The three doshas are our constitutions, which come from the five elements and the properties associated with them, as they define our nature. While Pitta consists of the elements of fire and water, and Kapha of earth and water, the strongest of of the three doshas, Vata consists of air and ether.
Vata dosha consists of the elements air and ether. It is the wind, the main motive power of the body and mind. When our Vata dosha is in good condition, the movements of the body are elegant, undisturbed and controlled. When Vata dosha goes out of balance, our movements become chaotic, excessive, reduced or blocked. And since it is the finest of all three doshas, it is susceptible to imbalances.
Vata differs from the other two doshas by its properties and characteristics. Vata dosha is light, mobile, dry, cold, rough, hard, sharp, fine, clear and fluid. Bodies and minds in which Vata dosha is dominating, show precisely these qualities, for example, most people with Vata dosha constitution will tell you that they prefer hot weather, not the cold weather.
Usually these are people with thin waist, flat breasts and very noticeable veins and tendons of the muscles. Their skin is prone to dryness and cracking. People with that constitution are very creative, their mind is active, vigilant and restless. They talk and move quickly, but they also become tired easily. Sometimes they are not mentally stable and tend to be nervous, anxious and frightened.
The balance of Vata dosha in the body brings lightness of movement, excellent appetite, uniform breathing, normal peristalsis, more enthusiasm, energy and tranquility. Under the influence of a well-harmonized Vata, we feel enthusiasm, surge of imagination and elevated spirituality.
What happens when our Vata dosha is out of balance?
The dryness caused by the excess of Vata dosha, can lead to health problems of any type. We should not allow our body to “dry” (dehydrate), because if this happens, the body starts to wear off and age. Therefore, the foods we should eat to treat the Vata imbalance, should be moist, oily, grounding, nourishing and easy to digest and warm. These include:
- whole milk and cheeses
- citrus fruits
- sweet potato
- red beets
- baked fruits and cooked vegetables in general
- nuts – walnuts, almonds, cashews, soups, stews, nutmeg.
In case of problems related to excess in Vata dosha, we should not consume light, crispy, cold, icy food, fizzy drinks, as well as all foods causing flatulence or disturb digestion. We should avoid brown rice, whole grain foods, soy products, lentils, beans, sprouts, peanuts, confectionery products, artificial sweeteners, coffee and heavy meats.
But the physical manifestations of imbalanced Vata are only one side of the coin. When Vata goes out of balance, there is a tendency for excessive movement and dynamics both in the body and in the mind. This could lead to anxiety, overwhelming, insomnia and fear.
Five varieties of Vata
Among the things that aggravate Vata dosha are excessive physical activities, use of narcotic substances, excessive pranayama, as well as lack of sleep. In translation from Sanskrit, Vata means constant movement. In the language of medicine, it could be said that this dosha is a catabolic dosha, i.e. related to catabolic processes. But in order to best understand the essence of Vata dosha, it is best to look at its constituent parts. These are the so-called sub-doshas. Each one of them defines the direction of movement and controls specific processes in the body. The five types of Vata are:
- prana vata
- udana vata
- samana vata
- apana vata
- vyana vata.
Prana vayu or prana vata – this is the energy accompanied by a sensual experience. It has a magnetic nature. The way it works determines the type of impressions we tend to succumb to. Prana vayu is concentrated in the head and heart – where the desire dwells and where the sensory experiences are processed. When Vata dosha is harmonious, we have a lot of energy and we are attracted to things that brings us health and well-being. When prana vata is out of balance, we abuse our senses and seem to strive for things that are not good for us.
Samana vayu / samana vata
Unlike prana vayu, samana vayu is the energy of absorption. It transports the nutrients from our intestines to our bloodstream, as well as the impulses and feelings of the things we touch from the skin to the central nervous system. When samana vayu functions properly, impressions are perceived correctly. When the energy is disturbed, the absorption is impaired, which may lead to malnutrition or tingle.
This is the energy responsible for deriving the impressions of what has already been learned. Its role it to take care of our responses, reactions and therefore its movement is directed from the center to the periphery. Under its influence the central nervous system sends signals to a given muscle or organ.
This is the sub-dosha responsible for the actions and expressions that are the result of the energy obtained and absorbed. Powered by its energy, each cell performs its unique function. Udana vayu creates cellular energy and builds the proteins in our body with the help of the nutrients we consume. It affects our nerves, which in turn instruct the muscles and organs to function in the right way.
Apana vayu /vata
In addition to beneficial substances, cellular activity also produces waste. While udana vata is responsible for the production, apana vata is tasked with cleaning waste. It eliminates the waste substances mainly through the functions of the excretory system – urination, defecation and menstruation. Apana vata is the foundation for all the downward energy of the body and as such it also supplies the energy needed to bring the child out of the womb and for its arrival on the planet Earth.
When Vata is out of balance, qualities that are specific for this dosha can be observed in excess. The specific symptoms that may arise as a result of the imbalance, depend on which channel is affected and which tissue is affected in the respective channel.
In general, signs of aggravated Vata in the body include weight loss, a sense of chill, cracked lips, rough skin, constipation, insomnia, difficult or reduced concentration, pains in the body similar to shooting pain, touchiness and irregular menstruation in women.
How to balance Vata dosha with the help of Ayurveda
Ayurveda‘s teachings offer many approaches that can help us balance our Vata dosha. The used methods can include diet, herbal treatment, color therapy, aromas, mantras, massage oils and others, change in the lifestyle, and the most useful method is to apply a combination of treatments.
What we need to do is to enhance the qualities that counteract the imbalance that has occurred. When we feel excessive lightness, we have to enhance heaviness, if we feel excessive cold – we must increase the heat; and where there is an excess in hardness – we must increase the softness, and so on.
One of the most important ways to maintain our health and help ourselves in the process of healing of our dosha is to change our lifestyle. We must undergo regular healthy practices that are in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Stability improves considerably if we try to eat and sleep at the same time every day. It is best to wake up half an hour before sunrise. Since the ears are particularly sensitive to the imbalance of Vata dosha, we can try to protect the ear canals by placing a few drops of warm ghee (cleansed butter) or sesame oil in them every day – this is a traditional ayurvedic practice that helps to soothe Vata dosha. When you are outdoors, use ear-flaps, hat, earplugs or cotton balls to provide extra protection from the wind.
It is good to add to our morning rituals drinking a cup of warm water with lemon right after getting up. Thus, we support the peristalsis and the colon. Ayurveda recommends also abyanga (oil massage) at least once a week, meditation, as well as yoga practice. The moderate, sequential loading regulates the mobile nature of our Vata dosha. It is good to include in our yoga practice the sitting forward bending while in a head-knee position (paschimotahasana).
We can also experiment with static positions such as virabhadrasana 2 (warrior 2), which helps us improve our strength and stability. If you feel too stimulated or tired during a practice, do a few restorative positions to start the deep relaxation, for example, the child’s pose or shavasana.
We have to eat regularly throughout the day, as it is best to have five meals a day, consumed every three hours. These meals should be eaten always at the same time. This increases both the heavy and stable qualities. The food should be slightly oily, warm when possible and moderately seasoned.
The bedtime should be about 22 p.m., although it depends somewhat on the sunset and varies during the different seasons of the year, as well as on the latitude. The wake up time and bedtime should be at the same time every day so we can improve our stability.
You can try to counteract the symptoms of Vata dosha by wearing several layers of warm clothes and applying regular massages to the body and head. It is not recommended to stay hungry for a long time. Regular steam baths are recommended. To overcome the excess of Vata, we also need to limit the need to speak unnecessarily.