Vata’s elemental makeup consists of air and ether. The common translation of vata is “that which moves things.” Vata is often referred to as the vayu (wind) in the body, and it is the primary motivating force of the doshas—without it, the other doshas are unable to move.
According to ayurveda, vata is responsible for our mental and physical adaptability. It is the energizing force of the body and mind, and it governs our nervous system, our bones, and our senses of touch and hearing.
Qualities or Attributes of Vata Dosha
- Subtle (as opposed to gross)
- Mobile (agitated movement)
Characteristics of Vata Dosha
When vata is in balance for our prakruti, or constitutional nature, we are coordinated in body and mind and in our response to stimulation. When in balance, vata allows us to seamlessly navigate our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Our ambulation is easy, our sensory integration and mental processes flow, and we feel spacious, creative, and energized. When our vata is in balance, our breath supports our nervous system, and there is homeostasis between tissues and organs. The movement of our life force (prana) is regulated by vata, and this function allows us to “inspire” (inhale) easily and to surrender (exhale) with ease as well.
The Actions of Vata Dosha in the Body and Mind
- Heart function
- Menstruation; delivery of baby
- Elimination of wastes (urine, feces, sweat)
- Movement of thoughts and feelings, and the general functioning of our nervous system
- All physical movements
Characteristics of Vata Dominance in Appearance
- Light-colored eyes, smaller in shape or irregular in shape and/or spacing
- Light frame; either very tall or very short
- Hypermobile joints
- Veins can be easily seen under skin
- Hair is fine in nature
- May have large upper body and small lower body or vice versa; lack of symmetry in frame
- Skin is often dry
- May have irregular hair pattern
- Nose may appear too big or too small in relation to other facial features
- Lips may be irregular or thin
- Delicate features overall
Examples of Vata Dosha in Excess or in an Imbalanced State
- Dry skin
- Irregular appetite; “grazer”
- Cold hands and feet
- Dry cough
- Hoarse throat
- Restless legs
- Tapping fingers, pulling hair, tics
- Stiff muscles and joints
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Difficulty remembering
- Trouble staying asleep
- Trouble getting to sleep
- Fearful dreams
- Cracking joints
- Shortness of breath
- Bone density issues
- Trouble swallowing
Dietary Tips to Support Vata Balance
Foods that are great for balancing vata are, in general, sweet, sour, and salty in taste. Ayurveda considers these tastes to be medicine to increase qualities of warmth, moisture, and heaviness/groundedness to promote even digestion—which helps to balance vata. Generally, all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent) are recommended for healthy digestion.
Foods That Help to Balance Vata
Foods to avoid or consume only moderately if your constitution is predominantly vata
Foods that can increase vata are, in general, bitter, astringent, and pungent in taste. These tastes, when in excess for the vata in your prakruti (constitution), can create rough, dry, and irregular digestion, and eventual vata imbalances.
Examples of Foods That Can Aggravate Vata Include:
Lifestyle Tips for Balancing Vata
Yoga for Balancing Vata
- Belly breathing or three-part breath
- Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
- Add in mantra (such as om) on the exhale
Are you vata?
Take our dosha quiz here.