Vata contains the elements of air and space, also called ether. When it comes to people with the vata dosha, we are prone to anxiety or depression, fatigue or hyperactivity, and digestive issues when imbalanced.
That’s right, I am a self proclaimed vata!
Read: The 3 Doshas of Ayurveda
That is why my yoga practice typically leans towards more grounding asanas and slower styles. I am also a believer that our society promotes vata imbalance due to how quickly we move from one task to the next.
For this reason, I lean towards teaching slower styles of yoga in hopes to balance the overall imbalance of vata I perceive on a day to day basis in the world.
In this article, I will present a strategy to sequencing your own vata pacifying yoga practice. I suggest some poses and give the rationale for these as well.
Slow Down and Breathe
Vata is movement. People who have too much vata are often moving quickly and sometimes their mind is also racing very quickly.
These pranayama are very similar whereby they allow you to alternate your breath through each nostril, which creates balance and calms the overactive vata mind. I find this practice to be extremely effective.
Warm Up the Cold Vata
Another quality of vata is cold. When I feel cold and try to sit in meditation, or move through a slow yoga practice, it can feel torturous especially if my mind is overactive.
To prevent an unpleasant experience like that, you could start with more movement to warm up the body and focus the mind.
Something like surya namaskar (or sun salutations as they're called in English) can warm up the cold vata and also start the blood pumping.
However, it must be done in a slow and mindful way as to not create a further imbalance.
Focus on alignment and the breath.
After a practice like this with more movement and warmth, it may be easier to move into your slower and grounding asana sequence without feeling mentally restless or too cold.
Some commonalities or qualities you may want your poses to include, if your intention is to pacify vata, are:
- Slow and mindful movements
- Grounding through the lower body into the earth physically and through breathing into the sacral and root chakras
- Restful (not increasing heart rate too much which could cause an increase in anxiety)
- Physical focus on lower back, hips, and thighs as well as stimulating the digestive system (twists)
- A consistent practice (ie. time of day and same daily routine)
If you are creating your own practice, you can feel free to use these poses or pick and choose from each of the sections below.
Some great poses to get grounded include:
- Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
- Virabhadrasana B (Warrior II)
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
All three of these poses emphasize grounding in through the legs down into the earth. When practicing these poses, focus on stability, strength and rooting down.
You may benefit from visualizing energy traveling up from the earth and into your body, through the soles of your feet. You are also focusing on strengthening the hips, thighs, and pelvic muscles in these poses.
Forward bends are great poses to calm the nervous system. Some great forward bends to practice in order to pacify vata are:
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
Be gentle and slow in these forward folds. Bringing the head down in these folds helps to calm and soothe the mind, creating a feeling of ease and safety. In paschimottanasana, you are also creating compression, which stimulates the internal organs.
Balancing Internal Organs
Any pose that stimulates the internal organs can assist with vata imbalance and aid digestion. Some other great poses to include for this are:
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes)
- Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
Twists are also incredibly valuable to improve digestion as well as soothe lower back pain. They also are said to calm anxiety and stress. These are all great tools to balancing vata.
Opening the Hips and Lower Back
Any pose that opens the hips, lower back, pelvis, and thighs are balancing for vata. My favorites are:
- Pavanmuktasana (Wind Relieving pose)
- Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Pavanmuktasana combines digestive aid with hip stimulation. Stimulating and opening the hips is also so important to release trapped emotion, as it is believed the hips store repressed emotions and stress.
Vata imbalance creates susceptibility to anxiety, fear, and becoming overly emotional - another great reason to incorporate hip openers into a vata pacifying practice.
After resting in a child’s pose, you can continue to rest by moving to a final savasana (corpse pose).
To pacify vata, I recommend staying in savasana for 15 minutes to allow yourself to relax fully.
You can move through the above poses in sequence or work with them on an individual basis as your intuition calls you to.
Throughout the day, it can become clear that there may be an imbalance of vata. Any of these poses and/or the pranayama mentioned can be called upon to balance the vata at any time.
Remember that balancing vata requires warmth, love, patience, nurturing, grounding, and release.
With these yoga poses, you can slow them down to create the space to release the overflow of vata energy and create more balance in your mind, body, and spirit.