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It's the season for Vata Balancing Yoga

By Lauren Gernady

Brr, it’s cold out there! As I look out my window, I see leafless trees, icicles festively decorating the gutters, and joggers bundled up and braving the sub-freezing temps. Hello, vata season! This season is ruled by the elements ether and air (which make up vata dosha) as well as its inherent qualities. In Ayurveda, we always take time to examine the qualities so that we know how to find balance. The whole system is based on the principle “like increases like, and opposites bring balance.” With this in mind, I’ll take a moment to walk you through the qualities of ether and air.

Qualities of Ether/Space

● Clear

● Light

● Subtle

● Soft

Space is the container that holds everything. Space is clear because it has no substance. Being absent of any of the other elements, space lacks heft or weight and is the most subtle. This subtlety gives it no boundaries, and without edges space is soft.

Air is the principle of movement and communication.

Qualities of Air

● Mobile

● Dry

● Light

● Cold

● Rough

● Subtle

When thinking about the element air I picture a windy day. It is the power of the wind that creates movement in the branches of the trees sending detritus across the lawn. Too much wind creates dryness. If you’ve ever hit the slopes on a blustery day you may find that by day’s end your skin is raw and dry. Air does not contain any fire, so it is cold. It creates roughness in the landscaping, compared to the water element which is deeply nourishing. Lastly, just like space, air is subtle and light, you cannot bottle or hold the air element. However, you could scoop up a clump of soil (earth element) and cup it in your palms.

Should the qualities of winter begin to accumulate in your body and mind you may start to exhibit signs of a vata imbalance.

Signs of Imbalanced Vata

● Dry, cracking skin & joints

● Dry nails & hair

● Gas, bloating, & constipation

● Low back pain, nerve pain, & twitches

● Insomnia

● Emaciation

● Inability to focus, scattered, & restless

● Fear, anxiety, & nervousness

● Loneliness

● Feeling ungrounded

● Talking extremely fast & losing train of thought

Ayurveda seeks out balance through diet and lifestyle practices and modifications. One way to mitigate too much vata in the system is to adjust your yoga practice to usher in more of the fire, water and earth elements.

The fire element brings heat to the body and focus to the mind. This can be done through rhythmic breathing and movement. The water element cultivates fluidity, calmness, gracefulness, and centered awareness. Seamlessly moving from one posture to the next (think slow Vinyasa), or pulsating in and out of a pose with the breath help call in the water element, smoothing out the rough quality of vata. Bringing in the earth element either through floor poses, or postures that keep the limbs in connection with the mat increase groundedness, concentration, and stability.

Vata Balancing Asana

For starters, vata does best with consistency and routine. Try to practice at roughly the same time and for the same length of time every day (or on consistent days of the week). Consistency with practice can counter the mobile quality. Focus on a practice that promotes circulation, warmth, and downward movement. Slow steady sun salutations are a beautiful way to create heat and move any winter stagnation. Tether the attention to the breath to calm and focus the mind. To draw the attention inward keep the gaze soft on the earth or the eyes closed. It can be beneficial to begin your practice with an intention and repeatedly recall the intention throughout the sadhana.

Postures that use the strength and stability of the leg muscles bolster apana vayu, the downward moving energy that governs elimination and keeps us centered. Constipated? Spend some time in malasana to stimulate peristalsis and get things moving. In addition, Warrior 2 and Goddess, are also supportive to apana vayu. To strengthen and stabilize vata, hold the poses for 3-5 breaths, this will prevent vata from becoming exhausted (increasing the mobile quality).

The seat of vata dosha is in the pelvic girdle, thus it is extremely beneficial to work the hips with postures such as pigeon, fire log, sage pose, bound angle, deer pose, or figure 4. Be sure to direct the breath downward into the abdomen and pelvis while holding these hip opening poses. Standing and seated forward folds bring about a feeling of introversion and introspection.

Any posture in which the belly is down on the earth will bring about more of the heavy, grounding, dull, and slow qualities of earth and water. These postures can also support deeper sleep and relaxation. Examples include child's pose, half frog, puppy posture, frog, or locust.

