Vata dosha is one of the three doshic energies described in Ayurveda: Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Vata dosha is composed of air and ether. It is understood to be “that which moves.” Like wind, Vata dosha is the force behind all movements. Nerve impulses, peristalsis, the movement of thoughts, the blinking of eyes, the heartbeat, and the circulation of blood are all governed by Vata dosha.
Vata Dosha Qualities
When one understands that the air and ether elements make up Vata dosha, the light, airy qualities of Vata dosha make perfect sense. Cold, clear, dry, light, mobile, subtle, rough, and irregular are some of the qualities that describe Vata dosha.
Vata Dosha Characteristics
A person with a predominance of Vata dosha in their constitution will exhibit many of the following qualities:
- Light: Vata types tend to have a light frame. They are often thin or slender. Even if they carry more weight, their bone structure will be fine and delicate.
- Dry: Dry skin and hair are characteristic of Vata dosha. This can be balanced by staying hydrated and by taking in plenty of good quality oils. However, dry skin, dry eyes, and dry hair are symptomatic of a Vata imbalance (known as a Vata Vikruti).
- Cold: Vata types naturally run cold. When someone has a Vata imbalance—or vitiation—they may be cold nearly all the time and will likely have cold hands and feet.
- Mobile: Changeable like the wind, itt is common for Vata types to be quite creative—to like to move and travel, and to have many interests. However, sticking to a routine can be challenging for those with a predominance of Vata in their constitution. Also, imbalances such as an irregular appetite are usually indicative of a Vata imbalance.
Vata In and Out of Balance
Every dosha has its pros and cons, and Vata dosha certainly has its bright side. When Vata types are balanced, they can be bubbly, creative, adaptable, and spontaneous. A balanced Vata type can be a true source of effervescent light and inspiration. Conversely, Vata types need to be wary of a Vata excess, which may manifest in the following ways:
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia
- Irregular appetite
- Gas, bloating, and constipation
- Nervousness, anxiety, and feelings of insecurity
- Excessive dryness
- Wasting of bodily tissues (i.e. muscle atrophy)
A Vata imbalance can manifest in myriad other ways, but the above are some common telltale signs that Vata dosha is the root cause of the imbalance.
Vata Times in Nature
Just like the passing of the seasons, the doshas ebb and flow with the passage of time. During each season, there is one dosha that predominates while the other two are less influential. Similarly, the doshas step in and out of the spotlight over the course of 24 hours.
You can think of the rise and fall of the doshas as the daily dosha cycle. The Ayurveda times of day in which Vata dosha is strongest are 2-6 am and 2-6 pm. The early morning (2-6 am) is an ideal time for yoga, pranayama, and meditation. Ether is one of the elements that makes up Vata dosha, and Vata is also subtle in nature. That is one reason why subtle, spiritual practices are well suited for the Vata time of day.
The afternoons from 2-6 pm are also ruled by Vata and are an excellent time for the creative, expansive thinking that comes naturally to Vata-types. This can be a good time for yoga and spiritual practices as well.
The late Autumn to early winter season is ruled by Vata dosha. This means that many Vata qualities are strongest in the fall. As the summer heat wanes, dry, light, mobile, and cool qualities emerge. Therefore, it is particularly important to take extra care to balance Vata dosha as fall approaches. Although Vata types are more likely to become imbalanced, Pitta and Kapha types can also develop Vata imbalances.
Tips for Balancing Vata Dosha
Warmth, oil, and regular routine are incredibly balancing and soothing for Vata dosha since it is light, cool, and dry in nature. Here are some useful tips for keeping Vata dosha balanced:
Eat a Vata Pacifying Diet
When choosing balancing foods, it helps to keep the Vata traits in mind. Since Vata dosha is cool, light, and dry, foods that are warm, heavy, and moist are best. Also, since Vata-types tend to have irregular digestion, foods that are cooked and easy to digest are wise choices.
Soups, stews, and porridges are good food choices for Vata dosha. In addition, foods that possess the sweet, salty, and sour tastes are best for Vata types. These foods tend to be warming, nourishing, and moistening. Plus the sour taste strengthens agni long-term.
Maintain a Consistent Daily Routine
Since Vata dosha is mobile, cultivating stable routines can be a challenge for Vata types. However, it is extremely beneficial for Vata types to aim for some regularity in their day to day life. Vata dosha is related to irregular digestion and insomnia so consistency in habits is key to overall wellness and longevity. This translates as practices such as going to bed at the same time every night, waking at the same time in the morning, exercising at the same time, working at the same time, and keeping consistent meal times. In addition, try to maintain a Vata pacifying morning routine. Some examples of morning activities that balance Vata include:
- Practicing daily Abhyanga with warm sesame oil. Sesame oil is warm and moist. Performing daily Abhyanga will nourish dry skin and have a calming, grounding effect.
- Taking Chyawanprash before breakfast. Chyawanprash is full of nourishing rasayanas that will help keep Vata dosha steady, strong, and balanced.
- Eating a Vata balancing breakfast by about 8am. Vata types don’t do well when they skip meals. They are especially prone to blood sugar crashes and ups and downs in energy, so regular meal times and starting the day fueled up is especially important for Vata dosha.
- Eliminating every morning. Since Vata-types are prone to irregularity, developing routines that encourage regularity in meal times, sleep schedule, and bowel movements will help prevent Vata dosha from becoming vitiated. Starting the day with a warm glass of lemon water and awakening at the same time daily can encourage regularity for Vata dosha.
