In our busy urban environment, and especially during cool and dry seasons, many of us feel scattered and overwhelmed. According to Ayurveda, these are symptoms of the imbalance of Vata – air and ether in the body and mind. Air is light and moves quickly, adapting well to change, but can also whip itself into a frenzy and get burned out. Think of how you feel when you’re flipping between a number of applications on your laptop – at first you may be energized by all you’re discovering, but then keep it up for too long and you get muddled and exhausted. Fortunately, we can learn to use Yoga and Ayurveda skillfully to calm as opposed to stoke these windy elements even in our fast-paced wired lives.
After all, the Vata type is fundamentally creative and an out-of-the box thinker quite comfortable sharing and spreading enthusiasm for passion projects. Vata is the ultimate companion to have on board when you need some game-changing vision. Paired with a practical and logical Pitta, projects will not only be fresh and new, but executed with an eye for detail and on time.
What does Ayurveda tell us about how to ride the winds of creativity as a Vata type?
The Vata Body Type
Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga and can reveal which postures, breathing, sounding and meditation techniques will yield the most benefit for us. If Yoga is your personal prescription for optimal health and wellness, Ayurveda would be the prescriber. It teaches us how to calm the qualities of Vata, which are dry, light, mobile and rough. We need to apply foods, routines and techniques that are warming, nourishing, hydrating, and slow or grounding.
Vata types tend to be long and lean, to move quickly and be multi-taskers, even eating on the go. When you’re in that kind of a buzzy head-space, it can be hard to settle at the end of the day, so those predominant in Vata dosha are often night owls and suffer from insomnia, though they are the type that would benefit most from a restorative deep sleep. They often have dry skin, hair and nails and get constipated if they eat foods that are binding and forget to drink enough water or soupy warm, foods.
Though highly motivated, it’s as though Vata believes its tank can still run on empty. Ironically, Vata would most benefit from some structure to their day, projects, ideas and are most in need of some good old down time and self care.
Nothing whips up the airy type into high gear than the cool winds of fall and the winter holiday season. Cold, crisp and dry seasons may be invigorating, and the changing colours and beginnings of classes make Vata feel in his or her element. But, as the effects of the season begin to take their toll on the body, and the busy list-making and large social gathering of the holidays arrive, Vata types will start to feel drained, put-upon and you may find them either talking a mile a minute or hiding in a bathroom stall taking time to regroup.
However, fall offers a host of root vegetables and foods that are the perfect antidote.
Ayurvedic Diet for Pacifying Vata
Three words encapsulate the Vata calming diet – warming, soupy and nourishing. Vata needs foods packed with nutrients and staying power, but that are easy to digest. The tastes that balance Vata are sweet, sour and salty. Think baked sweet potato with butter or avocado with an olive oil and lime dressing.
Foods that are light and rough like dark green leafy vegetables are already Vata in nature, so they are only good if sautéd in ghee or olive oil or wilted in a stew. But root vegetables are often sweet and nutrient dense. Digestive herbs can also help Vata to digest denser proteins – tofu can be cooked with cumin seed and carom. Ginger, cinnamon, cloves or saffron can be added to teas, almond milks and boiled milk for warmth, digestion and an immune boost. Welcome to cozy!
Vata Pacifying Foods
- Dates (fresh or cooked)
- Cooked apples
- Ripe mango
- Ripe banana
- Sweet potato
- Mung beans
- Red lentils
- Fresh cheese
Yoga for Pacifying Vata
Ayurveda is not only about what we eat, but about using our other balancing tools optimally – all aspects of Yoga can be fine-tuned to help bring you back to balance very quickly and with all the derivative wellness benefits of movement, breath work, sounding and meditation combined. And contrary to popular belief, it does not have to take long – in 20 minutes a day, you can be really bringing Ayurveda wisdom into your life and feeling great if you know which techniques to choose to get the most out of the time you’ve dedicated to yourself. Truly it’s not really just for you either – your family, friends and colleagues will really notice how much more grounded, relaxed and focussed you are. Let’s get too it – Yoga to help calm the winds of the Vata Dosha.
Postures for Pacifying Vata
The seated spinal twist is an amazing posture for Vata. It massages the spine and calms the nervous system, while helping to release wind from the colon. Because the air-type can have issues with digestion and gas accumulating in the colon, wind-relieveing pose is also a boon!
Chair pose is a wonderful very stable pose that gets us to hunker down into the area of the root chakra. So, it gives us a grounded feeling – bonus, it is also warming. But, when Vata is aggravated, what you need most is restoration. Forward bends activate the parasympathetic nervous system and are therefore very relaxing and soothing. And don’t forget to take a nice long final relaxation!
Breathing for Pacifying Vata
Laying abdominal breathing is one of the single most calming techniques. Just lay down on the back and allow the belly to rise and fall with the inhalation and exhalation. In hectic times, this can be practiced for five minutes at a time throughout the day.
Bhramari, the bumble bee breath, creates a vibratory hum on the exhale that is known to help release stress. Creating the bee sound helps lengthen the exhalation, so this is both a breathing and sounding technique for double the calming effect. Bhramari can also be done in postures – try it in Child’s pose or in relaxation on the belly after Cobra.
Alternate nostril breathing works to balance the right and left energy flows of the body and taps right into these ‘subtle nerves’. Working right in the area of Vata, in the upper chakras, anuloma viloma is an ideal balancing and integrating breath to help Vatas feel calm yet uplifted.
Mantra for Vata
Sound correlates with the ether element in Ayurveda, and so sound is within the realm of Vata. This means that grating sounds have the capacity to really disturb Vata, but soothing, steadying or uplifting sounds can really land well with this dosha. The Gayatri mantra chanted in a low regular meter can be very stabilizing for Vata, and also warming, as keeping the meter going for several repetitions generates heat that complements this solar mantra. Consider using mala beads during recitations for the grounding effect of the tactile experience.
Meditation for Vata
Along with mala beads to keep Vata embodied during and not spacing out, try keeping the eyes softly open and gazing on an object that symbolizes loving support. Though the full moon has a cooling quality, gazing at the full moon is said to increase the generative force called Ojas. During the warmer months, can you tap into the loving, deeply nourishing energy of the full moon?
Another really helpful technique for Vata’s regular routine that can be combined with meditation is aromatic oil massage. Sesame oil is the most unctuous oil for nourishing the tissues and the nerves. If you add a few drops of sweet essential oils like ylang ylang or rose to your warm sesame oil, massaging the body from scalp to toes can be a real gift of loving attention you give to yourself. You’ll feel more at home in your own body and ready for meditation. Or perhaps the focussed self massage is the meditation itself!
Ayurvedic Yoga with Akhanda Yoga Online
Yoga is such a great way to nurture and restore overstretched Vata types. Our online platform, Akhanda Yoga Online, has specialized Yoga sequences for each Dosha as well as many other techniques to manage your type.
Become a more vibrant, centred version of you! Enter your email below to get access to a FREE video toolkit for balancing Vata Dosha that includes a special recipe you can easily make at home, a full Yoga class and short, effective breathing and meditation sessions.
Want to explore the whole site and see the whole array of classes? You’re free to visit and check out images and class descriptions. There are sessions specially geared toward soothing Vata, including my personal favourite, the full 60-minute class Expanding Grace!
Expanding Grace – Vata Pactifying
Set to the theme Om Pranaye Namaha (reverence to Prana), this Vata balancing class will help to ground and channel your life force energy. Vishva-ji’s uplifting tone will help you cultivate your inner smile as you move with grace and ease.