Using props throughout the practice can be supportive in the winter. Perhaps popping a cushion or block under the hip during pigeon, or under the hands in any lunges. This will not only bring the earth element closer to you but will also decrease the need for muscling and effort, thereby creating more relaxation.

Savasana during a vata balancing practice should be longer. Experiment with decreasing sensory stimulation by blocking out light with an eye mask. Be sure to bundle up to balance the cold qualities of the season. The addition of weight on the body during corpse pose through a pillow on the abdomen or even a weighted blanket can bring one into a luscious state of relaxation.

Vata Balancing Pranayama

Throughout the asana practice aim to keep the inhalation and exhalation even. With each exhalation imagine sending the breath to the base of the pelvis, or the seat of vata. Layering on ujjayi will increase the heat and improve circulation throughout the body. The rhythmic ocean sound can foster a calm mental and emotional state.

Nadi shodhana is beneficial for all 3 doshas. It works to balance the solar and lunar currents in the body while soothing the mind. A real boon for the nervous system, 15 minutes a day of nadi shodhana can work as a buffer to protect the system from too much sensory stimulation, or just the plain stressors of life. Alternatively, one could practice surya bhedana or the sun piercing breath. This solar pranayama stimulates pingala nadi by conducting all the inhalations through the right nostril and the exhalations out the left. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that this breath “destroys wind” which is just the ticket for managing excess vata dosha.

Cold hands and feet? Perhaps start your practice out with a couple rounds of slow, rhythmic kapalabhati. The skull polishing breath will gradually increase warmth and circulation in the body. Be mindful to keep this slow so as to not increase the mobile quality too much in the mind.

Vata Balancing Meditation

Take some time after your pranayama practice to sit in meditation. Calling to mind images that are nurturing, warm, tranquil, and almost womb-like can be supportive. Perhaps recalling a favorite vacation spot and imagining you are planted on the beach being licked by the warm rays of the sun and lulled to relaxation by the sounds of the waves.

Mantra meditation is an excellent pick for vata dosha as it gives the mind a task, which can have a tendency to roam free and wild. When the mobile quality is too high one may have a hard time sitting for long periods of time. This can be remedied through walking meditation in which attention is focused on the “lifting, moving, and placing” of the foot with each step.

As previously mentioned, when vata gets too high feelings of insecurity and lacking may arise. The so-hum meditation can be employed to lower stress levels, and increase feelings of happiness and security. Even better? Invite your furry pals to join you on the meditation cushion, a boost to ojas (immunity) and oxytocin, that’s a win-win.


After a vata balancing practice, one should walk away feeling calm, stable, and warmed. Ideally, tension that was seated in the lower pelvis and abdomen has been released. The mind should feel at ease, grounded, peaceful, and mentally and emotionally stable.

I hope these tips for vata pacifying yoga bring you comfort and groundedness throughout the winter months.


If you are a yoga teacher and are interested in learning how to lead vata balancing yoga classes, join Lauren Gernady on The Thread for her upcoming 4-week series:

How to Lead Vata Balancing Yoga, 4-Part Series

Feeling scattered and disconnected from your body? Friend, you are not alone. As we find

ourselves in the depths of winter, the light, cold, dry, rough, and mobile qualities of vata have no doubt begun to build in the body and mind leaving one feeling untethered. Let’s remedy this together through our yoga, pranayama, and meditation practice.

Join Lauren for this 4-part series where you will learn how to balance the qualities of winter. We will begin with theory on the elemental composition and qualities of vata and how to balance with opposites. Cultivating the fire element through slowly building heat through repetition and sustaining poses. Weaving in the water element through fluid transitions and seamless breath. Calling in the earth element through closed circuit postures.

Classes will include vata pacifying yoga sequences, warming and soothing pranayamas, and grounding meditations to prevent air and space from taking over this winter.

Tuesdays in February, 9am - 10:15am EST

Week 1: Doshic Theory (Feb 7)

Week 2: Asana & Sequencing (Feb 14)

Week 3: Pranayama and Meditation (Feb 21)

Week 4: Putting it all Together (Feb 28

*BONUS: This Series includes a full-access membership to The Thread Yoga Collective until March 7th. Access to series videos will be available until that date.


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