Ahh Vata, the dosha of space and air. The dosha of movement and force governing all biological activity.
Vata, often called the King of the Ayurvedic doshas (as it governs the body’s greater life force that gives motion to the Kapha and Pitta doshas), is, in my humble opinion, the dosha most out of balance in today’s hyper-mobile, fast-faced society.
With information and people travelling more and faster than ever before, combined with this volatile, unsure, external climate we find ourselves in, I believe Vata best reflects the current state of our culture.
Many of us are currently experiencing the effects of excess Vata:
>> Difficulty sleeping
>> Anxiety, fear, or depression
>> Food allergies (particularly wheat and dairy)
>> Digestive problems such as gas, bloating, and constipation
>> Premature aging
>> High or low blood pressure
>> Feeling emotionally delicate or “thin-skinned”
It’s more important than ever to consider practices to help balance out this dosha.
While understanding our dominant or out of balance dosha in Ayurveda is important, it’s just as important to combine this information with the season in order to find balance, regardless of our constitution.
Why? According to Ayurveda, the qualities of the seasons can either increase or decrease those same qualities in us.
For example, fall is the season of Vata, when it’s generally more cool, light, dry, and windy—just like the Vata dosha; this can really throw a Vata out of balance. For this reason, it’s extra important for someone with high Vata in their constitution to take extra care in the fall.
As the weather becomes cooler in late fall, it’s generally recommended for all to favor warm foods and drinks, include more heavy and oily foods in our diet, practice Abyaghnada warm oil massages, cover our heads on windy days, avoid sleeping in a cold draft, avoid fasting, and stay well hydrated. Plenty of rest and relaxation is also highly recommended. Permission to relax? Yes, please.
While a balanced Vata individual will be creative, adaptable, enthusiastic, compassionate, charismatic, perceptive, alert, and a strong communicator, an imbalanced Vata will tend to:
>> Be spacey and ungrounded,
>> Have a lack of confidence and focus,
>> Be impatient,
>> Zone out in conversations,
>> Be emotionally delicate,
>> Have addictive tendencies, and
>> Be inclined to fear, anxiety, and depression.
So, what can we do? A great start is to identify ways we will further aggravate our Vata.
Ways we will increase our Vata:
The way we eat.
This includes the foods we eat as well as the fashion in which we eat them.
Eating aggravating foods, eating on the run, or eating while anxious, angry, depressed, or to otherwise off-set our emotions will definitely set us on a fast-track to beefing up our Vata.
Drinking alcohol, coffee, or black tea can also do the same.
Clinging to bad habits.
Smoking cigarettes, following an irregular daily routine, going to bed late, and frequent travelling or on-the-go lifestyles pump up Vata in our lives. The same thing goes for engaging in excess physical or sexual activity.
Taking in too much sensory stimulation with too little output.
TV, loud music, excessive talking, violent media, and loud noises are Vata’s best party pals. Pair them with the suppression of inner creativity and emotional sensitivity and you’ve got the perfect little disaster.
Next, it is often helpful to incorporate Vata balancing practices into our life. Start with one or two so as not to get overwhelmed.
Ways we can balance our Vata:
1. Eat mindfully.
Eat in a quiet and peaceful environment. Try to just focus solely on eating. Don’t be on your phone, watching TV, or multi-tasking. If possible, eat alone, in silence, focusing on the food’s flavors and textures as you consume them.
2. Follow a regular daily routine.
As often as possible, try to wake up and go to bed around the same time each day— ideally within a one-hour time frame. Try to go to sleep early if possible; if you are a night owl, perhaps begin with going to sleep just one hour earlier than usual.
3. Avoid any artificial stimulants.
I know, it sucks, but caffeine, nicotine, and other drugs are no-nos if seeking to balance Vata—especially during the fall.
4. Meditate daily and practice gentle physical activity.
Practice gentle physical activity—tai chi, swimming, or a brisk walk in nature, barefoot, is great for grounding that Vata energy. Take time to rest each day with a short yoga nidra, or 10 minutes in a restorative posture simply breathing with eyes closed.
Yoga poses of particular benefit to those seeking to balance Vata include: tree pose, warrior two, forward bend (either standing or seated), child’s pose, and a long savasana. Try holding each posture for at least one minute with a slow and mindful transition from posture to posture.
As for breathwork? Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) should do the trick.
5. Laugh and smile more.
Find those funny things and people and incorporate colors like orange, green, and white into your environment. Wearing these colors, or even focusing on them as a focal point in meditation is great.
6. Listen to calming music.
Classical, piano, instrumental, binaural beats—particularly before bed—help balance Vata. The volume should not be too loud. Just lie down in savasana or your favorite restorative pose.
