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We are all different, at least from a physical and mental perspective. We each have our own likes and dislikes, our ways of reacting to situations, the health challenges we might face, and a myriad of other unique qualities. It would be a very boring world if we were all the same, these differences are what make life interesting. The science of Ayurveda recognizes these differences and categorizes them as combinations of three energies known as the Doshas - Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Knowing your doshic combination, or Ayurvedic body-type, opens a whole treasury of guidelines to balance and support all areas of life.
While we may choose different diets, environments and lifestyles to balance our doshas, one activity which is suitable and beneficial to all three doshic types is silent meditation. A practice such as Chopra’s Primordial Sound Meditation, gives the physiology deep rest, releases stress, increases self-awareness and enriches all aspects of our life.
When you were born, your awareness emerged from the non-local state of Being to adopt a localized state of physical body and mind. This localized physiology reflects your particular combination of the doshas, which then influences your destiny for this lifetime. However, the true meaning of the word dosha is impurity, because in relation to our non-local essence of Pure Awareness, to have a physical body and mind and doshas, is an impurity. Of course, most of the time, we forget our essential nature and become distracted by the physical world with its roller-coaster of good and bad scenes. Without the correct understanding, these distractions, cause the energy of our doshas to become imbalanced, leading to challenges in all areas of our lives.
Going back to the time of our birth, when our awareness localized into the body, the universe was vibrating at a specific frequency. Repeating this sound in our Primordial Sound meditation draws our awareness to subtler and subtler levels of the activity of the mind, until we slip into the silence of our true Universal Self. We transcend our doshas, reaching the field of infinite balance and harmony. When we return to activity, we begin to bring the memory of our perfect self and integrate it back into our everyday life. Instead of constantly struggling to balance our doshas, we start to spontaneously know which choices will bring us the most benefit.
The experience of meditation and the wisdom of Ayurveda are like the two feet on which we progress on our evolutionary journey. Meditation purifies the mind and body and restores the memory of our essential nature, while Ayurveda and its practical understanding of balancing our doshas, helps to clear the path allowing for maximum progress.
In addition to silent meditation such as we’ve discussed, there are many other types of meditation we can include in our daily practices. For most people, when they begin a meditation practice, they will go through what we could call doshic phases. The first is the Vata phase, we have difficulty finding the time to fit meditation into our busy schedule. When we do find time, we are often restless, have difficulty settling, worry about how we should sit, what to do with our hands and how do we stop thinking all those thoughts. If we survive this phase, the next is the pitta phase, when the expectations and doubts arise. When is something going to happen? Is this the right meditation for me? Did that teacher really know what they were talking about? Finally, if we make it through these phases, we are rewarded by the Kapha phase. Now we are happy to take a break, relax in a comfortable chair and let go of the world for a few minutes.
While meditations such as Primordial Sound are suitable for all doshic types and should be a basic part of everyone’s spiritual practice, some other meditations may be simpler for those beginning or wishing to add some variety. The Chopra App has guided meditations specific for each dosha. Let’s also look at some ways in which we can approach our practice to better suit our dosha.
If you have a lot of Vata dosha in your body type, I’m sure you know that life generally moves quickly for you, which can sometimes lead to things getting a little scattered. Vatas are vibrant, creative and ever changing however, if we’re not careful, they can become easily distracted. The space and air elements of Vata make it light, dry, cold and rough.
To support your meditation experience, find a place where you feel safe and secure, with a minimum of external distractions. Make sure you’re warm and comfortable, maybe use a soft shawl and sit on a pillow rather than a hard surface. Establish a regular routine where you meditate at the same time each day.
If you have a regular meditation space, include some objects from nature, earth tones and images that feel settling. Listen to a few minutes of calming music and use an aroma such as cinnamon, lavender, citrus or vanilla.
Try beginning your practice with a few minutes of alternative nostril breathing, which has a very settling effect. Start by bringing your attention to your root chakra at the base of the spine and imagine yourself grounded deep into the earth. Take a moment for gratitude, giving thanks for at least one thing in your life. Silently repeat an affirmation such as I am peace or I am harmony.
