Wind. Movement. Dry. Mobile. Cool. Light. Subtle.
These are all the qualities of the Vata principle according to Yoga and Ayurveda. We are currently in the midst of Autumn (the season where Vata dominates) so it is a worthwhile time to stop and notice the rising of these in our system.
A sure sign we are beginning to experience the effects of Vata is when the skin becomes dry, the body becomes suscepectible to cold and joints stiff.
Agitation, an unsettled mind, and excess energy that needs to move somewhere are other experiences that may be appearing right now.
What is Vata?
One of the three doshas, or innate intelligences of the body according to the science of Ayurveda. (The other two are pitta and kapha). We are born with a predominance of one these doshas (generally) but all three will be present for us in some capacity. Together they make up the tri-dosha. The goal of health is to have a balanced tri-dosha (according to your own constitution).
Vata gets a bad rap (generally) as it tends to dominate us because of our lifestyle and the rapid pace we move in the modern world. Vata is responsible for movement and it governs our nervous system. Its negative by-products are stress, anxiety and depletion.
If we rarely stop and consciously pause to become present with our self we are inviting Vata to build. In life, the demands of others, our job, our self expectations can all pile up and stretch us in many directions. A scattered and dispersed feeling is a message that Vata is imbalanced.
In the current climate our physical patterns have changed due to isolation, so where does the excess Vata go?
The Mind. Have you started listening more to the chatter of your mind? Right now, the accumulated practices of our past are all dictating how we respond in this moment. How do you react? How do you interpret? Negative habits and predispositions may be coming to the surface with less than beneficial results.
Yoga calls these samskaras (patterns) and we all have them in bucket loads.
When negative they can start to influence us at a time when we are under pressure to adapt. Because we don’t have the space or clarity to make conscious choices, we simply go to our default. (Hopefully our default is a good pattern! Here is where the long term benefits of yoga sit.)
Fortunately, there are some practical things everyone can do right now to temper Vata and bring more balance back to body and mind.
Steps to balancing Vata.
Sleep Routine – Regular (and not too late) bedtime, 7-8 hours sleep, waking at a similar time each day. Patterns aren’t boring – they are necessary to keep us stable. Lack of sleep can be one of the biggest precursors to stress – ironically also often caused by stress. It’s a vicious cycle. Establishing some healthy sleep patterns is important to keep the Vata attributes at bay.
Nourishing Food – Same goes for eating. Know when you need to eat. Skipping meals or waiting too long to eat is a big drawcard for imbalanced Vata. On the reverse side, eating too much can start to attract Kapha (the opposite state). Moderation is our best friend. According to Ayurveda food is medicine. We can empower ourselves with what we eat – both physically and mentally.
The onset of cold weather dictates our body requires warm food. Ayurveda works on the principle that opposites balance so if it’s cold outside, putting warm and well-cooked food into the body will be optimal. There is a reason why our bodies may crave stews, casseroles, curries and the like in Winter. Interestingly, Vata’s primary place in the body is the colon so it is imperative to keep our elimination function well so as not to attract excess vata. Right food is key in order to balance our agni (digestive fire) and keep elimination functioning.
Cold, frozen and dried foods should be steered away from in colder weather. If you have an inclination for salads, make sure they are well oiled with dressing to counteract the element of dryness that may increase Vata at this time.
Regular Movement, More Staying – running and fast, high impact exercise are great Vata magnets for already highly stimulated people. And while we do need to move, try to balance that out with more nourishing and grounding practices like yoga, tai chi, slow walking.
If walking on a windy, cold beach is to your liking make sure the body is warm and well protected from the elements, particularly the neck and head that are the areas of the body susceptible to inducing colds. Wind is paramount at this time and the Vata susceptible body needs to be protected from it.
Space to Nurture Self – Lockdown – nowhere to go. Many of us are spending more time with families than we may ever do. There are challenges to this. Self nurturing is key.
Lock the bathroom door, take that warm bath. Lie on the couch and read a book. Take a walk – alone or with a friend. Get off your device – the overstimulation of social media and gaming increases Vata. Make space and time for yourself away from the current routine.
What Yoga? – Your yoga practice might change at this time. Vata is held in the spine and hips – it governs the nervous system. Yoga postures need to balance and ground. Forward bends. Backbends and Inversions are great to balance Vata. Movements need to be slow and fluid. Poses should be held long enough to develop stability without pushing you into exhaustion. A long breath is essential to pacify the nervous system. Pranayama practices like nadi shodhana can balance and ground Vata. When practising it is important to stay warm so dress appropriately and have a blanket available.
Self care is your best friend at this time. The body and mind need to receive nourishment in order to balance Vata. We all have the capacity to do this and maybe at this time we are simply being asked to be creative and pair back our life to a simplicity that reveals this harmony.
Looking within is a path that leads us to a deeper experience of life – if we are open to receiving change.
Yoga to balance Vata Join me for a practice to nourish body, breath and mind through balancing the Vata dosha. This 90 minute practice will incorporate asana, pranayama and meditation. Bookings here.
Sunday 17th May 9am-10.30am via Zoom. $12 casual, online pass cards and memberships can be used.