Explaining the Doshas: Vata Dosha

Our lives, environments and health change regularly. It is good to have an understanding of the qualities which influence our lives and moods.

Vata Dosha is one of three Doshas that make up the qualitative diagnosis program in Ayurveda. The three are: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

They are vast and challenging to understand fully, but if we pay attention closely we may be able to see they are present in all that surround us; and if we can create balance between them, we can live in ease.

Qualities of Vata Dosha

Vata is experienced through the qualities of the elements space and ether.

These qualities are:

  • Cold
  • Light
  • Dry
  • Irregular
  • Rough
  • Moving
  • Quick
  • Changeable

 

Vata in the Body

Vata governs all movement in the mind and body. It controls blood flow, elimination of wastes, breathing and the movement of thoughts across the mind.

Since Pitta and Kapha cannot move without it, Vata is considered the leader of the three Ayurvedic Principles in the body. It’s very important to keep Vata in good balance.

Vata dosha governs flow and motion in the body. Vata moves Prana, our life force, throughout our body.

Our life force, Prana, divides itself into five vayus, each governing different functions and aspects of being.

There are five movements of Prana known as the vayus (literally “winds”)—prana vayu (not to be confused with the undivided master Prana life force), apana vayu, samana vayu, udana vayu, and vyana vayu. These five vayus govern different areas of the body and different physical and subtle activities.

The Five Vayus

Prana Vayu: It is situated in the head, centered in the third-eye, and its energy pervades the chest region. The flow of Prana-Vayu is inwards and upward. It nourishes the brain and the eyes and governs reception of all things: food, air, senses, and thoughts. This Vayu is the fundamental energy in the body and directs and feeds into the four other Vayus.  It governs senses, creative thinking, reasoning, enthusiasm.

Apana Vayu: It is situated in the pelvic floor and its energy pervades the lower abdomen. The flow of Apana-Vayu is downwards and out and its energy nourishes the organs of digestion, reproduction and elimination. Apana-Vayu governs the elimination of all substances from the body: carbon monoxide, urine, stool, etc. It governs elimination of wastes, sexual function, menstrual cycle.

Samana Vayu: It is situated in the abdomen with its energy centered in the navel. The flow of Samana-Vayu moves from the periphery of the body to the center. It governs the digestion and assimilation of all substances: food, air, experiences, emotions and thoughts. It governs movement of food through digestive tract.

Udana Vayu: It is situated in the throat and it has a circular flow around the neck and head. It functions to “hold us up” and governs speech, self-expression and growth. It governs quality of voice, memory, movements of thought.

Vyana Vayu: It is situated in the heart and lungs and flows throughout the entire body. The flow of Vyana-Vayu moves from the center of the body to the periphery. It governs circulation of all substances throughout the body, and assists the other Vayus with their functions. It governs blood flow, heart rhythm, perspiration, sense of touch.

Vata Imbalances

  • Over-activity
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular digestion
  • Low Appetite

Vata out of Balance

Prana Vayu: Worries, overactive mind, sleep problems, difficulty breathing.

Udana Vayu: Dry coughs, sore throats, earaches, general fatigue.

Samana Vayu: Slow or rapid digestion, gas, intestinal cramps, poor assimilation, weak tissues.

Apana Vayu: Intestinal cramps, menstrual problems, lower back pain, irregularity, diarrhea, constipation, gas.

Vyana Vayu: Dry or rough skin, nervousness, shakiness, poor blood flow, stress-related problems.

Remedies

A regular lifestyle routine helps ground Vata so you’re not carried away into the ethers.

Vata is cold, light, irregular, dry, and always changing. To balance Vata, make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to your life.

Create stable schedules.

Try to get to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning, and eat your meals at regular times.

Avoid becoming chilled.

Wear adequate clothing appropriate for the season and keep your head covered when the weather is cold.

Grounding music

Favor soothing, calming music.

Touch

Touch and be touched regularly by the people you love, and schedule regular massage treatments.

Favor warm colors in your clothing and environment.

Such as earth colors, pastels, browns, and warm yellows.

