Ayurveda doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to embracing the different components of health. It recognizes the obvious, like the importance of good nutrition and hygiene for staving off illnesses, but also the less apparent that can be imperceptible to most. Among the more subtle, Ayurveda acknowledges is the energy of the spaces we dwell of which an entire methodology is dedicated. Vastu, often referred to as Indian Feng Shui, is that very system.
The aim of Vastu is to harmonize nature within the places we live and work. This means to bring balance to the elements or to appease them, so that they are properly represented but not overly abundant. This is done through the way we assign use of space, arrange furniture, choose color and tones, and of course, how we incorporate decor. In doing so, we not only bring awareness and intention into the way we design our homes, but we can alleviate nagging imbalances we might not otherwise attribute to our external environment (think: your inability to focus when working in your home office, your interrupted sleep, the ongoing indigestion you experience despite your impeccable diet). In fact, when you are well versed in Vastu you can design your home with your dosha and recurring doshic imbalances in mind. This takes some dedication, patience, and study, however Vastu has simple and practical ideas that can be implemented by any beginner. And to that point, I’m here to give you some of the most basic.
- Start small by choosing one area of your home or office. Think about the spaces you spend the most time, how they make you feel, and of course, if it’s permissible for you to alter the design. From these places, select one room you are eager to change. Once you feel comfy with applying the concepts, you can move to another room or look at the entirety of your home.
- Draw your space and label the directions of northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast. Vastu works with directions and the elements that govern them. Though there are more exact ways of demarcating the directional quadrants of a space, you can do this by creating a drawing of your room–a mere outline. Find the center of your room by folding the most northerly point to southerly, and most westerly to easterly. Draw two lines passing through center as an X and Y axis to create quadrants. Label the quadrants NW, NE, SW, SE. If I’ve lost you or if this conjures up bad memories from high school geo trig, eyeball it.
- From here, assess each quadrant and it’s associated element by using the descriptions below. Keep in mind, your goal is to welcome in the qualities of the element, not to be completely exclusive. It’s the same as how we treat our own needs. You may be someone that needs to reduce heat in your diet and thus have been decreasing the amount of heating foods you consume. But you can’t eliminate them completely or forever because the pendulum could swing the other way. Have mercy! You don’t have to fully redecorate or do a new build, just start with incorporating a few ideas and see how you feel.
NW Quadrant: Air
- Colors: Place emphasis on the color of the sky and use colors that are lighter versus darker. Remember that this isn’t only blue and white, but that cooler tones can represent air more than warmer.
- Decor: We want to keep this place relatively light in terms of furniture and decor. This is a great place to keep any musical devices or instruments you might have, as sound relates directly to the air element. If you have a fan, naturally this is a nice location for it. Use photos of clouds or art that feels very light in nature. Crescent shapes represent air.
- Use of Space: You likely won’t feel too grounded and settled in the air quadrant. For this reason, it’s best for space that you want to be lively, like a living room. It’s a good secondary option for a kitchen (fire quadrant is best). If you’re a light sleeper, you won’t like having your bed here. If you have trouble focusing on work, this isn’t an optimal spot for your desk.
NE Quadrant: Water
- Colors: Anything with a touch or blue or aqua will represent water well. Sea greens also do this element justice.
- Decor: As water is reflective, reflective surfaces like mirrors or shiny metals work great here. Of course, this is the obvious place for decorative fountains or for vases of water holding fresh cut flowers. Photos of water or the beach work nicely here, too. Circles represent water.
- Use of Space: The most obvious use is for a bathroom which inherently has the water element. Oddly enough, this is also one of the more reverent quadrants of our home or office. For that reason, we can find it to be good for meditation or an altar. There’s enough heaviness in the water element for this to be good for sleep, but enough fluidity for it to be good for a sitting room. It’s also nice for an office. It would not be a good location for a kitchen, as water puts out fire.
SE Quadrant: Fire
- Colors: Think colors of the sun. Anything warm toned, but also cooler tones of pink, yellow, red, or orange. If you are a very fiery person, go for something more like rose or terra cotta.
- Decor: It goes without saying that candles work especially well in this quadrant. Because fire burns wood, we choose metal, stone, or the like for our furniture in this quadrant. This is also a good location for electronics, as they tend to have a fiery quality in the way the produce and emit heat. Triangles represent fire.
- Use of Space: A kitchen is best here, but if you’re looking to add passion to something (like to spark some fire in your work or even a romantic relationship), choose accordingly. We tend to put our heaviest furniture in the earth quadrant, but this location often houses the second heaviest. Sinks, showers, and toilets are usually the last option in this space.
SW Quadrant: Earth
- Colors: All of the grounding earth tones are wonderful here. If you have concerns about it feeling too dark or heavy, simply choose a lighter color of brown, green, or even a stone color.
- Decor: Plants, plants, plants. This represents earth best. Use baskets or rugs out of natural fibers. Decorate with shelving of wood or use marble or stone. Warmer metals are great here, such as copper, brass, or gold. Matte surfaces will invoke more settled emotions. Squares represent earth.
- Use of Space: The earth elements makes us feel calm, rested, and safe. This makes it a great quadrant for a bedroom, unless you have trouble oversleeping (in which case you’d choose a lighter quadrant for your sleep). So long as it doesn’t make you sleepy, this may be the ideal space for you office, especially if you tend to have difficulty concentrating or working for longer period.
Sacred Center: Ether
- Colors: Overall, lighter colors will appease ether. Yet, we want this part of a room or building to feel special. For that reason, you may choose to use metallics or to use color in a different way.
- Decor: Using special patterns, lights, or even a crystal hanging from the ceiling can be a way to draw special attention and to the center. If you have spiritual statues or photos of important people in your life, they work well here. Diamond shapes represent ether.
- Use of Space: The center would ideally be left open and not have a particular use. It should have a welcoming feel, but also stand out as a place with special and specific meaning.
There’s so much to learn beyond this, and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to start small. Most important is that the design of your space is intentional and that you feel comfortable and well within your space.