How Pranayama and Ayurveda can be used to balance each dosha in the body and mind. Here are some of the most recommended Pranayama practices (Breath Practices) that best suits your Ayurvedic dosha.
You can start by practicing one or two simple pranayama techniques at a time and gradually add a combination of more challenging techniques. This increases according to the individual needs and strength of a pranayama practice.
Pranayama and Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, each person has a unique constitution or nature, which is determined by the balance of these three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The functional principles of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha perform specific functions in the body. Each of these doshas represents different combinations of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and sky) and helps us understand the universe by acting as energetic forces in the body.
To maintain good health, Pranayama and Ayurveda suggests that individuals should strive to keep their doshas in balance. This can be achieved by adapting one’s diet, herbal, and lifestyle choices.
Choosing a breathing technique (Pranayama) option can help restore balance and embody the opposing qualities of a particular dosha.
Pranayama is a vital component of yoga and Ayurveda. It involves conscious control and regulation of the breath to balance one’s body type (dosha). There are many pranayama practices to awaken the mind, energy is cultivated and maintains balance.
Below, we explore which pranayama or breathing exercises restore balance to doshas.
Pranayama for Vata Dosha
Vata dosha is made up of two elements “air” and “sky”. Vata or Vayu dosha is considered to be the most important among the three doshas. Any process related to movement in our body is possible only due to Vata.
According to Ayurveda, Vayu empowers the digestive fire, manages all the senses and is the center of enthusiasm.
One characteristic of Vata is that it takes different forms when combined with the other two doshas. By combining with Pitta dosha, Vata acquires the properties of heat and by combining with Kapha, Vata acquires the qualities of coolness and wetness.
Apart from this, excess Vata in the human body also affects the nature. Symptoms of unbalanced Vayu or Vata dosha may vary depending on the individual and the severity of the imbalance. Some common symptoms of unbalanced Vata dosha include:
- insomnia and difficulty sleeping
- dry skin and hair
- constipation and digestive problems
- joint pain and stiffness
- fatigue and weakness
- irregular menstruation in women
For Vata dosha, pranayama is generally very beneficial for achieving balance as it involves various breathing techniques.
To balance excess Vata, choose pranayama techniques that are grounding, calming, and warming. Deep, slow, and rhythmic breaths, such as diaphragmatic breathing (also known as abdominal or belly breathing) and Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), can be beneficial.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayam (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
For Nadi Shodhana Pranayam, first of all sit on the yoga mat in Sukhasana posture, then place the first two fingers of the right hand in the middle of the forehead.
Now close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril, then close the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale through the right nostril.
During this, close both your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Leave pranayam after some time.
Bhramari Pranayam (Bee Breath)
For Bhramari Pranayam, sit in Padmasana. Now bend both your hands at the elbows and bring them near your ears and close both your ears with your thumbs, then place the index fingers of your hands on the forehead and the middle, ring and pinky fingers over the closed eyes.
After this, close the mouth and chant Om while breathing through the nose. After a few minutes, slowly open your eyes and release the pranayama.
Ujjayi Pranayam (Victorious Breath)
For Ujjayi Pranayam, first of all sit in Padmasana position on the yoga mat and touch your tongue with the upper palate and turn it towards the inside of the mouth.
After this, close both your eyes and breathe normally while making sounds from the throat, then slowly deepen the breath. After doing this for 10-20 minutes, slowly open both your eyes and become normal.
Pranayama for Pitta Dosha
Pitta dosha is made up of two elements ‘fire’ and ‘water’. It controls the hormones and enzymes produced in our body. Functions like digestion, body temperature, metabolism, and digestive fire are controlled by Pitta dosha. Pitta dosha is mainly found in the stomach and small intestine of the body.
When Pitta dosha becomes imbalanced, symptoms like swelling, fever, hyperacidity, skin rashes and anger can occur. Due to Pitta Dosha, there is a decrease in enthusiasm and phlegm starts accumulating in the heart and lungs.
There are some truly extraordinary breathing practices in yoga that are sure to reduce heat in the body. The best decisions are Sitkari, Sheetali and Chandra Bhedana Pranayam. These breathing methods are overall exceptionally cool and thus exceptional for reducing pitta dosha imbalance.
Sheetali Pranayama (Cooling Breath)
First of all, relax and sit comfortably in Padmasana (lotus pose), Shukhasana (easy pose), or Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) with a straight back.
Now open your mouth and bring out your tongue. Roll the tongue like a tube. Make “O” with your tongue.
Take a deep breath and let the cool air fill your lungs through your mouth and throat. Close your mouth and exhale the hot air slowly through your nose.During this time you will feel cold on your mouth, tongue and throat.
Repeat this pranayam for 5 minutes.
Chandra Bhedana (Moon-Piercing Breath)
Moon is a symbol of coolness, hence by doing this pranayama one experiences coolness in the body. It helps in keeping the body cool. In this, breath is taken through the left nostril and exhaled through the right nostril.
Start by sitting in asana. Use your right thumb to close the right nostril. Breathe in slowly and deeply from the left nostril, until your lungs are filled to the maximum with air. Hold the breath for some time or as per your capacity. Exhale slowly, through the right nostril (exhalation should be longer than inhalation). Repeat this process about 10 times.
Pranayama for Khapa Dosha
Kapha dosha is made up of two elements, ‘earth’ and ‘water’. Kapha dosha has stability and heaviness due to ‘Prithvi’ and cold, dampness, and greasy qualities due to ‘Water’. This dosha is helpful in increasing the strength and immunity of the body. The main places of Kapha dosha in the body are the stomach and chest.
To balance excess Kapha, choose pranayama practices that are invigorating, warming, drying, and stimulating. Bhastrika (bellows breath) and Kapalabhati (skull-shining breath) are energizing techniques that can help alleviate Kapha imbalances.
Bhastrika (bellows breath)
Sit with a straight back. Take a deep breath in through both nostrils while closing your mouth, then exhale through both nostrils with equal force and length while contracting your abdomen. Keep in mind that the speed of exhalation should be so fast that the lungs should contract with the jerk.
After practicing bellows breath take a short break for a few minutes, before starting another round.
Kapalabhati (skull-shining breath)
Sit comfortably, keeping your spine straight. Place your hands on your knees in a posture of your choice – preferably Gyan Mudra.
Take a deep breath through your nose and feel your belly expand. Squeeze your abdominal muscles while exhaling forcefully through the nostrils. You can feel the contraction of the abdominal muscles by placing your hand on your stomach. Pull the navel inwards. As soon as you relax the abdominal muscles, the breath automatically reaches your lungs. Take 20 exhales to complete one round of Kapalbhati Pranayama.
After a round is over, rest and close your eyes.
The concept of using pranayama in accordance with one’s dosha is based on the idea that different breathing techniques can have specific effects on the doshas, and by chossing the right pranayama practices, you can help restore balance to an imbalanced dosha.
These breath practices may require the advice and guidance of an Ayurvedic Vaidya or yoga teacher to tailoring your dosha balance.
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