Choosing your yoga routine, whether it’s in a class situation or at home, is like choosing what to eat from a table full of many varieties of food. There are so many asana styles to choose from: vinyasa, astanga, Iyengar, hatha, hot, yin, gym, and more. Each with varying degrees of speed, flexibility and strength. In a class situation, you might find yourself attracted to one particular style of class over another. Of course sometimes we just love the teacher, or maybe our choice of class is based on whether it’s a good time for us. However when it comes to style, there are some considerations to take into account.
What ‘feels’ good is not necessarily what is best for me.
It’s a bit like food choices. Do we eat what is healthy and good for us or do we go delicious but junky. I’m pretty sure my 5 year old grandson would choose junk food over something healthy anytime of the day or night. What our senses tell us isn’t always our best choice in life.
When this is applied to yoga asanas, maybe we can take a step back from what ‘feels good’ and instead choose the style that will help us achieve optimal health.
Choosing what style is best for you.
When we take into account the ancient Ayurvedic system of health then we will understand the importance of choosing a class which will complement and enhance my constitution rather than exacerbate any unhealthy tendencies of the body and mind.
Ayurveda recognises 3 basic constitutions. Kapha, Pitta and Vata. Most people, it is said, are a mix of the three with one or two predominating.
Broadly speaking those with a dominance of kapha have good strong bodies with steady energy. However, if their kapha energy is out of balance they can tend to experience sluggishness, depression and weight gain. Although Kapha people may be attracted to very grounding, slower types of yoga, too much of this in their practice can lead to stagnancy and feelings of excess heaviness. To balance excess Kapha a student might be better to choose a more dynamic and/or challenging routine which favours chest opening poses, such as our Energy & Strength, Vinyasa Flow and Flow & Sadhana classes.
Those with a dominance of vata on the other hand tend to be lean and restless with varying energy. On the down side, a person with a vata imbalance can suffer from digestive issues, anxiety and problems of the nervous system. The vata person may be more attracted to fast paced classes but for their nervous system it would be much berter for them to choose a calm, steady restorative routine which favours forward bending poses, such as our Grounding Hatha and Stretch & Relax classes. It is recommended that they avoid asanas that are overly stimulating to the nervous system such as strong repetitions of Sun Salutations and long holds of poses which stress the joints like deep back bends and some inversions.
Those with a Pitta dominance tend to be strong and athletic with high energy. They are competitive and strong willed, but when their pitta is out of balance can be irritable, impatient and suffer inflammatory type conditions. Pitta people are attracted to strong fast paced classes and challenging poses. However, because they are highly competitive, they may tend to push themselves too hard which often leads to yoga injuries. Pitta people are best suited to a class which can have strong elements to it but also calming, cooling and nurturing and which favours side bending poses, such as our Vinyasa Flow, Flow & Sadhana and Grounding Hatha classes.
Knowing your constitution and choosing your routine accordingly can have a significant impact on keeping a balance in your mental and physical constitution.
However even if you don’t know what your constitution is you can make an intelligent choice of the kind of routine to do by stepping back and taking a moment to listen to your body. Ask yourself “How am I feeling right now?” and then you’ll know what’s best for you at this time. For example if you are feeling a lack in energy then it might be good for you to do a kapha balancing routine. However if your mind is scattered it would much better to do a vata balancing routine. For those who might be feeling a bit edgy probably the best thing would be a pitta balancing class.
View our full class timetable here and try a class to see how you feel 🙂
By Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and Principal of Veda Yoga Teacher Training