Some Key Elements of a Vata Balancing Practice:
Choosing the following practices when feeling fatigued, stressed, anxious, ungrounded, nervous, agitated, unable to sleep, overwhelmed, indecisive, frazzled, depleted (need I go on?) will move you back towards balance. The more consistently you work with these elements in your practice, the deeper and more sustained the effects will become.
–Most importantly, less is more! When we are feeling depleted or overwhelmed, one supported pose held for 5-30 minutes will restore you deeply. A more active, exertive practice can exacerbate your symptoms.
–Support yourself, especially your head. Use bolsters, blocks, blankets, chairs, cushions, the couch, the edge of your bed, and anything else that does the job . Supporting the head quiets the brain and soothes the nervous system. Supporting the rest of the body allows it to rest deeply.
–Sandbags. Applying weight to the limbs is extremely soothing to the nervous system. Place sandbags on the arms, legs, sacrum or shoulders to teach the body to release and surrender. A sandbag on the forehead of an overactive brain is bliss (think Shirodhara).
–Pratyahara/withdrawing the senses. Use an eye pillow or a head wrap to turn the senses (sight and hearing) inwardly. Sights and sounds draw our attention outward, which takes its toll. When we turn the eyes and ears towards our inner self, we take a break from the stimulations of life, and can rest.
–Inversions. Inversions balance the hormone systems in the body, including stress hormones. Choose well-supported inversions that allow the body to relax. Chair Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), Viparita Karani (legs up the wall), and Viparita Dandasana (inverted staff pose) over a chair are excellent choices.
–Pranayama. Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and Samana Vayu (equal lengths inhalation and exhalation) are very balancing. Bhramari (bumblebee breath) with Sanmuki Mudra helps sooth insomnia. Focusing on your exhalation will sooth and relax, and focusing on the inhalation will energize and replenish you.
–Keep warm. Restorative yoga brings the body temperature down, and Vata types run cold, so wear your sweaters, cover yourself with blankets, and camp out in front of the wood stove or a space heater.
Vanessa Serotta is a 500-hour RYT. She received her certification from Eileen Muir. She values the way asana practice brings us to know ourselves more intimately, and looks to the teachings of yoga philosophy to go deeper still. In each of her classes, Vanessa offers her students an opportunity to make and savor this connection for themselves.