Updated: Oct 17, 2021
Quiet the winds of the storm. Tame your Vata!
Vata dosha is also known physiologically as the “King Dosha” because it is responsible for our heartbeat, brain function, breathing, digestion, and sensory perception, among many other crucial physical processes that sustain life in the body. It literally animates us.
Vata dosha is a combination of air and ether elements. It is associated with motion (especially airplane travel, which causes Jetlag), movement and also the windy days of the Autumn season. When the temperatures drop and the climate becomes cold and dry, it elevates the qualities of Vata. As our external environment changes, so does our internal environment.
The seasons, weather and even the way we move through life can increase Vata. An exacerbated amount of air and ether elements combined in the body can manifest as anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, dry skin, asthma, constipation, hair loss, and poor circulation. When we get swept up in the stormy winds of uncontrollable Vata, we spiral down emotionally, mentally, and physically.
If you are primarily Vata (take my Dosha quiz to find out), you may feel the effects of travel lag, sudden life-altering situations, or seasonal shifts more profoundly. As the Rhythms of life change, so should your Yoga practice. Vata pacifying Yoga entails moving more consciously, slowing down and holding the poses longer. Asanas that engage the lower back and legs help to ground your energy by plugging you energetically into the Earth. Earth energy is solid and stabilising, which calms the wild winds of Vata.
"Earth energy is solid and stabilising, which calms the wild winds of Vata "
When we root down through our feet in poses like Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Vrksasana ( Tree pose) or Malasana
(Garland Pose), we tether ourselves to the dense, immovable qualities of Earth. When performed slowly, these postures cultivate strength and steadiness. These two aspects counterbalance excess air.
Transcendental meditation, Yin and Hatha Yoga are all excellent examples of practices that increase the Earth element. A Vata pacifying Yoga practice implies moving much slower, more consciously, and holding the poses longer. The key is slowing down, savouring each breath and moving in mindfulness.
Pranayama or Yogic breathing techniques like Nadi Shodhana (Alternative nostril breathing) and Ujjayi (Ocean breath) also help to alleviate an overactive mind and rejuvenate the entire Central Nervous System. Give yourself permission to rest and reset! Ending your time on the mat with a long Savasana ( 15 minutes minimum) can help you to release any hidden pent-up tension and induces harmony in the whole body.
Below is a short Yoga sequence you can use to
Pacify Vata in a flash!
Tadasana (Mountain pose with a block)
Stand tall in Mountain pose. Begin Ujjayi breathing.
Place a block between your thighs and squeeze your inner thighs into the block.
Ground down through all four corners of the feet. Tilt the pelvis slightly forward and drop your tailbone. Relax your shoulders away from the ears and keep your face soft. Hold for 10 breaths.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-facing Dog)
Step both legs back into Downward Dog. Lift the hips, draw the sit-bones up and back behind you making an inverted"V" shape with your body. Heels sink down in the mat, keeping the legs straight. Thighs internally rotate, engaging quadriceps. Spread your fingers out wide, ground down from forearms into your fingertips. Externally rotate your upper arms, broaden the collarbone as you breathe deeply. Shoulder blades move down the back toward your hips. Lengthen the back of the neck by tucking the chin in slightly into the chest. Gaze at your heart space. Hold for 10 breaths.
Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge)
From Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward-facing Dog), step your right foot forward between your hands so your toes align with your fingertips. Bend your front knee, so your thigh is parallel to the floor, creating a right angle. Stack your knee directly over your ankle. Drop your left knee down to the earth, extending the leg back point your left toes straight behind you.
Drop your tailbone, come unto your fingertips, draw your sternum forward and broaden the collarbones to lift your heart. Square the hips, keeping the right knee over the ankle. Draw your pubic bone toward your navel, posteriorly tilting the pelvis by continuing to descend through the tailbone. Root down with the front heel to lift the lower belly up and back, away from your front thigh, maintaining a right angle in the right leg.
Hold for 10 breaths.
*Transition back into Downward facing dog & repeat on the other side.
