Vata season is here…along with five practices for a calm, peaceful holiday season December 13 2017, 0 Comments

According to yoga and Ayurveda* teachings, the vata qualities of air and space dominate nature during this time of year: wind, dryness and cold along with movement and change. Right on time for the hectic holiday season which can be packed with travel, activities, events, more traffic on the road and crowded shops. *Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga. Called the “science of life,” this ancient healing system dates back to the Vedic civilization. It aims to create balance and optimal health.

As a result, we “accumulate” too much air and space which can manifest in anxiety, sleeplessness, worry and a scattered mind. We’re left feeling out of balance and just plain stressed.

Here’s a seasonal gift of five simple and practical techniques from the ancient healing systems of yoga and Ayurveda to reduce stress and create a more harmonious and meaningful holiday season.

So’hum. Be still and meditate. Becoming still and quietly directing your attention in-ward almost immediately counters the effects of stress and too much over-scheduling. Commit to just 5 minutes every morning before the demands of the day begin. Find a comfortable sitting place — in a chair or on a floor cushion. Feel yourself sitting tall and balanced. Now notice your breathing, letting your mind observe the flow of your breath. This may feel a bit awkward, but try not to interfere with your breathing. Stick with it until your breathing feels effortless. Begin the simple mantra So’hum: silently, inside your own mind say so” as you breathe in and say “hum” as you breathe out. Do this for 5 minutes with every inhale and every exhale, continuing with the mantra “So’hum” — I am That.

Roll out your mat, warm your muscles. Begin your day with a warming practice. This is also great when returning home — you’ll heat your muscles and release the tension your shoulders absorb when huddled against the cold. Combine a simple sequence of child’s pose, cat/cow and exteneded table top…alternating asanas to build a bit of heat and to stretch your spine and limbs.

Stay warm, eat warm. As the weather gets colder, our bodies feel the effects. Getting chilled increases the negative effects of too much air and space. Eating cold foods in-creases the cold within our bodies. So bundle up, wearing layers especially for outdoor hiking, running and skiing. To warm your body internally, enjoy soups, stews, roasted vegetables and warm legume-based salads. Opt for hot tea. And allow yourself to indulge in warm, moist and lightly sweetened treats (oatmeal cake sans icing, a light cocoa) as they are soothing when eaten moderately this time of year.

Refill your own cup. This time of year we think a lot about others…creating gift lists and party invites and often donating to meaningful efforts. It’s a great feeling to give, but remember to take time every day to treat yourself. Schedule in self-nourishing…a warm bath, a quiet coffee break, a walk with a friend, reading a few lines of poetry or a chapter from a favorite novel. You’ll be thankful you made time to refill.

Practice slow 1-to-2 breathing. One-to-two breathing is a simple and calming technique to reduces stress and calm the nervous system. It can be done sitting up or lying down in a comfortable position. Begin by breathing slowly and deeply. Inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 4 counts. Once this rhythm is comfortable, begin to lengthen your exhalations. Inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 6 counts. Stay with this count for a few rounds, and if this breathing feels easy, try lengthening exhalation even more. Move to breathing in 4 counts and breathing out 8 counts. Just a few minutes of this kind of breath can quickly reduce stress, calm the nervous system and counter anxiety. It also helps when you're having trouble sleeping.

Use each of these tips as much as you need this vata time of year, gifting yourself with calmness and presence. May we all enjoy the celebrations of the season.

About Nikki Estrada

Nikki Estrada has been in the yoga scene for more than twenty years.  She lectures, leads workshops, teacher training and immersions nationwide. Nikki began her formal training in India, focusing on Ashtanga—a very physically challenging style of yoga. She is currently a senior yoga teacher and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nikki's Vinyasa-based classes are a synthesis of her years of yogic and Ayurveda study and personal experience, with an emphasis on spirituality, intelligent alignment, meditation, and living life more joyfully. Her videos can be found on www.yogainternational.com. More information about Nikki can be found at www.nikkiestradayoga.com   She resides in northern California with her husband and two daughters.