SEP 01, 2017
What is Vata in Ayurveda
To optimise vata dosha, it is important to first understand Ayurveda and the guidelines that define vata dosha and vata dosha symptoms.
The ancient science of Ayurveda talks about the three biological Doshas that define the human body. These Doshas are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, each derived from a different natural element. Vata corresponds to air, Pitta to fire, and Kapha to water. It is said that these Doshas determine the process of life, growth, and decay.
Since Ayurveda recognises these Doshas as the three primary life forces in the human body, every deficiency, disease, or disorder is primarily caused due to a shift in the optimum levels of these Doshas.
This article will discuss, what the Vata Dosha is, and what causative effects it could have on the body in the case of changed levels.
Vata, as we know, is the air or wind Dosha. This basically means that it is the Dosha that is responsible for movement in the human body. It is this aspect that makes Vata a very important Dosha since the other two Doshas are found to be incapable without the presence of movement.
One of the major functions of the Vata Dosha is that it governs sensory and mental balance, while also promoting individuals’ cognitive abilities and the way they comprehend things.
Being the most important of the three Doshas, it regulates the functions of Pitta and Kapha as well. As the primary Dosha in the human body, Vata is known to be responsible for all physical processes. Considering these factors, any changes in the Vata Dosha levels may have severe implications on the body in comparison to the other two Doshas.
There are five different forms of the Vata Dosha. Each of the five forms or Vayus have a different purpose. Before moving forward, let's take a glimpse at what each Vayu does. This will also help you identify vata imbalance symptoms.
Prana: This is the forward or primary air. It moves through the head and is centred in the brain. From there, it moves towards the chest and throat governing the process of inhalation, swallowing, belching et cetera.
Udana: This is an upward movement of air. It starts from the chest cavity and is centred in the throat. Memory, strength, speech, and exhalation are governed by this form of the Vata Dosha.
Vyana: This is a pervasive or diffusive air. Vyana is centred in the heart and is distributed throughout the entire human body. It helps the functioning of the circulatory system.
Samana: This is an equalising air. Centred in the small intestine, Samana is responsible for the digestion process. Apart from that, Samana also helps maintain equilibrium in various bodily systems.
Apana: This is the downward movement of air. It is centred in the colon and is in charge of different impulses that move downward. Elimination, urination, menstruation, and sexual activity are governed by the Apana.
The elements of the Vata season
In the Northern hemisphere, the season shifts from warmer and moist tending towards dry and cold in the autumn and winter – this is known as the Vata season in Ayurveda. Vata Dosha is composed of air & ether and qualified by action, transportation and movement. Vata is considered the “King of Doshas” as it energizes the other two Doshas (Pitta and Kapha).
We recognize Vata’s elements in nature as:
Vata Dosha in the mind-body
The Vata Dosha is manifest primarily in the abdominal cavity below the navel – colon, pelvis, pelvic organs, as well as the thighs, skin, ears, brain, nervous system and lungs. It is responsible for all action in the body, including movements of the body and mind, sensory impulses and motor regulation, breath, removal of waste, speech and the pumping of the heart. It is furthermore the energy which kindles our Agni, or digestion, allows for the absorption of nutrients and delivers a baby.
In a sense, you could say Vata makes it happen.
According to the Tridoshas of Ayurveda, we all have a unique combination of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, with one or two Doshas manifested more prominently.
Vata-dominant individuals tend to have the following qualities:
Slimmer build, light weight, either very tall or short
Quick-moving mind and actions
Tendency to do many things
Thinner skin and hair, prone to dryness
Oval, narrow face and smaller eyes
Variable appetite, tendency towards constipation
Light sleep, possibly interrupted, dreams full of movement
Lower stamina with bursts of activity
Drawn to creative activities, dance and travel
If you can relate to several of the qualities above, Vata may be a dominant Dosha for you.
How to detect a Vata imbalance
While some of Vata’s qualities such as dryness or interrupted sleep may, sound like shifts from the optimum level, having a Vata-dominant constitution is not inherently a shift.. All of the Doshas have certain qualities which we can learn to balance through Ayurveda’s guidelines. Understanding one’s constitution is key to determining which of those guidelines are most crucial.
Anyone can experience Vata imbalances, though the Vata-dominant individuals are more prone to them. When aggravated, major Vata symptoms can be emaciation, debility, constipation, insomnia, sensory disorientation, incoherent speech, dizziness, confusion and even depression. Basically, high Vata results in the prana and mind losing their basic connection with the human body. When there is a loss of this connection, it may lead to decay and loss of overall coordination. In addition, there is also a sense of hyperactivity that takes a toll on the vital fluids present in the body.
Signs of a Vata imbalance include:
Dryness of skin, hair, ears, lips, joints
Dryness internally – bloat, gas, constipation, dehydration, weight loss
Dry and lightness of the mind – restlessness, dizziness, feeling ungrounded
Cold: poor circulation, muscle spasm or constriction, asthma, pain and aches, tightness
Roughness, especially skin and lips
Excessive movement: anxiety, fidgeting, agitation, muscle twitching, palpitations
How to manage a Vata imbalance
A combination of the following diet and lifestyle adjustments can return Vata into balance and prevent seasonal allergies, colds and flus.
