The vata energy lives within all of us. It can be encouraged by exposing ourselves to influences that possess vata qualities, or it can be balanced using the other energetic constitutions. During the lifespan, vata becomes more of a prevalent force after retirement. The bones become less dense, our minds become spacey, our attitude towards life can become a little frantic. These are some factors of vata that can also enter our lives at any time that where vata becomes more influential. Cold, dry winter months, are dominated by vata. In the areas where an imbalance in detected, manipulate kapha and pitta influences to create an equilibrium.
Where Vata Shows Up
Vata is said to reside in the large intestine, pelvis, lower abdomen, and psoas. Individuals who experience disease in these areas generally have an abundance of vata energy in the body. Balancing the energy using yoga and manipulating some external factors can greatly relieve symptoms of discomfort in these areas.
In the illustration below, the large intestine is visible from both a front and rear view.
In order to move imbalances in vata, it is important to maintain health of the large intestine. Give it a little extra love during a vata-dominated season by maintaining adequate fiber intake, and drinking plenty of warm water. Try not to overwork the large intestine with large meals that include poor quality fats and flour. I know, I know – it’s impossible to resist mom’s decadent coconut cookies at Christmas! Go ahead, be present and fully enjoy your treat. Plan to refresh your digestive tract by sticking to some choices from this list for a few days. My favorite way to arm myself against social gathering in which I know I will be tempted, start each morning with a big shot of Winter Elixir. Recipe to follow.
Vata Balancing Food Choices
∙Vegetable soups with lots of starchy roots
∙Rice, especially in kitchari
∙Winter Elixir (recipe follows)
∙Curries and spicy sauces
∙Cooked whole grains such as oats, bulgar, and quinoa
∙Roasted vegetables of all kinds
∙Cooked fruits, such as applesauce
Vata Aggravating Food Choices
∙Raw veggies, especially cucumbers and celery
External Vata Care
Pelvic health is strongly related to the health of the lower back (lumbar spine), and there is an intricate network of supporting muscles around this location that joins the upper and lower body. The muscle that connects the lower back and the front of the pelvis is known as the psoas.
The psoas is responsible for flexing and extending the thigh from the body. When the body is standing, the angle between the thigh and the front of the pelvis is open. This is extension. When the body is in a sitting position and the thigh bone is parallel to the floor, the angle is closed, and the psoas is flexed. Many people have issues with their psoas and lower back, some of which is attributed to the amount of sitting in modern societies.
Yoga can greatly influence the stuck energy in this part of the body. As you can imagine, a knot of pent up vata energy can be formed in the pelvic region. As the sister science of ayurveda, yoga works to balance all three energetic constitutions. Any movement is nourishment for your body, especially heat building vinyasa flows during the season of vata. Meditation practices, yin yoga, and yoga nidra can also be helpful as it calms the spacey mind of vata-dominated individuals.
We’ve all experienced the magic of a well-deserved savasana can have on our state of mind!
Here is a small collection of poses to assist in moving vata and bringing in some other energies.
Forward folds of any kind can assist in moving energy into the upper body instead of being stuck in the pelvic region. Uttasana. In order to protect the lower back, bring a deep bend to the knees. Prioritize the straightness of your spine over the straightness of your legs!
If this aggravates your back still, try the seated version. For a more restorative version, go ahead -- drape over that bolster.
All standing poses can be grounding if awareness is brought to the feet. The connection between the earth and the body can be completely transformational. In the autumn, try some outdoor yoga with bare feet to truly cultivate a connected-ness. Feel the way balancing poses force us into the focused present.
Work poses that will both flex and extend the psoas to bring heat and move stagnant energy. A deep, restorative child’s pose will bring a welcome flexion into the psoas, while providing some compression to the lower abdomen and large intestine. Compression poses will bring fresh, oxygenated blood into the vata region.
Give yourself permission to take that extra balasana in class!
A reclined hero’s pose, or sputa virasana, will beautifully extend the psoas. I love this pose because it can be modified so that it is accessible to almost any body. For less open bodies, come to your elbows on a boulster. You will be amazed how quickly your psoas will open with daily TLC!
Plus it feels amazing:
For more open bodies, remember to keep your thigh engaged, knees pressing into the floor, and a neutral pelvis. This way the psoas is also protected from injury.
Notice how much the angle on the frontal hips opens up with this more intense version! Beautiful.
A few fingers of fresh ginger root
1/2 cup filtered water
3 lemons, freshly juiced
1 tablespoon local honey
3 dashes cayenne, powdered
1 wide mouth quart jar
I like to drink Winter Elixir every morning, along with my first huge glass of warm water. Defend your immune system, wake up your digestive track, and warm your body from the inside.
Now you're armed with some great vata balancing tools for this winter season. Don't just file them away into the memory bank! Put them to action. Let me hear you thoughts and questions.
After all, we're all in this together.
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