This is part two to a three series blog on the three doshas, or mind-body types that are the foundation in Ayurveda, the ancient science and medicine that originated in India. Today we are discussing a Vata imbalance. Just to review, lets briefly go over the three different dosha. For a more detailed description, go back and read the first blog post on the pitta dosha here.
Review of the Three Dosha
- Pitta-pitta is a mind body type that aligns with the summer. It is lively, competitive, first responder, spicy, and fire based. Pitta predominant constitutions usually have a muscular build, oilier skin, are prone to bleeding or ulcers and are very intelligent and quick witted. To pacify pitta imbalances, one must eat a pitta satisfying diet of astringent/bitter herbs and cooling foods/spices.
- Vata-vata is a mind body type that aligns with autumn and winter. It is sweet, airy, fluid, expressive, agile, dry, changeable and movement based. Vata predominant constitutions usually have long extremities, drier skin, large eyes, are prone to anxiety and distractibility, and are grounded by heavier or sweeter foods. Being on the go, movement and constant change is part of the characteristics of Vata. They also tend to be quite creative, expressive, and energetic. Their minds never stop. When imbalanced, this air based dosha can become too stimulated and lean towards anxiety, flightiness, insomnia and shallowness. Imbalances also cause drier skin and hair, cold hands and feet, sensitive digestive issues like constipation. Long term Vata excess can manifest as arthritis, hypertension, weight loss, mood disorders and IBS. Imbalances lead to a different energy blockage and stagnation of proper prana flow. The organs most affected by a vata excess include the colon, lungs, and nervous system. To pacify vata imbalances, one must eat a vata pacifying diet to include sweeter and more grounding foods. Simple lifestyle changes can have a big impact! Keep reading as this blog is about Vata!
- Kapha-kapha is a mind body type that aligns with spring and winter. It is loyal, caring, grounded, and water/earth based. Kapha predominant constitutions usually have heavier set builds, glowing skin and lustrous hair, are prone to emotional eating and clinginess, and are supported by social interaction and exercise. Emotional eating and coveting can lead to stagnation of prana that causes heaviness and depression, affected certain organs. The organs most affected by a kapha imbalance include the sinus cavities, stomach, and lungs. To pacify kapha imbalances, one must eat a kapha satisfying diet that avoids heavy or sweet foods. should be light/spicy and easily digestible.
Vata Dosha: How Do I Know If I Have a Imbalance?
If you are reading this and thinking, “Gosh Vata is all me,” then some of the imbalances may have really resonated with you. We all have all three, but usually one or two dominate and one is lacking. In today’s world, its quite easy to feel out of balance in any of our dosha, especially when we are rushed on deadlines, multitasking, attending to multiple responsibilities or skipping meals because of the daily grind. This is especially hard on sensitive Vata types. Busy schedules, frequent travel and excessive sex can also exacerbate an excess of Vata, and make you feel ungrounded and flighty. And if you are flying and traveling quite a bit, then this makes sense-you are not very grounded! When pulled in different directions, it is Vata’s natural tendency to attempt to multitask, to skip meals, to begin to worry. This can spiral out of control if we are not taking proper self care during these stressful life periods.
You may also notice that these symptoms can worsen in the fall or winter, which is Vata season. Vata types are also known to have freezing hands and feet during this time. But for real though, are you one of those girls that puts your ice cold feet on your man at night?
Some symptoms that you may have a Vata excess or imbalance include: freezing hands and feet, insomnia, inconsistency, moodiness, feeling worse after heavy exercise, skipping meals and poor digestion, irregular periods, constipation, anxiety, worry, indecisiveness, shallowness, breathlessness, dry skin and hair, and feeling worse when you indulge cold or raw foods. Since the organs that are associated with Vata are the colon and nervous system primarily, you may notice that anxiety and irritability as well as interrupted digestion like leaky gut, indigestion, bloating and you may even notice undigested food in the stool. This indicates malabsorption issues! You likely have a Vata excess.
How Do I Help To Correct a Vata Imbalance?
Never fear health warriors! Any imbalance can be corrected in the body. It only takes the proper tools and knowledge. If the Vata excess symptoms resonate with you there are some lifestyle and diet changes that can help ground you, relax you and bring ease to your life.
When the colon becomes sluggish, this means you are likely not having 2-3 bowel movements per day. This keeps toxins inside our body and does not let the elimination system flow properly. If you err on the side of anxiety, you need to be mindful about eating when you are upset or stressed. Digestion and absorption are very affected by emotional states. You may notice that you get nauseated when you are anxious, or that you see issues with food in your stool when you eat while stressed out. This affects our colon primarily and the colon then goes on the cause imbalances in the liver, where reactivity and anger can set in due to high anxiety. Since anxiety is often present in Vata excess, the nervous system is also affected and this makes logical sense-the gut is attached to the brain via the vagus nerve. We may also notice heavy respiratory breathing or breathlessness which affects the lungs. The lungs are also involved so there can be the feeling of breathlessness as well. Like I always say-leaky gut equals leaky brain!
