This post was last updated on April 12, 2023 by srinivas krishnaswamy
What is Vata dosha? Why is this dosha of such importance in Ayurveda? What happens when this Dosha aggravates the body? And most importantly, what must we do to balance vata dosha in the body? In this blog post, we attempt to answer all these questions about Vata dosha.
Vata aggravation is of very special concern to us in our work at Krya. This is something we all face today because of the stress of city living & high use of smart phones which aggravate vata. Further, common practices like using synthetic soaps and shampoos, not using hair oil regularly & not doing an abhyanga contributes to the overall vata imbalance we all face.
What is a Dosha in Ayurveda?
The Science of Ayurveda explains that everything in this Universe, be it us, animals, trees, insects or inanimate objects like rocks, earth are all made up of a combination of the 5 great elements called Pancha Maha bhootas. The Pancha maha bhootas are Fire (Agni), Water (Jala), Earth (Prithvi), Akash (space) and Wind (Vayu).
These 5 Pancha mahaboothas combine in various combinations to form the 3 Doshas – Pitta Dosha, Vata Dosha and Kapha Dosha. Each dosha is made of a combination of 2 pancha mahaboothas. Similarly, every taste we are able to discern is also made up of a combination of pancha mahaboothas.
All vegetables, fruits, flowers, plants, trees, fish, bird, animal – in short everything in the Universe, is made up of these 5 pancha mahaboothas.
Every organ system in our body is made up of and is prominently governed by a Dosha, it could be either Pitta, Vata or Kapha. For example, the circulatory system is governed by the actions of Pitta dosha. When Pitta dosha is healthy and in balance, we are able to produce high quality blood (Rakta Dhatu).
The mind and body are governed by the interaction of the 3 Doshas. Apart from physical qualityes, each dosha also gives us mental qualities and governs our moods, and emotions. So when a dosha is aggravated or out of balance, we can feel its impact in our physical and mental health.
What is Vata Dosha?
Vata is the most powerful dosha in our body – it governs the action of the other 2 doshas in our body as neither have mobility without vata. Vata consists of air and space (vayu + akash). The space and air elements give Vata dosha the quality of movement, lightness, swiftness and speed.
Vata dosha fulfills many important functions in the body.
Vata dosha characteristics and functions:
Vata Dosha is THE Carrier
Vata Dosha carries the other doshas where they are supposed to be. So without Vata dosha nothing else can function in the body. When Vata dosha is aggravated in any way, the normal functioning of the other 2 doshas is also affected. Therefore vata dosha MUST be in balance for our overall health and balance.
Mobility + Entire Muscular-skeletal structure :
Vata governs all movement & mobility in the body. One of symptoms of vata imbalance is an issue in movement and functioning of joints and organs of movement.
Vata Dosha is associated with downward movement of waste material, menstrual flow, semen, reproductive functions
Vata is responsible for timely evacuation of the bowels, transporting wastes through urine, for proper discharge of menstrual blood, etc. A sub division of Vata dosha, Apana vayu, is responsible for all timely downward movement in the body. So vata dosha is imbalanced, we see blocks and impairment in all regular downward movements like urination, bowel movement and menstrual discharge.
The Ayurveda Body and mind Link – how Vata affects our Enthusiasm
One of the important qualities of vata is its ability to lift our general outlook on life, mood and overall “Utsaha” or enthusiasm for life. This occurs only when the vata in the body is in balance. When it is aggravated or leaves its place, people with a vata dosha imbalance could develop nervousness, anxiety and restlessness.
Rajas / Cohesion in the body:
According to Ayurveda, Vata dosha is also responsible for cohesion in the body. Cohesion in the body ensures that our limbs work in tandem with the body. Cohesion also ensures hair growth is deep rooted and firm. When space and air aggravate, we lose cohesion in the body. So we experience hair loss, lack of control of our limbs or movement.
Symptoms of Vata imbalance in the body and mind:
We have seen from the above list, how important Vata dosha is to the normal functioning of our body. Now we will look at the signs and symptoms of Vata derangement in the body.
Please go through these symptoms and answer yes / no to this – the more “yes” answers you see, the more deranged your Vata dosha probably is.
Vata derangement affecting Mind and moods:
- I think and worry excessively
- I think of the same thing over and over again
- I feel a sense of nervousness, anxiety, panic and fear often
- I am full of enthusiasm while starting something, which exhausts very quickly. Working in spurts and bursts than consistently
- I am very active, sometimes restless, but I have low stamina
- I am easily exhausted and irritable
- I tend to experience highs and lows in my moods quite easily.
Vata dosha symptoms of imbalance – Joints & tendons
- My neck and other joints feel stiff, often
- I often develop twitches and tics in the eyes and lips
- I experience sudden spasms and pain in the muscles
- My bones hurt and I can hear a creaking sound in the joints
Symptoms of vata imbalance in skin
- My skin has darkened
- My skin feels dry and rough patchy skin
- My skin is dry or chapped
- I am seeing skin wrinkles showing up prematurely
- My skin is dry and lustreless
- I have dark circles under the eyes and general darkening of complexion
- My skin “drinks” oil when applied – I am shocked at the amount of oil it easily absorbs when applied
Imbalanced sleep due to imbalanced vata
- My sleep is light and often interrupted
- I find it easy to stay up late.
