The Basics of Vastu
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The Basics of Vastu

This ancient theory of architecture from India deals with balancing your surroundings for optimal health and happiness.

What Is Vastu?

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Vastu is similar to feng shui,
but not exactly the same.

Vastu, an ancient theory of architecture from India, is commonly referred to as the Indian feng shui, though it predates feng shui by thousands of years. Vastu theory, which emphasizes the harmony of nature and one's interconnectedness with the universe, is derived from the Vedas -- four volumes of sacred scripture that form the foundation of Hinduism. While vastu is based in architecture, it is also concerned with the proper placement and arrangement of property, gardens, buildings, rooms, and interior objects. Thoughtful placement and perfect balance of dwellings is thought to bring health, happiness, and wealth to the occupants.

Vastu is a complex discipline that is philosophically related to yoga, ayurveda (holistic health and disease prevention), and jyotish (an Indian astrology), all of which originate in the Vedic scriptures. Like feng shui, vastu adheres to directional guidelines. Different planets govern different directions, and each direction governs certain aspects of life, corresponding to various natural elements:

  • The northeast is the water area.

  • The southeast corresponds to fire.

  • The northwest is the air.

  • The northwest is the air.

  • The southwest relates to earth.

  • The center of the home or the room corresponds to space -- as in, the space around us.

Unlike feng shui, vastu can be highly individualized. An expert would consider an occupant's work, lifestyle, and personality before fine-tuning decisions about placement and remedies. The practice of ayurveda treats people according to their individual constitution, or "dosha," which is comprised of both physiological and psychological components. Each person can be primarily defined by one of the tri-doshas: vata (air or space), pitta (fire or water), or kapha (water or earth). The concept is that employing vastu will enhance and balance out your particular dosha.

A person's dosha is determined via comparison with complex lists of physical characteristics, personality traits, and common ailments. The doshas correspond not only to natural substances (air, fire, water, earth) but also to forces of nature and actions, such as wind, movement, transformation, balance, structure, and attachment.

The following Web site has comprehensive lists of each dosha's characteristics as well as signs of imbalance and remedies.


Vastu is gaining popularity in the U.S., largely because yoga has become a health fixture and holistic health practices have been mainstreamed by experts like Deepak Chopra. However, you'll currently find far fewer vastu resources and experts available than comparable feng shui resources. Begin by reading books. If you're serious about vastu, consult an architect who adheres to vastu's principles.

Common Cures for Rooms

General Guidelines

Keep all furniture and appliances at least four inches away from walls so energy isn't absorbed into the walls.

  • Use fewer furnishings, and try to maintain open, airy spaces.

  • Keep books orderly.

  • Family hand-me-downs and pictures of deceased relatives should be located in the south and southwest areas of a room.

  • Bring elements of nature inside to remind yourself of your connectedness to the environment.


  • Do not sleep with your head facing north, or your sleep will be disrupted. Ideally, your head should be located in the south or east.

  • Place something attractive on the wall facing the bed, so you have a nice view every night when you go to sleep and every morning when you wake up.


  • It's best to locate the kitchen in the southeast corner of the home.

  • Keep the center of the kitchen as empty as possible. Locate a table and chairs near a wall.

Living Room

  • It's best to locate the living room in the north, northwest, or northeast areas of the house.

  • Place your bulkiest, heaviest, and tallest furniture on the south or west sides of room.

  • Don't use a coffee table; leave the room's center open for good energy flow.

What's Your Dosha?

For each question, select the statement that best applies to you.

Question 1:

__ a. I move quickly. __ b. I move with determination. __ c. I move slowly.

Question 2:

__ a. My daily routine is variable. __ b. My daily routine is precise. __ c. My daily routine is methodical.

Question 3:

__ a. I get anxious under stress. __ b. I get irritable under stress. __ c. I withdraw under stress.

Question 4:

__ a. My sleep is light and interrupted. __ b. I sleep deeply for 6 to 7 hours. __ c. I sleep deeply for 8 or more hours.

Question 5:

__ a. My appetite is variable. __ b. My appetite is strong. __ c. My appetite is steady.

Question 6:

__ a. I tend toward constipation. __ b. I can eliminate 2 or more times daily. __ c. My elimination is smooth and regular.

Question 7:

__ a. I am a good talker. __ b. I am a good debater. __ c. I am a good listener.

Question 8:

__ a. I like to change. __ b. I like to succeed. __ c. I like to enjoy.

Question 9:

__ a. I have a thin frame. __ b. I have a medium frame. __ c. I have a broad frame.

Question 10:

__ a. I like to shop. __ b. I research before buying. __ c. I like to save.

Evaluating Your Score

Add up how many a, b, and c answers you have, and rank them from highest to lowest. Your a answers are vata, b are pitta, and c are kapha. So, for example, if you have 6 a answers, 2 b and 2 c, you have mostly vata dosha.

The dosha that scores highest is usually the one that needs balancing in your nature. If two doshas are close, both can benefit from balancing approaches. If, for example, you score highest in vata, you might choose vata aromas to balance your tendency for accumulated vata.

This quiz is designed to give you a preliminary indication of your body type. It is reprinted courtesy of The Chopra Center for Well Being in La Jolla, California. The Chopra Center offers not only mind-body consultations but also herbs, foods, teas, music, and massage oils for balancing the three dosha types.


For More Information


Vastu Living: Creating a Home for the Soul by Kathleen Cox (Marlowe & Company, 2000; 236 pages; $16.95). While there are several books on vastu available, any by Kathleen Cox are quite accessible to the non-Indian, non-architect. A journalist based for many years in India, Cox interprets vastu for the Westerner. In this volume you'll find background and information pertaining to home, office, and the natural environment.

The Vastu Vidya Handbook: The Indian Feng Shui by Juliet Pegrum (Three Rivers Press, 2000; 160 pages; $18.95). Pegrum offers a history of vastu and gives detailed summaries of various deities. The latter part of the book addresses specific rooms, accompanied by visuals.

The Vastu Workbook by Talavane Krishna, M.D. (Destiny Books, 2001; 141 pages; $16.95). Short and straightforward, this book addresses issues particularly related to new construction, such as choosing a lot, placement of the dwelling, and placement of windows and doors.

Web Sites

This design firm based in Delhi, India, offer vastu background, several articles (many pertaining to interior design and arrangement), and a list of other recommended Web sites.


This site, from a design firm based in Fairfield, Iowa, gives an easy-to-understand (and brief) description of vastu and its benefits. The site also outlines what you can expect when working with a vastu-sensitive architect. The firm offers a CD for sale that will help you design your own home.


This site covers many types of alternative and holistic health care. It offers comprehensive information about the dosha types and ayurvedic principles.