- Indian Triphala-I listed this herb in the Pitta dosha post and it is also included here because it helps to balance all three dosha gently. It consists of fruit like Haritaki and alma, boasts one of the highest vitamin C content, and does a great job of stimulating the bowels to remove waste products. It can be taken daily and should improve digestive or liver issues. Some other herbs that are beneficial in warming and grounding Vata include ashwagandha, gotu kola and even the mineral, magnesium.
- Avoid Raw Foods-Many Vata types are health oriented and enjoy working out. You might even enjoy a raw foods diet. This is advised to be avoided especially during the cold winter months or in an anxious Vata personality. Vata is naturally cold and dry, so adding cold liquids or raw, cold foods to the diet can exacerbate their already anxious and flighty disposition. Try to enjoy cooked, warm or stewed organic fruits and veggies. Putting warm things in our bodies also warms us up internally. High quality oils, ghee and warming spices should be included in the diet. Look for sweet, sour and naturally salty foods. Avoid eating fruit within 30 minutes of any other food.
- Routine Times for Meals, Sleep, and Exercise-Dont overdo the exercise. Vata types naturally enjoy movement and adventure. If imbalanced, they can overindulge in heavy exercise with can make them feel dizzy or overworked. Try yoga, light weights, and mild cardio. Time your meals daily. Skipping meals or eating on the fly also makes a Vata excess worse and can impede digestion as the gut is always trying to anticipate its next meal. It is imperative that you also find regular sleeping patterns. Insomnia is a killer for the immune system and can worsen any mental conditions. As the nervous system is greatly affected in Vatas, it makes sense that a lack of sleep or irregular sleeping patterns will most likely affect this organ system…and you will notice it! 2am to 6am rules Vata time so if you awaken or cannot sleep during this time then it may indicate that the nervous system or colon needs some TLC! It is also wise to work out or have some healthy movement from 2pm to 6pm as this is also Vata time. Eat in a peaceful environment with kind thoughts.
- Warm and Grounding Spices-Vata likes spices that are hot, but not too spicy. Avoid cayenne pepper, but enjoy cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cumin and black pepper. Avoid cooling spices like fennel that could work like raw foods in aggravating Vata excess. Avoid drying foods and spices or any soy products.
- Do Not Have Excessive Sex-It is well known in Ayurveda that having excessive or meaningless sex can worsen a Vata’s anxiety. This is not to be mistaken with loving and connected sex which can nourish us spiritually. Sperm and sexual fluids are known as sukra dhatu while female sexual organs are known as artava dhatu. Orgasm with these organs obviously has a stimulating effect and can deplete our bodies if sex is in excess. It often can sacrifice our lubrication and sexual essence. Too frequent or meaningless sex can deplete our apana vayu, or wind of the body that resides in the lower half of the body. This results in ungroundedness and if the apana vayu becomes depleted, it can lead to insomnia, anxiety and constipation. Careful who you choose to lay in bed with!
- Daily Massage-known as Abhyanga, or the daily Ayurvedic self massage. Vata pacifying oils include sesame, olive, ashwagandha, passionflower, Licorice, Tulsi and valerian oils. You can also line the nasal cavities with oils to prevent coldness and dryness in the nasal cavities, especially during the winter months.
- Do Not Travel Excessively-I won’t say not too travel too much because I’m just not mean! In all seriousness though, just be sure that you are able to have sufficient amounts of time at home to recoup and rest up before your next wild adventure. We all love to travel but ensure that regular routines are also a part of life for you.
- Dress Warm No Matter The Season-If you’re always cold even when others are not, then you may have excessive Vata. Are your hands and feet always cold? Do you have poor circulation? Always dress warm, no matter the season. Vata constitutions also need to take a deep breath after their last bite of food before moving onto the next activity. Pause each day or mediate briefly to gather your thoughts.
- NO Multitasking/Pausing Each Day to Gather Thoughts-Multitasking is one of those things that all of us think we are good at, but none of us really are. This activity really aggravates an anxious mind and can worsen ADD. Be sure to attempt one task at a time and write things down if you can’t remember.
- Avoid Caffeine, Stimulants, Nicotine, Refined Sugar, Alcohol-All of these choices will increase the anxiety level, aggravate digestion, and impede proper sleep patterns.
Happy Vata Balancing!
Dr. Jess (MD)
Dr. Jess (Dr. Jessica Peatross) is a western trained medical doctor who began her journey into healing in 2009.
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