Ayurveda, the centuries-old healing tradition often called yoga’s sister science, states that we are all comprised of the elements, which relate to three different bodily constitutions known as doshas.
The three doshas are kapha, vata, and pitta. Pitta is the one we’ll explore today. It’s the fiery dosha, related to the elements of water and fire.
When out of balance, pitta can be too hot, too competitive, and too wound up. The yoga postures that bring pitta back into balance need to be cooling, calming, and refreshing in nature.
The following yoga poses are perfect to tame the fires when pitta dosha is burning a little too brightly.
As you move through the poses, remember that yoga isn’t a competition.
There’s no need to compare yourself to others, as pittas often do when out of balance. As you might imagine, hot summers are the season when pitta needs to take care not to overheat.
So, pay extra attention to your pitta dosha in the heat and height of summertime.
Child’s pose is an inherently calming and cooling posture. It’s the perfect place to start to slowly let go of tension and stress.
Allow your breath to flow naturally. There’s no need to control it here as you ease into the beginning of your practice. (Learn more in Child's Pose: 4 Reminders You're Never Too Old (or Too Advanced) for This Yoga Posture.)
Rest in child’s pose for several rounds of inhalation and exhalation before coming on to your hands and knees for cat/cow.
In cat-cow pose, be sure to synchronize your breath with the movement. Inhale as you arch, and exhale as you round.
As you move through cat-cow, imagine the fires in your belly spreading out to the rest of your body. It’s said that when pitta is out of balance, fire accumulates in the belly. (Learn more in How To Cool Off a Pitta.)
These postures are believed to help spread the fiery energies and balance them throughout the body.
Since yoga is all about movement with attention and intention, it’s always a good idea to use a little visualization during a pose.
Bringing the head below the heart is cooling in nature, and bridge pose is a great one to begin with.
There’s a reason we tend to do bridge pose towards the end of practice before savasana. It’s a cooling down posture—perfect for bringing heated pitta back into balance.
Just as you did in cat/cow, feel that belly fire spreading to the pelvis, hips, legs, and feet.
Breathe in bridge for a few rounds of breath, and repeat it three times.
Not only does shoulder stand have the cooling effect that all inversions do, it also calms the agitated mind, which is so often the case when pitta is in excess. (Learn more in 10 Benefits of Inversions.)
As you hold shoulderstand, allow the mind to melt into the ground. Imagine all the thoughts are emptying from the head and into the earth.
Let go and breathe here for as long as feels comfortable.
If shoulder stand isn’t safe for your body, try legs-up-the-wall pose instead.
If you don’t have time to do all the postures on this list, this is the one pose you could do if you have five to ten minutes to practice.
It’s highly effective for calming the mind and body. It doesn’t take much (if any) effort because the wall naturally supports your legs. (Learn more in Restorative Yoga: What to Expect On and Off the Mat.)
As you relax and ease into this pose, bring in the intention to soften all parts of your body and mind.
Intention is everything, and if you intend something during a pose, it will bring the effect to your body with even greater efficacy than simply doing a posture without intention.
To finish the sequence, we’ll end with a forward fold, are also cooling in nature. Butterfly pose is ideal for the overly competitive pitta because it’s gentle and calming.
Ease your way into a forward fold, but only fold as much as feels good for your body.
There’s no need to push it. Always pay attention to the sensations that arise, rather than pushing through any kind of pain or discomfort.
To calm pitta and cool this dosha even further, ease into cross-legged pose as you simply watch the breath.
Breathing in, you cool the body. Breathing out, you release excess heat.
Consider propping the hips a bit with a folded blanket to bring even greater ease to seated meditation. You may want to envision inhaling in cooling waters, which naturally put out the internal fires.
Pitta is the dosha of transformation, and a great one to tend towards. Just watch for excessive heat, and do these postures to bring pitta back into balance.