Vata Dosha

Vata is the expression in our body, mind, and nervous system of the qualities Wind and Space provide in the natural world. Everything you can say about Vata dosha is everything you can say about the intrinsic nature of Wind and Space. Wind is air moving. When Air moves it cools and dries. Space is a vast expanse of cold, dry, and dark.

 

Vata is cold, dry, mobile, light, and expansive. It is the source for all movement within and by the body. That includes the very process of thought, which involves movement both subjectively–the movement of ideas, words, feelings, but even biologically, the movement of biochemicals from axon to dendrite.

Movement within the body includes movement within the mind, movement of nervous impulses within the body, movement of food through the gut from chewing to elimination, movement of Prana from the air and into the tiniest measure of tissues, even, to be true, at the sub-atomic level, where protons, neutrons, and electronic move without cease.

On the grosser level Vata collects in the joints and effects joint health, the joints are an example of “spaces” within the body, that are also hinges. Hinges move constantly and need lubrication. And there is the rub, Vata is naturally dry, so that is why Vata dosha elevation affects joint health, and why Vata prakruti (intrinsic constitutional type) often has a susceptibility to joint pain, as well as dryness everywhere in the body, from the skin to the eyes and mouth, to the gut, the personality type.

On this last note, because of the nature of ether or space, Vatas are naturally inclined towards mind expansion. They can be be naturally artistic and naturally philosophic. To lie down on your back as a 15 year old, and stare out at the universe and wonder how and why, is an expression of Vata dosha.

Compare that to the 15 year old who is already accumulating money thru a small business and planning for the future, or to the 15 yr old that already wants to be President, or a divorce lawyer or a plastic surgeon. Or to the boy or girl at that age that just loves sports, and wants to play football, eat pizza, sleep, and drink beer.

The challenge for Vata dosha is to remain grounded, warm, moist, and calm. Vata is easily disturbed and made ill by noise, excessive activity and movement–from international travel to changing work and home, or long commuting. Vata is ultimately most disturbed by an uncalm mind. Vata NEEDS slow relaxing gentle Yoga asana practice, and daily deep slow Pranayam and Meditation to calm her busiest of minds.

Vata’s default reaction to real or perceived danger is fear. Vata is the dosha most prone to anxiety and nervous system/mental health disorders. Its imperative in a Vata disrupting society such as the modern world full of speed, to have a regular practice that compensates as much as possible.

You cannot control the neighbor’s noise, by you can work on your nervous system response to it. And you can dress warmly, and eat a diet rich in warming grounding foods. And you can cultivate warm sweet connections with other humans and animals. The worst thing for Vata, especially as we age, is to be isolated.

Vata dosha is intrinsically dry.You hang your wash out on a cloudy cool day and it takes forever to dry. But if there is wind it dries quickly. At the dentist they dry your teeth and gums to do their work with puffs of force air. Wind is by nature dry and drying.

Vata doshas is elevated by dry climate, food, and dry unemotional people. Vata’s benefit from warm, moist, food and people who are naturally sweet, because the sweet taste is full of water and earth, naturally pacifying to Vata dosha.

Vata dosha is intrinsically cold, like wind and space are. When its hot in India you turn on the ceiling fan. When your food is too hot you fan it with a palm leaf van. If you burn yourself you blow on it. Wind is by nature cold and cooling. This is why Vata needs warming food, loves a warm moist climate, and prefers warm emotionally available people. And its why any kind of cold from herbs to food to air, will increase Vata pathologically.

Vata is mobile. Its fast. Like wind. Think: tropical winds. Solar storms. Vatas do everything fast. Teach your Vata child how to slow down. Too much speed of any kind makes Vata ill. Being around nervous chatterbugs for too much time, too much travel, commuting, noise, all elevate Vata. Too much change. Vata needs smooth regularity. Vata is the dosha that suffers most from moving, changing jobs, going through divorce.

Vata is the dosha whose natural response to real or perceived danger is fear. Fear increases movement in the body, because in nature our nervous system response to danger is to flee. We flee by running. But what about when the danger is imagined and inchoate. What about when the thing you are fleeing happened years ago? Then we often see diseases of pathological movement such as IBS-D,  Interstitial cystitis, Insomnia, and Anxiety disorders. In the extreme we see paranoia and conspiracy theories.

This is why Ayurveda recommends that Vata dosha have a lifestyle full of regularity, warmth, moisture, and activites that calm and lower the nervous system and mind. As a starting point Vata dominant types or people with Vata Vikruti should just practice slowing down. Walk slowly. Talk slowly. Chew slowly.

Its why Vata dosha needs a diet that is predominately cooking food, with plenty of fat and warming, but not stimulating spices (little or no chillis). The diet for dosha should have more sweet, sour, and salty tastes, like starches, fruits, and healthy salt in moderation, but also the “salt” of food high in minerals. Its why they should avoid dry food, from food made without sauces (like American food) to dried fruits or dry crackers.

Space, sometimes called Ether, is vast, cold, dark, and dry and weighs nothing.  Illuminated and heated only by the fire of stars, space is a vast expanse of nearly nothing. A hydrogen atom here or there. Some uber-light neutrinos passing thru, a by product of stars, not space. The space or ether of Vata manifests both in the physical spaces of the body, like the joints, and in Vata’s tendency to mind expansion.

This is why Vatas are heavily represented in the arts and philosophy, both of which involve a natural tendency to expand beyond the mundane world of dog eat dog and accumulation of wealth. The challenge for naturally ungrounded Vata is to keep the feet on the ground while the mind reaches up to heaven.

Vatas can be overly philosophical, overly intellectual in that they process emotions via the intellect instead of the heart. They can get so lost in ideas that they forget to eat. Again, this why a good natural remedy for Vata is to be connected to the earth through working in the garden in the warm sun. Vata’s have to be careful about overdoing exercise or social engagement, because the Vata body is not naturally strong, and the nervous system needs recuperation from the excitement of other people.

But Vata’s can strengthen their body and mind with the Vata pacifying diet, full of nourishing food and herbs like nuts, seeds, flesh food cooked in stews and curries, bone broth (no, Ayurveda does not suggest a vegetarian diet)  saffron, ashwagandha, Chinese Qi and Yang tonic herbs, and a regular meditation, pranayam, and/or Tai Qi practice.

A wonderful lifestyle practice that is a very powerful way to pacify Vata dosha is the weekly “Oil bath.” Read about “Benefits of Ayurvedic Oil Bath”

 

 

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