Yoga for Vata
1 Nov 2021 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy
Vata predominant constitutions need a container to hold themselves in balance. The first and most obvious way to create a container is by regulating your lifestyle. Relaxation, pranayama and meditation practices affect the subtler qualities of Vata an if emphasis is placed there first, it can create a grounded personality. A regulated lifestyle that seeks to balance biological rhythms with eating, relaxation, exercise, and working is most important. When this is achieved, the rhythm that are less under conscious control- eliminating, menstruating, and deep sleep- begin to come into harmony. Once a regulated lifestyle is established, then the subtler aspects of Vata can be a addressed successfully.
The routine of a Yoga residential or retreat environment can help you to experience the benefits of this rhythm and one can learn how to adapt your life to these principles. This includes arising before dawn and beginning your personal Yoga practice. Breakfast follows, and then work with a break in the middle of the day for a light walk prior to lunch and following it before the afternoon work. Lunch is the optimal time for the heaviest meal of the day. After work is over then time can be best spent unwinding from the day with an early evening Yoga practice. This can be followed with a light dinner such as soup and salad or lunch leftovers, Keeping leftovers over night they will loose their prana, making such food ama( not nurturing, not Mothering, but toxic). Evening is a good time for socializing and sharing of the events of the day with your loved ones. If the day has been challenging then an additional yoga practice composed of restorative poses and/or Yoga nindra will be rejuvenative prior to meditation and prayer practice. This final Vata balancing practice of the day can even be done lying in bed as you transition to deep sleep.
Over my life, I have experienced the tremendous benefits of a disciplined life-style through visits ranging from weekends to half a year at a variety of Yoga and Zen Buddhist residential centers. A wonderful freedom comes from this type of predictable routine. At first one is likely to resist discipline, but over time, its ability to balance Vata and calm excessive thinking becomes clear. There begins to arise a profound relaxation as caretaking of the body and mind tend to lift the veil from the omnipresent Spirit. Once the basics of the daily routine are taken care of spiritual questions such as “where am I going?” can be visited with a gentleness seldom seen elsewhere.
Without this one an lose connection to “right relations” with friends, students, family, and even oneself. Maintaining this regular, predictable lifestyle allows to fall into proper perspective.
Once a regular lifestyle is established, prana will find its home in the pelvic region and the sub pranas will naturally begin to return to their home sites as well. Vata needs attention and seasonal adjustments to maintain its natural ability to balance the changes that are part of life. I typically change my routine every season to adapt to the weather and also to adapt to my current stage of life. This helps to balance the air element as the grosser level of Vata. Once this occurs then the ether element of Vata can be addressed.
The second way to balance Vata is by doing Yoga practices which promote flexibility and sensitivity with specifically sequenced Vinyasa practices. The key is to regulate the breath in a gentle, yet deliberate manner such as with Ujjaye Pranayama. Using this method with the Sun salutation as the Vinyasa, one cycle will take about 60 minutes. Movement is slow and deliberate with concentration on the internal wave motion and glottal sound of the Ujjaye breathing pattern. The breath leads the motion with the body following its direction.
Yoga pose is a steady and comfortable position. yoga pose is mastered by relaxation of efforts, lessening the tendency for restless breathing, and promoting an identification of oneself as living Within the infinite breath of life.Patanjali
I placed emphasis on the phrase “ yoga pose is mastered by relaxation of effort as it is this quality that brings Vata to balance. Yoga done with Patanjali`s guide lines in mind promotes peace, heightens sensitivity, and leads to contemplative insights. This will result to taking actions upon the appropriate revelations. There is a natural evolution of the balanced Vata to stimulate Pitta, increasing the desire to engage in beneficial actions. If practiced regularly, it also releases suppressed fear and curbs anxiety. A sense of attainable aspirations comes into focus and ones’ burdens are lifted. This practice can also increase the mount of prana that can be retained to stabilize and balance the five pranas. And help the mind to stay focused.
