Did you read my last post on an intro into the Ayurvedic constitutions? Are you wondering which of the Doshas apply to you?
To refresh your memory before we go any further, here’s a quick summary of the need-to-know basics. There are three Doshas in Ayurveda, each being a combination of the five Elements found on Earth: Air, Water, Earth, Ether and Fire. The three resulting Doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Most people don't have a purely Vata, Pitta or Kapha constitution; most likely, you'll have a dominant Dosha and a secondary one. You can also be tridoshic, but those people are in the minority. Also, it’s important to note that we all have Vata, Pitta and Kapha moments in our days and lives. This is normal as we have all of the Doshas within us, just in our own unique quantities. We were all born with a certain amount of each of the five elements, and this changes over time, across seasons and due to your diet and lifestyle habits.
This just goes to show that maintaining your health is a dynamic thing, which keeps things interesting, but also makes it important to keep the Doshas balanced. When we talk about characteristics like oily, dry, warm or cold, these are based on the elements, which then influence your mind and body. For example, you can have a fiery temperament or dry skin. Any imbalances present relate to the qualities within each of the Doshas rather than the Dosha itself.
Knowing your dominant Dosha you were born with (your Prakriti) is key to understanding and getting the most out of Ayurveda as it allows you to see where imbalances might lie. Once you know this, you can use the wisdom of Ayurvedic practices, recipes and more to bring balance back into your life. Sounds pretty great, right? So let’s dive into the first of the three Doshas–Vata.
The elements Air and Ether make up Vata Dosha and this defines the mental and physical characteristics of people belonging to this group. Just like air and ether energies, the characteristics of Vatas are dry, cold, moving, light and rough.
In general terms, Vata is in charge of movement in the body. In fact, Vata is the only Dosha with this mobile quality. Think the lungs, diaphragm, heartbeat and gastrointestinal tract. It controls blood circulation, the nervous system, elimination, heart function and elimination of waste.
This is pretty abstract so let’s get more practical and look at how these characteristics translate to mental and physical characteristics you might recognize in yourself or someone you know.
Remember that one of the elements that makes up Vata is Air. All this air means that Vatas tend to be active, flexible, sensitive, creative and enthusiastic.
‘Fast’ is one of the first words that comes to mind when you think of a Vata. Fast talking, fast thinking, fast changing and fast moving. Everything about Vata seems to be dynamic and they thrive in fast-moving environments. They love nothing more than being on the move and experiencing change. You could even say that they need constant change and newness to stay stimulated and engaged.
Vatas are creative beings who are natural big-picture thinkers who see things in a new light and bring unique perspectives. Ideas come thick and fast for Vatas and it can be hard to keep up with the speed of their thoughts! They both remember and forget things quickly as a result.
One thing they’re not naturals at is sticking to a routine or doing the same things day-in, day-out. A Vata would feel right at home backpacking the world, visiting a different place every day, discovering new cultures and learning new languages. On the flip side, they feel like a square peg in a round hole in static environments where they have to perform monotonous tasks or stay in one place. They need space (ether) to think clearly.
Another thing they might struggle with is completing tasks and sticking to just one thing. They get one task underway but are soon itching to move onto the next thing before they’ve finished. Or perhaps they just have a million dreams and ideas and struggle to get things off the ground. It’s no surprise that you’ll often find Vata multitasking–eating while on the phone while driving for example . Of course, these are just some examples of how Vata manifests and it might not be the case for everyone.
Physically, Vatas tend to be slim, lean and small-boned. They have mobile, flexible and fast-moving bodies and fast-moving eyes. Their skin is often dry and can be thin so veins may be visible. They can be either very tall or very small with joints that crack. Vata hair tends to be on the dry, frizzy side and prone to split ends. They don’t sweat easily and can easily feel the cold.
Even if they eat lots, they don’t easily put on weight. This isn’t helped by their erratic eating–they’re the types who forget to eat or find themselves snacking at random times and places!
As I already mentioned, Vatas can be fast. They tend to move fast physically speaking as well as mentally. Speed walking is their preferred pace! They might also struggle to sit still and find themselves fidgeting.
All this overthinking and moving means they often find themselves living in their heads and thinking a lot about the future. Feeling anxious, fearful and nervous are common traits of Vatas. It can feel like the thoughts never stop, which can get overwhelming. It’s no surprise that when Vata is high, sitting still in meditation can be a struggle, both physically and mentally! Especially because anxiety creeps in when they sit in stillness. They struggle to settle their mind and become present in the here and now.
With all these thoughts and worries in their mind, Vatas commonly struggle to fall asleep and then wake up often when they finally drift off. Insomnia can be a sign of imbalanced Vata. If there’s one Dosha that would benefit from these sleep tips, it would be the Vatas!
If some or all of these imbalances sound familiar, it’s not surprising; we live in a Vata-centric world that encourages and praises living life at an incredibly fast pace. Feeling stuck in your head and anxious and worried is all too common in this set-up, even if you're not Vata predominant in your constitution. We might find ourselves living in disharmony with our natural rhythms to keep up with our society's demands, which can lead to Vata imbalance as well.
