If you’re not familiar with Ayurveda, it is a five thousand-year-old healing tradition originating in India. It is known as the sister science to yoga or the medical side of yoga. Ayurveda’s ancient wisdom teaches us that everything, including us, is made up of a combination of the five elements (air, space, fire, water, and earth) and to live a healthy life, all we have to do is take notice when those elements are in excess or depletion. Ayurveda states that, “like increases like,” meaning we can create balance and harmony by bringing in opposing energies via our diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Vata is one of the three energies or doshas of Ayurveda and is comprised of the elements of air and space. When Vata is in excess in our bodies, it can cause joint issues, digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and constipation, as well as dry skin, hair, and nails. When Vata is in excess in our minds, it can cause us to feel worried, anxious, unfocused, and indecisive. When Vata is balanced within us, we feel joyful, excited, creative, and flexible. In nature Vata is like the wind, as it is constantly moving and scattering things around. Vata is called the King of the doshas because it is the moving force behind everything, including the other two doshas, Pitta and Kapha. Depending on the season, the weather, particular life events, everyone experiences excess Vata energy at one time or another, but they can avoid the discomfort it can cause by balancing the Vata dosha.
Balancing Vata Dosha
Here are four simple tips for balancing the Vata dosha:
1. Eat warmer and more grounding foods.
2. Move with mindfulness and intention.
Because the Vata dosha is like the wind, constantly moving and scattering things around, it is necessary to move with mindfulness. Whether it be our day to day actions or our exercise routine, mindful movement helps prevent injury and enhances concentration.
3. Engage in a yoga practice that encourages stability.
A yoga practice for balancing the Vata dosha should focus on building strength in the lower back and hips, where Vata tends to accumulate. It should focus on building heat and strength in the abdominal region. Building strength will help protect the lower back and building heat will help kindle Agni, promoting healthy digestion.
4. Practice Abyhanga (Warm Oil Massage).
The ritual of abyhanga suggests massaging your entire body. You should begin at the crown of your head and work down toward your feet. While performing, you should massage up along your arms and legs (moving toward your heart), massage in an upward circular motion around face and joints, and massage in a clockwise motion around your stomach and chest. Enjoy a warm bath or shower shortly after. It’s recommended that you rinse off or bathe in only water and use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas. When done bathing, towel dry. Keep a special towel for drying off after your abhyanga because it will eventually get ruined, due to the accumulation of oil. The benefits of abyhanga include: increased circulation, lubrication of the joints, a nourished nervous system, elimination of toxins from the body, reduced pain and stiffness, increased energy levels, and soft and healthy skin.
Angela Glaz, Ayurvedic Specialist and 500 Hour E-RYT