Autumn, Vata season in Ayurveda, is characterized by sensations of airiness, dryness and anxiety. Consider how fall leaves easily fly off branches in the wind and you can get an idea of how Vata feels in our bodies and minds. We may feel detached and airy without a real connection to ideas, people or the ground. These sensations can be unsettling to many people creating distractions and disconnect.
Yoga provides an opportunity to explore the lightness of Vata without feeling disembodied. We are able emphasize the grounding aspects of our practice and approach autumn with real connection. Here are three ways to create grounding in your yoga practice:
1. Find Your Feet: A very common tendency of yoga students is to grip firmly with their toes for stability. Ironically, using your toes in this fashion does the exact opposite and instead disconnects you with the ground. This fact becomes obvious if you do the same with your hand: grip firmly with your fingers on the ground and instantly you will notice your hand cups. Like in this test with your hand, your feet move away from the Earth when you grab with your toes. Instead, try pressing into the big toe, pinky toe and heel ball mound. Allow your toes to be light enough to play a song on an imaginary piano. If that movement is not accessible and the gripping tendency too strong, try keeping your toes lifted to access the majority of your foot. Connect with the Earth and find a solid foundation at your feet.
2. Beckon Your Bandhas: Mula Bandha (the root lock found at the pelvic floor or just above the genitals) is the first of the bandhas, or body locks, that can help to stabilize you during your yoga. Engaging mula bandha during standing poses can provide a steadiness from the inside out and minimize the shift and sway that arises during standing poses. Uddiyana bandha (the belly lock which can be accessed by pulling the belly button in AND up like you were drawing a “J”) gives you a connection to your axis. The stability created through these bandhas allows yogis to hold standing poses from a place of strength and not exertion. They create the feeling of a tree rooting down rather than leaves blowing in the wind.
3. Extend Your Exhales: The exhale part your breath is the Earthy, grounding part. It is during the exhale that we release and yet enhance our connection to the Earth. When Vata is increased as it is in the fall, we may have a tendency to enhance our inhale. In doing this type of breathing we are exaggerating the agitation and airy sensations. Conversely, by calling upon our exhale, we can balance out those light and unsettled feelings. With extended exhales, we trigger our parasympathetic nervous system and physiologically calm our bodies. We linger in the heavier, grounding part of our breathing and emphasize our relaxation.
These three tools can help counteract the effects of Vata season in our practice on and off the mat. By connecting with the grounding aspects of our yoga, we will find more ease and connection during this season.