As Ayurvedic medicine is the pathway to digestive and emotional wellness, you need to take the constitutions (Vata, Kapha, Pitta) into consideration as your rituals, routines and diet can contribute to your overall health and wellness.
Vata dosha consists of ether and air elements and its qualities are airy, light, free movement, mobile, rough, subtle, cold and dry. As the King of the Doshas, it’s defined as “that which moves.”
Vata controls the heartbeat, eyes/vision, blood circulation, the nervous system, our emotions/thoughts and peristalsis. Characteristics of a person with Vata as their predominant dosha will have certain qualities that represent air and ether.
- Cool/Cold: Because of their thin build, they tend to stay cold. Hence, they need to stay in warm climates and set the thermostat to keep their environments warm. They may also benefit from having soups and stews that keep them warm. They should also consider hot baths and saunas if there’s an imbalance as their hands and feet will stay cold. To combat this, keep warm sweaters handy and thick socks.
- Dryness: They have very dry skin, brittle nails and thin, dry hair. Their skin is rough, cool to the touch and lacks moisture. Hence, they need to add oil to their skin daily and moisturize their hair. If imbalanced (Vikruit), they may also have dry eyes.
- Light/Ambience: They are usually very thin, petite, tall and/or lanky. They have light frames and slender builds. Even if they gain weight, their build is still on the thin to delicate side. They may also have undeveloped muscles or very little muscle strength.
- Mobile/Moving: They need a change of scenery. They like activities where they can travel, plan new destinations and see new scenery. That’s because like the wind, they change often. Hence, these are very creative types who have a lot of interests. Routines may prove challenging and they might have irregular appetites if there’s a Vata imbalance. Have regular foods that you graze on or try new foods that they enjoy. And, come away from normal routines if you feel agitated or anxious. Take the day off.
As the seasons come and go, there are changes in the weather and it’s a similar concept with doshas. They each have a particular season (Vata’s is fall/autumn) where one is dominant over the others. In the same token, during a 24-hour day, one dosha may predominate the others. Hence, it’s important to note the dosha cycles you are in. These can help you to keep your emotions in order and understand if there’s an imbalance of any kind.
Based on Ayurvedic studies, doshas typically have a daily cycle that they go through. Vata, for example, is dominant from 2 am to 6 am and then from 2 pm to 6 pm. That’s when they are the strongest. Hence, you might want to shift your schedule around this dosha and do your morning routines between 2-6 am. That might be the best time for meditation, yoga, exercise and pranayama. Another way to look at this is ether which is a primary element (air is the other), is about space.
Because you have this makeup, take advantage of this window for spiritual enlightenment and calming the body. You may find that it brings more balance to your daily routine. In the late afternoon, that 2-6 pm time slot is also essential. It’s an ideal time to focus on creative projects. And, keep in mind, if you can’t do your exercise in the morning, do it during this late afternoon/early evening window.
With the change in weather, note that Vata qualities are very strong in the late Autumn season (going into winter) when the weather becomes cooler. Again, because it represents cool, airy, wind and mobility, pay careful attention to your mood and diet to keep it in balance, which we’ll explore next.
Doshas can sometimes be hard to keep in balance. Vatas that are in balance are comfortable, cheery, creative and life is good. They’re filled with all kinds of creative thoughts and are quite productive. However, when you are out of balance, it might be a completely different story.
With imbalances, you might feel off, irritated or agitated. It can come from something you should not have eaten or the temperature is not right. During an imbalance, your bio-energy becomes out of sync. Hence, your personality might change where, conversely, nothing feels right.
If there’s a Vata excess, you might feel the following symptoms:
- Difficulty sleeping or bouts of insomnia
- A mood shift as you find a change in appetite
- A bloated stomach, abdominal pains, gas or constipation
- You might feel the imbalance in the skin, ears, pelvis, knees, hips or large intestines
- Anxious thoughts, panic, nervousness or insecure feelings
- Dry skin, an itchy or dry scalp or dry eyes
Like the other doshas, you need to maintain a certain symbiosis to stay balanced. Hence, from your diet to exercise, what you eat and how much you sleep, the goal is to maintain that equilibrium.
