The Modern Guiding Principles of Vastu Shastra
Many of us have heard of the Chinese practice of feng shui – the specific spatial arrangement and orientation of physical spaces and objects to promote the healthy flow of energy, most oftentimes used here in the West in regards to interior decorating. This has become especially popularized in Western culture in the last few decades, and not surprisingly, I’d never heard of vastu shastra before I started my own journey toward an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Most likely, feng shui and vastu shastra originated from the same Indian texts, the Vedas, which build the foundation of Ayurveda itself.
Vastu shastra is in essence the Indian equivalent of feng shui as far as specific spatial arrangements. In Sanskrit, vastu means “to inhabit,” defining vastu shastra itself as “the doctrine of inhabiting.” Differing from feng shui, however, is the aspect of vastu shastra that applies to the actual architecture of buildings, not only in temples but also in personal or family dwellings. The main goal of this is to find balance and harmony between human behavior, the physical world, and metaphysical or spiritual practices.
According to the architectural laws governing vastu shastra, you are in the best place possible for building and maintaining a connection with the natural world and an invitation for spiritual growth with as little interference as possible from your daily life if your home adheres to these guidelines:
- Entrances to your home, living room, study, and place of prayer should face north or east.
- The total number of doors and windows should be an even number but not end in 0.
- Stairs should not be broken or damaged.
- Kitchens and bathrooms should not face east.
- South and west walls should be tall and thick; north and east walls should be short and thin.
Of course, it’s not always going to be easy to find a new home or apartment that adheres strictly to all of these laws, especially in the West. (When I realized that my bathroom actually does face east, I briefly considered making a change. Still, I love my home way too much, and I couldn’t imagine trying to explain a desire to either tear down my bathroom and build a new one on the other side of my home or moving “for a better view”). If you’re looking to buy or rent a new place, these physical qualities are good to keep in mind. But thankfully, vastu shastra also provides remedies for some of these architectural faults, which come in a form much more similar to the principles of feng shui. Some of the easest and quickest changes to make are:
- Move or remove any mirrors so they don’t face the bed.
- Rearrange beds if possible so your head faces east or south when you sleep.
- Opt for a rectangular dining table instead of circular or oval.
- Add potted plants to well-lit rooms in the house (but not cacti).
- Incorporate items like wind-chimes, camphor crystals, and sea salt and/or salt lamps (these all deflect and remove negative vibrational energies).
- Remove any posters or images of people depicting negative emotions, scenes of violence, or icons including an owl or eagle (these are all known to be particularly inauspicious).
- Avoid blank or bare walls as the first thing you see when entering the doorway into the house or into an office space or study. Hang a photo or tapestry, add an end table with decorative pieces, or even stick one of your potted plants there.
The colors chosen for your home, including the themes for each room and the paint on the walls, are also a large factor in opening up the energetic qualities of every space to bring more harmony. Every color has a different vibrational frequency, as well as a specific attraction to different energies, such as those promoting love, prosperity, marital/familiar peace, and intellectual stimulation, and they can even affect the physical temperature of a room. You can choose the colors for your walls based on which room they are most likely to benefit, but keep in mind these suggestions and colors to avoid:
- Kitchen – choose yellow, rose, red, orange, or chocolate-brown; avoid white or black.
- Living room – choose white, yellow, green, or blue; avoid red or black.
- Bedroom – choose rose, dark blue, dark green, or grey; avoid white or yellow.
- Bathrooms – choose white or sky-blue, or other light colors; avoid black or dark red.
- Study/Office – the best options are white, sky-blue, cream, or light green.
Admittedly, these things can seem a little overwhelming when looking to align your home with the principles of vastu shastra and maintain energetic balance within an Ayurvedic lifestyle. I found the simplest changes to be the best for my home. I got rid of the mirror in my bedroom to ward off bad dreams, hung two sets of copper wind-chimes on my back windows to reject negative energies (I absolutely love the sound), and use the northeast room in my home – with the creative eastern energy and stimulating northern energy, which fortunately also looks out into the back outdoor space – for my yoga and meditation practices. It is, of course, always a work in progress, and I’m finding new things every day to bring into my home and daily routine. If you have also discovered vastu shastra and have been living under its guiding principles, I would love to hear about what you’ve done and how vastu shastra in your home has improved your connection with Ayurvedic living.