Almost all traditional cultures lived their lives with great respect for the four cardinal directions: north, south, east, and west.
In Ayurveda, the study of the four directions and how they influence one’s health and environment is called Vastu Shastra.
The basics are simple—north (a northern wind) is cold, south (southern exposure) is hot, east (the rising sun) is energizing and warm, and west (the setting sun) is calming and cool. Based on this logic:
>> Southeast (hot and warm) is governed by fire.
>> Southwest (hot and cool) is governed by earth.
>> Northeast (cold and warm) is governed by water.
>> Northwest (cold and cool) is governed by air.
The southeast is then the best area of the house for the kitchen, fireplace, candles, salt lamps, or furnace—to support the heat needed in the house. It combines the heat of the morning sun with the warmth of the southern exposure, making for the ideal location of the primary heat source in the home.
The southwest area of a home, because it is governed by the earth element, is a great place for bedrooms or a place of rest. South is said to be both heating and somewhat dulling for the mind, thus supporting deeper sleep. In combination with the western energy, which represents the end of the day and the ushering in of the sleep cycles, these qualities make this a great place for a bedroom, or place to lounge or rest.
The northeast is governed by the water element, which combines the creative energy of the eastern morning sun with the crisp spiritual, stimulating, and intellectual energy from the north. This is a great place in the house for yoga, breathing, meditation, spiritual practice, or a library or study.
The northwest is governed by air, and combines the cold spiritual or intellectual energy from the north with the cooling and soothing energy of the west. Letting air circulate through the whole house with the northwestern windows open is extremely refreshing and calming for the home. It is also a place to relax and create, as the energy is creative and stimulating from the north, and calming and relaxed from the west.
Note: These qualities apply to both the inside and outside of the house.
According to Vastu Shastra, it is most beneficial to sleep with the head to the east, as this has the most creative energy to start each day and works to balance all body types. But, in Ayurveda, sleep directions can be further used to elicit a therapeutic effect on particular imbalances. For example, if the individual is vata—aggravated with cold hands and feet and lots of anxiety—then sleeping with the head toward the south or southeast would be beneficial.
If the individual is angry and inflamed with a pitta aggravation, then they could benefit from sleeping with the head toward the northwest or northern directions. Based on this logic, sleeping with the head in the following directions may be helpful to help balance the body:
>> North balances pitta
>> Northwest balances pitta and vata
>> Northeast balances pitta and kapha
>> South balances vata
>> Southeast balances vata and kapha
>> Southwest balances vata and pitta
>> East balances vata, kapha, and pitta
>> West balances kapha
May these Ayurvedic cardinal direction guides be of benefit!
Author: Dr. John Douillard
Image: Benjamin Combs/Unsplash
Editor: Leah Sugerman
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