By: Monica Ott
‘Om Sarvapranaya Vidhmahe Yashtihastaya Dhimahi Thanno Vayuh Prachodayat.’
Om, Let me meditate on the life-giving air. One who holds the scepter, give me higher intellect, and let the God of Winds illuminate my mind.”
This particular ‘Gayatri’ Mantra honors Lord Vayu, the great deity of air & wind and the ruler of the sky. His powerful force creates motion and while he can be very destructive by conjuring up wind and commanding storms, he most importantly, awakens our potential to reach our higher consciousness; the mind steeped in the divine.
As fall is slowly arriving, the winds begin to cool the heat (Pitta) of summer and dry up the abundance of moisture from this unusual rainy season. Chlorophyll breaks down and the last bit of heat in the leaves creates the vibrant colors we see in the trees. The Ayurvedic season of Vata (Fall through early Winter) has begun. In Sanskrit, ‘vata’ comes from the root ‘vaa’ which means ‘to blow’ or ‘to move.’ Just like Lord Vayu, the movement of wind can be powerful and and the transition from summer to fall can knock us off our feet. At the same time, fall also invokes an ethereal quality of creating space for us to transform. When the leaves eventually fall and the days get shorter, a period of hibernation occurs when we can gaze inward and find meditation.
The same ‘vata’ wind energy that occurs in nature also lives within the body. Just like air sweeping across the surface of the Earth, our bodies and minds (our biological ecosystem) can also be affected by air pressure. Vata is the king of the ‘doshas.*’ It is made up of the elements air and ether and its qualities are cold, dry, mobile, and light. It’s not only related to motion in the physical body (the nervous system, elimination) but more notably, it is the motion of the mind. In the most balanced state, vata uplifts us with divine lightness. When there’s too much of it, we may feel anxious, fearful, or constipated. The air of ‘vata’ can make heat rise which can manifest as inflammation in the body.
The beauty of being aware of ‘vata’ and the role it plays in nature is that we can adjust our routine to align with the season. To create harmony and balance, most of us need the opposite qualities of vata to nourish us, especially if you’re a vata-type person (smaller frame, quick-minded, aversion to cold weather). That’s why it’s important to eat more warm, moist and heavier foods during this time. Root vegetable are a gift that the earth gives us to balance the cold, dry, and light vata season. Soups, stews, and warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and clove are best (a fall/winter grocery list can be found here: https://lifespa.com/winter-grocery-list-vata-balancing-diet/). Try not to cram too many activities into your schedule so that you can stay grounded and connected. Most importantly, enjoy the richness of nature in all of its beauty and ride the wave of Lord Vayu’s wind to help you soar to new heights and reawaken the lightness of your spirit.
Practice: Connect to the wind of your breath and practice more breathing techniques (pranayama). A simple alternate nostril breath called Nadi Shodhana will help you stay balanced:
Take a comfortable and tall seat, making sure your spine is straight and your heart is open. Relax your left hand comfortably into your lap into gyan mudra and bring your right hand just in front of your face.
1. With your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, lightly using them as an anchor. The fingers we’ll be actively using are the thumb and ring finger.
2. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out through your nose.
3. Close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril slowly and steadily.
4. Close the left nostril with your ring finger and open your right nostril to release the breath slowly through the right side.
5. Inhale through the right side slowly and close your right nostril with your thumb.
6. Open your left nostril and release breath slowly through the left side.
Repeat 5-10 cycles