Is spring fever making you yearn to take your asana outdoors? If blustery weather is keeping you inside, consider adding nature to your indoor environment with the ancient science of vastu. Consultant Kathleen Cox, one of the first to introduce vastu to the West, calls it “yoga for your home.”
Some scholars say that vastu shastra pre-dates the Vedas, and most agree that it inspired the more widely known practice of feng shui. Vastu (the root “vas” means “to dwell”) was developed in India over thousands of years as the science of temple architecture. In recent decades, however, vastu has been revived as a way of incorporating the five elements of nature in other structures, including homes and apartments.
With close ties to sankhya philosophy and jyotish (astrology), vastu employs a cosmological chart called vastu purusha to determine a home’s site plan or layout. The idea is that your home is sacred space, a temple or shrine that you live within as well as a microcosm of the macrocosmic forces. You’ll begin by picturing your rectangular floor plan as a mandala. You can then use this mandala to harmonize your home with nature’s positive energies by considering the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, space) in relation to color, direction, shape, material, and other factors.
Ideally, the center of a home is open space, representing the element of akasha, forming the heart and lungs of the house. (This is why many traditional Indian homes wrap around central courtyards.) Each direction (north, northeast, etc.) is also associated with an element—electronic items like entertainment systems, which represent the fire element, do best in the home’s southeast corner. Because vastu is meant to harmonize and unblock prana, specific suggestions also depend on the needs, personalities, and doshas of the home’s residents.
People who have designed homes or redecorated spaces using the principles of vastu have reported increased feelings of peace and well-being. (Some even say that vastu has helped them find romantic partners or achieve business success.) If budgetary or other constraints keep you from redecorating, a simple way to incorporate vastu in your home is to create an altar. Architect Michael Mastro and his wife Robin, a designer and yoga teacher, have written about applying the principles of vastu in these smallest of spaces. (The Mastros are offering upcoming vastu workshops in Chicago, Sedona, and Seattle.)
Whether you want to inspire your practice or simply freshen up your surroundings to welcome spring indoors, learning about vastu is another way to align your daily life with the spirit of yoga.
Have you used vastu principles in your living space? How?