- It almost goes without saying that an imbalance during the “dry season” requires additional hydration. But don’t just hydrate with any water – filtered, warm or hot water is most pacifying to a Vata imbalance.
- Additionally, hydration of the skin is recommended through self abhyanga, or massage with warm oil (sesame or almond) 15 minutes prior to bathing.
- Use of Vata-pacifying oils in cooking can further hydrate the body internally: sesame, almond or avocado oil.
Adopt a seasonal diet
Reduce the amount of astringent, dry, light, cold, raw and processed foods.
Increase sweet, sour, salty, warm, cooked whole foods.
Pumpkin, sweet potato, beets, carrots and zucchinni, brussel sprouts, avocados, dates, figs, lemons, limes, papayas, grapefruit and grapes are all beneficial vegetables and fruits.
For grains, legumes and nuts, try rice, oatmeal, quinoa, split mung beans, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews.
Beneficial spices include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, turmeric, saffron.
Stick to a regular schedule
- Lack of sleep imbalances Vata very quickly, so getting enough sleep and at the right time is key – between 10pm-4am.
- Eating three meals a day with regularity also pacifies Vata.
- Excessive exercise can exacerbate Vata, so don’t push it during this season.
- Generally: it is ill-advised to exercise more than 45min to 1 hour at one time, or more than twice per day.
- Honor your body’s needs with modifications of your routine, opting for gentler workouts that also calm the mind and body, such as Yoga.
Incorporate a meditative or calming practice
- Meditation is instrumental in pacifying Vata as it requires the withdrawal of senses, or external distractions. If entering meditation is more challenging during this season, consider practicing Yoga asana or an equally calming routine prior to meditation, to allow the mind and body to work out some of the clutter.
- Mantra and chanting can help to focus the mind and can also be especially beneficial for balancing Vata.
1. What is Vata body type?
Ayurveda defines three Doshas that are the primary functional energies of all beings. Vata is derived from Akash and Vayu Mahabhutas. Each person has their own unique Dosha levels that control the life processes in the mind and body. When a person’s Dosha levels are not in an equilibrium state, it can lead to many diseases and disorders. are out of their natural and healthy proportion.
The Vaat meaning in Ayurveda refers to the Vata Dosha which is said to be rough, dry, cold, light, agitated, and subtle Dosha. It is primarily in control of movement, coordination of the senses, effort, tissue equilibrium, effort, and the process of inhalation and exhalation in the body. Along With all these, each and every function in the body happens because of Vata Dosha. The principal seat of the Vata Dosha is the colon.
The ancient texts describe a Vata body type as not stout but thin with low weight. A Vata body type has prominent bones and veins with cold and dry skin. The Vata body type person has a tendency to hyperactivity with a weak immune system. They are quite erratic in appetite and sleep habits.
2. What are the symptoms of aggravated Vata?
When there is an aggravated Vata in the body that is out of proportion with the natural Dosha balance, the person has a Vata imbalance. This is mainly seen in the fall or autumn seasons when the surroundings favor the Vata Dosha. When there is a Vata imbalance, the symptoms are:
- Dry and sometimes change in complexion, hair, ears, lips, and joints
- Internal dryness that causes bloat, gas, constipation, dehydration, emaciation
- Dryness of the mind causing restlessness, delirium, giddiness, insomnia
- Cold related symptoms such as poor circulation, muscle spasms or constrictions, asthma, pain and aches, and tightness
- Too much movement causing anxiety, fidgeting, agitation, muscle twitching, and palpitations
3. How can I reduce my aggravated Vata immediately?
Aggravated Vata Dosha can be maintained with the help of the following:
- Substances like sweet, salty, unctuous, and hot food.
- Abhangyam (Oleation), Sweda ( Sedation), and Vasty karma. As the main seat of Vata is the colon, Vasty works wonderfully to reduce vitiated Vata.
- Cooking with Vata pacifying oils such as avocado or sesame
- Eat according to the Vata dominant season. Reduce the intake of astringent, dry, light, cold, raw, and processed foods while also increasing sweet, sour, salty, warm, cooked whole foods.
- Maintain an active lifestyle and get adequate sleep
- Practice Yoga, meditation, or any preferred stress management and calming activity
4. How can we reduce aggravated Vata in the body?
Vata levels aggravation can be helped to be reduced with diet, lifestyle, and Ayurvedic herbal supplements. Management of excess Vata is particularly important in the fall and colder months when the climate favors the Vata Dosha. Since the Vata Dosha is cold one should prefer warm food and drinks in this season. Moist and heavy food is preferred over light and dry foods. The hair and skin’s dryness should be countered with a regular warm oil massage with Vata pacifying oils.
5. Can aggravated Vata Dosha be cured?
The Vata Dosha is essential for the normal functioning of the body. The Vata or Vaat meaning in Ayurveda refers to the presence of optimum level of the primal energy of Vata in the body. Disturbance in the healthy level or aggravation leads to problems in the body like dryness in skin and scalp, bloating, constipation, etc.
Vata can be brought back to its normal level in a person’s body through a healthy lifestyle and food habits as mentioned above.