The main qualities of Vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle and mobile. So, having a Vata-predominant constitution means that these qualities express themselves generously throughout your mental, emotional, and physical make up. If you look back over the dosha test, you can get a feel for how these qualities manifest themselves.
A Vata predominant individual’s strengths and weaknesses both reflect these qualities.
- In excess, the dry and rough qualities may manifest themselves as dry or brittle skin, lips, hair, nails or bones (e.g. osteoporosis), as constipation, or as feeling “dry” emotionally.
- The “light” quality may manifest itself as giving you a lanky physique but excess lightness may manifest as being underweight, having muscle wasting, light bones, insomnia or feeling “spacey” or insecure.
- The cold quality of Vata may lead you to feel cold more easily than others around you, have cold hands and feet and crave warmth.
- The subtle quality may express itself as being introverted, creative and having an active fantasy life.
- The mobile quality may lead to a healthy ability to “multi-task” or, in excess, to scattered attention, a fidgety tendency, tremors, and nervousness. It may manifest as extremes, like being very tall or very short or being drastically different weights at different times in your life.
Decreasing of Balancing Vata
Like Increases Like
A basic tenet of Ayurveda is that “like increases like.” So increasing the inherent qualities of Vata will increase Vata in your body, mind and spirit. For example, because vata is inherently cool, cool weather, cool foods, the cool seasons and times of day, and even cool emotions can increase it. Likewise, dry seasons, foods, environments or emotions will increase the dry quality of Vata.
Example: You are a Vata individual. One of the qualities of Vata is dryness. You live in a dry climate, like a desert, and you regularly snack on dry crackers. This added dryness adds to the dry quality of Vata, which you already have plenty of. This usually increases Vata and can lead to dry conditions like constipation or dry skin. This is an extreme example to illustrate the point.
Opposites as Medicine
Each of us has a unique proportion of the three doshas in our constitution. Ayurveda teaches us that if a dosha increases beyond its original, natural proportion for us, it fosters an environment where disease can flourish. It is common for our predominant dosha (Vata, Pitta or Kapha) to increase more quickly than other doshas because we tend to perpetuate what we know best.
Example: If your dominant dosha is Vata, you will naturally incline towards a life filled with activity, due to the mobile quality of Vata. However, if you are too active, you are likely to eventually aggravate Vata and thereby exhaust your nervous system.
If a dosha increases in our bodies, Ayurveda suggests that we will want to decrease it in order to regain a healthy balance in our constitution. Medicines are substances that decrease the excess dosha by providing the opposite qualities to it.
Example: If Vata has increased due to excess activity, a quiet, calm environment can be a medicine. If it has increased due to excess dryness, wetness can be the medicine. Too much cold? Use heat.
One of the wonderfully practical aspects of Ayurveda is that anything can be used as a medicine because everything that exists has a quality. This includes but is not limited to: herbs, foods, colors, drinks, environments, smells and lifestyles.
Qualities opposite to Vata are moist, grounding, warming, smooth, oily and stabilizing. It is therefore best for Vata individuals to seek out physical and emotional environments, routines, and foods that possess these opposite qualities.
Diet as Medicine
Along with knowing the main qualities of Vata, it is also helpful to know which tastes increase and decrease Vata.
- Pungent, bitter and astringent tastes increase Vata by increasing its drying and cooling qualities. An example of the pungent taste is chili peppers. Bitter and astringent tastes are common in most leafy greens and many herbs.
- The sweet, sour and salty tastes decrease Vata by bringing moisture, bulk and warmth to the body, which are opposite qualities to those of Vata. An example of a naturally sweet taste is wheat; of sour: pickles; of salty: seaweed.
Vata Diet Guidelines
A Vata individual does well to have warming, freshly cooked, nourishing, mushy foods, like soups, stews and one-pot meals. Because of the inherent “light” quality in Vata, you may think that heavy foods would nicely balance that quality but actually too much heavy food—or just too much food at one sitting—is too heavy for the lightness of the Vata digestive system.
Because sweet, sour, and salty tastes decrease Vata, these tastes should be predominant in your diet. When selecting sweet foods, note that naturally sweet foods like many grains, squashes, and most fruits are appropriate, but processed foods high in refined sugars are not at all balancing for Vata. Refined sugars merely offer a quick burst of energy, followed by a “crash,” a pattern that is already a hallmark feature of Vata, and one that the Vata individual would do well to avoid.
Herbal Support for a Vata Constitution
Using herbs to manage your constitution compliments the changes you make in your diet and lifestyle. Ashwagandha, Shatavari and Vidari Kanda are three of the primary herbs used to remove excess Vata from the body and maintain balance.
Lifestyle as Medicine
- The ideal environment for a Vata individual is warm and wet, like Hawaii.
- Sweet or grounding scents, like the essential oils of rose, jatamansi or mitti; sweet music and sweet emotions are also good “medicines” for Vata.
- A daily, 10 to 20 minute, gentle self-massage with warm sesame oil can positively change the life of a Vata-type.
The mobile quality of Vata can drive Vata-types to do “1000″ things at one time. This can lead to exhaustion of the nervous system, which in turn causes emotional and physical restlessness and eventual “dis-ease.” While a routine can feel contrary to your nature, it can be extremely beneficial for you to incorporate into your life.
Example: Rising and going to bed at about the same time every day, giving regular time to meditation, gentle yoga or other strengthening exercise that is easy on the joints.
- Try having regular meals, chewing them thoroughly and taking a breath before moving on to your next activity.
In general, it is best to move through life as if you were a master. Ask yourself, “If a master were faced with this situation, how would she act?” Then enjoy playing that part.
Dr. Claudia Welch is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, an Ayurvedic practitioner and educator, and the author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness Through Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Western Science. Dr. Welch lectures internationally on Oriental and Ayurvedic medicines and Women’s Health, bringing a depth of knowledge and a sense of joy to her presentations. She has served on the teaching faculty of The Ayurvedic Institute, Kripalu School of... Read more>>