Does it feel like the pace of the world has ratcheted up a notch recently? Between the end of the semester, the shortening of daytime, added family events, the preparations for holidays, and the upcoming end of the calendar year, it can be easy to get pulled into more anxiety and move from thought to thought and activity to activity in a more frenzied way during this time of year.
Aruveyda–which is the sister science of yoga–notes that we may also feel an uptake in chaos and anxiety because of a change in dosha that goes with this season. In aruveydic science and philosophy, the time of year from late fall to late winter is when the “dosha” or predominate pattern of energy of Vata is most likely to get out of balance. Vata is associated with the element of wind, and an imbalance in this area can lead to more qualities of dryness, restlessness, changeability, roughness, and coldness in both our emotional and physical realms. We may be more anxious, have difficulty focusing, and be less present in our lives. We may also have dryer skin and more difficulties with digestion. The element of Vata can also exacerbate our symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In a recent yoga workshop, I shared some of the teachings and practices of yoga for balancing the Vata dosha during the restlessness of the season. Overall, we want to increase our sense of groundedness, juiciness, and warmth while slowing down and creating more routine. Here are some ways to create this in your life on and off of the mat:
In your yoga practice, put an emphasis on grounding through whatever is coming into contact with the ground (usually your feet, seat, back, stomach or hands). Come into your foundation before starting to move.
Increase repetition of patterns in your yoga practice. This could mean practicing at the same time of day or having a sequence that you do multiple times within a practice.
Keep an emphasis on forward bends and twists to lower anxiety.
Practice holding postures as opposed to a quick flow practice.
Keep your drishti on the ground or below the horizon line.
Spend longer time in restorative poses and savasana.
Do breathing practices designed to slow you down. This may mean just focusing on the breath or it could mean doing a breathing practice with a focus on lengthening the exhale.
Find time to meditate. It may help to give your mind something on which to put your attention as the mind may be more prone to wander when Vata is out of balance.
Drink plenty of liquids, particularly warm liquids.
Stay warm overall.
Moisturize your skin more in this season.
Spend time in routine when you can. This may mean keeping a regular yoga or exercise practice, keeping a consistent calendar, and scheduling time with friends and family.
When feeling overwhelmed, pause and place your attention on one thing. This may mean looking at only the next task at hand or reciting a mantra.
Favor environments that are soothing and calming.
Try to get to bed earlier. Before 10 PM is ideal for this time of year.
This list is meant as suggestions for balancing Vata--not as an exhaustive list of to-do’s to add on to this already busy time of year. If it feels like too much, you can try just one or two and notice how this leads to being able to slow down and replenish yourself.