- Sometimes I find it very difficult to fall asleep, tossing and turning.
Ayurveda diagnosis : Appetite and Digestion issues with Vata aggravation
- I have digestive issues like constipation, gas, bloating, dry, hard stools
- I have low body weight or varying body weight (I can put on and bring down weight very easily)
- My appetite and digestion are irregular/variable: I feel extremely hungry on one day and loss of appetite on another
Nails and Hair changes due to Vata derangement
- My nails are hard, brittle, rough and cracked
- My hair is dry, rough and coarse and tangles easily
- My hair lacks strength – it falls easily on tugging / pulling / brushing / combing
- My eyes become dull very quickly
- I feel very good after scalp oil application – I tend to feel much calmer and peaceful
Climate , environment and reaction to it:
- I dislike the cold and the wind
- I am unable to tolerate loud noises, certain musical notes / pitches
- I love the heat and feel ‘active’ after getting sun
Effect of Vata imbalance on Periods
- My periods are irregular – varying arrival dates, varying number of days
- I experience scanty blood flow in my periods
- The menstrual blood is not bright red, it sometimes tends to be dull red with a brownish tinge
Effect on Teeth and gums
- I often have teeth and gum problems
- My teeth are sensitive to cold
How lifestyle issues can lead to vata dominance and imbalance
- Excessive use of gadgets for work or entertainment
- Long commutes, late nights, eating out often
- A high amount of talking – especially on cell phone
- I am always stimulating my mind – I am on whatsapp, checking facebook, watching tv, reading a newspaper – I am constantly supplying my mind with stimulation
- It is very difficult for me to sit still, in one place and focus on one thing at a time, especially when I am excited.
Am I a vata type person?
If you have answered yes to many of these symptoms above, you could have a dominant vata constitution (prakriti). Alternatively, if you have noticed issues in a few areas from what we have explained, you could be facing a Vata imbalance centred in these areas. Vata imbalance of any serious nature needs medical attention. If your imbalance is high and widespread, please consult a trained health professional, preferably a well-known, well-qualified ayurvedic vaidya.
Please do not self-diagnose or self-treat with ayurvedic internal medications – please consult an ayurvedic doctor before taking herbs, internal medication, or herb-based supplements.
That said, if your aggravation is of a mild nature, there are plenty of things you can do like making sensible changes to your diet, use the right ayurveda products, and focus on diet and lifestyle changes to bring vata into balance. we will explore these briefly in the next part of the article.
Please note that these are broad guidelines only. These need to be adapted to your specific context.
What is Vata dosha diet
The ideal diet to balance vata dosha focuses on bringing in warmth and unctuousness into the body to balance out vata’s dry and cold nature. In addition, we tend to look at nutrient-dense foods which are easy to digest. The digestion aspect is important as many naturally nutrient-dense foods are not easy to digest. So we must make them easy for vata-type bodies to process well by altering them through cooking or combining them with spices and herbs which make them lighter and easier to digest. As a general rule, when food is cooked and eaten warm, it is best absorbed and processed by vata constitutions.
Foods that have dominant vata dosha tend to be astringent, drying in nature and are often light in nature with a prominent bitter taste. Eating vata aggravating foods can severely imbalance vata dosha.
Any planned nutrition for the vata type MUST take these special considerations into nature. A generic “healthy diet” cannot be adopted by people with a vata constitution. Your food must suit your body type and must offer your body adequate nourishment that is easy to extract and help calm vata dosha down.
Examples of foods that can aggravate vata are the following:
- High amount of raw foods
- Cold or uncooked foods
- High amount of dry baked goods
- High amounts of lentils especially difficult to digest lentils like rajma, channa etc
- Lentil by products like Soy Milk, Peanut curd
- Excessively rough or difficult-to-digest foods like Millets
There are two issues with the foods we have listed above.
The first is, that some of these need a high amount of Agni or digestive fire to process. Unfortunately, those with dominant vata dosha or vata imbalance tend to have “vishama agni” or Digestive fire that is uncertain. It can peak sometimes and can often be in a dampened state.
As the Agni is undependable, we cannot risk the digestion process by eating severely difficult-to-digest foods.
The second is that foods which are naturally dominant in vata dosha like beans, lentils are naturally dry, windy and can produce gas quickly. If this is given to someone who is already vata dominant we create a Vata aggravation situation. This is why we should choose foods correctly and cook foods thoughtfully to balance out their properties.
Lentils are usually unavoidable in an Indian diet. But to craft a vata-balancing diet, we can choose easier-to-digest lentils like Mung dal, Tuvar dal, or Masoor dal, and cook them in a warm, liquidy preparation like Dal, Sambhar, etc. The addition of naturally pitta-rich foods like tamarind, Amchur, small amounts of tomato, or Kokum can make these lentils easier to digest and process and can improve the capacity of these foods to nourish the body. Heavy lentils like rajma or channa can be avoided or alternatively eaten very rarely for lunch (after soaking them and cooking them well).
