All energy in our natural world is composed of five basic elements according to Ayurveda – ether, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements give rise to the Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These Doshas help us identify the elemental makeup of our natural world, so we use them when referring to the qualities of the seasons, foods, herbs, activities, or an individual’s constitution.
The elements of the Vata season
In the Northern hemisphere, the season shifts from warmer and moist tending towards dry and cold in the autumn and winter – this is known as the Vata season in Ayurveda. Vata Dosha is composed of air & ether and is qualified by action, transportation, and movement. Vata is considered the “King of Doshas” as it energizes the other two Doshas (Pitta and Kapha).
We recognize Vata’s elements in nature as:
Vata Dosha in the mind-body
The Vata Dosha is manifest primarily in the abdominal cavity below the navel – colon, pelvis, pelvic organs, as well as the thighs, skin, ears, brain, nervous system, and lungs. It is responsible for all actions in the body, including movements of the body and mind, sensory impulses and motor regulation, breath, removal of waste, speech, and the pumping of the heart. It is furthermore the energy that kindles our Agni, or digestion, allows for the absorption of nutrients, and delivers a baby.
In a sense, you could say Vata makes it happen.
According to the Tridoshas of Ayurveda, we all have a unique combination of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, with one or two Doshas, manifested more prominently.
Vata-dominant individuals tend to have the following qualities:
- Slimmer build, lightweight, either very tall or short
- Quick-moving mind and actions
- Tendency to do many things
- Thinner skin and hair, prone to dryness
- Oval, narrow face, and smaller eyes
- Variable appetite, the tendency towards constipation
- Light sleep, possibly interrupted, dreams full of movement
- Lower stamina with bursts of activity
- Drawn to creative activities, dance, and travel
If you can relate to several of the qualities above, Vata may be a dominant Dosha for you.
How to detect a Vata imbalance
While some of Vata’s qualities sound like imbalances, such as dryness or interrupted sleep, having a Vata-dominant constitution is not inherently an imbalance. All the Doshas have certain qualities which we can learn to balance through Ayurveda’s guidelines. Understanding one’s constitution is key to determining which of those guidelines is most crucial.
Anyone can experience Vata imbalances, though Vata-dominant individuals are more prone to them.
Signs of a Vata imbalance include:
- Dryness of skin, hair, ears, lips, and joints
- Dryness internally – bloat, gas, constipation, dehydration, weight loss
- Dry and lightness of the mind – restlessness, dizziness, feeling ungrounded
- Cold: poor circulation, muscle spasm or constriction, asthma, pain and aches, tightness
- Roughness, especially skin and lips
- Excessive movement: anxiety, fidgeting, agitation, muscle twitching, palpitations
How to manage a Vata imbalance
A combination of the following diet and lifestyle adjustments can return Vata to balance and prevent seasonal allergies, colds, and flu.
- It almost goes without saying that an imbalance during the “dry season” requires additional hydration. But don’t just hydrate with any water – filtered, warm or hot water is most pacifying to a Vata imbalance.
- Additionally, hydration of the skin is recommended through self-abhyanga, or massage with warm oil (sesame or almond) 15 minutes before bathing.
- Use of Vata-pacifying oils in cooking can further hydrate the body internally: sesame, almond, or avocado oil.
Adopt a seasonal diet
- Reduce the amount of astringent, dry, light, cold, raw, and processed foods.
- Increase sweet, sour, salty, warm, cooked whole foods.
- Pumpkin, sweet potato, beets, carrots, and zucchini, brussel sprouts, avocados, dates, figs, lemons, limes, papayas, grapefruit, and grapes are all beneficial vegetables and fruits.
- For grains, legumes, and nuts, try rice, oatmeal, quinoa, split mung beans, almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews.
- Beneficial spices include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, turmeric, and saffron.
Stick to a regular schedule
- Lack of sleep imbalances Vata very quickly, so getting enough sleep and at the right time is key – between 10 pm-4 am.
- Eating three meals a day with regularity also pacifies Vata.
- Excessive exercise can exacerbate Vata, so don’t push it during this season.
- Generally: it is ill-advised to exercise more than 45min to 1 hour at one time or more than twice per day.
- Honor your body’s needs with modifications of your routine, opting for gentler workouts that also calm the mind and body, such as Yoga.
Incorporate meditative or calming practices
- Meditation is instrumental in pacifying Vata as it requires the withdrawal of senses or external distractions. If entering meditation is more challenging during this season, consider practicing Yoga asana or an equally calming routine before meditation, to allow the mind and body to work out some of the clutter.
- Mantra and chanting can help to focus the mind and can also be especially beneficial for balancing Vata.