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 (1) in the body. It’s very important to keep Vata Dosha in good balance.
What is Vata Dosha??
The word vata means to blow or move like the wind.
Vata consists of elements air and ether, which is the principle force of motion in the body and mind. When vata dosha is healthy, the movements of the body are graceful and controlled. When out of balance, the movements become erratic, excessive, decreased, or blocked.
Vata dosha has certain qualities which are light, dry, mobile, cold, hard, rough, sharp, subtle, flowing, and clear. A body and mind in which the vata dosha predominates expresses or reflects these qualities.
Types of Vata (Subdoshas)
Vata dosha is best understood in terms of its component parts, its subdoshas, which are the five types of vata or five types of movement.
Prana Vayu: Prana vayu represents the force that draws sensory experience to us. It is the force of attraction. The way it functions determines the types of impressions we expose ourselves to. Prana vayu (2) resides in the head and heart (chest) where desire dwells, choices are made, and sensory experience is processed. When it is healthy, we are drawn toward that which is harmonious and which brings us health and well-being. When prana vayu is out of balance, we misuse our senses and disturbs our well-being.
Samana Vayu: Whereas prana vayu represents the force of attraction, samana vayu represents the force of absorption, pulling the impressions we are drawn to toward the center of our being. When samara vayu (3) is functioning properly, impressions are properly absorbed. When it is in a state of dysfunction, absorption becomes difficult, and malnourishment or numbness may occur.
Vyana Vayu: Once absorbed, an impression is acted. This is the role of vyana vayu (4), which is the force that circulates the response, moving it from the center toward the periphery. Like in the digestive system blood carries the nutrients throughout the body so that each cell receives its proper supply. In the nervous system, a signal is sent from the central nervous system toward a muscle or organ.
Udana Vayu: Udana vayu (5) is responsible for action and expression, which means putting the energy which is received to work. Cells take the energy received and perform their unique functions. Nutrients are used for cellular energy and for building proteins. The nerves instruct muscles and organs to act properly.
Apana Vayu: Cellular activity produces both work and waste. While udana vayu is responsible for the work, apana vayu is responsible for cleaning up the waste. Apana vayu (6) eliminates waste primarily through the functions of urination, defecation, and menstruation. It is responsible for all the downward flowing energy of the body and as such is also responsible for the energy needed for carrying the child out of the womb and into the world.
Common Causes of Vata imbalance
- Stress, Anxiety, worry, fear
- Lack of sleep
- Dry, light, cold and raw foods
- Spicy, bitter and astringent foods
- Leftover food
- Lack of daily routine (i.e. sleep times, meals times)
- Going to bed too late
- Refined sugar
- Suppressed urges (i.e. flatulence, burping, sneezing)
- Too many activities, overexertion
- Prolonged exposure to cold and/or windy conditions
Qualities or Attributes of Vata Dosha
The natural expression of vata dosha in the constitution of the body and mind reflects the qualities inherent in the dosha. Examples of the way these qualities manifest are as follows:
Light: The bones of the body are narrow
Dry: The skin or eyes have a tendency to become dry
Mobile: A person moves quickly, often with a lack of focus
Cold: A person tends to become chilled easier than others
Hard: If the tissues of the body become dry, they will then become hard
Rough: As the skin becomes drier, it becomes rougher
Sharp: The bridge of the nose is thinner and sharper than in other constitutional types
Subtle: The mind is open to new ideas, expansive, and interested in the esoteric
Flowing: The mind flows easily from one idea to the next
Clear: The eyes are clear
When vata dosha is out of balance, there is an excess of the qualities that define the dosha. The specific symptoms produced as a result of the imbalance depend upon which srota (channel system) and which dhatu (tissue) inside that channel are affected. Generalized examples of excess vata qualities (imbalances) in the body are as follows:
Light: The body loses weight
Dry: The lips become chapped
Mobile: The voice becomes too quick and rambles
Cold: A person feels chilled
Hard: The stools become hard and difficult to eliminate
Rough: The skin becomes rough
Sharp: Pain in the body is sharp like the prick of a needle
Subtle: A person is too easily affected by the feelings of others
Flowing: There is an inability of the mind to focus
Clear: The eyes and the mind become vacant
What are the functions of Vata?
