GENERAL OVERVIEW OF THE VATA DOSHA
The Vata dosha is a combination of the air and ether (space) elements – the lightest of the doshas in every sense of the word. If we were to hear a description of someone being ‘airy’, we would naturally understand them to have certain characteristics such as being intelligent and mentally quick but forgetful, excitable and changeable yet unreliable, friendly and talkative yet sensitive, fragile and overwhelmed easily, as well as spontaneous yet lacking endurance to follow things through. Vata personalities often have psychological and emotional tendencies of anxiety, worry, fear, indecisiveness and are very prone to stress, with a tendency to get exhausted or burnt out easily.
Vata energies are cold, dry, rough, light and subtle. The Vata dosha rules the nervous system, colon, and the bone cavities (especially hips and lower back), our sense of touch and our ears. Those with a primarily Vata dosha often succumb to conditions such as emaciation, constipation, insomnia, confusion, ungroundedness, disorientation, nervous debility, and food sensitivities.
Foods that are good for Vata conditions have qualities opposite to Vata. Since Vata is dry, cold, light & rough, they need to consider a diet which is mainly warm, moist, heavy, grounding, nourishing & smooth. Vata conditions need to consider the importance of oils for remedying a dry constitution, rather than turning to the water element (as in salads and fruits). For example, when our skin feels dry, we remedy it with oil based moisturizer, not just more water. The qualities that we take internally require similar consideration. A Vata condition’s medicinal tastes are sweet, sour and salty, while the use of pungent, bitter & astringent tastes should be minimized. Use of processed sugars and caffeine in teas coffee and chocolate are very disturbing to the Vata dosha.
Vata conditions often have a weaker digestive capacity, so preparing soups and casseroles are excellent, as cooking the ingredients together improves their digestibility. Keeping this in mind, it is recommended that Vata conditions eat smaller and more regular meals – regular in both more frequent and at a stable time each day. Eating five small meals a day can suit the Vata appetite best. Since Vata conditions are more easily distracted, the importance of having a calm eating environment is key to good eating and the more attention they give their meal, the more likely they are to digest it well, extracting all the nutritional value from it. How they eat their meals is as important as what they are eating. They really need to take care of their digestive fire as a weak agni causes a spiral on digestive problems for Vata particularly. (see link on Digestion/Agni).
When preparing food, seasoning it with herbs and spices as well as plenty of oil will aid lubrication, digestion & assimilation for Vata condition body systems. How we prepare the ingredients is as important as the ingredients themselves – for example – a plate of plain steamed vegetables will aggravate Vata, yet if these are then tossed in a tahini, ginger and miso dressing (see recipes) with plenty of oil, salt and pepper, Vata will be pacified.
Fruits for Vata are best eaten cooked and only moderate fruit consumption is advised since they are all etheric – even though they are moist. Using coconut oil to lubricate, sweet digestives (such as cinnamon, cardamom, clove and ginger) and avoiding dry fruits (unless these are soaked) will also support digestion of fruits.
Vegetables need to be well seasoned to aid digestion & assimilation, with enough good oil to lubricate their digestion. As vegetables are quite etheric & reducing, so moderation is key. Avocados, beets, carrots, cilantro, fresh corn, green beans, okra, cooked onions, radish, seaweed, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips and yams are beneficial. Vegetables that should be avoided include sprouts, lettuce, broccoli, cabbages, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, chard, kale and nightshades e.g. potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes.
Grains for Vata are ideally basmati rice, brown rice, couscous, oats, quinoa and wheat, while grains such as barley, buckwheat, corn, millet and rye are more drying. In general grains as a food category are beneficial to Vata. Dried grains such as granola and pop corn should be avoided.
Beans for Vata include mung beans, soybeans and tempeh, while most other beans should be avoided as they produce a lot of gas.
Nuts & seeds are best digested when soaked and then only taken in small quantities. Sesame seeds are excellent, whilst almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans are suitable, but peanuts should be avoided.
Dairy of all kinds are appropriate when prepared with digestive herbs and consumed at room temperature (never directly from the fridge). Ice cream and soy milk should be avoided.