Favor aromas that are sweet, heavy, and warm.

Examples include basil, bay, cinnamon, citrus, cloves, frankincense, lavender, pine, sage, and vanilla.

Eat foods that are warming, grounding, calming, and nourishing.

Such as hot soups, broths, and rice bowls. Eating fresh produce in season is helpful in grounding our bodies with the natural rhythms. Eating cooked foods that are served warm will ground and stabilize our system.

Move your body!

When we exercise, practice sports, enjoy a walk, practice yoga, or enjoy any type of movement – we increase our tapas. Tapas is translated traditionally as ‘austerity’ or ‘discipline’. The word Tapas is derived from the root Sanskrit verb ‘tap’ which means ‘to burn’, and evokes a sense of fiery discipline or passion. We can burn away any excess air while we move our bodies, and feel grounded and connected therefore.

Creating space for stillness & silence.

A few moments of quiet each day allows us to process the many occurrences of our daily lives. Our brains and bodies need time to process and digest the environment and people we interact with. Meditation is a great key to the many pathed labyrinth to stillness. It is not a straight road, but it is directly beneficial to our daily lives. Set aside 5-10 minutes every day to sit in stillness and silence, and witness what occurs.

 

Vata-Pacifying Diet

  • Eat larger quantities of food, but not more than you can digest easily.
  • Sweeteners. All raw sugars, honeys, and sweet syrups are helpful for pacifying Vata.
  • Grains. Rice and wheat are very good. Reduce intake of barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye and oats.
  • Fruits. Favor sweet, sour, or heavy fruits, such as oranges, bananas, avocados, grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, berries, plums, pineapples, mangos and papayas. Reduce dry or light fruits such as apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries, and dried fruits.
  • Vegetables. Beets, cucumbers, carrots, asparagus and sweet potatoes are good. They should be cooked, not raw. The following vegetables are acceptable in moderate quantities if they are cooked, especially with ghee or oil and Vata-reducing spices: peas, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini and potatoes. It’s better to avoid sprouts and cabbage.
  • Spices. Cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed and small quantities of black pepper are acceptable.
  • All nuts are good.
  • Beans. Reduce all beans, except for tofu and mung dhal.
  • Oils. All oils reduce Vata.

 

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It is a good idea to understand your personal constitution, imbalances, environmental influences, and life situations before making any drastic changes.

With that being said, positive lifestyle changes can be subtle, lasting, and profound.

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Staying Grounded Through Travel

Travel can be an easeful experience.

As travel becomes more accessible to everyone, more and more people are jet setting around the world for an infinite variety of reasons. Whatever your reason for travel, it is easy to get swept up in the movement and feel unsettled, ungrounded, or even stressed and anxious. These are common occurrences, and it is good to incorporate balancing, calming activities on, and before, the day of travel.

In Ayurveda, a tradition Indian health science, we can look at travelling from a qualitative perspective.

Travelling has qualities of movement, airiness, spaciousness, and can be fast-paced. When we travel we have deadlines we have to reach, we have to pack our belongings, and we experience lots of newness.
In Ayurveda, these qualities of movement, air, and space; are categorized and called ‘Vata Dosha’. The wind and ether elements. This incorporates all forms of movement, breath, speech, travel, energy movement, and much more.
Each person, and all of life, contains aspects of Vata within themselves, as well as all around them. The Vata Dosha, in and of itself, is neither positive nor negative. It is necessary for life and a large part of every living experience.

The key is balance.

When things become out of balance, this is when we begin to feel too much movement or too much spaciousness. The root of all dis-ease is imbalance.
So when we begin to feel anxious, nervous, stressed, or ungrounded it is a sign that we are out of balance.

Travelling can easily throw us out of balance. We are being faced with plenty of movement, new things to excite our senses, and limitless challenges and possibilities. These are called ‘Vata aggravators’, and can very easily cause us to feel ungrounded.

The antidote is the opposite.

