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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