Personalize Your Workout
Different bodies need different types of exercise, so look for activities that balance your prakriti (nature) and avoid those that aggravate it. Your prakriti is composed of three doshas, or humors: vata, pitta, and kapha. Most of us are a combination of at least two, with one often predominating. Read on to see which description fits you.
Vata: If “light, limber, and quick” describe the qualities of your body and mind, your dominant dosha is vata. Restless and impulsive, you dive into enthusiastic exercise plans but quickly exhaust yourself. You’re attracted to high-action sports requiring bursts of energy (like racquetball), but you need just the opposite—activities that require slow, rhythmic motion. Vata-balancing exercise is low-impact and stabilizing. You need to pay particular attention to your breaking point and stop before you reach it. Rollerblading, swimming, and hiking are great for you.
Asana tip: Focus on gentle repetitive movements coordinated with the breath, with an emphasis on seated poses and a long relaxation.
Pitta: Are you hot by nature? Driven to accomplish? Naturally athletic, with a medium, muscular build? If so, your predominating dosha is pitta. You’re intoxicated by competitive sports like tennis, but they often feed your aggression. You’ll reap more benefits from activities that cool your fiery nature and encourage you to enjoy yourself. Water and snow sports are perfect, as are team sports (like basketball and baseball) and activities where you compete against yourself (like mountain biking). Remember, having fun is more important than winning.
Asana tip: Concentrate on cultivating an inner focus through poses like forward bends and twists.
Kapha: Do your friends describe you as steady and grounded? Do you tend to be heavyset and to procrastinate? If so, your main dosha is kapha. Strong and enduring, you are slow to begin a routine—but once you do, you maintain it. You gravitate toward laid-back sports like golf and baseball, but you’ll benefit most from hard, sustained exercise that makes you break a sweat. Martial arts, aerobics, running, and soccer are ideal—they will counter your couch potato tendency and help you feel more invigorated, vital, and alive.
Asana tip: A warming and stimulating practice that incorporates flowing sequences like sun salutations is perfect for you.
Former Yoga International editor-in-chief Shannon Sexton writes about food, travel, yoga, and natural health.