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Vata Dosha

In Ayurveda, Vata is one of the three doshas (mind-body types). The qualities of Vata are: dry, light, cool, rough, quick, irregular, subtle and mobile. Vata is associated with the Wind element.

As Vata governs movement in the body it regulates the actions of the nervous system and is responsible for the process of elimination.

If Vata is your primary dosha (are you vata? find out here), movement and change are basic to your nature; you will tend to be active, quick, and always on the go. As long as Vata is kept in balance, you will be lean, light, and creative with an enthusiastic disposition.

Check out balancing Vata Recipes here

Physical Characteristics:
Those who are Vata in nature are usually very tall or very short, non-muscular, with thin, bony limbs and have a quick gait with short, fast steps, and above-average agility. Vatas are quick to spend their energy as it comes in short bursts followed by fatigue. Vatas tend to have thin skin that is both dry and cool especially the hands and feet. Their hair is thin, dark, curly and coarse. Face is usually long and angular, often with an underdeveloped chin. The neck is thin and scrawny. Nose is small and narrow or sunken. The teeth are irregular often set in receding gums. Those with Vata dosha typically have a weak, low voice and their speech is fast, often with interruptions. Their digestion can often be sensitive and their sleep light.

Mental/ Emotional Characteristics:
Vatas thrive on new experiences and are enthusiastic to change. Though often quick to anger they are also quick to forgive. They tend to have restless minds and weak memories. Often Vata types avoid confrontation and are sensitive in nature. They have a tendency to overindulge in pleasures. Vatas are prone to near-obsessive questioning, theorizing, and over-analysis. They are often dissatisfied with and unable to sustain lasting friendships. It is typical for a Vata type to express himself in sports and creative pursuits. They are likely to highly artistic and imaginative.

Vata in Balance:
When Vatas are in balance, they are energetic, creative, lively and flexible. They are likely to take initiative and are animated conversationalists. Flowing with vitality, generosity, and joy, their enthusiasm is contagious and they tend to be the life of a party or the catalyst for a new creative idea. When in balance, Vatas have a strong ability to multi-task.

Vata out of Balance:
When Vata falls out of balance, it is evident through weight loss, cracking joints, arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, constipation, dry skin, low immunity, and irregular digestion. Excess Vata manifests as dry, brittle skin, lips, hair, and nails. They are more likely to show signs of anxiety, fear, nervousness, and restlessness. It is not uncommon for a Vata individual to suffer from insomnia when out of balance. A typical Vata response to stress or overwhelm is to blame and question themselves and to worry.

Balancing Vata:
If your Vata is out of balance due to excessive stress or overwhelm, your mind may feel disorganized and out of control. As your activity and movement speeds up you find yourself feeling less focused and more frazzled. You may start to notice some early symptoms of Vata imbalance such as insomnia, increased anxiety, unintended weight loss, and disturbed digestion. If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms of imbalanced Vata dosha, it’s time to slow down and work toward creating a more regular, nurturing routine and diet.

A basic principle of Ayurveda is “like increases like”. When the qualities of Vata (dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, irregular, and mobile) are increased, Vata naturally increases in your body. Consider that eating cold foods on a cold day and even feeling “cold” emotions will only serve to aggravate Vata whereas drinking warm beverages, dressing for warmth, and manifesting “warm” feelings will balance the dosha. It is therefore advisable for Vata-predominant individuals to adopt routines, environments, and diets that have opposite qualities (moist, grounding, warming, smooth, oily, and stabilizing) to keep Vata in check.