Vata is responsible for all functions of nervous system. It has following major functions:
- Senses, Communication, Conductivity, Impulsivity, Permeability, Sensitivity, Transportation, Circulation, Elimination, Movement, Respiration, Thought, Produces Roughness, Produces Lightness
Vata controls communication, movement and transportation in the living cells. It determines the movement of molecules in cellular structures. It also controls the movement of the body. Vata plays a role in nerve impulses from the brain to other parts of the body and from organs to the brain.
Cellular division is not possible without Vata. It is essential for cellular organization and formation of tissues. It brings Kapha molecules and cells together to conjugate them into tissues. Therefore, Vata has more important role in the body.
- Embryo shape is due to Vata action
- Vata plays a role in formation and determining the shape of embryo.
- It produces dryness in the body.
- It causes catabolism in the body by inducing activities and movement.
- It also controls the metabolic processes in the body by determining the speed of action and controlling Pitta.
- Vata is a main factor that is responsible determining the all processes in the life from development and formation of embryo to destruction of the life.
- All functions of nervous system including brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves are due to Vata. It plays a role in stimulation of impulses in the nervous system.
- All functions of sense organs are due to Vata.
Ways to balance Vata Dosha (Vata Balancing)
First and foremost, keep calm and be regular in your routine. Vata thrives, and tends toward balance, when supported by a regular daily routine. At night, drink a cup of boiled milk or Calming Vata Tea an hour before sleep. Diffuse Vata Aroma Oil, or one of our other essential oils in your room at night, or in the office for a calm, consistent aroma to help you slow down. Be stress free as it simultaneously calms the nervous system (soothing to Vata dosha) while supporting mental acuity.
The key to balancing Vata is regularity — especially regular, daily elimination. When digestion is imbalanced it can manifest as intestinal cramps, occasional diarrhea or constipation, or gas.
Eat Cooked Meals Regularly
Try eating meals at regular mealtimes each day. If we can avoid the tendency to eat a light lunch on the go, even on our busiest days, we can calm the flighty nature of Vata. Warm, nourishing, cooked foods (less raw foods) help us stay grounded. Eat larger quantities of food, especially at lunch, but not more than can be digested easily.
Dry, rough skin can often accompany those leaning towards Vata tendencies. Daily ayurvedic massage with Herbal Massage Oil, will work wonders to soothe dry skin and tame excess movement. Try abhyanga (massage) in the morning to start the day right! If you live in a dry climate, Nasya can be very soothing for your nasal passages. Apply oil to your little finger and dab inside your nostrils. Massage the inner nostrils and sniff a few times, then wipe away the excess oil. You will be surprised at the beneficial effect this has.
Yoga Asanas and Meditation
Yoga asanas, practiced properly loosen our joints and muscles, releasing nervous tension. This makes yoga asanas the ideal non-strenuous exercise for Vata. According to ayurveda, lightly putting our attention on the area of sensation while practicing each posture has a balancing effect. Properly done, gentle asanas stimulate the marma points in our body, bringing balance. Our bodies and minds will find peace by favoring a gentle asana practice which balances both sides of the body. Seated meditation — the ultimate yoga asana — calms our mind and brings our body back into balance, creating our sense of feeling grounded.
When the temperature outside drops or we are just having a day where we cannot seem to warm up — a soothing cup of sweet Calming Vata Tea will settle a whirling mind and warm our bodies from the inside out. Enjoy warm temperatures when possible.
To promote quality rest, start preparing a few hours before bedtime. Dim the lights around the house and then enjoy calming leisure activities such as reading, listening to relaxing music. Try Blissful Sleep, a natural sleep aid for falling asleep faster and enjoying blissful, refreshing sleep. Eating our dinner at least three hours before bed will make a big difference in calming our mind and allowing us to sleep soundly.
Vata Dosha Diet tips
There are no absolutes, as every individual has different needs, so take the below as guidelines and see what they do for you.
- warm, cooked foods and generally well spiced foods
- sweet, fresh fruits, including the rich ones such as banana, mango, avocado, grapes, pineapples…
- sweet, sour and salty tastes, like grains, dairy, oils and most vegetables if they’re cooked
- nuts, especially soaked and most spices
- cold and frozen foods, as well as cold drinks right out of the refrigerator
- overconsumption of dry and raw foods, including dried fruit
- too much of astringent, bitter and pungent flavours, like coffee, tea or very hot spices
- too many vegetables from the nightshade family (tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, potatoes), the cabbage family (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower) or beans. All of them are “too windy”.