Pranayama is another word for breathwork, and there are many different techniques that you can use to enhance your emotional and physical health through breathing. Most people are aware that the techniques of breathing into the lower abdomen, sometimes called “belly breathing” or diaphragmatic breathing, brings more oxygenated blood into our systems than the more common upper chest breathing that many of us do without thinking, especially in the West.
The Benefits of Pranayama for Vata Dosha
To manage Vata Dosha, the techniques most often recommended is Nadi Shodana, or alternate nostril breathing. Vata Dosha is the most subtle of the elements of Ayurveda, corresponding to space and air, and almost everyone has a Vata imbalance, because the space and air are the most easily disturbed. The qualities of Vata are light, dry, rough, cool and easily mobile. Think of the wind blowing autumn leaves around, and of the expressions “spaced out” or “head in the clouds” and you will see why it is important to keep your Vata in balance.
Practicing Nadi Shodana is especially helpful for Vatas, who may often experience anxiety and fearfulness. It is also very beneficial for those times when you feel adrift or ungrounded.
Vatas sometimes suffer from excessively dry skin, chapped lips, dizziness or constipation. Nadi Shodana, when practiced regularly, can help to bring relief from all of these conditions. Further benefits of Nadi Shodana for Vatas include relief from generalised anxiety, panic attacks and lack of mental focus. The “circular” nature of the techniques brings a pattern and rhythm to a mind that is easily distracted and help to ground you firmly into the present moment, something that many Vatas find difficult. It will also address the “monkey brain” that plagues many Vatas and aid mental clarity, enhancing your decision making abilities and concentration.
Another benefit for Vatas is co-ordination. Nadi Shodana will help you to control and co-ordinate your bodily movements, something that many Vatas have difficulty with.
Nadi Shodana is sometimes translated as “nerve cleansing” reflecting its ability to bring a sense of calm and control to the subtle body.
Pranayama Techniques for Vata Dosha
How to perform Nadi Shodana:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your spine erect and your shoulders relaxed
- Gently close your eyes
- Take several long, slow, deep, comfortable breaths
- Fold in the middle and index fingers on the right hand so that the ring and little (pinky) fingers are pointing out (Vishnu Mudhra) You will alternately use the right thumb to close the right nostril and the right ring and pinky fingers to close the left nostril.
- Use the right thumb to close the right nostril and exhale gently but fully through the left nostril
- Keeping the right nostril closed inhale through the left nostril deep into the belly.
- Visualise the breath travelling up the left side of the body to the crown of your head. Pause briefly
- Use the ring and pinky fingers of the right hand to close the left nostril, releasing the right nostril at the same time
- Exhale through the right nostril, visualising the breath traveling down the right side of the body, pausing briefly at the bottom of the exhalation
- Keeping the left nostril closed, inhale through the right, allowing the breath to travel up the right side of the body
- Use the right thumb to close the right nostril and relaease the left at the same time
- Exhale through the left, surrendering the breath and allowing it to travel down the left side of the body
- Pause at the end of the exhalation
- This completes one round of Nadi Shodana
- Repeat the sequence several more times, being aware of the breath traveling throughout the body in a cyclical motion. Follow the breath from the pelvic floor to the crown of the head and back down again.
- Keep the breath fluid and slow throughout the practice
- When you are ready to cease the exercise allow your hand to relax against your thigh and focus on breathing in a relaxed way through both nostrils
- Open your eyes and bring yourself back into the room with gratitude and joy
Tips and Instructions Pranayama for Vata Dosha
As indicated above, when Vata is in imbalance it is easy to become distracted and lacking in focus or motivation. Incorporating the discipline of Nadi Shodana into your daily routine will help to anchor you into the present, clear your mind and ground you into the earth. Set aside time for this breathwork and do not allow anything to distract you. By doing this you will send a powerful message to your mind and body that you care, that your health is important and that you love yourself enough to give yourself this time to rejuvenate and energize yourself each day.