Yoga For Your Body Type, Today's Therapist - May/June 2005
By Dr Deepa Apté
Whether it is food, lifestyle or exercise, the first question is - what is the correct practice for each individual? People have started realizing that each individual is unique hence the attention needed by each one is very different from the others. The diet which is appropriate for one individual, however complete and wholesome, may not be good for another. Herbs, lifestyle and even exercise need individualized attention. Every person has different physical, mental and even spiritual capabilities and capacities that require specialized attention. One needs to know what works for each of us, what our body type is and what kind of Yoga we should practice.
Ayurveda has described three main body types or Doshas: Vata (air & space), Pitta (fire & water) and Kapha (water & earth).
Body types or Doshas:
People with a dominant Vata Dosha are very creative, imaginative and spontaneous. On the other hand they can also get quite restless due to the principle of movement. Physically they are thin, lean, sometimes may have dry skin and scanty hair. They like warmth and try to avoid cold and dry temperatures. Appetite is quite irregular to an extent where they may even forget to eat food. Although very friendly by nature, they can sometimes get quite jealous and possessive. Their hobbies are art, music, reading, travelling and anything that sets their mind on the imagination trip. All artists are generally Vata dominant.
Persons with Pitta as the dominant Dosha are authoritative, determined, focussed in life. On the other hand they can also get quite angry, demanding and irritated at the smallest mistake. This is due to the dominant element of fire in their constitution. Physically they are moderate built, with warm and soft skin. They generally prefer a cool atmosphere and get sun burnt when under the sun for a long time. Their appetite and thirst are strong and tend to eat several small meals through out the day. Their hobbies are quite intellectual which also include chess. They generally like all kinds of sports which include both indoor and outdoor games. All leaders and people at managerial posts are Pitta dominant.
Kapha dominant people are very friendly, social, and easy to be with. But at the same time they can get quite lazy and have a tendency to postpone things to the last minute. This is due to the dominant elements of earth and water which have a stable and cool property. Physically they are well built and have a tendency towards gaining weight. Their skin is generally soft, cold and moist. They like warm weather and avoid cold, wet and rainy situations. Appetite is quite stable and they eat at regular fixed times irrespective of them being hungry or not. Their hobbies are also very easy and they like watching television or any activity which does not require a lot of mental and physical activity. They how ever like water sports a lot.
Ayurveda says one should to live his or her life according to the body constitution, be it diet, lifestyle or exercises. Hence even herbs, massages and Yoga advised for each body type is unique.
Yoga for your body type:
- People with a dominant Vata Dosha are restless and prefer a lot of activity. They generally suffer from stiffness, joint ailments and are prone to injury. Such people require a very gentle way of practising Yoga.
- Do not start your Yoga session immediately. Spend some time relaxing and concentrating on your breath before each session.
- Perform all Asanas (positions) very slowly avoiding forceful, abrupt movements.
- Coordinate each movement with your breathing and perform relaxing deep breathing exercises while in a certain position.
- Give your self enough time to relax between two Asanas. Do not quickly move to the next position.
- Make sure you spend a long time performing the corpse position (relaxation position) at the end of each Yoga session.
- Keep yourself warm while performing the positions.
Pitta dominating people tend to be overheated and irritable in times of stress but are at the same time very disciplined and focussed. They generally need cooling and refreshing yoga exercises.
- Start your Yoga session with a short period of relaxation with an aim of cooling down your body.
- Asanas can be performed with moderate speed keeping in mind not to tire the body.
- Your main aim is to remove heat and tension from the body, hence relaxing yet cooling Asanas are to be performed.
- As Pitta dominant people tend to sweat a lot, they should keep the surrounding cool and airy while exercising.
- Breathing exercises that cool down the body e.g. Shitali Pranayama are performed while spending time in a position.
Persons having a dominant Kapha Dosha are generally quite relaxed and laid back in life. Such people are prone to overweight and may suffer from reduced metabolic activities. They must perform stimulating and energizing Yoga Asanas.
- You do not require to time in relaxing before a Yoga session. You can directly start practising your exercises.
- Positions can be performed with an increased speed bearing in mind not to strain the muscles.
- Producing heat and warmth in the body should be your main aim leading to increased metabolic activity. Warming breathing exercises help to produce heat in the body.
- You can directly move to the next Asana without spending time in relaxation between positions.
- Keep yourself warm during each session.
Some Yoga positions helpful for Vata body type:
- Sun salutations: 8-10 rounds
- Head stand
- Shoulder stand
- Plough position
- Tortoise position
- Half Spinal Twist
- Corpse position
- Breathing exercises: breath of fire, alternate nostril breathing
Some Yoga positions helpful for Pitta body type:
- Sun salutations: 6-8 rounds
- Moon salutations
- Cobra position
- Half spinal twist
- Hero pose
- Forward bend
- Tortoise pose
- Breathing exercises: Shitali (cooling breath exercise), alternate nostril breathing
Some Yoga positions helpful for Kapha body type:
- Sun salutations: 10-12 rounds
- Warrior pose
- Half moon position
- Bow position
- Half spinal twist
- Breathing exercises: Breath of fire, Cleansing breath exercise