The way to prepare dishes that pacify Vata Dosha is to first understand what Vatta embodies. Vata dosha is the manifestation of Air and Space in our human bodies. Air and Space in its pure state is cold and dry. Air only becomes warm due to the effects of fire from the sun or other stars, and on earth from the fire of the sun or volcanic activity, whether above or below ground (hot springs). Air is naturally dry, and only becomes moist when it carries molecules of water in it, in fact, key point, notice that the air is not even itself moist, but is serving as a vehicle for moisture, which leads to the next key point–Air, unlike earth, is mobile, it moves, and it moves irregularly, its comes and goes, stops and starts, this is why in its actual manifestation we refer to Air as Wind. Mostly we are unaware of air unless it is moving, or polluted, or excessively heavy with moisture, such as the sweet smell after the rain, or humidity.
Cold, dry, and mobile are the keywords that describe to us how to create illness in Vata dominant types, or how to create disease in tissues and functions governed by Vatta; namely though excessive Cold, Dry, or Movement. Vata dosha needs warmth, moisture, and calm. In this last aspect we gain insight into alot of the mental aspects of Vatta illness–nervousness, anxiety, and much insomnia are a kind of excessive movement in the mind in which thinking is relentless, the mind just wont turn off. That is why anything you do to create calm and quiet benefit Vatta, from vacations to meditation, and why everything you do to create insecurity, fear, and excessive motion, such as commuting to work, traveling by plane repeatedly, overexposure to media, computers, and cellphones, aggravate Vatta. It is no wonder that in our society there is such an epidemic of anxiety.
Cold and dry, in food, people, experiences, and climate will also increase Vatta dosha and create illness if prolonged. Its not that a Vatta dosha dominent cant ever have a cold salad or raw vegetable, its that they will not tolerate it as a regular diet. They can tolerate a co-worker who is emotionally cold, but they probably wont make friends. A Vatta can go hiking in the desert for a day or two, but dont ask them to live there.
Vata dosha, also spelled Vatta dosha, is Air and the Space all things are contained in. This aspect of Space, or what is sometimes called ether, another words the entire space of the universe and in the terrestrial sphere the space that even air inhabits, gives us a sense of the spiritual and mental attributes of Vatta–Vatta dominant types are naturally philosophical, prone to mind expansion, they think the big thoughts, are creative and interesting conversationalists, but are also naturally spacey, ungrounded, even prone to ADD or ADDH. Like the wind, they are quick–quick thinkers, with quick and jagged body movements. When you see someone with the stiffness of the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, you are seeing a manifestation of Vatta. When balanced Vatta yields quick wit and joyousness. Contagious laughter. When unbalanced it leads to excessive mania, excessive speech, nervous laughter, all symptoms of excessive movement. Stiffness in Vatta is a function of both dryness and cold; indeed we loosen things with warmth in nature, yes? Apply cold to molecules and they stop moving; water turns to ice. Apply heat and the molecules move; ice melts, boils, and turns to steam. An Inuit chews on frozen leather to warm it and make it soft. Apply oil to wood so it does not dry out and becomes smooth. As in nature so in the body/mind.
Vata Dosha: Air/Space: Cold, Dry, Mobile, Irregular, Late Autumn/Early Winter, and at Night
Increase or aggravate/damage Vatta with excess Cold and dry food, weather, people, experiences; with excess movement as in commuting to work, airline travel, too much stimulation from media, noise, socializing, too much work, irregular meals, irregular anything. Even too much fun can be bad for Vatta. You see this with Vatta children who can’t sleep after a day that goes on too long. Naturally elevated in late Autumn/Early Winter, and at Night and in Old Age (notice the symptoms of movement and restlessness in menopause)
Pacify/decrease/benefit Vatta with the opposite. Warm, moist, unctuous, heavy food (the sweet, salt and sour tastes are all moistening, which is why they are conversely bad for Kapha); staying warm, protected from the wind, avoidiing dry and cold weather, regular bedtimes, mealtimes, vacations, rest, fun, meditative practices that create calm, like Vippassana practice and slow Yoga. Vattas need the equivalent of hot milky chai with honey.
Increased or aggravated/vitiated Vatta makes Vatta types cold, dry, stiff, nervous, anxious, constipated, arthritic, ungrounded. So the way to counter this is to have a lifestyle that emphasizes calm, and to prepare food for Vattas that is soupy, saucy, warming, moistening, unctuous/oily, and grounding/heavy, with more of the Sweet, Sour and Salty tastes, while still keeping it easy to digest because Vatta, like wet/cold Kapha and unlike hot fiery Pitta, has naturally weak digestive fire/Agni. So moistening warming food does not mean lasagna daily, although a Vatta-Pitta with some good digestive fire will take that on occasion.