7. Massage your body daily.
With warm oil—sesame is great for Vata (if you are feeling cool), with added essential oils such as lavender, rose, or sandalwood. Oil yourself up, and massage for 15 minutes. Allow the oil to soak in, and then shower with warm water—no soap. This is one of the top grounding practices for Vata. Do it!
The one exception for this is when menstruating.
8. Get in touch with emotions.
It’s easy to do this via introspective activities like free-flow writing, journaling, or writing a gratitude list each day.
Spending time with grounded people can also help with this. You might find that the calming people you gravitate toward will be those with strong Kapha in their constitution.
9. Finally, have a look at your diet.
Perhaps consider incorporating more Vata balancing foods into your life.
Vata-balancing grains include:
Heavier whole grains such as rice, wheat, quinoa, couscous, tapioca, and oats.
Avoid corn, millet, rye, and puffed cereals as they are generally too light and drying.
Some Vata types will have a hard time digesting wheat due to weakened digestion—yeasted bread can also be aggravating due to its gas-promoting qualities. Take note of how you feel after eating these types of foods to see if you should moderate.
Vata-balancing fruits include:
Sweet fruits such as apricots, bananas, raspberry, strawberry, dates, coconuts, apples, figs, grapefruits, grapes, mangos, melons, oranges, papayas, peaches, pineapples, plums, berries, cherries, apricots, and avocados.
Dried fruits can also be eaten, but not too much. The following general rule applies to fruit consumption: at least one hour before or after meals, but not in the evening.
Vata-balancing veggies include:
Heavy, moist veggies such as squash, sweet potatoes, avocado, cooked carrots, beets, pumpkin, radish, mustard greens, green beans, winter squash, and cucumber.
Air on the side of moderation with gas-forming veggies such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and onions; onions should be cooked. It is also common for Vata types to be sensitive to nightshades like tomato and eggplant.
Cooked or steamed veggies are best; raw vegetables are not recommended due to their rough, hard nature, making them harder to digest. Juicing is okay, as it makes raw veggies easier to digest.
Vata-balancing legumes include:
Mung Dahl, or split mung beans, are best. In moderation, Vata can also enjoy aduki beans, black lentils, red lentils, soy milk, and cheese, or tofu. Avoid larger, harder to digest legumes such as lima beans, black beans, chickpeas, tempeh, and white beans.
Soaking or sprouting legumes before cooking is key, as it helps with digestibility and decreases gas. Cooking legumes with pungent spices such as cumin, ginger, turmeric, or asafetida will help with digestion.
Vata-balancing nuts and seeds include:
All of them! Nuts, seeds, and coconut are good for Vata, especially in the form of nut butters and milks, which are easier to digest.
Roasting nuts with a little salt or simply soaking them in water is highly beneficial for Vata. Sesame seeds and soaked and peeled almonds are best.
Vata-balancing dairy products include:
Yogurt (not frozen), ghee, and organic cow’s milk, which are particularly nourishing for Vata. Since Vata types are the most prone to food sensitivities and allergies, cow’s milk—especially the mass-produced varieties, can cause problems.
To help with digestibility, boil milk and allow it to cool to room temperature before drinking.
Soft cheeses are preferred to hard cheeses. Avoid powdered milks. Eggs decrease Vata in moderation, but if you find yourself hot and fiery, avoid them as they aggravate Pitta.
Vata-balancing oils and fats include:
Sesame oil, olive oil, and ghee. Coconut is good for those with high Pitta in their constitution, too. Oils are key in the Vata diet.
Vata-balancing herbs and spices:
Most spices are highly beneficial for Vata—especially sea salt, ginger, and garlic. Limit cayenne as it tends to be drying.
Vata-balancing sweeteners include:
Any natural sweetener. These can be used in moderation. Maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and jaggery are best. Avoid white sugar. Honey may be used in moderation as it tends to be drying, but with Kapha present in one’s constitution, this increases the capacity.
Vata-balancing drinks include:
Plenty of water each day. This is very important for Vata types. Adding fresh lemon or lime is beneficial. Fruit juices—especially sour ones, are great, as well as are herbal teas.
If wanting to consume alcohol, wine is okay in moderation, but avoid beer and hard alcohol as these will aggravate the Vata.
Caffeine is also generally a no-go, however, when I choose to caffeinate, I go for lattes or a matcha latte with the addition of cardamom to help combat the acidity and add ghee to help with digestion.
Carbonated drinks and ice-cold drinks are not recommended.
Vata-balancing meats include:
Deep-water fish, chicken (both meat and eggs), red meat, and duck. Vata types are the most suited for the consumption of meat, as generally meat is known to be grounding, but the quality is key.
Avoid lamb, pork, white turkey meat, and venison.
While these are all general suggestions, I highly suggest a personalized Ayurvedic consultation for more detailed suggestions and information.
Happy Fall! Stay grounded, friends.