Meats of all kinds, including eggs, are considered balancing for Vata conditions, even though they are very heavy to digest and Vata may be more sensitive to the karmic effects.
Oil is key for the Vata constitution and plenty of quality cold pressed oils of most kinds are necessary. Ghee is ideal, but canola, corn, margarine, safflower and soybean oil should be avoided.
Sweets are balancing in general, except for processed sugar, which is very damaging to Vata particularly, as it speeds up their fragile nervous system and burns it out quickly.
Spices and herbs are important in every meal. Supporting Vata digestive fire, agni, prior to eating is emphasized in section AGNI. Digestive aids such as GINGER ZINGER and CRUNCHY DIGESTIVE in RECIPIES or DIGET-AID formula are vital.
Digestives: Vata must prepare meals with plenty of digestives such as, quality salts (rock or unprocessed sea salt, miso or a quality soy sauce) , pepper, pippali, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, cumin, turmeric, mustard seeds, basil, oregano, thyme and particularly asafetida.
Laxatives: The use of laxatives/demulcents (moistening herbs) may be necessary for proper elimination and to soothe a dry digestive tract. These include psylium husk, slippery elm, flax seed, chia seeds, triphala, castor oil, bael and our formula ELIMIN-AID or ORGANIC TRIPHALA.
Tonics: herbs that nourish and strengthen Vata constitutions include bala, shatavari, ashwagandha, kapikachu, comfrey root, amalaki which are in our STRENGTH formula.
Mind herbs to strengthen the nervous system against stress are particularly important for Vata conditions and include ashwagandha, haritaki, jatamamsi, nutmeg, tulsi, shatavari, kapikachu, shanka pushpa, hops, passionflower, chamomile and our CLEAR AND CALM MIND formula.
Herbal teas which are beneficial can be chai spices (without the caffeine but with sassafras and sarsaparilla) and the Ayurvedic savory tea – see recipes. Blends of chamomile, lavender, passionflower, hops, moringa and red clover are all suitable for Vata constitutions. It is important to note that water alone is not sufficient for Vata and therefore teas should be taken with milk (either dairy or alternative milks).
Meditation is key for Vata conditions because they are in need of calming the mind & keeping the body still and relaxed. Vatas are more likely to be able to really feel the immediate benefits from meditations, yet have the challenge of an overactive mind. Focus and discipline are good tools for training the mind and senses to internalize, which will protect Vata conditions from over stimulation. Slowing the breath with alternate nostril breathing is wonderful when done gently & for short amounts of time. Shavasana and lying-down guided meditations are helpful, as are toning and chanting, which keep the mind focused.
It is also beneficial for Vata conditions to cultivate faith and self-trust to counter fearfulness & resultant anxiety. Attuning with their higher self and affirming that they are protected and guided by a higher force is deeply nourishing for the Vata condition. Recognizing that life provides for everyone and a growing confidence in becoming wiser and stronger is key. Vata conditions would benefit from meditations where they visualize their higher self as their guide who sits within their heart will strengthen and nourish them. Knowing that this internal force can only be listened to when the mind is calm can help motivate the mind to drop down into the body and ground them.
Vata conditions would benefit from daily routines that incorporate plenty of sleep at night along with a Shavasana mid-afternoon, mild exercise, barefooted walking outdoors. Yoga practices need to be slow and postures should be held for longer periods of time, with special focus on hip openers, floor postures and the warrior pose. A solo practice also strengthens this peaceful mindfulness. It is recommended that you always finish with an extended Shavasana, thus integrating the practice. Minimal travel, TV/media stimulation and socializing are advised, while only moderate levels of sexual activity are suggested. Vata conditions would greatly benefit from massage treatments involving heavy oils massaged onto their scalp, lower back and feet.
Colours which suit Vata are warming nourishing colours such as green, gold, yellow, burnt oranges, with reds and browns on the lower body. Natural fabrics are always advised, in designs which are comfortable and with an element of flowing movement.
When Vata conditions are balanced, their etheric and light approach to life is a refreshing gift to others, and their sensitivity for tuning into the subtle realms can bring an important spiritual vibration to understanding themselves, others and this world.