Picture food as a type of medicine that harmonizes any doshic imbalance you might have. By eating a Vata-based diet, you can essentially optimize digestion and improve your gut health.
With Vata Ayurveda, there are six food taste categories—astringent, bitter, pungent, salty, salty, sour, sweet. Hence, you need to be intentional about what you eat. The right foods can nourish your body, keep the doshas balanced and also help you keep your digestion running smoothly. You should always have foods that are easy for your body to digest (and avoid problematic foods).
As an example, eating a full meal at lunchtime can give your body a chance to digest it and turn it into waste. However, having meat, processed foods, high salt and high sugar at dinnertime or late at night can cause indigestion, gas, or boating. Avoid disrupting Vata with these 10 helpful tips.
A few ways to combat imbalances include doing Pranayama yoga and meditating. Then book a massage (Shirodhara) session. Using warm oil on your forehead can open the Ajna Chakra. This will help to relieve stress and pacify this dosha. It’s also a calming way to reduce anxiety and promote calm.
Another step is to add Abhyanga or massage oil on your body and include your feet, nostrils and ears. After your massage, go for a steam bath, head to the sauna and/or have Vata tea. When you eat your next meal, add a little extra oil or ghee to your meals. Eat foods that are oily, hot, slow, soft, and warm. Hence, more stews and soups. Avoid raw foods (harder to digest) and astringent, pungent or bitter flavors that can increase Vata.
Because this dosha is airy, light and cool, and indigestion is irregular, eat foods that are moist, warm and heavy. Meaning, prepare oatmeal, stews and soups. These can have a combination of sour, salty or sweet tastes. You will also find that foods that taste sour can provide added balance so Agni which is Sanskrit for your digestive fire, stays strong.
As it governs metabolism, agni is responsible for turning food into energy. When it’s strongest, it’s easy to digest food, have smooth bowel movements and eliminate any toxins. If agni decreases it becomes hard to digest food and process the nutrition you need. Hence, kindling that agni flame with the right foods can promote good gut health.
Stoking that fire means you occasionally need a detox. You can’t keep feeding your body food and not giving your system the space it needs to breathe.
With a predominant Vata dosha, small meals that are cooked always work best. Vatas don’t do well with raw foods as these take longer to digest. Additionally, it’s best to eat the same foods and avoid eating several different or new foods at once. This can trigger an imbalance that you want to avoid.
For the best Vata dosha diet, try to have mostly cooked foods that are warm and slightly sweet. As you chew, slow down and give your body time to digest your food. Drink plenty of warm water and as you release saliva it will include digestive enzymes to help process your food and improve digestion.
Another tip with the Vata dosha diet is to avoid black tea, soda and other carbonated beverages and coffee. These are stimulants that your body doesn’t need.
