Maybe you just took an Ayurvedic dosha quiz and learned you’ve got a lot of “vata” in your mind-body constitution. So what in the world does it mean to have a primary vata dosha?
First, let’s cover a few basics. Born out of the Vedic culture of India, Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of holistic healing that roughly translates to “the science of life.” Believed by many to be the oldest health system in the world, Ayurveda utilizes diet, cleansing routines, herbal remedies, exercise and other lifestyle approaches to help bring the mind, body and spirit into balance.
The concept of balance is vital in Ayurveda, because being out of balance is the root of all disease, according to this ancient wellness philosophy.
What Are Doshas?
So how do doshas fit into all of this? First, let’s take a closer look at how the elements in the universe — ether (space), air, fire, water and earth — create the three main “doshas” found in all of us.
While we’re all made up of a unique mix of the three main doshas — Vata (ether/space + air), Pitta (fire + water) and Kapha (water + earth) — we tend to be most dominant in one. And that primary dosha is also the one that’s most likely to come out of balance, threatening our mental and physical health.
Knowing we’re all a unique mix of all three doshas, in this article, we’re going to focus better understanding vata.
Now, please keep in mind that understanding your dominant dosha is helpful and important, but combining that knowledge with the season is key to staying balanced, regardless of your constitution, notes Ayurveda and yoga teacher Michele D’Agostino.
That’s because the qualities of each season can increase or decrease those qualities in us. D’Agostino shares this example: “Fall is vata season, which can really throw a vata person out of balance. They will need to be more mindful of creating balance during the fall.”
But really, in today’s hyper-mobile society, chances are we’ve all got a little too much vata. “High mobility is the state of our current culture,” explains D’Agostino. “People travel more than ever, information travels at the speed of light — it’s seems as though time is speeding up.”
It’s this state of high mobility that tends to creates a vata derangement and need to balance in all of us, regardless of our primary dosha.
For instance, D’Agostino says, most of us experience the effects of increased vata, including:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Digestive problems like gas and constipation
- Feeling emotionally delicate or “thin-skinned”
Thankfully, Ayurveda provides a systematic approach to start bringing things back into balance.
Take this quiz to determine your dosha: What’s Your Ayurvedic Body Type?
What Is Vata?
To understand vata, it’s best to break down the physical characteristics we’re born with, the mental characteristics associated with vata types and explore the conditions and symptoms that can bubble to the surface if you’re living with excess vata.
Physical Characteristics (Vata Body Type)
People high in vata tend to be exhibit the following physical characteristics, also known as vata body type:
- Light-colored eyes, smaller or irregular in shape
- Bony, joints crack
- Light, thin frame
- Very flexible
- More translucent skin, easier to see veins
- Fine hair
- Dry skin
- Thin lips
- Delicate features
- Tend to “run cold”
- Vata weight loss tends to be easy or even unintentional; this type often struggles to gain weight
Emotional and Personality Characteristics of Vata
Some vata dosha characteristics also include being:
- Emotionally sensitive
- Multifaceted interests and abilities
When in balance, the vata type seems to effortlessly juggle several things at once, loves change, is adaptable and is highly creative. But what are the symptoms of vata excess? These tend to surface in the form of heightened anxiety, fear, racing thoughts and trouble concentrating.
How to Keep Vata Balanced
In Ayurveda, “like increases like.” In other words, opposites create balance, D’Agostino explains, noting that foods that balance vata possess qualities like:
- Slightly oily
These qualities will help balance the dry, rough, light, cold and mobile qualities of vata. Vata foods for winter (that is, fall and early winter, the vata time of year), should especially focus on foods with these vata-balancing qualities.
The best snacks for people with high vata include:
- Raw or fresh roasted nuts
- Raw nut butters
- Milk (cow, goat or coconut)
Recipes to help reduce vata are typically warm, grounding, moist and slightly oily. If you’re feeling like your vata’s running on overdrive, try working these of these simple vata recipes into your meal plan.
Dubbed Ayurveda’s perfect food, kitchari can be used as a staple during gentle cleanses or any time you need a digestive reset. This particular recipe is vata-pacifying, perfect for when you feel your vata coming out of balance.
Simple is the name of the game when it comes to Ayurvedic cooking. One reason? It’s best to cook each meal fresh instead of enjoying leftovers for days. This recipe features a “churna,” or spice blend. You can create your own or buy one based on your dosha.
Warming spices and vata-balancing sweet dates makes this the ultimate comfort beverage for vata types. The ingredients in this shake help build “ojas,” strength, resilience and juiciness … a cornerstone of healthy aging in Ayurveda.
Rich in warming spicing, this “golden milk” recipe also contains vata-friendly ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb shown to lower cortisol levels.
Foods to Avoid or Reduce
What foods should Vata avoid? Knowing that in Ayurveda, “like increases like,” someone with excess vata should avoid foods with vata qualities. These often include dry, crunchy, “airy” foods. If you’re dealing with high vata, some examples of vata foods to avoid or reduce include:
- Dry foods like cereal, chips, crackers
- Coffee and caffeine
- Carbonated drinks
- Raw foods, including veggies
Although learning your primary dosha is a great way to start getting your toes wet in Ayurveda, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Remember, all three doshas, vata, pitta, kapha, are inside all of us.
Our primary or most dominant dosha, though, is the one most likely to come out of balance, triggering the need to bring it back into balance. Food and building a strong daily routine for your dosha and the season are excellent starting points.
Final Thoughts On Vata Dosha
- A common question is, “Can vata dosha be cured?” Instead of thinking about “curing” a dosha, it’s better to focus on choosing a appropriate daily routine that helps balance your vata dosha.
- D’Agostino says people can work to bring excess vata back into balance by focusing on:
- A vata-balancing diet
- Spending time in nature
- Adopting a daily routine
- Practicing vata dosha yoga like gentle, restorative yoga (avoid faster, flow yoga)
- Practicing tai chi
- Taking a daytime nap
- Going to bed earlier
- Taking a nap during the day
- Daily massage with warm sesame oil
- Spending time with people who are grounded (kapha)
- Considering exploring Ayurvedic herbals like triphala to improve digestive health, ashwagandha to balance stress hormones and brahmi, also known as bacopa, historically used to purify the mind
- A vata dosha diet should include plenty of warm, cooked root vegetables, warm lemon water and even some seaweed.