One of the amazing and beautiful things about yoga, in my opinion, is that it changes. It's a practice that expands and contracts to support where we are in our lives, and even where we are in the moment.
And as a powerful tool for health and healing, this means that our yoga practice provides near infinite opportunities and options for creating balance.
“Move a muscle...change a feeling” is a gorgeous saying that I often share with my yoga students that highlights the potential of yoga to shift our energy and transform our experience of living. It also dovetails perfectly with the Ayurvedic principle of creating health and happiness by balancing the three biological energies (or doshas) of vata, pitta, and kapha in the mind, body and spirit.
A Yogic Prescription for Balance
As a practitioner of both yoga and Ayurveda, I always look to combine the two every time I step on my mat, using the healing principles of Ayurveda to inform my movement and mindset. On a good day, I walk away feeling blissed out and unbelievably connected to self, but every practice leaves me transformed.
Before stepping on my mat I always take a moment to tune in: what's sore, what's tight, where am I holding tension? What could use strengthening and what needs release? What are my mental and emotional challenges?
Tuning into myself in this way informs my choices on the mat and off, from poses to breath to intention, so that no matter where I start from, my practice of yoga (and Ayurveda) brings me back to recognizing and feeling like my true self again, and again.
So here's how to practice in situations when you need to:
1. Come Back Down To Earth
If you're feeling... Anxious, disconnected, restless or delicate, joint or muscle stiffness, or variable energy, you'll want a practice that calms vata energy.
A strong, calm and consistent practice will help to counter the variable and moving energy of vata. Keep the movement efficient (a little slower and more deliberate), focused and steady, using deep calming breaths to stay grounded.
The best yoga for calming vata: Standing and seated forward bends, Tadasana (Mountain pose), Utkatasana (chair pose), Headstand, Savasana.
2. Extinguish the Flames
If you're feeling...Irritated, angry, tense or critical, physically hot, inflamed or acidic, you'll want to soothe your pitta energy.
A calm, cool and opening practice will help to counter the hot and intense energy of pitta. Approaching your practice with a mindset of surrender and acceptance will help to release heat in the body and the mind. As you practice, let go of any tendencies toward criticism or judgement – especially of yourself.
The best yoga for calming pitta: Forward bends, seated poses, restorative, and yin yoga, cooling breath with a focus on expanding the exhale.
3. Get Unstuck
If you're feeling... Lethargic, depressed, stubborn or possessive, physically heavy, congested, or overweight, you'll want a practice that reduces kapha energy.
An energetic and stimulating practice will help to counter the heavy, cold, dullness of kapha in your mind and body. Approach every aspect of the practice with lightness and enthusiasm, and keep the body and breath warm and moving.
The best yoga for calming kapha: Standing, balancing, inversions, and backbends, Vinyasa flow, warm or hot styles.
3 Things To Remember
- Energy is everything.
The energy that we bring to the mat defines our practice. This means that we can access balance through any pose or practice if we can maintain an awareness of the energy that we're creating and shifting.
- Feel your way into balance
Knowing where you need to go in your yoga practice and how to get there eventually becomes second nature if you take the time to feel your way from imbalance to balance. At the end of every class, I ask my students to take a moment and feel the effects of their time spent on the mat.
It's an invitation to notice the way the practice has transformed them (during the preceding hour or so), but more importantly it's a way of tuning them into their own power and potential for self-healing.
Oh and whatever you do, however you do it...be sure to find or create joy in your yoga, because enjoyment keeps us present, and it keeps us coming back!
In what situations do you turn to your yoga practice for help? How do you use your yoga on or off the mat to create or feel balance?