Finding balance and creating a smooth equilibrium will vary slightly from person to person. But there are many universal things we can do to stay grounded and assist us through changing times.
In order to balance Vata, we need warming, grounding, and nourishing remedies.

Balancing Suggestions:

Eat cooked foods that are heavy, moist, and oily with warm and soft qualities.

  • The sweet, sour, and salty tastes are balancing and grounding for our system. Supportive foods before travel are soups, broths, stews, whole grains, and good quality fats such as olive oil, avocado, and ghee.
  • Foods that are cooked and served warm will create moisture within the system and aid in grounding.
  • Incorporate warming spices or herbs to build the digestive fire, keep us warm, and help us feel full and calm.

A gentle, self-massage with sesame oil.

  • Rubbing this oil onto our skin is extremely calming, grounding, and nourishing for our nervous system.
  • Toning our tissues and warming our muscles, this allows for movement in our body to progress from erratic to smooth.

Gentle Yoga or Movement.

  • Moving our bodies in a mindful and purposeful way will allow extra erratic energy to disperse; creating warmth, and freeing us from a build-up of unwanted energy during travel.
  • This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing our minds to be at ease, our body to rest, and our system to digest.

Meditation

  • Meditation allows us to create space in the mind and between thoughts. When we increase the space between thoughts, we are capable of experiencing stillness and serenity.
  • Even just 15 minutes of meditation can have large, grounding affects.

Breath work

  • Certain breath techniques allow for a grounding, calming experience. Emphasizing the exhale (making it twice as long as the inhale), will have the best effect, and can be used anywhere at anytime.
  • Just 10 deep breaths can reset our neural system and ignite our parasympathetic nervous system.

 

Enjoying these practices before we travel, or as a daily routine, we will see the benefits and the lasting effects for our entire journey.

Through practice and paying attention to the natural world around us, we learn how to best care for our inner world, and can better support our inner sanctum – mind, body, and spirit.

The Meaning of Grace

Grace is such a large concept.
Endless opportunities of definitions, each varied by the viewers perspective.
To each one of us, grace means something a little bit different.
As I age and as I grow, I am more fully understanding the concept of grace.

Understanding the depths of Grace

As a young girl, my definition of grace formed through watching figure skaters and dancers on tv. I seen them twirl, jump, spin, and move with such fluidity – thinking to myself, “This is it! This must be grace!” I had understood only its surface meaning, dazzled by the dancers on tv.
As I grew, I stumbled, fell, and bruised my knees. I fell in love, had my heart broken, and experienced loneliness. I moved to new places, met new people, and discovered new sides of myself. I went through hardship. I encountered sides of myself I didn’t like. I changed. I tried again. I fell down again.

Through my development, through direct experience with challenge and hard work, the depth of grace began to reveal itself to me.

Graciously dealing with situations that trigger us

This is a tough one, but allows for huge amounts of growth.
Handling challenging situations gently is a great skill to work on. Life is going to throw many different and unique obstacles at us, and this is real-life practice on becoming better human beings. Through each challenge we are being given an opportunity to breathe and grow.
When triggered, we can take some time to breathe and reflect on why the feeling has come up.
This takes patience! Patience with ourselves, and patience with those who triggered us.

Acting with grace involves patience and remembering to breathe.

Why am I feeling triggered?

This is an ongoing lesson for me, and I suspect it always will be.
I find myself triggered the most in close relationships; like lovers, friends, or family.
These situations triggered emotions. At first, I fought the emotions, hid from pain and covered it with anger. But I knew anger is just a cover, and asked myself “Am I really angry?”
Sometimes I was angry, yet most of the time I was upset, sad, frustrated, jealous, lonely, or confused. Whatever it was, asking myself this question allowed me to validate what was actually going on. Now through understanding of the emotion, I was able to ask “What can I do to feel better?”

Asking myself these questions allowed me to understand my emotions on a deeper level. Through this greater understanding, I am better at staying in my center while responding to triggers.

