Overview of Vata
Vata body-mind types will usually be of light build or were ‘skinny’ when you were younger. If you have put on considerable weight, it is possible that a Kapha role is a factor in your body due to lack of exercise or over-eating*.
The vata dosha consists of elements in the body of air and space. Therefore, you are quite a ‘mobile’ person and you move around a lot, in the body and the mind. Your mobile elements will show up with you speaking fast and talking a lot as you are uncomfortable with silences. Your mind is ‘always racing’ with something to do or say and your thoughts, ideas or issues take over the majority of your internal communication.
Your difficulty to sit still can be from pain in the low back or sciatic region, but also manifests in the mind and being restless in other areas of your life. You are tired but keep going (often to please others) and eventually collapse or get ill with mental or physical fatigue. You are easily distracted and spend a lot of time checking your mobile phone, as you are of a ‘flighty’ nature, just like the wind and have a need to be loved and feeling connected.
Anxiety is a key imbalance for any vata type and this can extend to many areas of your life, relationships and general mental health.
Read on below for an insight into Vata and be surprised how much you can personally relate to it…. It could be one of the most comprehensive overviews on this dosha that will see in a long time.
Pathologies related to excess Vata
According to the study and practice of Ayurveda, excess vata can be the cause of up to 70% of disease. Science is slowly beginning to link lifestyle and disease but ayurveda has being saying this for 1000s of years. Ayurveda is all about prevention but sometimes it is too late so we have to address the cause instead.
It will be impossible to go into the advanced biological functions of vata in the cells and how these pathologies arise in Ayurveda. So for the purposes of this blog, I have kept it as simple as possible, in ‘laymans’ terms and without using too much of the sanskrit language. Some pathologies can be easily cured but when the problems move from tissue (or marma in Ayurveda) to organs, serious illness and life-threatening disease can be worse.
80% of Vata predominant types will often have the blood type A. Vata-Kapha mix may be blood type AB. What is your blood type? If only we could do a huge trial on this one…
Pathologies related to vata being out of balance are serious and real conditions:
- Irregular and painful periods
- Pain or cramps in the body and cracking or popping joints
- Leg or calf pain, tingling and numbness
- Backache, lumbosacral pain, sciatica
- Constipation, bloating, stomach cramps, general IBS
- Lack of appetite and nervous digestion
- Palpitations, breathlessness, panic attacks
- Tinnitus in the ears or nerve deafness
- Anxiety and lack of enthusiasm
- Nervousness and ADHD
- Dizziness or blackouts
- Dry croaky voice/sore throat, receding gums
- Muttering, stuttering
- Poor memory/brain fog (dementia can start 20 years before diagnosis)
- Weak bladder and incontinence
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Chron’s Disease
- SAD – which also affects the kapha dosha
…plus many of the things you go to your doctor for and they think “its all in your mind”. Vata is key to balance as it increases the other doshas and potential for other diseases. The next time you experience any of these symptoms, ask yourself if excess vata could be the cause. I have listed some of the causes at the bottom of this article.
Vata Attributes and Energetics
Vata attributes will normally consist of dark hair, smaller build and height and a white coated tongue; reflecting the blockages in the colon area. Your skin will often be dry and you may have dry hands and frizzy hair. This dryness manifests internally as constipation. Your eyes may be grey or a dark version of other colours and small. With lots of movement in your body and mind, vata eyes will often move around a lot too and they may be dry.
Creativity is dominant with you but you sometimes have so many ideas and flit from one to the other. That can cause you to be unpredicable and you will change careers, move house and travel whenever you can. You are not the type to want to sit on the beach all day during your holiday but may over-plan activities, as you can get over-excited by the new environment and opportunities to explore.
Vata people are generally always late and last-minute, then once or twice you will be very early to try to make up for being late! Your poor time-keeping is because you have not prepared the night before or try to get too much done before you leave the house. You then feel overwhelmed by because you have lots to do when you get back in, so you find it hard to relax and be present in the moment.
You can be indecisive and it is common to hear a vata use language such as “I can’t” “I must” “I should” or “I know I should”, “I’m not sure” “maybe”, “probably” “I think I might”.
