February 16, 2018 9 min read
For me, starting Bright Body was an extension of my shift toward more natural living and taking better care of myself. I had shifted my eating habits to include mostly organic ingredients, minimal processed sugars, and more fresh fruits and vegetables, but I became even more focused on how I was living when I took my yoga teacher trainings and decided to leave a stifling and stagnant corporate culture. For me, healthy living wasn’t just about “clean eating” or natural products, but it was also about cutting out toxic people, environments, and ideas can have a profound and insidious effect on our health. Now that I’ve pruned out most of the bullshit, I’ve been on a mission to build and maintain healthier habits for ALL levels of my health and wellbeing.
Exercise is one of those things that we focus on for healthy living, and for good reason. In addition to all of the physical benefits of a strong and flexible body, regular exercise has shown to be a significant protective factor against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease in old age. Before my late teens, I was not a regular exerciser. I hated gym class because sports weren’t my thing and I was the scrawny kid who always got picked last. In the second half of college, my only form of exercise was yoga. When I first started practicing, I became addicted to sweaty and challenging vinyasa practices. But I quickly learned that this just isn’t sustainable, reasonable, or healthy, especially for a naturally Type A person like me. In graduate school I started practicing a mix of vinyasa, classic hatha, and restoratives. Now, I’ve added other modalities like body weight exercises, walking, and weight lifting to my routine.
Since completing my Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor certification last year, I realized that my shift in exercise preferences has, subconsciously, been in alignment with my dosha (I’m Vata-Pitta, if you’re curious). And I feel more grounded and well-rounded because of it. In the US, we get so attached to the idea of sweating as much as possible (don’t even get me started on hot yoga or bikram). We think that the sweatier we are and the sorer we are the next day, the better the workout. But realistically, that is not healthy or sustainable, both practically and Ayurvedically.
For today’s blog I want to focus on how to exercise in accordance with your dosha. When you have some time to reflect and give these recommendations a shot, you’ll realize that it’s actually quite intuitive.
First and foremost, if you don’t already know your dosha, check out Banyan Botanical’s online quiz here. There’s no substitute for having your dosha evaluated by an Ayurvedic practitioner but this will definitely get you started!
In order to help you make sense of these results, I want to briefly go over each of the gunas (or qualities) that correspond to each dosha. Here’s a handy dandy table:
Ether & Air
Fire & Water
Water & Earth
In Ayurveda, your primary dosha is the one that most easily goes out of balance, and it is also the easiest to balance. Your secondary dosha is less likely to go out of balance, and more challenging to get in balance (and the same follows for your tertiary, or least dominant, dosha).
The main guiding principle for all things Ayurveda is that like increases like, and opposites balance. That means, if you are a Vata person and you eat a lot of light, dry, raw foods, you are increasing your Vata dosha. Conversely, if you eat heavier, oiled, and warm foods, you are helping to balance your Vata dosha. This principle applies to ALL life experiences, not just food. That means that you can use the like increases like and opposites balance principle with respect to your workout and/or yoga routines. Let’s get into it.
Exercise Tips to Reduce Vata Dosha (appropriate for those with a Vata imbalance AND those who are healthy and exercising in fall/early winter)
Exercising in accordance with this guidance will help relieve muscle stiffness, anxiety, and tension common with vata imbalance. It will also help rid the body of excess gas and remove energetic blocks in the body.
Recommended exercise modalities include: weight lifting, slow-moving yoga, tai chi, long walks, hikes in nature, mild biking, dance, skating, mild rowing
Contraindicated exercise modalities include: running, jogging, and any extended cardio, fast-moving vinyasa yoga, HIIT
Exercise Tips to Reduce Pitta Dosha(appropriate for those with a Pitta imbalance AND those who are healthy and exercising in summer)
Exercising in accordance with these guidelines will help relieve tension, intensity, heat, and irritability common with pitta imbalance. It will also help you shed excess fire (e.g. stress, acidity) in the body.
Recommended exercise modalities include: swimming, water sports, moderate biking, yoga, tai chi, long walks on the beach, hikes in nature, winter sports
Contraindicated exercise modalities include: hot yoga of any kind, overly competitive exercise, any kind of exercise to the point of “burn out”, any outdoor exercise in the heat
Exercise Tips for Kapha Dosha(appropriate for those with a Kapha imbalance AND those who are healthy and exercising during late winter/spring)
Exercising in accordance with these guidelines will help relieve congestion and stagnation common with Kapha imbalance, especially with regard to excess mucus in the chest and stomach. Kapha-balancing exercises will also work to combat depression and lethargy.
Recommended exercise modalities include: aerobic and endurance exercise like jogging, running, biking, and jumping rope
Contraindicated exercise modalities include: anything too slow-moving or static
Until next time,
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