Ayurvedic yoga is a school of classical yoga in which yoga practices are tailored to the individual constitutional needs of each student. An ayurvedic yoga practice may incorporate yoga asanas, or poses, but it usually also incorporates pranayama, or breathing exercises, as well as dietary and lifestyle considerations. The goal of this type of yoga is generally to promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The ayurvedic focus of this school of yoga typically refers to the system of ayurvedic medicine, which recognizes three doshas, or constitutional types, known as pitta, vata, and kapha.
Wwhile most people possess qualities of all three of these constitutional types, one or two types usually dominate the person's physiology and mental state. According to the ayurvedic system, a person's physical, psychological, and spiritual needs and preferences may vary depending on their constitutional type. Ayurvedic yoga typically seeks to help students create a yoga practice uniquely suited to their needs.
Many yoga teachers and practitioners believe that ayurvedic considerations once formed an integral part of the study of traditional yoga. Different yoga poses are believed to have considerably different effects on the mind and body. Students are believed to benefit more from the practice of yoga if they choose poses and breathing exercises that support the needs of their physical constitutions.
The combined characteristics of the series of poses chosen can also be used to support an individuals student's ayurvedic constitution. A kapha dosha may prefer a series of poses that builds muscle strength, while a pitta dosha may choose an interesting, varied series with aerobic benefits. Vatta doshas generally prefer a series of more spiritually oriented, restorative yoga poses.
The intensity of one's yoga practice, as well as the sequence of poses chosen during a specific practice, may also be varied from season to season in ayurvedic yoga. Muscle-strengthening poses are seen as most beneficial during the winter months, while varied, aerobic sequences may be pursued during the summer months. A restorative, spiritually focused practice is often advocated during the autumn and spring seasons.
Dietary and lifestyle considerations may also form a part of ayurvedic yoga. The system of ayurvedic medicine generally recommends that each person follow the diet most acceptable to the qualities of their dosha. Sleep and exercise patterns can also be adjusted to better support an individual's dosha. Ayurvedic medicine teaches that imbalances in the doshas can lead to illness, such that maintaining the diet and lifestyle most appropriate to one's dosha can help support optimum physical and mental health.