Vata types love shopping. This ties in with your need for stimulation. Anything of bling or colour or unusual creative appeal will attract them. You can go shopping for nothing in particular but spend hours browsing and spending. You will often buy things they don’t need but it pleased you at the time (certain neurons in the reward centre of the brain are also at play here). You will have a great idea on how to upcycle something, then buy it and it stays sitting in a corner for ages as you ‘don’t have time to tackle it’. When you DO upcycle or create things, people will be astonished at the uniqueness, beauty and talent that has gone into it.
Extreme vata types always seem to have a crisis going on and this can be exhausting not just for you but for those around you. This is where you might see people step back and drift away, especially if they have their own challenges to deal with. Pitta types get annoyed with vata, as pitta cannot understand why you don’t just ‘get on with it and sort it out’. Kapha types will get annoyed with vata because kapha is so calm and can feel irritated by vata’s hyperactivity and high-energy, over-talkative nature and constant idea changing!
Vata energetics tend to be more towards the head, neck and throat, circulatory and nervous systems, stomach, colon and pelvis and this is where many issues arise:
- Tense headaches usually with tension in the back part of the neck and shoulders
- Dryness in the throat, hiccups, burping
- Cold hands and feet and poor circulation
- Hates the cold but loves heat and the sun – favourite season is summer, least favourite is winter!
- Always moving: fast walker, fast talker, does many things at once, restless eye movement, does not stay in one place
- Irregular lifestyle including such things as irregular sleep, irregular mealtimes, irregular bowels etc
- Tired but cannot slow down the mind when the body stops – ruminations are a key with a vata mind
- Restless sleep and poor quality sleep with many dreams
- Subtle worrying, fear, insecurity – some vata types will jump at the sound of the doorbell or phone ringing
- Muscle twitching (a serious form could be parkinsons in the nerves of the brain, stemming from a vata imbalance but moving into other doshas)
- Constipation, bloating, gas – this is the air element playing a role; less than one bowel movement a day
- Brittle nails or dryer skin or hair especially in winter
- Dry bones or cracking of the joints
- Chapped lips – you will see vata types often applying lip balm!
- Inconsistent digestion – this is then labelled IBS
- Extreme highs then extreme lows in energy and mood
- Chronic Fatigue and ME (this is common with Pitta too but more from a different type of burnout)
- Withdrawn or depressed (each doshas will be given a different prototol for managing this)
- Biting nails or pulling hair out and extreme cases can lead to self-harming
Goals and Focus
Vata mostly strives for CHANGE, STIMULATION AND VARIETY as their motivation is governed by light and mobile attributes. Vata’s do welcome change and will change jobs easily, seek stimulation from people or things and love a variety in life, work, travel and their partners.
Vata energetics and movement govern 70% of disease in ayurveda. When it comes to work, Vata types have a varied work ethic. They may work long hours but tend to get distracted easily and unlike their focussed Pitta counterparts, they flit from one thing to another. They will often be busy but not very productive. They will have lots of books or projects on the go at once as they jump around to the next ‘project’. Lack or organisation and mindfulness can lead to an untidy desk or untidy house or kitchen.
Vata people have lots of goals and they keep changing. The imblanced vata type will have diffuculty focusing and will have a short attention span on a task. This often gets mis-diagnosed as ADHD! The out of balance vata will also have diffculty remembering things or will only remember for a short period of time. This is often attributed to the blockages in the colon or intestine and the poor microbiome in the gut can lead to poor memory. Poor memory can also be due to doing too much at once which gets the brain into a state of confusion on where to focus it’s energy.
Vata types are likely to be suited to jobs that require creativity, gentle movement and flow such as making or designing things, acting or teaching, dancing, writing, art, photography and travel. They may struggle in high-pressured environments such as stagnant desk work or being on a computer or helpdesk all day. Anyone who hires a vata-type would do well to give them a variety of activities or some interesting research and ensure good work breaks during the day. (I would really find it fascinating to sit in on an interview for an employer and predict what sort of Myers Briggs results that person would come out with and what role would best suit them)
Eating, Appetite, Bowels and Weight
Vata dominant people have varied appetites. They tend to be inconsistent with their routines and eating habits. Due to their nervous dispositions, they are slower to digest food and not always ready for their next meal. This throws their eating patterns and sugar levels out and causes food cravings. Vata loves sweet foods as this helps them to feel happy (temporarily).