Emphasize Self-Care and Relaxation
It is easy for Vata-types to get swept up in their various activities and to thus neglect self-care. If you relate to this, remember that you will in fact be more productive, inspired, and present if you take some time every day to care for your mind and body. In much the same way that a well-tended car or bicycle lasts longer and runs smoother, your body is the same way. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
You may want to set aside dedicated time in the morning and/or evening that is devoted to self-care practices such as Abhyanga, exercise, and the deeper spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation. Vata benefits from consistent routine, so it is best to plan on a daily set time for relaxation and self-care practices. Also, a bit of daily relaxation in the form of nature walks, meditation, Abhyanga, and yoga will do wonders for Vata dosha’s sensitive nervous system.
Staying warm is important for Vata-types and this is especially true during the Vata time of year. If you have lot of Vata in your constitution you may have noticed that you are the first person to put on a sweater when temperatures start to drop. This is a natural and healthy inclination. (Meaning, enjoy sweater weather to the fullest!) Staying warm with cozy layers, well-heated rooms, and hot baths and showers is soothing for Vata dosha and will help prevent the cold hands and feet that are common amongst Vata-types.
All three of the doshas require regular exercise and movement. However, the type of movement that is best for each dosha is a little different. Since Vata-types tend to naturally move quickly and are prone to exhaustion from overexertion, it is best for these airy types to pace themselves. Most Vata-types like to move and will naturally expend a lot of nervous energy by simply going about their day. Thus, movement that is slow and rhythmic is best for Vata dosha. Hiking, swimming, and practicing slower forms of yoga asana are better for Vata-types compared to fast-moving, high-impact forms of exercise.
Vata Yoga: Vata dosha greatly benefits from yoga that regulates apana vayu, the downward flow of energy. Standing poses and poses that create space and tone in the lower abdominal area are very helpful. Also, supported, restorative poses that quiet the nervous system are great and should be practiced regularly.
Vata-types tend to have sensitive nervous systems and can be easily overwhelmed. Therefore, it is especially important to avoid overstimulation. If you are predominantly Vata dosha, pay special attention to the warning signs that your nervous system is getting overwhelmed.
If you find yourself feeling irritable or having a hard time thinking clearly, notice the stimuli around you. Sometimes turning off the television or radio and enjoying a few moments of silence can go a long way in resetting your nervous system and clearing your mind. Practicing mindfulness and mediation daily will help keep the mind clear and make it more possible to recognize the early signs of overwhelm.
Similarly, it is important for Vata-types not to get in over their heads with projects and commitments. Natural enthusiasts, it is easy for Vata-types to want to take on too much at once. However, their enthusiasm and energy will quickly wane if they become overwhelmed. Learn to prioritize and take on only what is realistic. This will set the stage for greater contentment and success, and will greatly cut back on unnecessary stress.
Leverage the 5 Senses
Ayurveda teaches that we are deeply affected by all that we take in through the five sense. Much in the same way that eating the wrong food can make a person ill, an unsavory scent or disturbing sound can be just as intrusive. The good news is that we can leverage the 5 senses to encourage balance and harmony.
Vata Tastes: The sweet, sour, and salty tastes are best for Vata dosha as these flavors provide warmth, moisture, and nourishment. Foods that are balancing for Vata dosha include oatmeal, ghee, dates, almonds, lemon, squash, and avocado.
Vata Touch: Vata is the most sensitive of the three doshas. It’s also rough in nature. So, soft fabrics are comforting for Vata. Also, touch through massage and other loving, comforting forms of contact help ground Vata’s airy nature.
Vata Scents: Vata-types should favor grounding, soothing scents. Resins such as myrrh and frankincense are helpful. Also, spicy scents such as cinnamon and cardamom provide warmth. Lavender, sandalwood, and clary sage are good for relaxing the mind.
Vata Visuals: Keep living and work spaces warm, well-lit, and well-organized. Too much clutter and chaos will further aggravate Vata dosha’s distraction-prone mind. On the other hand, a space that is too sparse or cool will increase the ether element and will thus vitiate Vata. Gold, green, and earth tones are helpful for warming and grounding Vata dosha.
Vata Sounds: The ears and all body cavities are closely connected to Vata. Therefore, Vata-types should pay special attention to audio sensory input. Loud, harsh sounds can be quite disturbing. Soft music and nature sounds are soothing for Vata dosha. Some Vata-types may benefit from listening to real-life or recorded nature sounds as they drift off to sleep. Also, they may particularly benefit from having dedicated quiet time each day.
If you’re feeling the symptoms of a Vata imbalance, begin incorporating the above Vata balancing tips into your daily life. You may also want to try these Vata remedies to quickly re-balance:
- Book a shirodhara session. Shirodhara or the act of pouring warm oil slowly over the the forehead is designed to activate the ajna chakra, pacifying Vata, alleviating stress and anxiety, and providing an overall sense of calm and rest.
- Oil up, inside and out. Perform Abhyanga with special attention to the ears, nostrils and feet, and add extra ghee and oil to your meals.
- Take a steam. If you’re feeling particularly cold and dry, follow your abhyanga practice with steam therapy (swedana) or a hot bath or shower.
- Make a cup of Vata tea. With the right herbs and ingredients, a cup of tea can help bring the Vata dosha back in balance.
- Pause for meditation and pranayama practice. Meditation and pranayama are extremely effective at helping to calm and soothe the Vata dosha.
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.