Ayurveda teaches us that all aspects of life, including our yoga practice, should be aligned with the seasons.
Fall tends to bring dry skin, feelings of ungroundedness, and even constipation in those who already have a vata dosha imbalance. These feelings of dryness and lightness are vata imbalances that can be soothed with yoga.
Ayurveda explains that in order to balance vata, we need to use its opposites: watery, warm, heavy, still, and rhythmic. This rule of using opposites to balance applies to all aspects of nature, including yoga.
Because vata is mobile and erratic, it can easily become aggravated by a fast-paced yoga practice, especially when it’s paired with loud or fast-paced music. Yoga that balances vata tends to be slow, fluid, and non-aggressive, so instead, music should be soft and gentle.
Also, poses should be held a little longer, as they would be in a traditional hatha yoga class. Since the colon is the seat of vata, poses that target the lower abdominal region are helpful.
Along with these general principles, the following poses can be worked into a daily yoga practice to keep vata in check this fall.
To balance in Tree pose, concentration is a must. The sharp focus required in Tree pose, tames vata and allows prana to circulate smoothly.
Step by step:
- 1. Begin by standing with your feet together. Take a few deep breaths, observing the sensation of the soles of your feet against the floor.
- 2. Choose something around you to focus on. It should be around eye level and somewhere between 10 or 20 feet away.
- 3. Use your right hand to pick up your right foot and place the sole against the inside of your right leg, either above or below the knee.
- 4. As you focus, begin to raise your hands out to your sides then slowly overhead. Breathe slowly and deeply, staying here for 30 seconds to a minute.
Step by step: Tadasana
This traditional hatha version of Mountain pose looks easy, but requires concentration and strength. Since it’s known as a symmetrical pose, it brings harmony to the left and right side of the body for an even flow of vata.
Step by step:
- 1. Begin by standing with your feet together and your eyes closed. Imagine roots extending from the soles of the feet and anchoring deep into the Earth, slowly wrapping around the Earth’s core.
- 2. As you inhale, slowly reach your arms out to your sides and then overhead. Bring your palms together and bend the elbows slightly, shifting your hands about six inches forward. Release the shoulders down the back.
- 3. Breathe slowly and deeply, staying here for 30 seconds to a minute.
The main focus in this posture is the colon: known as the seat of vata. Holding the breath and reaching the forehead toward the knees puts gentle pressure on both sides of the colon, improving elimination.
Step by step:
- 1. Begin by lying on your back. Exhale and draw the knees into your chest, wrapping your hands or arms around the shins.
- 2. Inhale slowly and deeply, filling the belly. Hold the breath, then lift your head so that your forehead touches the knees. Stay here for a few minutes while holding your breath.
- 3. Exhale and lower the head and take a breath. Repeat this breath and movement two more times.
Sanskrit: Ujjayi Pranayama
Victorious breath is extremely helpful in calming vata. Prana comes under the domain of vata’s function, so most pranayama has an inherently vata-calming effect. In victorious breath all that can be heard is one’s own breath, making excess thinking nearly impossible.
Step by step:
- 1. Sit tall in a comfortable position. Relax your hands in your lap and close your eyes.
- 2. Take a few natural breaths, then slightly constrict the back of your throat so that each inhalation and exhalation makes a soft shhhhh sound, similar to that of ocean waves crashing onto the shore. The breath should be audible, but not in any way forced. Practice this for several minutes.
Along with each of these practices, it’s helpful to try and understand what’s happening on the inside of our bodies. Finishing off in a long savasana and a short meditation would make this yoga practice all the more vata-soothing.
- Stiles, Mukunda. Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 2007.