Vata imbalances arise from this toxic overload and poor nutrient assimilation, which can be draining of energy for vata. This then results in a sluggish lymphatic system and fatigue. IBS is a common issue with vata and bowel movement tends to be dry or hard to pass. Elimination is irregular with mostly constipation and cramping. A Vata may not pass stools daily and extreme vata may go up to 2 or 3 days without movement. A herb called Trikatu will help with this as well as consuming cumin, fennel, coriander, turmeric and some ginger and cinnamon. A herbal protocol like triphala and supportive foods such a yoghurt or soaked flaxseeds can help to lubricate the ease the vata colon. Stewed apples, aloe vera and enemas may help with this.
Coconut water is also great for balancing vata as it contains key electrolytes such as sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorusa. Is also has more phosporus than 1 banana. However, it should be avoided in cold seasons due to its cold element.
Meals which help ground vata are things like stews, eggs, sprouted breads with ghee, fresh herbs, roasted squash, slow cooked meat or vegan food like jackfruit with properly cooked vegetables and vegan stock. Vata gets aggrevated by cold smoothies and poor food combining of fruit and milk can play havoc on vatas’ digestion (typical of the western diet) and create a lot of wind.
Vata can lose too much healthy weight when they are out of balance or have been very ill (thyroid issues etc). Vata types generally do not gain lots of weight as they are naturally thin (Ectomorph in Western body-type definition) but if they do put on weight, it is mostly around their stomach and middle area. If they work out and use weights, they might gain muscle but not much fat, as they burn fat easily. Vata can also gain weight by poor diet and eating too much of the wrong type of breads, flour, yeast or dairy.
Your Ayurveda practitioner can access this to balance your individual prakruti.
If Vata is underweight, a plan to build them up will be given by your ayurveda consultant. This is called Brimhana in Sanskrit and Ayurveda.
Meal plans and the principles behind it will be explained by your Ayurveda practitioner as part of your Vata meal plan and prescription lifestyle.
Mental Health and Exercise
Mental Factors that cause Vata to become aggravated are fear, worry, anger, intoxication, grief and anxiety (also see causes below)
We all handle stress differently. As previously stated, Vata dominant people are often more anxious than the other dosha types and not very good with routine, yet it is one of the absolute key areas for grounding them. They will do things last-minute or just overdo things in a restricted time. They tend to over-stimulate and try to juggle too much, which can often stem from fear of being bored or not feeling good enough. They can be hyperactive and agitated which leads to being indecisive. When Vata gets stressed, it promotes unreliability and sudden exhaustion.
A blocked colon and poor elimination can link to brain fog, so you may find that vata types have a short memory span. Vata would benefit from slowing down, keeping warm and maintaining hydration and regular meal times (they often tell me that they ‘forget’ to eat or drink water).
Vata needs to do exercise but not the over-stimulating type. A gentle and grounding workout routine or yoga and yoga asanas is perfect for vata types. Exercise which is good for vata is walking in nature, gentle jogging or cycling and swimming (if the water is not too cold). If you have fatigue or ME, your practitioner will know the best exercise or movement for you to slowly get your system moving again. Gentle stretching or sun salutations are great for this. They also need to take time out to meditate or walk for as little as 20 minutes a day and outside where possible.
Vata can burn out, like Pitta, but for different reasons. Vata would really benefit by having some self-care rituals, especially in the morning and evenings. I can help you get organised with a variety of techniques and changes as part of your protocol.
Vata types can be poor networkers, especially if they experienced any form of social anxiety as a youngster or as a shy child. They can often feel over-stimulated by people, noise and events. This is due to excess vata in the nervous system. Vata types would benefit from networking if they go events based on a topic of interest to suit their creative brains. Knowing their subject will give them the confidence to be themselves. Otherwise, they will get bored and restless.
When it comes to delays for example in the car, or at the station or airport, the anxious vata type will be so worried that everything is going wrong and it will have an awful ‘knock-on’ effect and everything else will go wrong because of it. Vata anxiety often tends to be a worry about something in the future and this is where panic attacks manifest from.
Vata nerves and anxiety can sometimes appear to others as being negative but it is really just a state of mind. A positive outlook and non self-judgemental approach would benefit vata as would dealing with past trauma. However, all the positive affirmations in the world will not help vata is they cannot get to the root cuase of their anxiety. Vata are sensitive to critisism and need to be listened to. They will often be attracted to the strong, nurturing kapha types who will lend them a keen ear to sound off all their troubles.
Most people love to be touched but vata really benefits from hugs, cuddles and slow, warm massages. Vata types often breath in a shallow, short breath or even hold their breath when they are anxious. This is the Prana-the life energy that controls respiration, oxygenation and circulation.
