November 15, 2014

Autumn: Balancing Vata & the Coffee Shop Experience.

coffee and oatmeal

*Editor’s Note: Ayurveda teaches of the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. We are all composed of different percentages of these doshas, which means we all have different tolerances to foods and experiences. This article is in no way intended to offer a “one size fits all” theory, nor is it intended to discount any one of the doshas and the effects they may have on the body or mind, individually and combined. They are all equally important in the ultimate quest for wellness and balance.

I sit, in a coffee shop, eating an oatmeal fig bar, drinking a latte, writing on my computer, smart phone by my side.

Commercial free radio is playing in the background.

Others come and go, ordering their specialty coffee to start their day. Five years ago, I would’ve thought nothing about this combination of activities.

I’m in a coffee shop in America, doing what people do!

To boot, the fig bar’s gluten free and my latte’s made with raw milk!

My present day issue, however, is that I’m a student of Ayurveda.

I am studying to become a practitioner of this vast and amazing science. As a result of my path, I can hardly stop myself from thinking about how this combination of activites is only bound to increase any Vata dosha already present in my body.

Now, since I possess a large percentage of Vata dosha, this is actually a risky combination for me—it doesn’t take much to take Vata dosha and blow it through my roof.

I’m already living in a constant state of sesame oil self massage to combat the effects of the dry fall. And the fact that I’m drinking coffee right now—quite honestly, I have to ask myself if I actually enjoy feeling Vata out of balance?

I’m going to briefly outline Vata dosha and what I could be doing differently, at this time of year and in this coffee shop situation, to keep good ol’ Vata more in check.

Vata can be likened to the wind.

It is an energetic force comprised of air and ether. It has the qualities of cold, light, mobile, dry, clear and sharp. It allows nerve impulses to travel throughout the body.

It is breath.

It is the force that drives oxygen and nutrients across cell membranes.

Blood circulates. Sound waves flow from inside our bodies out into the ethe, so we can communicate with words and sing.

Thank you Vata!

It is the movement of thought. It spawns creativity.

It portends a legitimate zest for life.

In the end though, it is motion.

When out of balance, vata wears us out. It dries us out. 

It brings on unwarranted anxiety and fear.

Many states of disease in our western world actually result from excess of this easily disrupted dosha.

In Ayurveda, it is plainly stated, “like increases like.”

So here we are in Autumn. The air has become colder, dryer, sharper. Breezes are blowing.

Seasonally, Vata dosha has arrived.

Most of us would be wise to bundle up, dress in layers, and stay warm.

Wear a scarf to protect the neck from the wind.

Stay hydrated.

Drink warm, spiced teas, think Chai (in place of coffee).

Ditch granola or toast for warm, moist grains for breakfast. Think moisture and weight in place of dry and crunchy.

Consider adding  a spoonful of sesame or olive oil to meals. Try rubbing yourself down with some sesame oil, or at the very least, your head and feet.

So, I’m wearing scarfs and eating lots of oatmeal, but what about the coffee shop?

Okay, I skipped oatmeal today and landed here.

It saves me from driving home when I don’t really have the time. And, honestly, I sort of like it this morning. It feels lively, different from my quiet home office.

However, in choosing to be here, I have to acknowledge that I may receive some less than ideal consequences later.

At the top of the list, Ayurveda states that the way we eat is of utmost importance to how the food and the overall meal experience will be digested.

It is most ideal, to sit in a peaceful locale, potentially with beautiful views of nature, with low to no stimulation, allowing oneself to focus on and enjoy the actual task at hand (of eating and digesting).

However, this morning, I’m “multitasking”.

I am nibbling, sipping, listening, eavesdropping, reading, observing, researching and typing.

Note: this only lists the items I’m completely aware of happening, never mind the countless imperceptible actions my nervous system is constantly performing (pupils adjusting on demand, shifts in heart rate, exchange of glucose amongst cells).

Given all this motion going on at once, there is a likelihood Vata will trend upwards today.

This means, on the physical level, I may later experience a bit of undesirable flatulence or possibly some constipation. I’ll probably be a bit dehydrated.

I may crave more “Vata-provoking” foods such as sugary treats, a crisp, green salad and sparkling water for lunch or maybe even an afternoon cup of coffee!

My mind may be more distracted the rest of my day.

I may be fearful or anxious about seemingly little details.

I may be more forgetful or even have trouble falling asleep tonight.

I will need to make very thoughtful choices for the rest of my day.

It will be important to have a good, hearty lunch—maybe a bowl of stew.

Ideally, I’ll take a walk in nature and devote some time to yoga.

Possibly I will take a hot shower or bath before bed.

And I will absolutely need to meditate or at least practice some relaxation breathing before bed.

At the end of each day, balance reigns.

But, how do we get there? Can we always avoid multitasking in the coffee shop? And is it really necessary?

Sometimes that scene might be just what the doctor ordered.

And the seasons will come and go. Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, like it or not, Vata will always be moving, up or down, round and round.

The answer must then be in the study of one’s self—in noticing how the seemingly little details of life—actually have a profound impact on our overall health. Ultimately we must choose to make changes, eliminating what brings us out of balance, in exchange for that which keeps us closer to overall harmony and wellness.

Quick Fall Tip:

Start your day with oatmeal cooked with a large spoonful of ghee or coconut oil, sesame seeds, raisins, cinnamon and a dash of salt. Use a natural sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup, if desired. Yummy, moisturizing, grounding!!


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Author: Erin Christine

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr


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