Understanding Vata Dosha

Ayurveda10.15

Are your hands and feet always cold? Do you have a hard time gaining weight? Do you often feel scattered and “spaced out,” or suffer from occasional sleeplessness and constipation? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you might have a Vata dosha imbalance—or, you might be a Vata dosha mind-body type.

WHAT’S A DOSHA?

According to Ayurveda, the five natural elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) are present in your mind and body, too—in form of the doshas: Vata (ether, air), Pitta (fire, water), and Kapha (water, earth). These elemental energies influence everything from your physical shape and digestion to the way you process thoughts and emotions. Find out your Dosha here.

Everyone has all three doshas present in their mind and body, but most of us tend to have one or two doshas predominating.

WHAT IS VATA DOSHA?

Vata dosha is the Ayurvedic mind-body element associated with air and space. It’s light, cool, and dry in nature, and it governs all movement and processes in your mind and body—including processes like blood flow, elimination, breathing, and the movement of thoughts in your mind.

VATA DOSHA CHARACTERISTICS / MIND-BODY CONSTITUTION

If you have a predominantly Vata constitution, the qualities of Vata dosha (light, cool, dry, quick) will be noticeably expressed in your mind and body. Your body is probably naturally thin and slender. Your hands and feet may tend to get cold easily, and your skin is cool and dry to the touch (especially in your extremities). Your sleep may sometimes be a bit elusive, or easily disturbed.

Intellectually, you have an agile mind that moves quickly—though you may be prone to forget things just as easily as you learn them! Your emotions are likely fluid as well. People with strong Vata tendencies are creative, dynamic, whirlwind types who often find themselves rushed or in a hurry.

These are some of the basic Vata dosha characteristics (remember, we all have some measure of Vata in our minds and bodies). Now, let’s move on to some of the things you’ll notice in your mind and body when Vata dosha is in balance, and when it’s out of balance:

Vata in Balance Vata Out of Balance
• energetic and vivacious • tired and/or fatigued
• learns easily • lack of focus or forgetful
• clear and alert mind • spaced out or scattered
• falls asleep easily at bedtime • difficulty falling asleep
• balanced digestion and elimination • occasional constipation, gas, wind
• good circulation and even body temperature • can feel cold physically
• poor circulation - cold hands and feet
• feelings of anxiousness or worry


HOW TO BALANCE VATA DOSHA—EASY LIFESTYLE TIPS

One of the foundational principles of Ayurveda is that “like increases like,” and opposites balance. Therefore, because Vata dosha is cool, light, and dry, it benefits from things that are warming, grounding, and nurturing. One of the best things you can do to counter Vata’s light, somewhat erratic nature is to follow a regular routine that includes warm, nourishing foods and plenty of rest.

Here are some other easy things you can do to remedy a Vata imbalance:

  • Follow a Vata dosha-balancing diet, favoring warm, oily, heavy, well-spiced foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes, and avoiding those that are cold, dry, and raw. See full Vata Dosha Diet Guidelines below.
  • Ensure you have some downtime every day.
  • Try not to skip meals. Instead, eat three warm, cooked meals per day at about the same time each day.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, or staying up late watching TV and looking at electronic devices
  • Go to bed early at night, well before ten o'clock, and rise before 6:00 a.m.
  • Give yourself a soothing daily abhyanga (self-massage with warm oil) to help improve circulation, calm the nerves, and alleviate dry skin.
  • Avoid work that is stressful—especially in the evening hours—and make time for relaxing exercise, like walks and yoga.
  • Do gentle breathing exercises like pranayama each day.
  • Bundle up in cool or cold, windy weather. Keep your extremities well protected and warm.
  • Reduce mental stress with meditation. The Transcendental Meditation® program, for instance, has been proven in hundreds of scientific studies to be a very effective technique for dissolving mental, emotional, and physical stress.


VATA DOSHA DIET GUIDELINES & RECIPES

In Ayurveda, food is medicine. A Vata-balancing diet will go a long way toward providing the warmth, grounding, and nourishment that Vata needs to stay balanced. Aim to eat three meals at the same times each day: morning, noon, and evening—and try not to skip meals (which can disrupt Vata’s delicate digestive fire). It’s also better to avoid overeating and undereating. Ideally, you’ll feel hungry by the next meal, but not ravenous.

It’s okay to snack a bit between meals, so long as it doesn’t dampen the feeling of hunger by your next meal. Try to eat in a quiet, relaxing environment to avoid overstimulation. Last, but definitely not least, whenever possible favor organically grown foods and avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs).

VATA DIET

 

Favor

Reduce or Avoid

Summary

Warm, heavy, unctuous, and oily foods, warm food and drinks. Favor sweet, sour, and salty tastes.

Light and dry food; avoid cold food and drinks; minimize pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes.

Grains

Wheat products, rice (basmati, jasmine, and heavy sweet rice are all good), cooked oat flakes.

Barley, corn, millet, rye, buckwheat, and raw oats (all harder to digest for delicate Vatas).

Pulses

Soup of mung beans, split whole mung beans, red lentils, yellow mung dhal (pulses can be soaked overnight for faster cooking).

Pulses, with the exception of the easy-to-digest ones listed to the left.

Dairy

All dairy products. Cheese should be soft and fresh (paneer, cottage cheese, fresh mozzarella, and cream cheese are all examples of easy-to-digest, lightly-aged cheeses).

 

Sweeteners

All sugar cane products such as unprocessed white rock sugar/natural candy sugar, raw cane sugar, molasses, maple syrup, and raw unheated honey.

Heated pasteurized honey. Foods with honey cooked in them.

Oils

All (ghee is especially recommended for cooking).

 

Nuts & Seeds

All nuts except peanuts; seeds in small amounts.

Peanuts

Spices and Condiments

Cumin, ginger, mustard seeds, fenugreek, asafoetida, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, anise, fennel, black pepper (small amounts), salt, lemon juice, tamarind (Asian fruit); Vata Churna and Vata Tea (ready-made mixtures of spices and herbs that balance Vata).

 

Vegetables

Asparagus, beets, cabbage (cooked), cucumber, fennel, garlic, green beans, green chilies, leeks, okra, olives, black, parsnip, peas (cooked), potatoes, sweet, pumpkin, radishes (cooked), rutabaga, spaghetti squash, spinach, zucchini

Artichoke, bitter melon, broccoli, brussels sprouts, burdock root, cabbage (raw), cauliflower (raw), celery, corn, eggplant, kale, olives, green, onions (raw), peppers, sweet & hot, potatoes, white, radish (raw)

Fruits

Ripe, sweet, and juicy fruits: apricots, avocado, bananas, berries, cherries, dates (fresh), figs (fresh), grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, lemons, limes, mangoes, melon, oranges, papaya, peaches, pineapple, plums, prunes (soaked), raisins (soaked), rhubarb, strawberries

Unripe, dry, sour fruits: apples (raw), dates (dry), figs (dry),pears, pomegranate, raisins (dry), prunes (dry), watermelon

 

VATA DOSHA RECIPES

Here are a few of our favorite Vata-balancing recipes! As you now understand, it’s helpful to eat warming, grounding, well-spiced foods to counter Vata’s cool, drying influence. Explore our full collection of Vata dosha recipes below:

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