Understanding Vata: Minimize Stress and Feed Your Creativity
Vata governs movement in the body, the activities of the nervous system, and the process of elimination.
Qualities of Vata:
If Vata dosha predominates, movement and change are characteristic of your nature. You tend to always be on the go, with an energetic and creative mind. As long as Vata is in balance, you will be lively and enthusiastic, with a lean body.
Those with a predominance of Vata dosha usually have a thin, light frame and excellent agility. Their energy comes in bursts and they are likely to experience sudden bouts of fatigue. Vatas typically have dry skin and hair and cold hands and feet. They sleep lightly and their digestion can be sensitive. When the Vata dosha becomes imbalanced, it manifests in the body as weight loss, constipation, hypertension, arthritis, weakness, restlessness, and digestive challenges.
Vatas love excitement and new experiences. They are quick to anger but also to forgive. When Vatas are in balance, they are energetic, creative, and flexible. They also take initiative and are lively conversationalists. When unbalanced, they are prone to worry and anxiousness and often suffer from insomnia. When they feel overwhelmed or stressed, their response is, “What did I do wrong?”
How to Balance Vata
If excessive stress in your life leads to your Vata force becoming imbalanced, your activity will start to feel out of control. Your mind may race, contributing to anxiety and insomnia. You may start skipping meals, resulting in unintended weight loss, and your digestion may become irregular. If you notice these early symptoms of a Vata imbalance, slow down, take time to meditate, don’t skip meals, and get to bed earlier. A regular lifestyle routine helps ground Vata so you’re not carried away into the ethers.
Vata is cold, light, irregular, dry, and always changing. To balance Vata, make choices that bring warmth, stability, and consistency to your life. Try to get to bed before 10 p.m., wake up by 6 a.m., and eat your meals at regular times.
Avoid becoming chilled. Wear adequate clothing appropriate for the season and keep your head covered when the weather is cold.
Perform a daily self-Abhy massage using warmer, heavier oils like sesame and almond.
Stick with light exercise that enhances balance and flexibility. Take care not to push yourself too far and exceed the limits of your energy. Beneficial activities for Vatas include:
- Qi Gong
- Tai Chi
- Short hikes
- Light bicycling
- Light tennis
Drink ginger tea. Fresh ginger root is beneficial and can be used frequently. During the cool weather, sip ginger tea throughout the day.
Be certain that your bowels move regularly on a daily basis.
Favor soothing, calming music.
Touch and be touched regularly by the people you love, and schedule regular massage treatments.
Favor warm colors in your clothing and environment such as earth colors, pastels, browns, and warm yellows.
Favor aromas that are sweet, heavy, and warm. Examples include basil, bay, cinnamon, citrus, cloves, frankincense, lavender, pine, sage, and vanilla.
Nutritional Guidelines for Vata
According to Ayurveda, it’s important to eat foods that have a balancing effect on the dominant dosha, or that will pacify (stabilize) a dosha that has become excessive or aggravated. Since Vata is drying, cooling and light, you shold favor foods that are oily, warming, or heavy. The best tastes to pacify Vata are sweet, salty, and sour. Minimize foods that are pungent, bitter, or astringent.
Eat larger quantities, but don’t overeat. This helps to balance the lightness of Vata.
Take sweeteners in moderation. They all help to pacify Vata.
Fats and oils are beneficial in the digestive system and help reduce Vata. Use up to three teaspoons daily of ghee or extra virgin olive oil.
All low-fat dairy products are recommended. Milk is easier to digest when warm or heated.
Rice and wheat are the best grains for balancing Vata. Reduce the amount of barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, and rye that you consume.
Favor sweet, heavy fruits such as bananas, avocados, mangoes, apricots, plums, berries, coconut, figs, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapples, rhubarb, kiwi, dates, nectarines, and dried fruits.
Eat fewer dry or light fruits such as apples, cranberries, pears, and pomegranates. To ease digestion, fruits are best eaten lightly cooked or sautéed, or eaten alone.
Cooked vegetables are best. Raw vegetables should be minimized. Favor Asparagus, beets, and carrots. Other vegetables may be taken in moderation if cooked in ghee or extra virgin olive oil, including peas, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. Sprouts and cabbage tend to produce gas and should be minimized.
Dairy products pacify Vata. For optimal digestion, boil milk before drinking it and consume it while warm.
Use spices that pacify Vata including cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed, basil, asafetida, cilantro, fennel, oregano, sage, tarragon, thyme, and black pepper.
All varieties of nuts are recommended.
Beans can aggravate Vata. Minimize your consumption of beans, with the exception of tofu and mung bean dahl.
For non-vegetarians, use fresh, organic chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs.
Note: Favoring heavy foods such as sweets, oils, and richer foods may contribute to weight gain. Focus on natural grains, and heavy, moist fruits and vegetables. Keep your sweets to a minimum and use low-fat milk products. Cook your food for easy digestion.
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*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.