Physically, a Vata imbalance can look like dry skin, hair or lips or digestive issues like constipation (dryness in the colon). Feeling cold is also a sign of imbalance: cold hands and feet, poor circulation, stiffness and menstrual irregularities. Roughness can show up as rough hair, skin or nails or cracking joints.
Top tips for balancing Vata
To pacify your Vata or reduce your Vata energy, you need to focus on grounding down. Vata energy is all up in the air so, according to Ayurveda, diet and lifestyle tips for bringing more balance into your life are centered on bringing that energy back down to earth.
Balancing Vata with food
To balance out the cold, dry, moving and rough nature of Vatas, you need foods of the opposite qualities: warm, dense, moist and oily. Eating these kinds of foods can help to regain balance by balancing out their bloating, gas, indigestion, dry skin, anxiety and insomnia.
Here are some top tips for balancing Vata:
● Cooked vegetables are easier for you to digest than raw vegetables.
● Root vegetables like carrots and parsnips are grounding.
● If you eat raw vegetables, try to eat them around midday when your digestive fire is the strongest
● Opt for sweet fruits over bitter or astringent and soak dry fruit where possible.
● If your digestive system is sensitive, try eating cooked fruit, like stewed apples.
● Grains like rice, oats and wheat are Vata's friends as they’re grounding and sweet in taste.
● Cook legumes with spices to make them easier to digest.
● Spices like cinnamon, cumin, fennel and ginger can help to stimulate Vata’s irregular digestive fire.
● Ghee (clarified butter), whole milk (with spices), paneer and goat cheese are the easier-to-digest dairy products.
● Nuts and seeds are great for Vata as they’re oily, heavy and dense.
● Even if Ayurveda recommends a mostly vegetarian diet, Vatas can do well with some meat, cooked in a way that is nourishing and easy to digest, like chicken soup.
● Oils pacify the dryness and roughness in their bodies. Warming oils like olive and sesame are best.
● Eat a warm breakfast, such as cooked grains (e.g. oatmeal) with milk and warming spices.
● Eat dinner early and opt for something easy-to-digest like vegetable stew.
Of course, these are generic principles that don't necessarily apply to everyone. It is recommended to get a personalized assessment to be sure that it best fits your current state of health and digestion.
Balancing Vata with lifestyle habits
Vatas like to go with the wind–but it can also sometimes make them feel a little all over the place. This can result in overwhelm, feeling flighty or scattered. What’s the way to counterbalance this? Grounding. Grounding is central to settling the irregularity present in their bodies and minds in terms of digestive system, appetite and moods. The other thing is routines, which can feel quite counterintuitive for free-spirited Vatas.
For you spontaneous Vatas, this might not come naturally, but having some sort of daily routine can be really beneficial to help your body and mind get prepared for each task at hand. Examples: self-care routine, morning routine, waking and sleeping times and meal times. Routines help you Vatas bring more structure to your lives–knowing what’s coming next so your mind and body are prepared for sleeping, eating, digesting etc. Also, it’ll help you see tasks to completion. I know it can feel restricting and like you’re giving some of your much cherished freedom away but think of it this way: feeling better in body and mind is even more freeing!
I know you like life in the fast lane but it can lead to burnout. You know what the answer to this is, right? Slowing things down. Again, this does not come naturally for speedy Vatas but going slower can help you cultivate mindfulness and awareness of the present moment instead of speeding ahead to the future. In practice this looks like: doing one thing at a time instead of multi-taking. For example, eating sitting down and mindfully and just eating to help aid digestion as it knows to just focus on eating rather than multiple things at once. You could also try a mantra like “I’m a human being not a human doing”.
One practice that teaches Vatas to ground and take things slow? Yoga! But before you grab your yoga mat and head gleefully to a dynamic Vinyasa class, stop! You’d be better going to a grounding yoga class such as yin or hatha. What you’re looking for is grounding and structure over flexibility and movement.
As mentioned, meditation can be particularly challenging for Vata types as their monkey mind takes you quickly anywhere else but the present moment. Meditation can help you center yourself and cultivate mental strength to deal with your to-do list without getting overwhelmed. As Vatas can experience skeletal issues, using something to support your back, like a meditation chair or padded chair, would be beneficial. It can be a good idea to give yourself something to focus on, like a mantra or affirmation or do a somatic practice, like a body scan.
Do you think you might be Vata?
After reading all this, do you feel like you might be Vata? Or perhaps have some Vata imbalances at the moment? Or maybe none of this doesn’t resonate with you at all and you’re more Kapha or Pitta? Don’t worry, we’ll deal with those two in the next two posts…
Whichever Prakriti you are, understanding the role of each Dosha can help you to bring more balance and harmony into your life. This is exactly what I can help you with with my Ayurvedic coaching. First step? Book a free discovery call with me to find out more. I can’t wait to help you uncover your Prakriti and enhance your wellbeing as a result.