October 27, 2010

Yoga for balancing Vata

Does Vata season have you feeling more like a tornado than a cool gently breeze?

You aren’t the only one. If we’re not careful, the season of windy, rapid change might leave us feeling restless, fatigued, or simply dried up. But calming excess vata is just a few simple adjustments away. And Yoga offers some practical solutions for releasing imbalances in the body.

Vata wind (or vayu) is held in the colon, the hips and the low back. Hip openers, twists, and forward folding asanas (postures).

Below is a Yoga sequence for balancing excess vata and keeping your digestive system moving through the dry spell. Please be gentle and mindful and only do what feels nurturing for you and your body.



Props you may want include: a mat, block and strap.

1. From Tadasana (Mountain pose), bring your arms overhead and bend your knees into Utkatasana (Chair pose).


Breathe deeply, remaining here for several breaths. As you inhale lengthen you spine. As you exhale, draw your navel toward your sacrum, and drop your tailbone toward the earth.

2. Inhale fold forward into Uttanasana (Forward folding pose). Breathe deeply, once again drawing your navel up and in, and release any tension in your neck and spine.

3. Inhaling, step your right foot back into


Parsvottanasana (Standing head to knee pose). Square your hips so that they are parallel, and lengthen your spine from your pelvis on an inhale. On the exhale, fold forward for a gentle hamstring stretch.

4. Keeping your right hand on the floor (or a block for modification),

Parivrtta Trikonasana

slowly and mindfully twist your spine to bring your left hand into the air. Keeping your hips parallel, inhale to lengthen your spine. Exhale to release into the twist. Breathe deeply and expand through your arms from fingertips to finger tips, opening into Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle pose).

Virabhadrasana III

5. Slowly unwind your twist and placing both hands firmly on the earth, bring your right leg up off the floor behind you. Integrate your muscles while you expand through your bones. Reach through your heels and toes until both legs are strong and straight. Be mindful to keep your hips parallel as you slowly bring your hands into Anjali mudra (palms together) in front of your sternum. This is a variation of Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III pose).

6. Reach back through that right foot and mindfully place it back on the earth into Anjaneyasana (or Crescent Pose). Inhale your arms into the air and allow your lungs to fill with prana (breath). Drawing your navel to your sacrum, lengthen your spine and enjoy an easy and nurturing back-bend. Add a twist to this pose, Parivrtta Anjaneyasana, by bringing your right elbow to your left knee, palms together in front of your sternum. Inhale to lengthen your spine. Exhale to deepen your twist.



Parivrtta Anjaneyasana

7. Exhale, fold forward to frame your left foot with your hands.This is Vanarasana (Monkey Pose). Square your hips, lengthen your spine and take a few deep breaths in this pose. Allow your hips to open and release.

8. Step your left foot back, now, to meet your right and arrive at Plank pose (sometimes called Kumbhakasana). Slowly lower towards the earth, keeping your spine straight and long, and your elbows close to your body. To do this, draw your navel up and in toward your spine. Integrate your muscles as you expand through your bones. Imagine your breath lifting your low back, just at the area of your kidneys. Use the power of your core strength to lift you back to Plank pose. Be mindful and powerful. This action strengthens the power of prana in your body.

Adho Mukha Svanasana

9. Spread your fingers wide and push your sitz bones towards the sky, allowing your sternum to reach for your toes. In Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog pose) your feet are hip width apart and your shoulder blades draw gently in toward your spine. Release any tension in your neck.

10. From Adho Mukha Svanasana, step your right foot forward into Vanarasana, then your left foot to Uttananasana. Place both hands on your hips, and slowly rise up to standing leading with your sternum. Repeat steps 2-8, stepping back with your left foot and moving through the second side.


11. From Plank pose in step 8 (second side), turn towards your left, bringing your left arm to the sky. Reach through both your heels and all ten toes, until both legs are strong and straight in Vasisthasana (Side Plank pose). Lengthen your spine and continue to breathe, lifting your hips in line with your spine.  Exhale, release to Plank position, and switch to the right side.


12. Come into Balasana (Child’s pose) for several deep breaths. Imagine filling the back of your body with breath. Release any tension in the spine and low back muscles.

13. Inhaling rise up, keeping your hands on the earth. Widen your knees so that the inner edges of your legs, ankles and feet are on the earth. Create a 90 degree angle with your knees and ankles. Work your way into this pose slowly. Breathe.


This is Mandukasana (Frog pose). Stay for several breaths here, bringing prana to the hip joints and adductor (inner thigh) muscles.

Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana

14. Slowly bring your legs back together. Again, push your sitz bones towards the sky, allowing your sternum to reach for your toes, in Adho Mukha Svanasana. Bend your right knee, bring it forward and set it down between your hands. Reach through your right heel and all your right toes to protect your knee. Be sure that your hips are parallel as you inhale deeply and lengthen your spine. Exhaling, fold forward over your right knee. Breathe deeply here, in this variation of Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana (One legged king pigeon pose) for several breaths. When you are ready to switch sides, use the power of your core, to push back to Adho Mukha Svanasana. Then, bring your left knee forward between your hands.

15. After breathing deeply for several breaths on the second side of Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana, gently swing your right knee around to the front of your body and cross it over your left knee for Gomukasana


(Cow-faced pose). Now you are sitting with a tall, straight spine and your right knee stacked on top of your left. Inhale your left arm up and trace your fingertips down your spine. Reach your right hand up your spine towards your left hand. Perhaps you can touch your fingertips, or even clasp your hands together behind your back. If you are not there yet, simply use a strap. Draw your shoulders onto your back and breathe, filling your lungs. Allow prana to flow freely for several breaths. Allow tension to slowly release from this posture. When you are ready, switch the positions of your arms and legs.

16. Stretch your legs long in the shape of a “V”. Reach through your heels and all ten toes. Integrate your leg muscles as you expand through your bones. Reach up through the top of your head. Lengthen your spine on inhalation. On exhalation, fold forward, keeping your sitz bones grounded. Find a position in

Upavistha Konasana

Upavistha Konasana (Wide angle seated forward bend)  where you can relax for several deep breaths.

17. For Janu Sirsasana

Janu Sirsasana

(Head to knee pose), bend your right knee, bringing your foot to your left thigh. Inhale both arms to the sky, and as you lengthen, twist your sternum toward your left foot. Draw your navel to your sacrum and exhale folding forward over your left leg. Your hands can reach towards that left foot, as you release tension in your neck and let your gaze fall to your knee. Switch sides.

18. Bring both legs together in front of you. Inhale, lengthen your spine. Exhale, fold forward over your legs for


Paschimottanasana (West side stretch pose or Forward fold). Inhale rise up, place your palms on the earth behind your sitz bones. With your arms straight, raise your hips off the ground to


Purvotanasana (East side stretch) . Allow your head to drop back gently and fill your lungs with prana/breath. Exhale and slowly fold forward again into Paschimottanasana. Using your breath, alternate between these two asanas. Inhale deeply into Purvotanasana and exhale, folding forward into Paschimottanasana.


19. Lie back on the floor to take Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand). Come into the pose gently, taking your time. Use your hands to support your sacrum if this feels more stable. You may also use a blanket to prop your shoulders, allowing your neck to retain its natural curve.


Be sure that your chin is lifted slightly, away from your chest. Stay in this posture for several minutes, until you can breathe freely through both nostrils.


20. Dropping your legs over your head, bring your feet to the floor for Halasana (Plow Pose). Breathe deeply for several breaths.

21. Slowly bring your legs  to the floor. Slide your palms under your hips and use your elbows to lift your sternum to the sky. Gently allow your head to drop back, resting your crown onto the floor for Matsyasana (Fish Pose).

Supta Matsyendrasana

22. Release your body to lie on the floor, bringing your knees to your chest. Breathe and release any tension in your low back. Stretch your right leg straight on the floor, reaching through your heel and toes. Use your right hand to guide your knee across your body and over to your right side. Keep your left shoulder grounded, and turn your head to face left. Breathing deeply, let go of any excess tension in your neck and spine. Enjoy this twist on both sides.


23. Complete your asana practice with Savasana (Corpse Pose). Allow your legs and arms to relax at your sides. With your eyes closed, bring your awareness to your breath.

Follow your asana practice, with seated meditation.

Shambhala Meditation
“In the Shambhala tradition meditation is simply training our state of being so that our mind and body can be synchronized. Through the practice of meditation, we can learn to be without deception, to be fully genuine and alive.”

~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

These are the simple sitting meditation instructions from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche:
(from Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior)
1. Sit crossed legged on the floor, or a cushion, with an upright posture.
2. Place your hands lightly, palms face down, on your thighs.
3. Focus on ‘going out’ (dissolving) with your out breath.
4. Allow your in breath to happen naturally as you come back to awareness of your posture.
5. When a thought inevitably occurs, label it thinking and arrive back at the breath.
6. Label each thought without judgement.

For more Ayurvedic lifestyle reccomendations for balancing Vata, see: Vata Love from Mother Earth.

(Asana Models: Luke Aiken, Kevin Lin, Kali Perry, Liza Brand and Sarah J. Miller)

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