The best Vata diet foods include:
- Beans: lentils (red), miso, mung beans, mung dal, soy (cheese, milk, sauce and meat), tofu, toor dal and urad dal
- Dairy: butter, cheese, cottage cheese, ghee, milk (buttermilk, cow, goat), ice cream, paneer, sour cream and yogurt
- Drinks: have warm drinks like spiced tea and herbal tea
- Fruit (try to have these cooked and/or served warm): apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, cherries, coconut, dates, figs, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, lemon, lime, mango, melon, oranges, papaya, peaches, pineapple, plums, prunes, raisins and tamarind
- Grains: amaranth, durham flour, oats, pancakes, quinoa, rice (all are fine), seitan, sprouted wheat, wheat and wild rice
- Oils and Fat: almond, avocado, castor, coconut, ghee, mustard, olive, peanut, safflower, sesame and sunflower
- Meat: beef, buffalo, chicken (dark meat), duck, eggs, fish (salt water, fresh), salmon, sardines, seafood, shrimp, tuna and turkey (dark meat)
- Nuts and Seeds: almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, coconut, hazelnut, macadamia, peanuts, pecans, pine, pistachios, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) and walnut
- Spices and Herbs (in moderation): allspice, chili, peppers and turmeric
- Spices and Herbs (in general): ajwain, anise, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, hing, mace, marjoram, mint, mustard seeds, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, peppermint, pippali, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, salt, savory, tarragon, thyme, turmeric and vanilla
- Sweeteners: barley malt, date, fructose, fruit juice, honey (raw), jaggery, maple syrup, molasses, rice syrup, sucanat and turbinado
- Vegetables (cooked are best): asparagus, avocado, beets, carrots, celeriac, chilies (little amount), cilantro, cucumber, garlic, green beans, leeks, mustard greens, okra, olives, onions, parsnip, peas, pumpkin, rutabaga, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, watercress and zucchini
Vata types like mobility but a consistent schedule is more ideal. Having a stable routine can keep this dosha in balance and help promote routine sleep and regular bed and mealtimes. With an emphasis on an early morning waking time and a regular work schedule, Vata can maintain its equilibrium and stay quite productive. At times this may not always work, as you might have occasional nights of insomnia. If that’s the case, have warm porridge, milk or ghee, take a hot bath or use breathing exercises to return to sleep.
Part of your routines should include eating breakfast around the same time. Ideally, 8:00 am is a good time for eating the first meal. Have a warm glass of water or lemon water beforehand to help encourage a bowel movement. Then, eat a natural, balanced breakfast to avoid sugar spikes or crashes. Consider having Chyawanprash prior to your first meal as it includes nourishing herbs (rasayanas).
Vatas can quickly become overwhelmed because they are so busy. Therefore, taking time out for self-care is essential – even if you have to pencil it in on your calendar yourself. Because you are so productive, creative and inspiring, it can become easy to get caught up in other people’s projects. But, you need time each day for relaxation, mental and physical maintenance and quiet time to reflect.
Some busy Vatas who are entrepreneurs and CEOs schedule their self-care time in the mornings or evenings. Hence, you always have time for stretching, yoga, meditation and a deep soak in the tub. Or, mix it up. Schedule a nature hike or bike ride and then have a calming massage Abhyanga before bed. It will do wonders for your nervous system!
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Vatas tend to enjoy snuggling up with cozy socks and a thick sweater on, so don’t sweat it! When the temperature drops, break out the comfy clothes and put on a bowl of soup or stew. Keeping your body warm can prevent Vata imbalances and you won’t have cold hands and feet to contend with. In warmer weather, run a fan to keep you cool and dress in light-colored clothing that breathes. That way you can stay warm and still enjoy any seasonal weather changes.
Adding exercise to your daily routine is heart healthy for all the doshas but for Vata, you mustn’t bring yourself to the point of exhaustion. Because Vata is an airy element that moves, take long walks, hike, take high-impact aerobics, sign up for a swim class or bike. That way you can naturally expel excess nervous energy while still staying in tune with Vata. Hence, rhythmic ways to release energy and sweat out the toxins.
With yoga, focus on downward flows of energy or Apana Vayu. Explore restorative yoga poses and standing yoga poses. Work on keeping your abdominals toned and incorporate yoga poses that create space.
Vatas have a sensitive nervous system and are prone to taking on too many projects at once. Meaning it’s best to balance your daily routine carefully instead of scaling yourself too thin. If your thinking becomes unclear or you feel overwhelmed, stop what you’re doing and start your self-care. Listen to your body letting you know when it’s stressed and needs a break. Even if you watch a movie, do mindfulness meditation or read a book, it’s a great mental relief that clears the mind and it can increase your focus and clarity.
In Ayurvedic practices, your body and mind connection is deeply impacted by your senses. Hence, to avoid Vata imbalances or other unwanted intrusions, focus on maintaining harmony and balance in each of the 5 senses.
