As a yoga therapist, I use a few different models when assessing my clients’ needs and designing their yoga practices to help with their health issues. One of these models is the concept of doshas, which are energies found throughout the bodymind.
Each of us have these three doshas energies: specifically vata, pitta, and kapha. And when things are going well, they are balanced. In fact, the play of these energies produces our natural constitutions. Often, one or two of these doshas will rise to the top and help produce our personalities. Vata for example, can often be the main energy of creative types. Pitta is often associated with type-a personalities. And kapha can be found more in those grounded, dependable people in your life.
However, when those energies become imbalanced, we start to see problems that often manifest in health issues. My job as a yoga therapist is to evaluate these imbalances and teach my clients practical techniques to balance their doshas. In this post, and my two subsequent posts, I’ll map out how we use movement and breath to balance each dosha and what kinds of conditions might benefit from these practices.
Vata energy’s home is in the pelvis, the root of the body, and the element we associate with vata is air. When imbalanced, this energy often rises up and out of the pelvis, causing conditions like anxiety, vertigo, problems with digestion, arthritis, and various issues surrounding the pelvic area.
Air is easily moved, so almost everyone experiences vata imbalances day-to-day. So even if you don’t suffer from a health problem, learning to balance vata can be really helpful, even if just to restore concentration and decrease normal stress.
From a movement perspective, to balance vata, a practice should include:
- Easy postures or exercises
- Syncing movement with breath
- Basic balancing postures to fully “ground” energy
From a pranic (energy) body or breath perspective, a practice should include:
- Ujjayi (inhale and exhale (longer) through the nose)
- Deergha Swasam (Complete Breaths)
- Nadi Suddhi (Alternate Nostril)
You might imagine how these easy, breath-centered practices can be beneficial to those suffering from anxiety or vertigo by helping the practitioner tap into the rest and digest side of their nervous systems. Easy movements of muscles and joints can help move “trapped” vata energy in the joints of those with arthritis. In addition to the breathing techniques above, I’ll often teach those suffering with pelvic floor issues about mula bandha (root lock). Bandhas are way of manipulating energy in specific parts of the body.
If you suffer from some of the issues I’ve listed above, you might benefit from learning these practices in order to balance your energy. Meeting with a yoga therapist can give you insight into you own doshic makeup and give you tools to restore your health.
Joe Simek is a Certified Yoga Therapist, 500-Hour Level Yoga Teacher, and Co-owner of Dragonfly Yoga Studio. Joe has been practicing yoga for more than a decade, using the wisdom of the teachings to lose weight, get sober, and abandon the corporate grind. In 2012, he formalized his yoga education, completing Dragonfly’s 200 HR Yoga Teacher Training. Joe went on to study Yoga Therapy and Peaceful Weight Loss Through Yoga with Brandt Passalacqua of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy (where he is now a Teaching Assistant) and Advanced Vinyasa Yoga with Rolf Gates. In 2016, Joe co-founded The Fiaria Project, a non-profit organization that aids foster children. He is also the frontman of Destroy It Up, an indie rock music project inspired by yoga philosophy. Joe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Arizona State University.