The key to true mind-body balance? Understanding your body’s natural needs—how to eat, cook, cleanse, and heal—through each season. In our upcoming online course Ayurveda 101, Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu's School of Ayurveda, and John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa.com and best-selling author, demystify yoga's elemental sister science. Sign up now—class starts this week!
Just like we update our diet and pranayamas for each season, we should also tweak our yoga practice, says Larissa Hall Carlson, former dean of Kripalu's School of Ayurveda and co-leader of our new online course, Ayurveda 101. "Vata (the fall/winter season) is cold, light, and mobile. We want asana experiences that are warming, grounding, and heavy," she says.
Here are 3 asana practices to add to your yoga flow this winter, to help balance vata, soothe the nerves, and even alleviate vata-related digestive issues (e.g., gas and bloating), according to Carlson.
1. Constructive Rest
Constructive rest is a restorative pose that's usually done at the end of an asana sequence, either in addition to Savasana or instead of Savasana. Binding the legs and arms creates the opportunity for the muscles to really soften and relax, almost like swaddling a baby. It feels cozy, warm, and supportive.
An eye pillow, a strap, a blanket, and a block.
Sit down on a mat and place a folded blanket underneath the balls or mounds of your feet, with your knees bent and your heels on the floor. Place a block between your thighs just above the knee. Wrap a strap around the middle of your thighs. Tighten the strap until it’s snug. Lie down. Rest an eye pillow over your closed eyes. Even out the weight in your hips and shoulders. Cross your arms over your chest, essentially giving yourself a hug. Soften and relax everything. Stay in this grounding, soothing, nurturing restorative pose for 5–20 mins. Feel free to switch the cross of the arms halfway through. Do this 3 times a week during vata season.
2. Slowed-Down Sun Salutations
Slowed-down, rhythmic, fluid Sun Salutations balance the chaotic speed of excess vata during the hustle and bustle of winter. Use a very soft Ujjayi breath to soothe the nervous system and focus the mind. Also try lengthening the breath and letting each movement be a deeply satisfying stretch, perhaps even pausing during each posture in the Sun Salutation to breathe deeply for 2–3 breaths.
3. Garland Pose (Malasana)
This deep squat gets into the seat of vata, because vata governs the low back, hips, and abdomen. Malasana is an excellent pose to loosen up tension and tightness in low back and hips while also supporting good downward flow of energy. It supports good daily bowel movements and helps alleviate vata conditions like gas, bloating, and constipation. Close the eyes and hold for 6–10 breaths, focusing on breathing downward toward the abdomen. This pose can be done daily during vata season.