More thoughts on Fall and the season of change, the season where we begin to draw inward as the winds sweep us from under our feet. Yes the windy season. Ayurvedically, this season is called Vata. Ayurveda is an ancient science of life aligned with the forces of nature. Ayurveda might treat an illness, an imbalance with certain practices, lifestyle changes and changes in thinking. Doshas are the energetic elements that we possess, some more than others at certain times. Doshas can serve us well when they are in balance but a bit too much or too little, we are not harmonized with nature. Take this simple quiz to find out which Dosha(s) you are predominantly and what is surfacing for you at the present.
For further consultation into your Dosha and to address any imbalances, we have our very own Ayurvedic consultant at Moyo, Lisa Scarborough. Through the consultation, she can support your efforts to bring balance to your natural energetic state. She also offers various Ayurvedic treatments which are designed for your specific Dosha needs.
3 Ways to Ground Yourself During Vata Season
Autumn, Vata season in Ayurveda, is characterized by sensations of airiness, dryness and anxiety. Consider how fall leaves easily fly off branches in the wind and you can get an idea of how Vata feels in our bodies and minds. We may feel detached and airy without a real connection to ideas, people or the ground. These sensations can be unsettling to many people creating distractions and disconnect.
Yoga provides an opportunity to explore the lightness of Vata without feeling disembodied. We are able emphasize the grounding aspects of our practice and approach autumn with real connection. Here are three ways to create grounding in your yoga practice:
1. Find Your Feet: A very common tendency of yoga students is to grip firmly with their toes for stability. Ironically, using your toes in this fashion does the exact opposite and instead disconnects you with the ground. This fact becomes obvious if you do the same with your hand: grip firmly with your fingers on the ground and instantly you will notice your hand cups. Like in this test with your hand, your feet move away from the Earth when you grab with your toes. Instead, try pressing into the big toe, pinky toe and heel ball mound. Allow your toes to be light enough to play a song on an imaginary piano. If that movement is not accessible and the gripping tendency too strong, try keeping your toes lifted to access the majority of your foot. Connect with the Earth and find a solid foundation at your feet.
2. Beckon Your Bandhas: Mula Bandha (the root lock found at the pelvic floor or just above the genitals) is the first of the bandhas, or body locks, that can help to stabilize you during your yoga. Engaging mula bandha during standing poses can provide a steadiness from the inside out and minimize the shift and sway that arises during standing poses.Uddiyana bandha (the belly lock which can be accessed by pulling the belly button in AND up like you were drawing a “J”) gives you a connection to your axis. The stability created through these bandhas allows yogis to hold standing poses from a place of strength and not exertion. They create the feeling of a tree rooting down rather than leaves blowing in the wind.
3. Extend Your Exhales: The exhale part your breath is the Earthy, grounding part. It is during the exhale that we release and yet enhance our connection to the Earth. When Vata is increased as it is in the fall, we may have a tendency to enhance our inhale. In doing this type of breathing we are exaggerating the agitation and airy sensations. Conversely, by calling upon our exhale, we can balance out those light and unsettled feelings. With extended exhales, we trigger our parasympathetic nervous system and physiologically calm our bodies. We linger in the heavier, grounding part of our breathing and emphasize our relaxation.
These three tools can help counteract the effects of Vata season in our practice on and off the mat. By connecting with the grounding aspects of our yoga, we will find more ease and connection during this season.
Chest and Belly (Minimal Prop)
Benefits: Very grounding, allows glut, thigh and low back muscles to relax while supporting the low back, can stimulate digestive system, ease anxiety
Props: 1-2 blankets
Place a blanket horizontally on your mat or floor. Lay down on the blanket with one edge of the blanket at top of thighs and the other end at low ribs to support the low back. Make any adjustments to height of blanket for comfort. Another blanket can be used for your head. Extend arms out to sides then bend elbows at 90 degree angle (Goddess arms), turn head to a side. When you need to turn your head to the other side, do so as you inhale softly.
Mountain Brook Pose
Props: 2-3 blankets, neck roll, one bolsters
Benefits: counteracts the slumped position of our posture from sitting, computer use, driving, everyday activities. Opens the chest to help breathe easier. Improves digestion, reduces fatigue and can lift your mood.
Just like a babbling brook with boulders (soft ones!), imagine your body like the soft rushing waters laying over those boulders, smooth, flowing. It will allow the natural curves of the body to be held up gently and the breath to flow.
On your mat, place one bolster where your knees will be and another where your lower legs can rest, one blanket rolled up where the bra line is (base of scapula), and a neck roll for the cervical spine. Shoulders rest on the floor, arms to side with palms facing up or come into Goddess arms. If ankles need support, use rolled-up blanket or dish towel. Eye pillows can lightly rest on eyes or even be used on forehead (useful for headaches) or even on shoulders (wherever you need to release tension). To begin with stay in pose for 10 minutes working up to 20 minutes. Great to use in savasana. Feel the heart open, the strain from holding yourself up all day evaporate.
Variations: Feeling cranky in the lumbar spine? Place blanket to fill the curves. Want to feel more grounded while still opening the heart? Place rolled up blanket against wall and soles of feet touching blanket. Need to feel cuddled? Swaddle your head in a blanket cradle.
Reclined Bound Angle with Legs Up
Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems. Drains the legs from fatigue.
Props: bolster or firm pillows, or rolled-up blankets, chair, one extra blanket for warmth, strap and eye pillow
Set up bolster or firm pillow lengthwise on mat, add neck pillow to top. Place rolled up blankets at bottom of bolster to fill in and support lumbar spine. Recline over bolster or pillow and bring lower legs onto chair with blanket cushioning. Lay a blanket over legs to ground you. Strap can be added to contain the legs and deepen pose. Add support to wrists/arms to keep them open and free flow of blood. Stay in the pose for 10 to 15 minutes.