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To prepare for asana, you’ll need a mat, two blocks, a strap, a bolster, an eye pillow, and a couple of blankets. Carlson recommends beginning with three to six slow, rhythmic rounds of your favorite Sun Salutation. Generally, all constitutions benefit from warming, soothing movements like Sun Salutations during the cold, dry vata season. While practicing, maintain a soft Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath) to enhance focus and introversion.
Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Bend your elbows and cross your right arm over your left, wrapping your forearms around each other. Then bend your knees deeply, keeping your spine long. Shift your weight onto your right foot. Lift your left leg and cross it over your right. If possible, tuck your left toes behind your right calf. Gently squeeze your legs together for stability. Direct breath down toward your low abdomen. This should help you to feel more rooted in your standing leg. Hold for 3–6 breaths, then slowly unwind. Repeat on the other side.
Tree Pose, variation
Stand in Mountain Pose, with 2 blocks in front of your feet a couple feet apart. Shift your weight onto your left foot. Then bend your right leg, placing the right ankle atop your left thigh or in your left hip crease. Slowly fold forward and place your hands on the blocks. Keep your left leg firm. Release the crown of your head toward the floor. Direct each inhalation toward your low back and hips. Hold here for 3–6 breaths, then slowly come upright and release the right foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Cow Face Pose, variation
Sit down and stack your right knee on your left, bringing each foot to the outside of the opposite hip. Keep your sitting bones rooted. Place your right hand on the floor behind you, and your left forearm against your right outer thigh. Twist to the right. Relax your shoulders, close your eyes, and send breath toward your low belly and back. Unwind slowly, change the cross of your legs, and repeat on the other side.
Upward Plank Pose
Extend your legs and place your hands on the floor behind you, with your fingers pointing toward your hips and spread wide. Lift your hips and press the balls of your feet into the floor. Release the crown of your head toward the floor or tuck your chin toward your chest. (Modify by coming into Reverse Tabletop.) Hold for 3–6 breaths, then lower.
See also Oatmeal Vata Style
Constructive Rest, variation
This restorative pose deeply grounds and soothes. Bend your knees, with your feet hip-width apart. Place a block on its narrow edge between your lower inner thighs, then snugly secure a looped strap around your mid-thighs. Keep your heels on the mat and rest your forefeet on a folded blanket. If you get cold, cover up with a second blanket. Lie down and place an eye pillow over your closed eyes. Cross your arms over your chest. Hold for 3–5 minutes, then change the cross of your arms and hold for 3–5 minutes longer.
See also Grounding Tips for Vata Imbalance
Vata Self-Care Tip
Abhyanga (oil massage)
Vata-dominant people often have dry skin, so to hydrate this winter, massage warm, organic sesame-seed oil into your body each morning or evening—the practice of abhyanga. This heavy, thick oil helps settle vata dosha by soothing the nerves and calming the mind. Abhyanga is an excellent self-care practice for recharging when you’re depleted or anxious, and it supports a good night’s sleep.
How to Either in the shower (be careful of slipping) or right after showering, rub 1 ounce of oil into your warm, moist skin. Make circling motions over your joints and elongated, sweeping strokes over long bones.
Modify If you don’t love the feel and smell of sesame-seed oil, try a more neutral oil, like almond or sunflower seed. Just be sure to heat up the oil beforehand by placing the bottle under hot water. Avoid abhyanga if you’re pregnant, have a skin infection or rash, are fighting a fever, or have a cold or the flu.
Nourishing spiced milk is just the thing to help you feel warm and cozy during the cold vata season. Swap out afternoon caffeine for this delicious drink and savor its soothing effects.
- 1 cup organic milk (or your favorite nondairy alternative)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- Small pinch cinnamon powder
- Small pinch cardamom powder
- Small pinch black pepper
- In a small saucepan, bring milk and spices to a low boil for 5 minutes. Pour into a mug, find a comfy seat, and delight in the sweetness!
- Modify dd a dash of nutmeg at night to support sleep; ½ tsp of ghee to relieve constipation; or 1 tsp maple syrup after milk has already boiled if you’re craving something sweeter. Avoid spiced milk when fighting a cold or the flu.
About Our Pro
Teacher and model Larissa Carlson is the former dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, and a yoga teacher trainer based in Massachusetts. You can find her at larissacarlson.com.