“if the body is weak, prana flows in and out.
When this is the case, how can you find any joy in life?”My guru, Swami Muktananda said
Foe Vata predominant constitutions- Vata/pitta, Vata/Kapha and Vata/Pitta?kapha- alertness to the breath and pranic flows within the body can generate an ability to stay balanced longer. The development of prana as a refinement of the breath leads to the highest balance of this element. Breath and body sensations become prana and they stay longer in their appropriate body regions performing their five specific subdosha functions.
The generic prana will gradually reveal its family of sub pranas. Over time when practice is done beautifully, it is possible to experience each of the five subtle pranic movements occurring within their home sites. The pranas are balanced from their grosser forms to the subtlest form as Vyana Prana, resulting in the experience of omnipresence.
In the fourth method of regulating one`s breath prana is extended into the divine life force and the range of prana is felt permeating everywhere, transcending the attention given to either external or internal objects.” The results arises as a mixture of self-discipline and grace.As Patanjali says,
Exercises in General
Vata predominant people need to experience stability and grounding as they engage in exercise that does not fatigue them. Walking with breath timed to be in harmony with the natural swaying of the arms and legs will help to release suppressed emotions and ecess thoughts. When this is done in a natural environment free from distractions, Vata will come to balance gently and easily. Even a short walk following meals can help to promote harmony in those of this sensitive constitution.
Vata predominant students need to practice poses that focus on the pelvic region and the colon, whuch are the main sites of Vata. The most useful poses promote freedom in the major joint areas of the lower body- the hips, lumbar spine, and knees joints. Forward bending poses are good, but should not be forced or held in a prolonged fashion. Some Vatas are naturally flexible and must be cautioned not to promote any increases range of motion, which can diminish their prana, their will power and their ability to hear their own inner voice.
Balancing poses such as those in the balancing Tree Vinyasa- Balancing Tree (Vrksasana), eagle (Garudasana), and Dancer King ( Natarajasana) – will increase concentration. This tends to make prana smootehr, steadier and when accompanied by Pranayama, refined and subtle.
A Vata balancing practice would place primary emphasis on developing sensitivity through inquiry practices. Asking “what do I feel?” and “where do I feel it?” does more to balance Vata than anything else. The deeper a Vata can go inside, the better.
Asanas should be done with rhythmic, steady and regular breathing (Sama Vritti Ujjaye Pranayama- throat breathing of equal effort and duration) mild and gentle in relative silence. Seated poses, which are traditionally used in breathing and meditation, are also recommended for keeping the hips supple and the pelvic floor mobile and open. Among these practices are easy pose- Sukhasana, half lotus-Ardha padmasana, adept`s pose- Siddhasana, and thunderbolt- Vajrasana. It is good for Vata to discipline their memory by learning sequences that build upon previous weeks training. A teacher can promote Vata balance by making their voice soft, quiet and steady to verbally affirm Patanjali`s guidelines. By teaching with contemplation of the classical guidelines of the Yoga Sutras, this generates discipline in a consistent manner. Regular deep relaxation and brief guided meditation throughout a class is very important.
Pranayama is more important for Vata predominant students than for Pitta or Kaphas as it soothes their sensitive nature, which is more prone to disturbances than the other doshas. Ujjaye Pranayama should form the core of the Vata pranayama practice. Variations such as alternate nostril breathing (anuloma Viloma)- also known as purification of the subtle channelsI ( Nadi shodhana in the hathayoga Pradipaka II, 7-10) are useful in balancing Vata. This can be done in the early morning or an empty stomach for up to five minutes.
Once a consistent practice is established, the next step is to learn Mula Bandha and Aswini Mudra. These practices develop the pelvic floor by strengthening the pubococcyogeal muscles, the bladder, and sex organs. On the subtler level, they can help to refine the Pranas, developing the Apana Prana by prolonging the exhale, and Samana and Vyana Pranas by lengthening the Kumbhaks or breath pause. Variations of these practices are innumerable though I do not recommend Vatas do more variety but instead concentrate on deepening their sensitivity to prana. These practices root our disturbed Vata from its home in the pelvic cavity. With patience and persistence, serenity can from simply doing Ujjaye Pranayama with a mild root lock( Mula bandha) during exhalations.
