Ayurvedic Effects of Asana Practices
Each Asanas has a particular effect defined relative to the three dosas. This is the same as how Ayurveda classifies foods according to their dosas effects as good or bad for Vata, Pitta and Kapha, depending upon the tastes and the elements that compose each food article. We can look upon different Asana s according to their structural ability to increase or decrease the dosas.
However, this doñas equation of Asana s should not be taken rigidly because the pränic effect of a Asana can outweigh its structural affect as we just noted. The form of the Asana is not its main factor. Through the use of the breath we can modify or even change the doSas effects of the Asana. We must remember the importance of thought and intention in Asana practise as well. Considering the Asana, Prana and the mind, we can alter a particular asana or adjust the entire practise toward a particular dosas result. Through combining specific asanas, präëäyama and meditation a complete internal balance can be created and sustained.
Dosas application of asanas is twofold.
- According to the constitution of the individual defined by their dosas type as Vata, Pitta and Kapha and their intermixtures.
- Relative to the impact of asanas on the doñas as general physiological functions. Each dosas has its sites and actions in the body that asana will effect depending upon their orientation.
An asana may not be good for a particular doñas type; it doesn’t mean that they should never do it. It means they should practise the asana in a way, which guards against any potential imbalances. Take, for example, backbends. The forceful or quickly done full backbends can cause major Vata aggravation, with severe strain to the nervous system perhaps more so than any other asana. However, gentle partial backbends are great for reducing Vata that accumulates in the upper back and shoulders. Each asanas family like standing poses, forward bends, or inverted postures has general benefits for the body as a whole and its overall movement potential. Each asana family exercises certain muscles and organs that, as part of our entire bodily structure, should not be neglected. To counter any tendencies toward imbalance, you should select poses within each asana family that are better for your body type than others within the same group. In general, you should make sure that all the main muscle groups in the body are represented in your practise at least several days each week. Similarly, that if a particular asana is good for a particular dosas doesn’t mean that all persons of that doñas type should do it. It means that the asanas can be good for them if done in the right way and if they are physically capable of it. Each asanas also has its degree of difficulty that may require certain warm up or preparatory postures to approach it safely. For example, the right preparation for a headstand creates the arm and shoulder musculature needed to sustain a good and safe head balance. Because a headstand is good for your doñas type doesn’t mean that you should simply jump into the posture or can it without possible side-effects. In addition, the effects of different asanas vary according to the sequence in which they are done. This means that asanas practise should always be viewed as a whole—not merely in terms of the single asana s that compose it but in terms of the flow and the relationship between all the particular asanas done. Asanas practise —meaning the sequence and manner of doing Asanas as well as the specific—should Asanas be designed to keep the doñas in balance relative to the individual’s constitution and condition. It is helpful to view Asanas sequence like an herbal formula. An ayurvedic herbal formula contains a number of herbs used for various purposes that contribute to the overall effect of the formula, fulfilling specific roles. The overall doñas effect of the formula is determined by the formula as a whole, not by any single herb within it viewed in isolation. Combining these ayurvedic considerations with the general factors listed above, to effectively prescribe Asanas teachers must learn
- Assess the ayurvedic type and imbalances of the person.
- Assess the structural condition of the person, including their posture, age and physical condition.
- Assess their präëic condition, their control of the breath and senses, along,
with their vitality and enthusiasm.
- Assess the mental state of the person, their attention, will and motivation,
as well as their emotional condition.
The same Asanas should be done differently relative to whether the person is Vata, Pitta or Kapha. The same asanas should be done differently depending upon the age, sex and physical condition of the person. It should vary depending upon the whether the person has a strong or weak vitality. Additional variations will occur if a person is suffering from anger, grief, stress or depression.
This reflects four primary goals for an ayurvedic asanas practise.
- To balance the dosas
- To improve the structural condition of the body
- To facilitate the movement and development of prana
- To calm and energize the mind.