Vata-Balancing Lifestyle Guidelines:

  • Vata is cold. Balance Vata by avoiding becoming chilled. Dress in layers and wear clothing appropriate to the season. When the weather is drafty and cold, wear a hat, scarf, and moisture-wicking material. Prefer climate that are moist and warm such as tropical Hawaii.
  • Vata is irregular and light. Make choices that will bring more nourishment, contentment, softness, and stability into your life. Try on a daily meditation practice.
  • Vata is always changing and moving. Bring Vata into balance by adopting routines and structure into your life. Make an effort to get to bed earlier and get up by 6am, don’t skip meals.
  • Vata is dry. Perform a daily 10-15 minute self-abhyanga massage using warm, heavy oils such as sesame oil.
  • Calming, sweet, soothing music is good “Medicine” for Vata.
  • Favor relaxing aromatherapy essential oils (ie. lavender, frankincense, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, and rosewood) that have calming, grounding, and earthy properties.
  • Adapt practices that encourage daily healthy elimination. Drink plenty of warming fluids and include herbs such as cumin in your diet to promote regularity.
  • Enjoy more simplicity by de-cluttering your home and work environments.
  • Eliminate sources of emotional stress.
  • Remember to slow down, speak with intention, eat mindfully, and commit to be in the present moment.
  • Wear warming colors and earth-tones such as reds, browns, and warm yellows.
  • Touch and receive touch from loved ones and healers. Enjoy routine therapeutic massage for relaxation.
  • Engage in “light” exercise that focuses on strengthening core muscles, increasing balance, and improving flexibility. Listen to your body and avoid over-extending yourself. Preferable exercise for Vatas include: Tai Chi, yoga, walking, dance, Pilates, meditation, and casual bicycling.
  • In general, incorporate the underlying concepts of routine, warmth, serenity, and nourishment.

Vata-Balancing Nutrition Guideline:

  • In general, eat foods that will balance or stabilize excessive or aggravated Vata.
  • Vata is drying and cooling. Prefer foods that are oily and warming.
  • Balance the light quality of Vata by eating slightly larger portions (without over-eating).
  • Foods with a sweet taste are considered “heavy” and are therefore balancing to Vata when eaten in moderation.
  • Avoid/ Minimize foods that are pungent, bitter, or astringent that will increase Vata due to their drying and cooling properties.
  • Favor foods that are sweet, salty, or sour as they bring moisture, warmth, and bulk to the body which are pacifying/stabilizing qualities for Vata.
  • Use a generous amount (~ 3 Tablespoons daily) of heavier cooking oils and fats such as ghee, extra virgin olive oil, and sesame oil which helps to pacify Vata. (Learn how to make ghee here).
  • Prefer grains such as rice and wheat and avoid/reduce barley, corn, millet, rye, and buckwheat which are lighter and provoke Vata.
  • During cool weather and breezy chilly days, fresh ginger tea is a perfect antidote for Vata.
  • Reduce raw vegetables and prefer well-cooked sweet, heavy vegetables such as butternut squash, beets, and cooked carrots. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower) can be eaten in moderation when prepared using ghee or EVOO.
  • A Vata individual responds well to warm, freshly prepared, nourishing foods such as soups, stews and one-pot-meals like kitchari (see recipe for kitchari here).
  • Avoid sprouts and cabbage which produce gas and are difficult to digest.
  • Prefer sweet, heavy fruits including: pineapples, bananas, mangoes, dates, papaya, peaches, and nectarines.
  • Minimize consumption of dried fruits and lighter fruits such as pomegranates, pears, and apples.
  • Enjoy nuts and seeds such as walnuts and almonds that are grounding and provide nourishment to Vata.
  • With the exception of split mung beans avoid beans which aggravate Vata and are challenging to digest.
  • Try using spices such as cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, salt, ginger, black pepper, basil, and mustard seeds that are helpful in pacifying Vata.
  • Boil milk with warming spices such as cinnamon which makes it easier to digest and beneficial for Vata.
  • With all sweets and oils, use in moderation and prefer natural whole grains and organic, minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and oils when possible.
  • Avoid refined sugars that offer only a fleeting burst of energy, followed by a predictable “sugar crash”. This unhealthy pattern is classic for Vata types who tend to fill up on empty calories.
  • With the help of an ayurvedic practitioner, use herbs such as Shatavari, Ashwagandha, and Vidari Kanda to remove excess Vata from the body and attain/maintain a healthy balance.

See Recipes for Pitta Dosha here

Are you a Vata type?

Identifying your mind-body type (basic nature) is an important step to understand your innate strengths and challenges. With this knowledge you are empowered to make choices and adopt routines that will keep you healthy and balanced.

Take the Dosha Quiz to get started today!

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