Purification ( Shatkarmas )
In general, cleansing practices for Vata should be mild and done only for brief periods of time during the early phases of the changeable seasons os fall and spring under supervision. Once they learn the practice their trained pranic sensitivity will reveal when and how much is appropriate in the seasons to follow. Strong purification practices like Vamana Dhouti (intestinal cleansing with water) should be avoided. Milder forms of shatkarma (6 cleansing actions) can be done daily such as Agnisar Dhouti ( purifying the fire), Jala Neti ( water purifying) and Trataka ( fixed gazing).
One meaning of the word mantra is “ the sound that protects you”. Mantras for Vata can be especially as Vata rules the mind. By receiving a mantra that affirms your spiritual nature or cultivated the process of inquiry into ‘Who am I?” can help the student go deeper into their inner world. One example is ‘so.ham’ (I am that) , known as a breath mantra as the breath is said to make the sound of this mantra as it goes in and out. By repeating so`ham with the inhalation on the first syllable and the exhalation on the second, the vibratory energy of the sound can be directly felt. With persistence and Grace , the vibration of the mantra or even the cosmos.
Other mantras are variations on the Shakti mantras that honor the qualities of prosperity and abundance as personified by the Godesses Lakshmi or those of the creative energies personified by the Goddess Sarasvati. Sarasvati is the ruler of the first chakra in the pelvic floor region. Lakshmi is the ruler of the second chakra , located in the bladder region. These mantras are particularly good for dispelling the hidden fears that plague Vata , as they create calmness and serenity.
My guru said repeatedly that for Vata predominant students” the mind is like a dangerous dark alley , you should never go there alone. Take the help of a mantra to protect you.”
The ideal yogic spiritual path for Vata is jnana ir Raja yoga . Whatever method they close should be coupled with the study of the yoga sutras supervised by a competent teacher that they have faith in. If the Raja yoga tradition is not appealing to them, then scriptural study of their religious heritage is recommended. For instance, a Christian Yoga teacher could study the Bible,especially the Book of Job and the prophets- Daniel, psalms, and Revelations;a Jewish Yoga student could study the Torah, and be thoroughly engaged in the practice of daily and seasonal rituals. The most important quality is that spiritual practice includes svadhaya or self study aided by reflection on a spiritual text of their preference. Optimal if possible is to have time spent with a spiritual mentor.
Ayurveda Yoga therapy for Vata conditions
IN yoga `s repertoire , we have practices for balancing the Vata qualities within us thus promoting natural biological rhythms like menstruation , elimination, sexual expression, speech , sleep , digestion, physical motions, therby calming the mind, and elevating ouor intuition. On the therapeutic level, the practices that restore Vata balance are useful for Vata disturbed condition such as motion sickness, hypertension, poor circulation, headaches, constipation, hypoglycemia, irregular menstrual rhythms , insomnia and epilepsy. The practices of pranayama and meditation can be adapted to address psychological issues of fear, anxiety, fatigue, seslf-confidence , improve memory and to develop a stronger will power . Note that specific recommendation should be given to each individual based on personal needs.
Summary of Yoga For Vata
The focus for treatment of Vata is upon promoting relaxation and sensitivity for inner self. The method for implementation this is through a combination of practices which is brings regular attention to breathing and air pranic life force, by Vinyasa done rhythmically led by the natural pace of the breathe and movements which put pressure in your pelvis and legs. Some general examples includes gentle warm up series such as the joint freeing series(Pavanmuktasana) described in Structural Yoga Therapy harmoninzed as breath pace , the wave breath (Ujjayi Pranayama ) sitting postures , forward bending postures and palm tree or balancing tree Vinyasa.