Hold for another 10 breaths. Bring the palms to the earth and step back into Downward-facing Dog.
Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
Start in Tadasana (mountain pose). Bend your right knee and place the sole of the right foot high up on the left thigh, above the knee. Keep the left leg straight, ground through the left foot and grow the spine tall. Fix your gaze straight ahead on an immovable drishti (a solid object or vision point) at eye level or higher. Lift your arms overhead on either side of your ears or bring the palms together in Anjali mudra at the heart. Keep the face soft and the breath smooth.
Hold for 10 breaths.
Lower your arms down and gently release the right foot down unto the mat.
*Stand tall in Tadasana for 2 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
Sit in a Cross-legged seated position, cross your right leg over the left and place the sole of the right foot on the floor outside of the left thigh. Inhale and grow the spine tall.
Exhale twist your torso to your right, keep the spine vertical and place your right fingertips on the floor behind you, while bending the left elbow and tucking it on the outside of the right knee. Twist only as deeply as the breath and body allows. Keep the Ujjayi breath smooth and even.
Hold for 10 breaths.
*On an exhale, return to a neutral position, switch legs and repeat on the other side.
Malasana (Garland Pose)
Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Take your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, bend your knees to squat. Keep the spine vertical and place your hands in Anjali Mudra to the heart. Anchor down through all four corners of your feet. On the Inhale, Feel the pelvic floor expand and then gently contract as you exhale.
* If you have knee issues/past injuries, place a rolled-up washcloth under the back of the knee.
Beginners can sit on a block placed underneath the sits-bones or alternatively place a folded up blanket underneath the heels for balance. Keep the crown of the head rising up and the breath even.
Hold for 10 breaths.
Balasana (Child's Pose) wide-legged version
Kneel on the floor and sit on your heels. Separate your knees out to side edges of the mat or slightly wider than hip-width apart. Drop the tops of your feet unto the mat, exhale and drape your torso down between your thighs. Rest your forehead down onto the mat, tucking the chin in slightly to lift your skull away from the back of your neck. Extend your arms forward, palms facing up or down. Lengthen your tailbone away from the sacrum and breath into lower back.
Hold for 3 minutes or 25 long breaths.
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
*Traditionally only the right hand is used for this Mudra.
It is also called Vishnu Mudra. See instructions below.
*The action of this mudra pacifies Vata, as the index finger represents Vayu (air) and the middle finger represents Akasha (Ether). By folding them into the thumb mound, we are energetically suppressing Vata. By using these specific fingers to seal and open the nostrils, we control the breath (prana). Essentially we are energetically employing the elements of water, fire, and earth to hydrate, warm, and ground Vata Dosha.
Ball your right hand into a fist.
Bend and press your forefinger and middle fingers firmly into the mound of your thumb. Stretch out the ring and pinky fingers. Keep your pinky as straight as possible, curl your ring finger slightly to press its pad to the pinky’s nail. Merge the two fingers into one by aligning the fingertips as best you can.
Turn your palm to your nose. Keep the chin directly above the sternum, the head should stay in a neutral, upright position. Keep the shoulders even. Tuck your right elbow into your torso. The ring finger (earth) / pinky (water) pair will close the left nostril, the thumb (fire) the right nostril.
Press the nostril with the fingertips. Close your right nostril and inhale slowly through your left. Then close the left, and open to exhale through the right. Finally inhale through the right, seal it, and open and exhale through the left.
Repeat for one to three minutes
Release the breath..
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Lie down on your back, separate your legs about hip-width apart and let your feet naturally turn out. Gently tuck the shoulder blades in, slightly lifting the chest without arching the lower back. Roll the upper arms away from your torso and let them relax at your sides, palms face up.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly. Release and relax completely unto your mat. Allow your body to feel the heaviness of gravity drawing you down and the support of the earth beneath you. Scan the body from the toes to the crown, releasing any holding, tension, or contracted muscles. Surrender. Stay in Savasana for a minimum of fifteen minutes or longer.