Soothing and grounding smells are very inviting to those with a dominant Vata. Scent your bath or sheets with sandalwood, lavender or sage. You might also find that candles and essential oils scented with frankincense and myrrh are helpful while cardamom and cinnamon are quite comforting. Up for a bite to eat? Cover taste and smell with this tasty Cardamom and Cinnamon biscuit recipe.
Foods that are salty, sweet or sour are best for Vata types. You also benefit more from warm, moist and nourishing meals so avoid junk food, processed foods and heavily salted or sugary products. Incorporate more balanced foods like dates, oatmeal, lemon, ghee, almonds, avocado and squash.
Vatas can sometimes get cold in their hands and feet, so wear warm socks and soft sweaters that heighten the senses. Give yourself a daily massage to keep your skin soft and decrease stressful thoughts. If you can splurge on it, have a massage weekly or monthly as the sense of touch is very calming.
Keep your work and home space clutter-free to increase the ether/space element. Vatas do well with organized spaces and clutter can lead to imbalances. Look for ways to store or remove items you don’t need. Set ambient lighting that’s inviting and can create comfortable spaces that pique your creativity. Change your lighting when it’s time to unwind to help promote sleep and meditation. Earth tone colors are ideal for Vatas. Hence, it might be time for a little redecorating!
Vatas are very sensitive to noise and too much audio in the ears can lead to sensory overload. Avoid areas where people are arguing or the TV or radio is too loud and distracting. Turn on nature sounds and soothing music that can help you relax, unwind, focus on work projects and even get to sleep faster. Avoid noise distractions by using headphones or earplugs and turn your phone off. Try mindfulness meditation music or dosha healing music.
Vata is a type of dosha in the body as it relates to Ayurvedic medicine. There are three total and the others are Kapha and Pitta. According to Ayurvedic practices, they govern the makeup of the body. This applies to physiological activities, your health and emotions. As the king of all doshas, it is responsible for breathing, blood flow, digestion and elimination. Hence, the others cannot function without it.
Diet and managing stress are essential. Avoid junk food, oily and frozen foods, processed sugars and added salt. Eat natural foods that have sour, salty or sweet flavors. Include herbs like Turmeric, Shatavari and Ashwagandha in your foods.
Stick to a regular schedule (sleep, waking, work, meals) and get plenty of rest. Meditate and practice yoga that’s slow and steady and includes one pranayama. A few poses to work on include Cat Stretch, Warrior Pose, Sun Salutation, Tree Pose and Victory Pose.
It’s also important to keep your room and body temperature warm. Have a relaxed atmosphere that is calming. Enjoy a hot bath and use sesame oil for your massage. Head to the sauna and unwind with soft music.
A Vata imbalance can come from too much stress or if you eat the wrong foods. Here are a few symptoms and if you see them, let your Ayurvedic doctor know.
Symptoms include constipation, gas and abdominal distention; dry or itchy skin, body aches, headaches and weakness; difficulty sleeping, twitches and tremors; anxiety, agitation or impatience; craving heat/warmth.
Vatas, Pittas and Kaphas have specific body types. For example, Pitta is usually a person with a medium build that might be fair-skinned, red-headed and has freckles. Vata is dry, airy and mobile. Hence, a Vata body type might be very tall and thin or lanky. They may have dry skin and thin hair. Because they are of a thinner build, they get cold easily, especially in the wintertime.
If Vata is your dominant dosha, avoid over-spicing your food. Heavy spices like chili powder, ginger and cayenne pepper can trigger Vata. Use black pepper sparingly and avoid inflammatory foods and extremely acidic foods.
Limit your consumption of peppers, tomatoes, white potatoes and eggplant. For the best Ayurveda Vata diet, enjoy foods like ghee, avocados, cauliflower, zucchini, bananas, coconut or olive oil, wheat, rice, warm milk, eggs, poultry and seafood.