There is a running joke in my inner circle that a meditation teacher once asked a friend of mine to leave a class because his energy was distracting others. True story! New to meditation, our friend was unsure, cerebral, restless, and trying to get it right … meaning, he was too fidgety for the class. He laughs about it today. But as an Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher, my friend’s story has become an important benchmark for me to illustrate why every form of meditation is not a good fit for every individual.
Ayurvedic Doshas and the Mahagunas
Ayurveda is all about customized healing. What doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) are to our physical wellbeing, mahagunas (sattva, rajas, and tamas) are to our mental health. In Ayurveda and yoga, a guna is an element of reality that can impact our psychological, emotional, and energetic states. Sattva is a state of harmony, balance, peace, and joy. Rajas is about passion, movement, energy, action, and ambition. Tamas is a state of darkness, inactivity, and inertia.
I think of the three mahagunas as our inner GPS. They allow us to make choices, so we are more balanced, harmonious, and peaceful. Like the three doshas, these three mahagunas can fluctuate between states of imbalances. Once we recognize these imbalances, we can determine the current quality of our state of mind. However, unlike our three doshas, our three mahagunas aren’t fixed. We have a lot more freedom over how to manage them.
Minding the Mind Through Meditation
The friend mentioned above was a Kapha-Pitta guy experiencing Vata dosha imbalance and slight Pitta aggravation. His job requires him to travel every week, which means that erratic eating, sleeping, traveling, and living aggravated his Vata. Vata dosha is the first to become imbalanced by movement and an irregular schedule.
This man with a high Vata imbalance in his body and rajas in his mind enters a yoga studio and sits in a class where he is told not to think. The last thing he needed was stimulation or imagination or performance pressure! He needed a practice that was grounding and sattvic. A Vata mind is dominated by the air element (vayu) and is associated with rajas guna, which is active, creative, and initiates change. Vayu is all about movement, so it’s no surprise that my friend was frazzled, scattered, fidgety, unfocused, and spacey when he showed up to the meditation class.
Meditation for Each Dosha
Vata Dosha: This dosha is made up of air and ether elements and runs cold energetically. Chants and mantras that vibrate with earth and water energy are helpful. Sitting in a warm and dimly lit room can be a good starting point. Japa mantra, or mantra meditation, works well for this dosha. Passing mala beads through the fingers while reciting a mantra forces the mind to focus and concentrate.
You can use rudraksha beads, rosary beads, or whatever beads feel most authentic to you. Talk to an Ayurvedic practitioner to find out what mantra would work best for you. In place of Sanskrit mantras, you can also chant daily affirmations. Yoga nidra—a style of meditation where practitioners drift into a deep state of conscious sleep—calms the nervous system and offers effortless rest. Vatas particularly benefit from it. Vatas tend to struggle with backaches, so a supportive seat for your spine would also be helpful.
Pitta Dosha: Made up of fire and water elements, Pittas can be intense when out of balance. In general, Pittas are goal-oriented and obsessed with productivity. They are the types who will try to make their meditation time “productive” because sitting while doing nothing can be an arduous task for them. Mental checklists go on forever in their hyper-focused minds. Pittas benefit from metta meditation—a loving-kindness meditation that works on the heart and focuses on forgiveness. Metta means positive energy and kindness toward others. The goal of this meditation is to cultivate benevolence for oneself and the universe.
Pittas also need a meditation practice that releases heat from the mind and body. Trataka meditation is a cleansing practice and is effective in lowering Pitta dosha. It is the practice of intensely gazing at one point or object. A ghee lamp is usually used as an object of concentration. Ghee is pure, and these lamps generally don’t flicker like candles, thus enabling your concentration. Ghee is also cleansing for the eyes. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “Trataka eradicates all eye disease, fatigue, and sloth while closing the door to creating these problems!”
Kapha Dosha: Kaphas are made up of the elements earth and water, and they can lean into lethargy, passiveness, and slowness when out of balance. They can also become too attached and sedentary, so we don’t want to recommend a sitting practice, even if it’s meditation. Because Kaphas can turn meditation into naptime, they need a meditation that’s more interactive. They also need energizing meditation practices to reduce tamas guna in their minds. Walking meditation can be invigorating and will generate heat.
Mudra meditation also works well for Kaphas, as hand gestures keep the mind alert and connected to the body. I would suggest they don’t use a backrest (too much comfort is Kapha’s enemy!) but sit upright for the seamless flow of energy up and down the spine. Chanting mantras is also powerful for Kaphas—it not only energizes the body but also reduces depressive symptoms. For example, chanting the Gayatri mantra (which invokes light and consciousness) or the bija mantra Ram (which stimulates the solar plexus chakra, responsible for self-worth, confidence, passion to succeed, digestion, and metabolism), can be beneficial.
Ultimately, meditation is good for everyone! But wouldn’t you rather find a style that works for you and motivates you to nourish your mind?
“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.”—Jiddu Krishnamurti
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic practitioner, contact Sweta here.
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