AyurYoga: Yoga For Your Body Type (Ayurvedic Yoga)
What is AyurYoga? AyurYoga or Ayurvedic yoga is a combination of yoga, meditation, and Ayurvedic wisdom. Ayurvedic Yoga applies therapeutic principles of Ayurveda to yoga asana.
It focuses on the unique individual and the five elements of nature.
What’s unique about AyurYoga is that it’s different for every individual depending on the individual’s physical and mental constitution or body type. Continue reading to learn all about the intersection of Ayurveda and yoga, and what that can do for your health.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article.
- What’s Ayurveda?
- Yoga And Ayurveda
- Yoga Therapy
- Yoga For Your Body Type
- How To Identify Your Body Type
- The Deeper Picture Of Yoga + Ayurveda
- Asana + Doshas
- Impact Of Asana On The Doshas
- The Ayurvedic Way To Perform Asana
- The Ayurvedic Energetics Of Health
Ayurveda is an ancient holistic medical science from the Indian subcontinent, still in vibrant practice today. Like Chinese medicine, it recognizes the five elements as promoters of health or disease.
Ayurveda refers to the wisdom or ‘knowledge of life.’Literally, the ‘Ayu’ in Ayurveda means life, and ‘veda’ refers to science or knowledge. Ayurveda is the knowledge of living life.1
Yoga is a connection or union. It is the union of the individual consciousness (atma) with the universal consciousness (paramatma) or higher soul.
It provides a deep connection to every aspect of life and consciousness. It keeps you young, healthy, energetic and relaxed in body and mind.
Yoga And Ayurveda: Sister Sciences?
AyurYoga is a modern or western concept. Yoga and Ayurveda are two related healing disciplines of India, sometimes called sister sciences. But each has its unique place and function, overlapping on various levels.
Dr. David Frawley (Acharya Vamadev Shashtri) explains that while yoga is the Vedic system of sadhana and the pursuit of self-realization, Ayurveda is the Vedic system of medicine, right living, and self-healing. The two naturally go together. Life should be a sadhana or practice of right living.
In Frawley’s book ‘Yoga For Your Type, An Ayurvedic Approach To Your Asana Practice’, he explains that Ayurveda is a more recent arrival on the Western scene than Yoga, which follows closely in its footsteps.
Up to fifteen years ago knowledge of Ayurveda was confined to a small number of people who knew the greater tradition behind Yoga. In the past few years though, along with the explosion of interest in alternative and complementary medicines, Ayurveda has gained growing recognition.
It has now emerged as one of the most important systems of mind-body medicine in the world.3
AyurYoga is not simply for treating the physical body but also for treating the mind, emotions, and psychological disorders in terms of asana or physical therapy. Ayurveda provides the therapeutic approach in regards to internal medicine or diet, herbs and therapies.
Modern-day yogis did not need to invent a greater yogic system of medicine. It already existed in the form of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda developed its view of the body and mind, nature and healing in part from the background of Yoga philosophy. Ayurveda is a complete mind-body system of medicine in terms of all aspects of diagnosis and treatment.
It reflects a Vedic and Yogic approach in values and wisdom and sophistication in medical practice.
Ayurveda offers a unique system of treatment based on lifestyle adjustments, individualized dietary programs, powerful herbal formulas, and a focus on personal growth in the form of Yoga and meditation.
Its a profound classification of mind-body types provides a clear assessment of an individual’s constitution and how to treat it holistically. This makes Ayurveda an ideal practice for disease prevention, promotion of longevity, and increasing our creative powers.
It is not simply limited to countering disease, though Ayurveda can do that quite well with special treatment plans for various health conditions.
Yoga For Your Body Type
Both Yoga and Ayurveda reflect the Vedic idea that one must live according to their unique nature and particular capacities.
According to Ayurveda, we all possess different individual constitutional types in mind and body. The requirements of one type in terms of food, exercise and lifestyle will be different from that of other types.