Using a mala (string of 108 beads) can help to keep you focused. Start with a commitment to the number of revolutions of the mala you will perform. Drape the beads over the ring finger of your right hand and use the thumb to advance the beads, repeating the mantra aloud or silently, once for each bead. Choose a simple mantra like Ahum Shanti, I am peace.
Pitta people tend to be focused, they make good leaders, keep things organized and get the job done. With its elements of fire and water, you’re probably aware that Pitta dosha can be fiery both physically and mentally, bringing passion to life. It gives us the drive to support worthy causes and makes relationships dynamic and exciting, however, too much heat can make us overly serious, impatient and critical.
Before you start your meditation take a few deep breaths. Be aware of your body, any negativity or frustration will show up as a discomfort or tightness. Breathe into that area. Love is expansive, use your breath to expand your body.
Find a place to meditate where you will be undisturbed. If you are disturbed, it’s okay, just return to the meditation. Be comfortable but not too warm. See if you can set aside all your responsibilities for the next few minutes and make this time just for you. Let go of any expectations you might have about the practice and be open to simply going with the flow. Remember that meditation will give you the experience you need at that time.
Your meditation space could have objects from nature, items which make you smile or open the qualities of your heart. Enlightenment means to lighten up. Use cooling aromas or incense such as sandalwood, jasmine, lavender or mint. Pittas tend to be very visual so always try to close your eyes during meditation.
Try starting with a cooling and settling breathing exercise. Imagine you are holding a straw in your lips. Breathe slowly and deeply, in and out, through the round space in your lips for a couple of minutes. Bring your attention into your heart center and think of someone you love. Be grateful for that love. Silently repeat an affirmation such as I am love or I am joy.
While meditation isn’t about concentrating, Pittas respond better when they have some point of reference. Try repeating a mantra like Ahum Prem, I am love, silently, returning to it whenever you drift away.
The Kapha dosha gives a gentle, easygoing, nurturing nature. It’s steady, stable and grounded with the earth and water elements. Kaphas are born meditators and are usually ready to sit and close their eyes, whenever the opportunity presents itself. However, in excess the Kapha can get stuck and sometimes may need a little help to keep it moving. While falling asleep if we’re overly tired is a normal meditation experience, Kaphas shouldn’t use meditation as an opportunity for a quick nap.
Kaphas tend to be able to make themselves comfortable in most settings, but for meditation, should try to sit in an upright position. Use a straight-backed chair rather than the over-stuffed couch. Unless the meditation specifically recommends it, don’t lie down to meditate. Whereas Vatas and pittas are more likely to check the time during meditation, Kaphas may want to set a timer to let them know when to finish.
Your meditation space could have objects or pictures that represent movement and space. Maybe use bright colors such as orange for your shawl or a tablecloth. Use spicier aromas or incense such as eucalyptus, clove, juniper or camphor. Your experiences will vary from meditation to meditation, to give the physiology what it needs at that time. Avoid getting attached to any particular experience and approach each meditation with an open mind.
Before you begin your meditation try practicing an energizing breath. Take a full breath in through the nose, filling the chest and belly, then exhale forcefully exhale by sucking in the stomach. Repeat this about ten times, then allow your breath to return to normal before beginning your meditation. Bring your attention into your navel center, imagine your personal power as a bright light, spreading throughout your body. Silently repeat an affirmation such as I am light, I am energy.
Kaphas can also benefit from a walking meditation. You can walk in nature or, if that’s not possible, around your own home. Walk at an even pace, taking deep steady breaths, with your awareness on the breath. Periodically, pause your walking and focus your attention completely on one of your senses, being fully aware of everything you are taking in through just that sense. Then continue walking.
Whatever your combination of doshas, fully enjoy their good qualities by staying in balance and letting meditation enrich the magnificent person you are.
Explore meditation and the Ayurvedic practice of abhyanga in a new three-part series with Jennifer Johnson, available now in the Chopra App.