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All Vata Dosha

weathering the colder and darker days with the body and mind

Vata is a dosha in Ayurvedic medicine that is made up of air and space. Its qualities are light, dry, and cold, and govern all movement processes within the body and mind. This includes breathing, blood and lymphatic flow, elimination, and synaptic impulses within the mind. Outside of us, Vata governs the air and the growth of nature. If we want to understand what Vata feels or looks like, we can peek out and look at the crisp Autumn and chilly Winter landscape. It might be difficult to see and feel Vata’s effects in our day-to-day, but Vata is abundant in everything we do: from thinking and doing to taking in and uploading our experiences. Our bodies are constantly trying to thrive in a never-ending flux of activity.

Although Vata dosha is often the first dosha to fall out of balance, the fall and start of winter is a time when we experience more Vata imbalances. If you are already an active individual or athlete, you are susceptible to higher levels of Vata because, in addition to working, working on screens, thinking about the to-do lists for the holidays, and balancing a full plate, we are also moving a lot more- which aggravates Vata. When our environment gets hit with these mobile and changing qualities, our bodies get hit hard.

But with some extra care and tuning in to what’s going on around you and within you, you can stabilize this ever-evolving dosha and thrive all winter long. These considerations apply to balancing Vata any time of the year, but in particular, balancing through this Vata-dominant season.

What is Vata?

Vata is made up of space and air. It controls our body circulation, our breathing, the process of how food moves through our GI tract, and the movement we make with our bodies, including what we hear, see, and speak. You can imagine Vata as the key in the ignition which turns the car on. Without this, Pitta and Kapha dosha would not exist.

Vata Qualities:

Vata’s qualities include dry, light, cold, mobile, rough, and subtle. Those who are Vata-dominant have a tendency to take on more of these qualities. These include being creative, dynamic, adaptable, and overactive. They speak quickly and have a tendency to go off-topic and be scattered-brained. They are bubbly yet are prone to worry, fear, and anxiety. Vata bodies tend to be smaller framed, thin, and/or pear shaped. They have thinner bones, skin, and smaller eyes.

What is a balanced Vata like?

The balanced version of Vata is its sub-dosha- Prana. They are lean, energetic, lively, inspirational with calm, creative energy.

What is a Vata out of balance like?

When out of balance, Vata can make us feel ungrounded and irregular. Overexercising, can’t sit still, anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, nails, and hair, and digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, irregular elimination, and a lack of appetite are all signs in Ayurvedic medicine that is a Vata disturbance. If you are more athletic and active, this can show up as frequent injuries to the joints, ligaments, and bones.

How to balance Vata?

With anything, the best way to balance Vata is with opposites. Since Vata is prone to dry, rough, mobile, light, and cold, anything that is warm, moist, grounding, smooth, and nourishing will help us pull away from those tendencies. Think of a warm bowl of soup, an oil massage, sitting by a fire or candles, being in nature, and cozying up to a good book or journaling.

Since Vata is irregular, a routine can help balance Vata. Because Vata is all about movement, any form of slowing down, in the body and mind, will help to balance Vata. Taking breaks from digital screens, listening to relaxing music, and adopting the less doing, more being attitude.

Eating and drinking:

Foods that are warm, oily, and heavy offer balance to promote proper digestion. Rather than following a set of rules, the best practice is to eat according to your dosha and observe the ways food impacts your body and mind.

Foods to help balance an airy, Vata digestion:

  • Aim to consume more sweet, salty, and sour foods.

  • Whole grains, meat, and raw dairy

  • Add sweet, heavy fruits such as bananas, avocados, berries, plums, mangoes, peaches

  • Choose more cooked vegetables and meals in general

  • Add warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cumin, clove, sage, rosemary

  • Incorporate healthy fats and oils such as olive oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, sesame oil

  • Soak your nuts and seeds for 4-8 hours

Foods that further imbalance Vata digestion:

  • Pungent, bitter, and astringent foods

  • Light, dry fruits such as apples, pears, and pomegranates

  • Raw salads, vegetables, and lots of seeds

  • Light grains such as barley, rye, and corn

  • Beans such as chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans

  • Stimulants such as coffee, white sugar, black tea, alcohol

To summarize, meals that are warm, and beverages that are warm to room temperature will serve Vata best. This means raw salads, smoothies, iced drinks, ice cream, and even cold sandwiches won’t serve you well when Vata is elevated, especially in the late fall, or early winter time. I wanted to note that this doesn't mean you can't have any of these foods, even if you have a Vata-dominant constitution. All foods eaten in moderation are absolutely fine when you aren't experiencing symptoms. If you notice Vata being elevated, then this is a great time to choose more Vata pacifying foods to bring your body out of distress. Everything Ayurveda offers is wisdom, not a set of rules, or "shoulds" and "can't".

Exercise for Vata:

If you are Vata-dominant, you might already be drawn to exercise with a lot of movements such as spinning, running, skiing, and high-paced activities. To stay balanced, incorporate strength training, weight training, hatha-based yoga, yin yoga, meditation, and breathing practices. Even making modifications for your favorite high-paced activities can be helpful for balancing Vata. Perhaps choose to go on a long hike rather than a long trail run, go for a slow spin, and be a speed demon on the bike. Or choose more strength training workouts with slower movements and heavy weights to stabilize the excess Vata. Winter is a great time to embrace this philosophy and build your foundation of strength and balance. Choose practices to boost your immunity and optimize your whole system as a way to prepare for a mobile and active spring and summer.

Ending note:

When this energetic, creative dosha becomes disturbed it can manifest as insomnia, digestive issues, and anxiety. If the imbalance continues, it can deplete the immune system, prevent our bodies from absorbing nutrients, and ultimately sacrifice our health, well-being, and performance. Through warmth, stability, and slowing down in the fall and winter days, we can become more stronger and resilient all year long.

If you need a kickstart in optimizing your body, microbiome, and well-being, come join my new online Ayurvedic lifestyle cleanse called The Mindful Body Reset. It is one of the classic “formulas’ to balance any dosha excess, remove metabolic waste in the digestive tract, and support the whole system during this shift into Vata season. Click HERE for all the info.

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