Understanding Vata in Your Body & Mind
Has the ‘silly season’ energy started to drive your nervous system?
The dosha of vata (according to Yoga and Ayurveda) is the combination of Ether (spaciousness, clarity) and Air (movement, instability). This is both positive and negative for us. Vata is the only dosha in the body that can move (pitta and kapha rely on it) so it is needed to distribute everything within us – thoughts, blood, lymph, cellular communication, nutrients. If vata is depleted the body has stagnation, organs have the compromised function and the mind becomes lethargic and depressed. Vata sits in the spine and nervous system – it animates us and inspires us to be creative. Vata has trouble being in the present moment – it can cause a disconnection with self if it is out of balance.
Interestingly it is the dosha responsible for meditation. Without vata the mind could not hold focus or direct itself towards remaining present with a thought or object.
So you are probably starting to see what a big role vata plays for us. It really steers the ship!
Rhythm and routine are the friend of vata. Which is why it is important to keep stability at this time of year as the energy around us starts to spiral out of control. Getting enough sleep, to bed on time, eating nourishing food, keeping our regular activities. And knowing when to withdraw and nurture the self.
This year has been quite solitary for us in many ways with enforced isolation. I know many people who have thrived in this environment and others who haven’t. We are all different in our constitutions and needs. Connecting to knowing what is right for you is most important when balancing your health. Being drawn into the energy of others who agitate you or situations that overly stimulate you will increase the movement of vata in the body. Knowing when to step back from unwanted drama and energy to support your own wellness is really vital – and sign of self awareness.
The natural abode of vata is the large intestine. Gut health has come to the forefront in recent times. Many auto immune conditions stem from gut inflammation. This can be affected by imbalanced vata and a sign the body is not coping well with what is being asked of it. Stress is often the main culprit. Processed food, wrong food choices for our body type, too much alcohol, medications. There are so many factors that could contribute to imbalance in the gut. Some intelligence around our choices in life can help to correct the flow of vata and set us on the path to health again.
The natural time in nature for vata is 2am-6am. Why is this important for us? If your vata is in excess you will be impacted in those early morning hours. It’s a ++ situation. The vata energy around you affects that which is within you. Waking at 3am or thereabouts is common for many people – usually during periods of anxiety or when the mind is overloaded. This is excess vata.
A yoga practice that supports letting go of unwanted mental stimulation is one way to combat sleeplessness. Using the breath at the end of the day with a langhana focus (reducing, eliminating) through a long exhalation and a pause after the exhalation will be your friend. Lying postures that support the body are best.
Interestingly, vata is also responsible for the mind withdrawing into sleep. Sleep is the withdrawal of the senses from their objects. If we can’t let go of these objects, sleep will not come. An object could be the Netflix series you are bingeing, the disagreement you had with your partner, or any other mental worry that the mind is grasping onto. It might even be the ice cream you ate right before bed that is causing your stomach to feel unsettled. If the mind cannot withdraw because the vata energy is stimulated, falling asleep will be a challenge. Coming back to those breathing techniques with a langhana focus will assist this.
The body speaks the mind. If vata is balanced and the nervous system is calm, the world around you will reflect this. Your relationships with others will have clarity (sattva) and ease. This is the goal of yoga – union, liberation, connection. This connection is the moment of coming back to your essence (the part of you that sees quite clearly) rather than being drawn by the activities of the mind. Remember, the mind takes on what we put in front of it so choose the positive, the spacious, the joyful and what keeps you steady.
Namaste, Jill. x