As pitta dosha is a combination of fire and water it is responsible for transformation. Metabolism is our transformative system, so if you know that you are predominantly a pitta type, or if you are suffering from an excess of pitta fire you may actually need to slow your metabolic rate down. Pittas often have warm hands and feet and sweat easily and a pitta-centered yoga routine is therefore heating, challenging and very focused. You may need this if you are depleted in regard to pitta, or you may need the opposite if you have an excess of pitta.
Let us assume that you are predominantly pitta dosha and that you feel the need to balance the fire with a cooling, less challenging routine. If you are a teacher you may decide to use a pitta balancing session during the hotter months for all of your classes.
What are the Benefits of Yoga for Pittas?
People of all constitutions can be “burned out” by an excess of pitta and if you are naturally that way inclined it may happen sooner rather than later. Pittas are often naturally competitive, even with themselves, so deliberately choosing the right yoga style to balance pitta will give you a much needed break from constantly striving to “be the best”. Give yourself permission to achieve 75% in the poses instead of 100% and you will find that the benefits to your physical, emotional and psychological health are immense. Choosing a cooling, less demanding yoga routine will help with the following:
• Anxiety and mood swings
• Overheating and menopausal hot flushes
• Irritability or anger than seems to come from nowhere
• Aching in the lower back or head
• Stiffness in the joints, especially the knees and hips
What is the Best Yoga Style for Pitta?
As a general guideline, in order to balance excess pitta you need to bring in cool, dry, dull and soft attributes to oppose pittas natural tendencies (also known as gunas). Try practicing in a cooler environment, dimming the lights and keeping the accompanying music soft, low and gentle. Cultivate a more accepting and passive attitude to your practice. Give yourself permission to relax in the Child’s Pose between each asana, or whenever you feel like taking a short break. Let go of expectations. Know that it is perfectly fine to stretch your ligaments and muscles in a slower, less intense way and that the benefits are the same, health and strength -wise as if you had completed a sweaty, intense workout.
According to Ayurveda the main sites for pitta dosha in the body are the small intestine, liver, solar plexus and navel areas. Asanas that open up and relax these areas will have a balancing effect on excess pitta because they will release heat and tension whilst allowing cooler, more gently flowing prana to enter.
Which Yoga Poses are Best for Pitta?
The best poses to release tension in the above mentioned areas are any of the backbends performed whilst lying on your belly – the Cobra and the Bow for example.
The Fish pose and side bends and twists are also very beneficial. The Triangle is a good pose in which to challenge yourself NOT to go for 100%! Bend gently, slowly and with softer knees than you might normally do and see how it makes you feel. Although Ayurveda teaches that standing poses can increase heat, poses which incorporate a side twist will help to release heat from your torso. Try incorporating these poses into your practice during the summer months: Rotated Triangle, the Bridge, Half-Seated Spinal Twist and Reclining Hero.
Begin with a Moon Salutation as it is much more cooling and nourishing than the more usual Sun Salutation.
When meditating, choose a passive form of meditation such as Empty Bowl.
Poses to Limit for Pitta Dosha
When trying to balance excess pitta, limit your forward bending poses as they can bring more stimulation, and hence heat, to your internal organs. Limit also any poses that involve standing and bending forwards because they will bring too much heat to the head. A seated forward bend should be practiced with a passive, benevolent attitude, as should the Shoulder Stand.
Let go of expectations, take plenty of breaks, soften the knees and elbow joints and avoid over-stretching at any point.