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Understanding Vata: the Energy Governing Creativity, Mobility, and Change

By Samantha Case

The concept of doshas is foundational in the teachings of Ayurveda. Put simply, doshas are energies within the body that influence how we feel and how we act. We’re all born with our own individual makeup of these energies, providing a unique blueprint that one can use as a guide to greater self-awareness and personal health.

The energies that compose the doshas are ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth. They form together in different pairs to form the primary energies within each of the three doshas: Vata (air and space) Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (earth and water). Though we each have all three doshas within us, we typically have one dominant one that influences our physical, mental, and emotional characteristics.

What is Vata?

Vata is the dosha of air and space. It is the energy of the wind. In general, it’s responsible for movement and communication in nature and in the human body and mind. In the body, vata is responsible for the breath, muscle contractions, cellular communication, pulsation of the heart, blinking, circulation, mental activity, joint function, and more. Vata is also the energy that fuels creativity and change. It is the force behind feelings of joy, enthusiasm, flexibility, and intuition. With vata, we can move through life with a light skip, tap into true vision, and experience ease in our daily lives.

Qualities of Vata

Those with a vata constitution are likely to have a thin and light frame with dry skin and fine, dry hair. It’s common for vata-types to have cold hands and feet as they tend to run cold. They are full of energy and like to move often and quickly.

You might imagine vata-types as free spirits who like to move with the wind. They seek exciting and new experiences. Vata constitutions tend to think, speak, and act quickly. When in balance, they are highly creative, energetic, and flexible. This makes them able to adjust well to change. Balanced vata offers a number of unique gifts. An out-of-balance vata on the other hand tends to be more anxious, flighty or spacy, and unable to slow down (even for sleep).

Of the three doshas, vata is the most likely to go out of balance. This is especially true in our fast-paced, high-stress culture. That being said, vata is also the easiest dosha to pull back into balance. When we’re able to recognize the signs that vata is out of whack in the body, we can then make the proper choices that will bring it back into balance.

Vata Imbalance

Vata constitutions are more likely to have a vata imbalance, but vata can get out of whack in anyone since we all carry all three doshas. When vata is out of balance, it typically manifests as anxiety, difficulty resting or sleeping, and a general feeling of flightiness.

Symptoms of vata imbalance include:

  • Fear

  • Anxiety

  • Constipation or hard stools

  • Restless mind

  • Difficulty focusing

  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

  • Dry or chapped skin

  • Stiff muscles and joints

  • Tremors

  • Difficulty remembering

  • Hyperactivity

  • Cracking joints

  • Irregular menstrual cycle

  • Vertigo

  • Restless legs or other body parts

  • Low body weight

  • Fatigue

  • Gas and bloating

Causes of Vata Imbalance

Ayurveda states that like increases like and opposites balance each other. This means that if your habits and eating choices are consistently in line with the qualities of a particular dosha, you’re likely to experience an imbalance in that dosha because there’s an excess of its qualities in your life.

For example: you will likely experience a vata imbalance if you regularly eat dry and cold foods, drink a lot of caffeine and alcohol, have an irregular eating schedule, don’t sleep well, live an erratic lifestyle, and move from one thing to the next without taking time to slow down and relax. All of these habits represent vata qualities, intensifying its presence in the body.

Some common causes of vata imbalance include:

  • Over consumption of foods with bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes

  • Eating a diet that mostly contains vata qualities such as raw, rough, and dried foods (chips, raw salads, dried fruits)

  • Eating at irregular times or skipping meals

  • Indulging in fear and anxiety (high consumption of news media is a common cause, especially right now!)

  • Living or spending a lot of time in dry environments

  • Nicotine, alcohol, and the use of other stimulants

  • Excessive screen time and use of TV and/or social media

  • Consistent travel

  • Late night activity and poor sleep

  • Irregular schedule (eating, sleep, work, etc.)

How to Balance Vata

Bringing an aggravated vata dosha back to balance requires that we incorporate its opposite qualities into our food, habits, and experiences. In general, vata-types and anyone with a vata imbalance greatly benefit from routine, warmth, calm, and nourishment.

Best Foods to Balance Vata:

  • FRUITS: Banana, avocado, dates, oranges, berries, coconut, peaches, stewed fruits like apples, apricots, figs

  • VEGETABLES (best cooked with oil or butter): Butternut squash, asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumber, garlic, green beans, onions, sweet potatoes, radishes, zucchini, turnips

  • DAIRY, FATS, AND OILS: Yogurt, whole milk, ghee, olive oil, sesame oil

  • SWEET FOODS: Maple syrup, honey, rice syrup

  • NUTS, SEEDS, AND LEGUMES: All nuts, sunflower seeds, mung beans, chickpeas

  • GRAINS: Cooked oats, cooked rice, quinoa

Vata-Pacifying Activities & Recommendations:

  • Meditation & pranayama (breathing exercises)

  • Yin yoga or other gentle and restorative forms of yoga

  • Walks in nature

  • Warm baths with epsom salt and essential oils

  • Abhyanga, or self-massage. ZV Botanicals BLISS Oil is especially supportive for vata with an infusion of nourishing herbs in heavy sesame oil.

  • Drinking hot herbal tea, especially chamomile, peppermint, and lavender teas

  • Yoga nidra–a guided, conscious relaxation practice

  • Listening to soothing instrumental music

  • Drink a glass of golden milk, especially before bed

  • Eat at regular meal times

  • Take a moment to pause and take a deep breath between different activities

  • Stick to a regular routine with consistent eating times, sleep schedule, and work schedule

  • Stay warm regardless of the season or weather

  • Go to bed before 10 PM

  • Use vata-supporting herbs and herbal products, like ZV Botanicals BLISS Tincture

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants

  • Eat a vata-pacifying diet

In general, when trying to rebalance vata it’s best to avoid its qualities in food and activities. Vata constitutions or anyone with a vata imbalance will feel best supported by nurturing themselves in a way that keeps them grounded and focused. This sense of stability supports the best qualities that vata has to offer: flexibility, ease, creativity, adventure, and vision.

The doshas serve to empower you by helping you better understand yourself. They can help guide you to your own toolbox of tools you can use to improve your experience within your body and with the world around you. The more you understand your own unique constitution, the more equipped you are to care for yourself.

By making choices that bring vata into balance, you will begin to experience yourself and life in a more fulfilling way. Thanks to the qualities that vata offers, you can bend with the changing winds of life, flow freely with creativity, and move through life with grace.

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