Yoga similarly should be done in harmony with one’s individual constitution both physically and psychologically. The type of asana and meditation good for one person may prove harmful to another. Just as you should eat right for your type, you should also exercise right for your type.
Yogasana regimens designed according to an individual’s needs and Ayurvedic constitution assist the individual in achieving homeostasis in body and mind. In this regard, asana practice can be employed on three different levels.
- Asana as exercise—as part of healthy living
- Asana as therapy—to treat specific diseases or dysfunctions of body and mind
- Asana as self-development—for self-knowledge and growth
Traditionally in the Indian system of healthcare, Yoga has been taught using the terminology of Ayurveda, particularly for explaining the physical impact and health benefits of various asanas.
Similarly, Ayurveda uses the language of Yoga and its understanding of the mind and the subtle body for the psychological dimensions of its healing practices.
How To Identify Your Body Type
Through AyurYoga, you practiceYoga for your mind-body type. But first, you must be able to determine what your type really is.
There are two levels of yogic classification.
The first, and more important is defined by the three gunas of sattva, rajas,and tamas. The gunas present a mental-emotional model to help determine your capacity for yogic practices.
The second classification is more important in terms of health issues. The body type or three doshas reflect a psychophysical model to help you balance the conditions of your body-mind complex. Both models are essential for a proper estimation of your nature and its inherent abilities.
The Deeper Picture Of Yoga + Ayurveda
Today people looking into the therapeutic aspect of Yoga are inherently drawn to Ayurveda because of the historical affinity between the two systems. As the healing aspect of Yoga continues to develop, its Ayurvedic connections unfold, resulting in a new encounter between the two disciplines. Each is revitalizing the other.
Yoga today has developed modern approaches through various forms of bodywork, physical therapy and psychology, arising primarily from its encounter with modern medicine.
Still, more and more people are finding interest in its traditional roots and considering how the two together fit into a greater picture of healing potential.
Ayurveda shares this Yoga theory. It views the body as a manifestation of the doshas, which are not merely physical but also pranic and psychological energies—factors of consciousness.
We cannot look into the doshic impact of asana purely on a physical level but must consider their psychological effects as well.
A Yoga asana is not merely a static, physical pose but channels of energy or life force which in turn are manifestations of consciousness. The energy and attention put into the pose are as important as the pose itself.
You can see this in ordinary life. How you feel on a psychological level determines how you move on a physical level. Long-term patterns of feeling and energy determine the form and rhythm of the body.
Asana + Doshas
Each asana has a particular effect that is defined relative to the three doshas.
This is the same principle as to how Ayurveda classifies foods according to their doshic effects. They are either good or bad for all three doshas, depending upon the food’s taste and the elements that compose each food.
In the same way, you can look upon different asanas according to their structural ability to increase or decrease the doshas. However, this doshic equation of asanas should not be taken rigidly. The pranic effect of an asana can outweigh its structural effect, as previously noted.
The form of the asana is not its main factor. Through the use of the breath (Prana), you can modify or even change the doshic effects of the asana. Remember the importance of thought and intention in asana practice as well.
Considering the asana, prana and the mind, you can alter a particular asana or adjust the entire practice toward a particular doshic result. Through combining specific asanas, pranayama and meditation a complete internal balance can be created and sustained.3
Doshic application of asanas is two-fold. Dosha knowledge can be utilized according to the constitution of the individual as defined by their doshic type as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The intermixtures of the doshas can also be utilized relative to the impact the asana has on the doshas as general physiological functions.
Each dosha has its sites and actions in the body that asanas will effect depending upon their orientation.
Impact Of Asana On The Doshas
Each doshic type has its own particular structure and energetics that extend to asana practice. Asana practice must consider the dosha of the person to be really effective.
Vata energy is impulsive and erratic, like the wind that blows hard but not for long. If you oppose this energy, it will flee or break. Vata must be gently restrained and supported, grounded and stabilized. It should be harmonized and given continuity in a consistent and determined manner.
