Yogic Breathing and the Ayurvedic Doshas

Author: Indu Sandhu, Yoga and Ayurveda Practitioner

“Pranayam harmonizes the nerves and wakens the life force.” Swami Sivananda

The three basic Pranayama are:

Abdominal Breathing (Dirga Pranayama)

Through this technique air is drawn into the lowest and largest part of the lungs by expanding the abdomen and allowing the movement of the diaphragm. This improves the oxygenation throughout the body and relaxes and recharges the nervous system.

This experience benefits all three Doshas as under:

Vata Experience – The smaller vata rib cage and sensitive nervous system benefit from the expansion provided by abdominal breathing.

Pitta Experience – The greater sensory awareness provided by abdominal breathing is beneficial for balancing the overachieving pitta nature.

Kapha Experience – The compact kapha frame enjoys the free abdominal breathing without any physical or mental restrictions.


Alternate Nostril Breathing (Anulom Vilom) 

This requires deep inhalation, prolonged breath retention and deep exhalation. The flow of air alternates between both the nostrils.

The long inhalation increases the oxygen levels in the blood, the long exhalation allows for elimination of carbon dioxide and the breath retention strengthens the nervous system.

Vata Experience – The deep inhalation and breath retention are especially beneficial for developing and expanding vata’s lung capacity.

Pitta Experience – The prolonged exhalation promotes both relaxation and an increase in prana. This is a new experience for those of a pitta nature.

Kapha Experience – The natural kapha patience and endurance allows for them to simply enjoy the alternate nostril breathing.


Lung Purification (Kapalbhati or Shining Skull)

This involves an active exhalation by contracting the abdominal muscles quickly, thereby causing the diaphragm to move into the chest cavity and forcefully pushing out the air from the lungs. It cleanses the nasal passage, lungs and the respiratory system; facilitates carbon dioxide elimination and oxygen absorption; improves digestion by massaging the abdominal organs. Regular practice benefits the entire body systems and the face ‘shines’. 

Vata Experience – Holding the breath for a prolonged period is a challenge for vata, hence an opportunity for expanding lung capacity.

Pitta Experience – As the pitta body can hold its breath for the longest period, it results in a meditative state that balance the sharp edges of the pitta nature.

Kapha Experience – As the kapha body is prone to respiratory congestion, it is quickly remedied. Giving a feeling of lightness.