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
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
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
Irregular appetite; “grazer”
Cold hands and feet
Tapping fingers, pulling hair, tics
Stiff muscles and joints
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Trouble staying asleep
Trouble getting to sleep
Shortness of breath
Bone density issues
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 (such as ) on the exhale
Are you vata? Take our dosha quiz here.