Try this practice for the pitta dosha, then sign up to delve deeper. Larissa Carlson and LifeSpa founder John Douillard will demystify yoga’s sister science in our upcoming Ayurveda 101 online course.
Energetically, these twisting, folding, wide-legged poses aim to provide enough challenge to satisfy any desire for deep stretching, while simultaneously relaxing the body and refreshing the mind. To avoid overheating, try practicing Ujjayi Pranayama so quietly that you can barely hear it.
To prepare for asana, you’ll need a mat, two blocks, a strap, a bolster, an eye pillow, and a couple of blankets. Carlson recommends beginning with three to six slow, rhythmic rounds of your favorite Sun Salutation. Generally, all constitutions benefit from warming, soothing movements like Sun Salutations during the cold, dry vata season. While practicing, maintain a soft Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath) to enhance focus and introversion.
Revolved Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose, variation
Parivrtta Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
Stand in Mountain Pose. Shift your weight onto your left foot. Lift your right knee to hip height and, keeping it bent, hold it with your left hand. Twist your torso to the right, then extend through your right arm. Use your left hand to guide your bent right leg across your body into a deeper twist, or straighten your right leg and hold your right big toe with your left hand. Relax your jaw and shoulders. Hold for 3–6 breaths. Untwist slowly, return to standing, and repeat on the other side.
Revolved Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend, variation
Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana
Stand with your feet parallel, about one leg’s length apart, with a block on the floor between them. Fold forward and place your left hand on the block in line with your sternum. Twist your torso to the right and extend your right arm toward the sky. Direct your breath into your waistline. Hold here for 3–6 breaths, then unwind gradually and repeat the pose on the other side.
Head-of-the-Knee Pose, variation
Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose), with your legs straight. Bend your right knee and lower it to floor, placing the sole of your right foot on your left inner thigh. Place a block next to your left inner calf. Elongate both sides of your torso, bend at your hips, and slowly fold forward over your left leg. Avoid straining; instead, pause at your natural stopping point and place your forehead on the block. Bring your hands to the floor on either side of your left leg or hold your foot. Close your eyes and direct your breath toward your belly and midback. Use 3–6 rounds of breath to create space and ease. Then, carefully sit up and repeat on the other side.
Eye-of-the-Needle Pose, variation
Lie down and bend both knees. Stack your right ankle on top of your left thigh and flex both feet. Hold your right ankle with your left hand. Extend your right arm on the floor at shoulder height. Then, lower your right foot and left outer leg to the floor, twisting gently to the left. Turn your head to the left (or keep it neutral), close your eyes, and relax your shoulders. To increase the stretch in your left hip flexors, use the strength of your right leg to gently press your left knee away from your torso. Inhale into the left side of your torso; relax as you lengthen with each exhalation. Stay here for 3–6 breaths. Unwind gently, and then repeat on the other side.
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend, variation
Sit tall and spread your legs wide, placing a bolster widthwise between them. Lengthen through both legs, pointing your toes up, and then fold forward from your hips, laying your head and torso on the bolster. Turn your head to the right. Rest your arms alongside the bolster and find a comfortable place for your hands. Close your eyes, breathe, and relax for 2–3 minutes; turn your head to the other side and hold for 2–3 minutes longer.
Pitta Self-Care Tip
Use the below treatment each morning to prevent winter illness and soothe your throat after talking and travel. Salt draws out germs, while turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. Gargle after brushing your teeth and scraping your tongue—an Ayurvedic trick for staying energized.
In 1 cup of hot water, stir in 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and 1/2 tsp sea or Himalayan salt. Mix well. After gargling, wait ½ hour before eating or drinking anything.
Keep your digestive fire balanced and your belly happy all winter with this delicious tea. Swap out afternoon coffee for the Ayurvedic recipe below and notice how much more energy you have at the end of the day.
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of water with all of the seeds. Cover and bring mixture to a low boil for 10 minutes. Strain into a mug, find a quiet spot away from co-workers and the computer, and enjoy!
About Our Pro
Teacher and model Larissa Carlson is the former dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, and a yoga teacher trainer based in Massachusetts. You can find her at larissacarlson.com.