The way to keep Agni fired up is to use spices and vegetables and the right amounts of the flavors that suit your dosha, and keep the food balanced between grounding and light, as well as using fresh, natural ingredients and eating in harmony with the seasons. Everyone benefits from spices, because they are pungent and bitter which combine to increase fire and air which is like putting a bellows onto the digestive fire. But use spices that match the dosha; for Vatta you must avoid food that is stimulating, so Vatta likes to be warmed deeply with herbs and spices like oregano, cumin, black pepper in moderation, but not stimulated by chili peppers and sauces. In the case of the sweet taste, all grains, flesh foods, dairy and most vegetables have the natural sweet taste, as do fruits. So we are not talking about refined sugar or ice cream.
Here is a dish that is quick, easy, and pacifying to Vatta.
Curried Salmon with Pomegranate Molasses and Onion
Pomegranate molasses is my favorite way to introduce sour to cooked dishes. I use it in place of balsamic vinegar or lemon in a lot of dishes, in part because my Vata dosha enjoys the sweet undercurrent to its sour taste, which is also why I prefer Balsamic to other vinegars. Pomegranate molasses is sour, sweet, and astringent. As such, it pacifies both Vatta and Pitta, strongly, and like all sour things stimulates digestive fire. Think: hydrochloric acid. The sour taste is in all pickles, which are digestives. Small amounts of sour, salt, and pungent give a little fire to food and make it digestible. How do you like barbecued meat without something sour, like sauce or pickle? The Japanese serve cold tofu with sweet and sour flavors from sweet rice wine and vinegar. In Lebanon they add Pomegranate molasses to cooked vegetables like string beans or leafy greens, the way Italians add lemon or balsamic vinegar. The best brand is Cortas, available at the middle eastern market or on Amazon
Fish is warming, but fresh water fish less so. Salmon is mild and not too hot, so this is an OK dish for Pittas unless they have an active aggravation. Kaphas do fine with salmon and fish in my opinion.
Onions are sweet when cooked. Sweet pacifies Vatta and Pitta.
Curry powder stimulates Agni and is Bitter and Pungent, which pacifies Pitta and Kapha, but the hotter curry powders will aggravate Pitta, so be careful if you are Pitta Vatta or Vatta Pitta. Just use a mild curry powder, and also if you have this with a bitter green vegetable then you have pacified Pitta all the more, so its ok, unless you have a hot skin disorder.
Olive oil is mildly warming and is heavy, great for Vatta, well tolerated by the other two doshas. You are only using a small amount.
Bottom line. This dish has a lot of sweetness to it from the pomegranate, the cooked onion, especially if you use sweet onion, and even the fresh salmon is fairly sweet and mild. This dish has heaviness, unctuousness, and sour from the molasses, onion, and oil. All of which makes it Vatta pacifying. It also has bitter, astringent and pungent, which pacifys Pitta and Kapha, so long as your curry is not too hot for the Pitta.
¾ of a lb wild Salmon
One large onion, sliced. Be a Vatta: experiment with different onion varieties and see how it changes the dish.
¾ tbsp or so of your favorite curry powder. Choose a mild one without much cayenne or chili pepper.
2 tsp Pomegranate Molasses.
Salt to taste, about 1 tsp or less.
Use very fresh fish. Wash your fish. Let dry in a colander. Place in a small dutch oven. I love baking fish or meat in the dutch oven, because it keeps the moisture in and the fish does not dry out. Coat with curry powder. Add onion, salt, and Pomegranate molasses. Mix it up so both fish and onion are coated in syrup and curry powder. Smell it and see if you like the smell. Add more curry or pomegranate if needed.
Bake on 365 degrees Fahrenheit for about 18 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The onions should be a be well cooked, but don’t overcook the fish. If you like your onions caramelized, bake them first then add fish and spices and return to oven.
The only addition I have made to this dish is adding chunks of sweet potato or butternut squash. This is even more pacifying to Vatta, adding another layer of easily digestible sweet starch full of vitamins, etc.
Serve with rice and a cooked green like kale, broccoli or dandelion green
Let me know what you think!
copyright eyton shalom, san diego ca august 2013 all rights reserved use with permission