Ashtanga Yoga for Vata Types

As a yoga teacher, I experience vata a lot, as vata seems to blow toward yoga. Vata types are drawn to spiritual practices, as their vision draws them beyond immediate physicality.

Those individuals in whom vata is predominant over pitta and kapha are naturally the most dynamic but also tend to be the least physically strong and stable of the three dosha types. Thus, they have the most to gain from the Ashtanga method which starts with by creating a pure and strong body through asana practice, and leads from there to the depth of meditation.

The structure of the Ashtanga method makes it an ideal support mechanism for vata types. Just as the atmosphere gives structure to the Earth’s air, a little structure for vata type can be invaluable. The fixed schedule of a mysore program can alleviate the sometimes drawn-out deliberation of whether to take a yoga class, what time, which class, teacher etc.

To actually make it to class, the vata type  may have to overcome infinite potential distractions:  the inner dialogue, the debating, the deciding,  the logistics, the planning, pheew!… sometimes it’s a lot of work to have the treasure of vata!

The physical heat and regularity of Ashtanga may give a vata person better digestion and more regular elimination. These folks also benefit from drinking more room-temperature water after yoga, as a way of cleansing and nourishing, especially if they are not naturally inclined to do so.  Warm cooked foods, soft fuzzy blankets, pastels – these all may be nourishing for vata types.

Vata types can be very challenged, and potentially most rewarded from the precise sequencing of Ashtanga. The physicality of the asana practice can bring them back down to earth by taking the attention to the bones and flesh, and keeping the loving gaze steadily and gently focused.

She may not remember if this is the third breath of vinyasa six (downward dog) or the thirty-third breath, but that’s ok. On high vata days, there may be poses forgotten, or even done twice in a row;-)!

The vata type can use their heightened sense of creativity to find their way deep into backbends.  And that air in the lower back may just make some thunderous pops like mine does. Inverted in the headstands and arm balances, the vata type is at home in their element, soaring like Hanumanji did as he leapt from India to Sri Lanka in his split.

The grounding forward bends of the Primary Series can be the most therapeutic for vata types.  The work they do in the Primary Series can bring much-needed regularity to the digestive system.

As a beginner, the vata type will learn to move quickly through the series in order not to lose focus.  For a while, it may feel daunting to walk into a silent yoga room which may amplify all the voices in the head.

Don’t worry, Ashtanga has a sleek simplicity to it, a gradual step-by-step approach.  Regularity of appropriate diet and practice, the steadiness of the daily and weekly routine is valuable asset for the vata type.

With time, this practitioner will learn to release the chatter in the mind and seek solace in the sensations of the body. She will learn to direct that air to the inner fire through the ujjayi pranayama, and their tapas (disciplined effort) will make a steady flame. When the breath becomes deeper and steadier, this person will learn to slow their pace down yet not drift away.

Vata types in Ashtanga let the practice itself over time reveal the Truth and answers to their infinite questions.  They let the steadiness of their practice spill out into other aspects of their lives, including relationships, work, and home life.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  If so, are you wondering what else you can to do bring your vatta into better balance?

Or maybe you this all seems way more airy than your experience…


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