Pitta energy is focused and penetrating and can cut and harm. It must be gently relaxed and diffused. It is like a high beam that hurts the eyes and is narrow in its field of illumination but, when expanded, can be a truly enlightening force.
Kapha energy is resistant and complacent. It must be moved and stimulated by degrees, like ice that must be slowly melted until it can flow smoothly. You must consistently energize and stimulate Kapha types to further action. Let’s now look at the best way to perform yoga asana.
The Ayurvedic Way To Perform Yoga Asana
Ayurveda does not look upon asanas as fixed forms that by themselves either decrease or increase the doshas. It views them as a method of practice that can be used to help balance the doshas if used correctly. The same is true of the Ayurvedic view of food.
While individual food items have their specific effects to increase or decrease the doshas, many factors influence its outcome. How it is prepared, how it is antidoted with spices, how it’s combined, or how it is cooked to blend food qualities into a harmonious whole, is as significant as the particular foods themselves.
While Ayurveda says that foods of certain tastes are more likely to increase or decrease specific doshas, it also says that we need some amount of all six tastes. So too, we need to do all the major types of asanas to some degree. Degree and exertion should vary though with the doshic type.
Each person requires a full range of exercise that deals with the full range of motion in the body. Your overall practicing asana should be like a meal. A meal should contain some quantity of all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent) and some amount of all nutrient types required for the body (starches, sugars, proteins, oils, vitamins, and minerals). But that meal should be adjusted to the needs of the individual constitution.
So too, the practice should contain all the main types of asana necessary for exercising and relaxing the entire body. It can then be adjusted to the individual constitutional factors. Practice should include sitting, standing and prone postures as well as expansion, contraction, ascending and descending movements. But they should be done in a manner and sequence that keeps the individual in balance and considers your individual structural, energetic and mental conditions.3
The Ayurvedic Energetics Of Health
Whether it is diet, exercise or even meditation, the question is, ‘What is the right practice for you individually?’ Because both Yoga and Ayurveda believe every individual is unique, how can you address your real needs on a daily basis?
Food that is good for one person, even if wholesome, may not be good for another. Herbs and exercise also require an individualized pattern and cannot work the same for all body types. Even meditation, to be really effective, requires some individual adjustment.
Each individual has different physical, mental and spiritual capacities and potentials that require the appropriate personal orientation to develop. You need to know what will work for you. What is your type and what kind of Yoga should you follow for it? Particularly, which asanas or Yoga postures are best for individual body types?
Various mind and body type classifications have been described that you might consider for this purpose.
In this regard, remember that Yoga and Ayurveda contain their own profound system of typology that has been proven through thousands of years of experience.
Yoga and Ayurveda demonstrate your mind-body types according to the energies and elements that predominate within you—the three doshas of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and the three gunas (mental qualities) of sattva, rajas,and tamas.
For optimal health, an individual diagnosis and treatment plan that addresses your specific needs is required.
This is the importance of Ayurveda, which rests on a precise constitutional model of wellbeing. It prescribes individualized treatment plans and lifestyle regimens that encompass all aspects of one’s life.
Through Ayurveda, you can gain a proper understanding of your unique nature so that your Yoga practice is relevant to who you really are and to your particular condition at the time of practice.
Yoga and Ayurveda teach that there is a powerful healing force of prana within each of us. It is also connected to the healing force of nature.
You can heal yourself if you learn the secrets of prana and the breath. Ayurveda teaches these five forms of prana and how to work with them for optimal well-being and to connect with the higher powers of awareness.4
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1. Charaka Samhita, Vol 1, Sutra sthana, Chaukhamba Publications, New Delhi.
2. Yoga sutras 1.2
3. David Frawley and Sandra Summerfield Kozac, ‘Yoga For Your Type, An Ayurvedic Approach To Your Asana Practice’.
4. David Frawley, International Yoga Day 2018, Yoga, and Ayurveda for Humanity, American Institute of Vedic studies.