If you’ve noticed an increasing sense of unease lately, and have been feeling scattered, exhausted and anxious, then you’re probably wondering why – and worrying if it will ever end. The good news is, it will, but maybe not until Spring – unless you choose to make some adjustments now. And how do you do that? Well, as Bob Dylan so memorably put it, the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…
It’s typical at this time of the year – when the Autumn winds are shaking down the trees and Winter’s long fingers begin to give us an icy poke, as though warning us of an impending deep freeze – for our bodies to respond. We can feel stiff and fragile, we might experience difficulty sleeping, and develop dry skin – as though the wind and cool temperatures are shaking us down, too. And when our bodies feel under assault, so do our minds.
According to the ancient science of Ayurveda (a system for maintaining physical and mental wellbeing, which developed alongside yoga and is considered its sister science), when we experience these changes, it’s due to an excess of ‘vata’. The cooler months of the year are renowned for creating this effect.
What is vata?
Vata is one of the three doshas, or types of energy, which Ayurvedic science tells us each person is made up of (the others are ‘kapha’ and ‘pitta’). None of us are the same, according to this theory; we’re all composed of different amounts of each dosha – and it’s a matter of maintaining our individual constitution in order to maintain optimum health. If you’re curious to know your dosha type, you can find out very easily and for free on the Chopra Center website (in return for your email address).
For our purposes, the point is this: whether vata plays a dominant role in your make-up or not, Autumn and Winter still have plenty of potential for creating excessive amounts of this fast and flighty kind of energy – an energy which, when in balance fuels our creativity and vitality, makes us quick and bright, joyful and active, but causes fear and anxiety when in excess – as well as countless other symptoms, as listed in this article from Svastha Ayurveda, a holistic healthcare practice based in Colorado.
‘That which moves things’
So, what to do with all this ‘vata’ swirling around in the November air, moving through us and within us? Well one thing we can do is play vata at her own game. If we translate the word ‘vata’ from Sanskrit to English, we get ‘that which moves things’ – and therein lies the answer: we move – mindfully. In doing so, we soothe the nervous system whilst generating lubricating and nourishing heat in the body.
A fluid, yet grounding yoga asana practice, such as the one we’ll be working on in our classes this week, offers us the perfect way to raise the temperature and focus the mind. But it’s not only the healing effects of asana that yoga brings to the Ayurvedic table. Pranayama, meditation and relaxation also help to stop our swirling thoughts, our fluttery stomachs, our shortness of breath. In short, yoga can help us remain calm, joyful, warm and secure, in even the strongest of winds.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the yoga student adjusts the sails” ~ William Arthur Ward (paraphrased!)