Causes of Vata Imbalances
- Stress and worries, as previously mentioned, which causes anxiety
- Trauma- this is a sensitive and confidential area for Vatas but it is very important to deal with it in order to start to calm Vata. As Vata governs the nervous system, trauma enhances the fight, flight or freeze response in childhood and these symptoms in adulthood become prominent with hypervigilance, anxiety and insomnia.
- Lack of Identity and Values-this is more an NLP thing than ayurveda but an anxious vata type of person can often lack identity about who they are and what they like. This hides what dosha they REALLY are. Getting to know yourself is the most liberating (yet painful) thing a vata type can do. This will help them see your true value and contribution to the world.
- Poor eating habits, so eating at the wrong times or skipping meals
- Light and cold meals. Vata needs grounding, heavier meals (in smaller portions) and less cold foods and juices (or add some ginger and room temperatue water to your juice or smoothie).
- Sleep issues increase vata. If you cannot sleep, come and see me but be prepared to make some changes in your life as we get to the root cause of this. Meanwhile, try to wind down early and clear your head before any nighttime activity.
- Excess of any sort. Vata usually does things in “excess”. They forget to take a break, breath and slow down.
- Travel-Vata is very affected by travel and public transport. This includes driving long distances, train journeys or planes. Vata needs to ensure they plan and ground themselves before and after a long trip and watch their foods to avoid constipation and gas during this time.
- Winter and Cold – the cold, dry qualities increase vata and joint pain usually increases this time of year
- Suppressing urges such as going to the toilet, letting out some wind, yawning, belching, tears, sexual urges or going to sleep. Even suppressing urges such as not communicating your feelings can cause a blockage in the throat chakra.
- Over eating astringent or pungent foods. This includes green bananas, or cranberries and whole apples, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, avocado, lettuce, peas, cauliflower, beans and lentils that are hard to digest, raw vegetables, onions, garlic. Vata will do well to have cooked vegetables over raw.
Vata in Balance
It is very easy to look at the dosha in terms of being out of balance (your vikruti). However, when you are in balance, you are aligning with your true identity, characteristics and genetic constitution (your prakruti in sanskrit).
Vata types are great people to be around and make great friens. When they are balanced, they will be more mindful, observe and listen more and try to remain calm. They will explore with a hunger to learn but be more focussed and create some beautiful pieces of work or writing. They can also be extremely funny to be around and enjoy a laugh.
- Their lightness can show in light-hearted nature and good energy AND that is where they balance the serious pitta types
- They inspire people by their creative minds and and innovative ideas
- Vata stimulation for change and exploration will make them great adventurers. They love taking off to new places, seeing the world and learning about new cultures. They encourage their pitta and kapha counter-parts to see things from a fun perspective
- They will portray a vitality and happy approach to things and thus make friends with like-minded people
- They are funny and quick to learn and then remember what they learned
- They will exercise at the right time and rest at the right time
- They will have toned muscles but still remain slim because they burn fat easily from the exercise and the right foods
- There will be a degree of flexibility and enthusiasm in both body and mind, with a positive and loving approach to life
- Vata types in balance are also caring and learn to love and accept the joy of hugs and gentle touch
- They craft, paint, photograph, dance, invent, use colour and imagination to transform things that others cannot even visualise
Best Ways to Balance Vata
I use a variety of techniques with my clients for the best results to pacify excess vata in the body, mind and spirit. These can be slowly introduced, based on your lifestyle and commitments. My top 10 are:
- A vata pacifying diet – this is a short-term balancing diet to get you back on track and will be explained and shared on your initial consultation. You will be asked to avoid dry, cold, light and rough foods, some greens and increase soup and rice based foods which are grounding for vata. You will need to increase certain spices and avoid others until signs of improvement. You will then move to seasonal eating with a list of foods in season given to you by me. I can tailor this for vegetarian, vegan and meat eaters.
- Self massage (abhyanga) using a lot of hot oil with moderate to gentle pressure and slow movements. Calming the nervous system for vata is important.
- Nabhi Abhyanga (massage treatment of the abdomen). This helps with constipation, obesity, IBS, fatigue and high toxins (ama) in the body. You can do this yourself or book in with me as as Ayurveda massage therapist. We can address blockages in marma points or the lymphatic system.
