are relaxed and content to rest and stretch in a pose as long as possible. They are also drawn to the community aspects of Yoga as well as the sensual smells and sounds often found in a yoga studio. However, Kaphas can be sedentary and heavy in mind and body. A light vinyasa practice with little to no “holds”or rests moving towards deep backbends and inversions (especially early in the morning) will help their warm and loving potential to shine all day long. For Kaphas, the mantra is “Keep it moving!”.

Because we, and everything around us, are all made up of all 5 elements, our imbalances are not always this straightforward. We tend to take on the qualities of the elements in our environment (including our clients, friends, food, climate, etc). In Ayurveda, we also rely on balancing gunas (or qualities). When you feel heavy and dull (qualities of Earth), you opt for a light and mobile practice. If you feel light-headed and diffuse (qualities of space and air) you try to move in a way which is grounded and focused. During the heat of the day or in the midst of summer, you avoid poses that easily burn you out and opt for more stable, cooling poses. There are 10 guna pairs (20 qualities) to guide our practice and lifestyle choices: Hot/Cold, Dense/Liquid, Soft/Hard, Stable/Mobile, Gross/Subtle, Smooth/Rough; Cloudy/Clear, Dull/Sharp, Oily/Dry, Heavy/Light.

One of the things I love best about following Ayurvedic guidance is that you are never doing the “wrong” or unhealthy thing. You are merely doing what you are naturally drawn towards. Knowing the qualities around why you “like” one season, pose, practice or food over another helps you to recognize when you need balance. In seeking improved health and well-being, you do not give up what you love; you simply add in some of the elements you need to keep your strengths supported and balanced.

VATA- Grounding Ourselves for the Winds of Change

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When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills”       ~Chinese Proverb

As my students entered the house today, each shivered a little and made a comment about the weather – the wind is gusting and there is a brisk coolness to the air.  Fall has arrived and with it a bluster of action readying ourselves for the close of the year – holiday festivities, school exams, vacations, and family visits.   It can all seem a bit dizzying sometimes.

In the ancient science of Ayurveda, Fall is the VATA time of the year.  VATA represents the elements of Air and Ether.  The wind is strong, the air is cool and dry and life is sooo… busy.  Are you the person who walls themselves in and waits until the winds have passed or do you ride the force of the winds for all they are worth? This depends on who you are and who you were born to be.  Those whose bodies, minds, and emotions are like the wind – flexible, quick,  open to change, always looking for options and on the move, may see this time of year as just another challenge to take head-on.  If this describes you, be mindful of the symptoms of VATA overload:  lack of focus, constipation or gas, numbness / tingling, sharp and inconsistent pain (especially in the lower back), difficulty falling asleep.

The good news is, according to Ayurveda, you can help you find your balance by simply adding in activities and foods which ground you so that you can harness the energy of the winds without getting blown away.  Stay warm and establish routines and rituals.  Do not overexert or overstimulate yourself.  Favor foods and smells that are sweet, heavy and warm.  Avoid raw or cold foods / beverages, erratic habits of eating and exercises, going to bed too late, watching TV or viewing a computer screen late into the evening.

Today we began working on balance and moving within your base of support rather than stiffening and holding on.  When we bring our awareness to what our reactions are to the things in life which throw us off balance a little, we come from a grounded and safe place.  Much like a young, healthy tree, we may sway, but we will not fall over or break.

If you would like to learn more about VATA and Ayurveda, check out this website or many others which are easily found online and consider scheduling a Ayurvedic Counseling Session here at the studio to determine what your dosha-type is, signs and symptoms of imbalance, and recommendations for a personalized, balanced lifestyle.

PITTA – Embracing and Balancing the Heat of Summer

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Sometimes it takes a meltdown to cool down.         ~Evinda Lepins

I’m hot, really hot.  Literally, I am actually HOT and wet, according to Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, I am a PITTA, which means my body, mind and emotions are guided by the elements of heat and water.   Continue reading PITTA – Embracing and Balancing the Heat of Summer