Gracefully standing our ground

Standing our ground can manifest in many different ways. There are often lots of opportunities for each of us to practice using grace in these challenging and defensive situations

Setting clear boundaries

Setting boundaries is a lifetime journey of discovery, speaking the truth, having authority, and understanding oneself. Its takes courage to speak your truth and communicate when boundaries have been crossed. This graceful authority is holding so much love for yourself that you have to be true to your wants and needs. This blooms through self-discovery and self-understanding. With practice this gets easier with time, and can eventually become second nature. Setting clear boundaries is the number one way to better relationships. The effects are long lasting, people will treat you better because you have taught them how to treat you.

Speaking with grace is an important tool. It will help for calm, effective communication.

Relinquishing the past with grace

Through direct experience with aging elders, I seen first-hand the radical differences between those who were willing to let go, and those who are attached. It showed clearly the main roots of challenge in being attached, and allowed for a wonderful teaching moment in what it truly meant to let go with grace.

Practicing non-attachment

Throughout our lives we have many opportunities to relinquish attachment and surrender to the flow – and it is probably one of the hardest lessons to learn. Attachment stems from two main lies we tell ourselves; the first being ‘I know everything’, the second being ‘I am in control’.

It is easy for our egos to quickly rear its head when we are faced with letting go of something we are fond of. How can we tell ourselves we have all the power, when we can easily look around and see the smallness of our existence threaded into the grand scheme of things? We are only one small part of a giant cosmic flow. Through this gradual understanding, we can begin to see the toll it takes on our spirits to hold onto something so closely. The universal flow will run its course whether we like it or not. It is much easier to step back, and allow things to unfold as they are – for better or worse. The best practice of mindfulness is to dwell in the present moment. Not holding onto the past, nor trying to create the future. Instead, finding the joy in the moment and revelling in that.

Relinquishing with grace is a lifelong practice. Non-attachment to physical things will unblock the flow of growth.

The depth of grace continues to reveal itself to me as I grow.
May having patience and breathing through difficult times help each of us act with grace.
May asking ourselves important questions help us to understand our emotions.
May setting clear boundaries and using effective communication help us speak with grace.
May non-attachment open the flow of growth.
May our courage allow us to let go with grace.

Love & light dear sisters and brothers.

Human Family – Maya Angelou

Human Family

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

Wild Geese – Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

By Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Adventuring into Costa Rica

The traveling life is the life for me.

 

It was just over 15 months ago when I decided to leave my sweet, slow lifestyle in B.C. Canada, behind. I craved momentum. Yearned for change. I decided to embark on a journey into Central America. A place painted with rich culture, historical sites, and great food.

I planned to go for 3 months…

Yet here I am, with no plan to return home anytime soon.

So the journey continues.

I am now currently in Costa Rica; where the sand is white and the jungle is thick.

One of the newest land developments on Earth, aging just over 3 million years old.

The energy here is young, full of enjoyment, and truly sticks to its slogan “Pura Vida,” literally translating to “ Life is Pure.”

San Jose is the capital city, enclosed by 3 volcanoes; Volcan Poás, Volcan Barva, and Volcan Irazu. The three of which stand tall around the valley, sometimes even blowing off some smoke. They create great hiking trails, through the thick jungle, past beautiful waterfalls, finally reaching volcanic lake craters with amazing views.

Volcan Poás is one of my favourites. It is one of the world’s largest active volcanoes; with 2 crater lakes. The northern lake known as Laguna Caliente, or “Hot Lagoon”, is one of the world’s most acidic lakes. And the views of it from the hiking trail are amazing.

I don’t prefer to stay in cities long. Although the lights and activities are tempting, I am always pulled to the countryside – in this case, the beach! Costa Rica has some great beaches, with most of the country a coastline; either to the Pacific Ocean, or the Caribbean Sea.

I recommend visiting both, because each coast boasts of its own unique flavour.

During my travels I discovered a unique little place, on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The people here are so friendly, and the food absolutely delicious. People spend their time surfing or practicing yoga, and watching the sunsets at the beach are the best.

So I found myself a safe sanctuary, and decided that I will stay for awhile.

Waiting to see what is unfolding next, and enjoying the scenery around me.

Life sure takes you places!