- Medicated oils – oils for vata are Brahmi oil, especially for dry hair and dandruff and insomnia. Mahanarayan oil can help with vata headaches, physical and emotional symptoms and arthritis.
- Warming Herbs/Spices for Vata digestive imbalances such as fresh ginger (not dried), turmeric and cumin. Also hing (or asafoetida) is a great for gas, bloating and flatulence and is also and anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic.
- Limiting consumption of alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and recreational drugs and sipping warm water throughout the day.
- Ensuring adequate sleep but aiming to wind down to get to bed around 10.00pm. The herb I use for my clients for sleep is Ashwaghanda. This is great for inducing sleep, reducing stress and cortisol levels, fertility, reducing blood sugar and increasing energy. Pukka Herbs now focus a lot on Ayurveda. Try their Relax Tea which is created to help relax vata. It consists of Sweet fennel seed (24%), chamomile flower (18%), licorice root, oat flowering tops, cardamom pod, ginger root, marshmallow root (10%)
- Do not eat late at night, especially after around 7/8pm. Vata will be slow to digest an evening meal. Soup or lassi or a small portion of vegetable stew would be best for vata at night and eating the main meal of the day between 12.30pm and 2.00pm.
- Walking outdoors – vata can be calmed very well by spending time in nature and away from high stimulating environments and ‘to-do’ lists. I have seen many of my vata clients benefit much more from walking daily for 20 minutes over meditation for 20 minutes.
- Daily Routines – as stated before, routine is key for vata. This can one of the hardest things for them to do and they need guidance to get into new habits.
A note on herbs: Do not use herbs unless specifically prescribed for you and NEVER buy ayurveda herbs on auction sites as you do not know the full source or contents. There may be reasons you cannot take herbs so please be advised only by your Ayurveda Practitioner after doing a full consultation.
How I can help
My specialist mix of skills and experience will vary to incorporate a variety of disciplines depending on your issues. This may including ayurveda, specific neurological aims or massage therapies. I will only work with those who really want to change what is not working for them. You just leave the advanced knowledge, scientific research and knowledge to me.
- I can help those with a vata body-mind type by rebalancing the nervous system and digestive process
- I can give you more energy and reduce your fatigue by helping your micronutrients to improve mental clarity and energy levels
- Reduce mood swings and vata depressive tendencies
- Help you with a gentle detox for Vata, which varies depending on what season you start. All the foods are tasty, grounding and nourishing
- Give you ways to reduce your hypertension
- If you are underweight, as some Vata types are, then I can help build you up to a healthy body weight
- Advise you on the balance of fibres and carbohydrates that suit your genetic constitution
- Assist your vata craving for sweet and sugary foods
- Release childhood trauma or your relationship issues with a parent or sibling
- I will help you identify and reduce your procrastination and help you structure a more balanced daily routine
- I can also provide a therapuetic massage that balances vata and the vagus nerve
- Help you look at mindfulness from a simple and easy level to incorporate on a daily basis
- I can give you a lifestyle medicine prescription instead of a toxic chemically produced prescription
A note on hot flushes if you are Vata
Many vata types can relate to most of what is said about Vata but then ask me “But what about the hot flushes”? Sometimes I’m cold but I often heat up for no reason, especially at night.
The answer to this is simple. If the hot flushes are related to strong pitta in their nature, they may be Pitta-Vata types. If the flushes are related to a certain phase of life before or during menopause, then it is usally the wind of vata and the fire of pitta that is causing the disturbance. So rushing around doing a million things will aggrevate vata which can then cause those overlapping pittas types to overheat and have hot flushes.
This is where an experienced Ayurveda Consultant comes in to help understand what is dominant, look at your lifestyle and eating and then guide you accordingly to reduce the hot flashes and get you through the menopause without the need for HRT.
Can you relate to a lot of what I have described ? Perhaps there are a few variables but sounds like you ?
Would you like to discuss any ongoing health concern that others have not been able to help you with?
Would you like to address your issues without going on a fad diet ?
Do you want to open the door to creating more balance and harmony in your life?
Do you want a better relationship with yourself and the people around you?
If you want to discuss your Vata imbalances, then book an appointment with me for your 1st consultation and start to change your life for the better. I am now doing coaching with skype, messenger and whats app as well as face-to-face treatments.
Telephone: 07903 215524 – Looe or
(Please Note: I use an element of NLP experience and science and CBT in this article. It not purely ayurveda)
*See more on Vata-Kapha later