An important part of meal planning which can help to balance vata is choosing the correct time to eat and choosing the right quantity of food to eat at each occasion. We have a detailed article on ayurvedic eating guidelines which you can go through. Try to eat at the same time each day as this can go a long way in utilising the sun’s strength to supplement our own digestive fire.
Lifestyle tips that help to balance vata dosha
Dry skin, dry hair, low immunity, and insomnia are some of the symptoms of imbalanced vata. But the good news is that when we work on the balance of the three doshas in our body by following the principles of Ayurveda, and calm vata, we can address many of these symptoms , atleast to some extent.
Warm oil application is excellent to control imbalanced Vata. It binds and traps excess Vata and deeply nourishes and calms the body. It works brilliantly to calm and soothe the nervous system reducing both mental imbalance symptoms like anxiety and insomnia, apart from physical symptoms of imbalance like dry hair, dry skin, joint aches etc. Plain oils like Sesame oil and coconut oil should preferably not be used as they may not be effective to work on deep seated imbalances. A well-formulated vata balancing Abhyanga oil is instead preferred.
Abhyanga also works at a deeper level to nourish the body deeply and balance the doshas to a state of health and harmony. It improves digestion, sleep, mobility, strength and skin and hair. we have a lot of articles on the Krya blog on the importance of Abhyanga specifically to calm Vata dosha . Do read these articles.
A regular Abhyanga is especially helpful if you are having reproductive issues, menstrual issues or even lower back issues . Certain locations in the body are particular seats of Vata dosha like the lower back and abdomen. These seats of doshas are very powerfully connected to the dosha and working on the dosha here is especially helpful in calming and controlling the dosha.
Keeping the body warm and well-protected from cold , draughts and wind is another important part of our lifestyle tips for balancing this dosha. Cold winds and draughts add to the vata in the body. You may also experience this heightened vata aggravation as stiffness in joints, small bone and joint injuries or excessively dry skin and hair. If you are having excessive health issues, it is best to consult an ayurvedic practitioner for help. However, if your issues are mild-moderate, starting right away on these changes can greatly help you.
If you live on a high floor, try and control the movement of wind in your apartment especially when the weather is cold or wet (Varsha Ritu, Hemanta Ritu, Shishira Ritu). Keep the apartment warm and closed as much as possible ensuring you have good air circulation but it is not windy.
Lighting a good Dhupa and herbally fumigating the apartment with warm smoke from ayurvedic herbs and dried cow dung is very beneficial to control vata dosha in air and ether. This helps calm the atmosphere, soothe nervous vata anxiety and control the chaotic nature of wind in your living space.
Vata prakriti individuals struggle the most with maintaining a fixed routine. Kapha lends itself to a good fixed routine. But vata, because of the basic nature of air and space tends to be naturally chaotic, and resists binding and control. So attempting to put in a fixed routine in place helps bind and calm vata dosha.
What does a fixed routine entail? Waking up at the same time everyday, eating meals at the same time, bathing at the same time and following a fixed set of activities atleast 90% of the time, is all part of a fixed , grounding routine. This includes going to sleep at roughly the same time everyday. You will notice that we make no distinction between a weekday routine and weekend routine. The body does not instinctively understand the difference between a sunday or a friday. These are recent changes that have happened around us. Sticking to the same routine, regardless of the day of the week greatly helps bring in grounding Kapha energy that calms the body. Follow a regular daily routine and regular meal timings to help calm vata dosha. This is because Vata is erratic and mobile. So following a fixed routine can help calm this aspect of vata dosha.
What kind of exercise should people with high Vata dosha do?
We are often asked if running is good for people with vata aggravation to do. Also if there is any particular routine from yoga for balancing vata dosha.
Vyayama or exercise is one part of Ayurvedic Dinacharya which everyone is supposed to do. However the exact exercise routine varies by individual and their constitution and season. In Winter, starting with Hemanta ritu, heavy Vyayama is suggested for all, as the body’s strength is much better and stronger in this season. In seasons like Greeshma ritu (summer), less exercise is suggested for all.
Vata prakriti or Vata-dominant people are usually prone to more physical injuries than other people. Also, more than exercise they need good nourishment and rest. So keeping these factors in mind a gentle exercise programme is suggested which does not irritate the heart or cause further exertion to the bone and joint system.
A good warm up and cool down is a MUST to prevent injuries. Variation in exercise routine helps those with creative mental vata energy. But continuous exercise is not suggested. Rest breaks are suggested between heavy workouts where a good Abhyanga can be done. A regular abhyanga is key to building the body, removing fatigue and ensuring injuries are less. This is essential in any vata exercise routine. Please read this earlier post we have written on how extreme exercise can lead to higher vata imbalance and issues like hair loss
There was once a time when everyone in India intuitively and formally understood the concepts of Ayurveda, the building blocks of health and methodically applied it to their cooking, regimen and daily routine . Today we are less aware of these fundamental building blocks of health.
As we study and appreciate the classical Ayurvedic texts at Krya, it is our endeavor to present this valuable knowledge to everyone, written in a simple manner. We believe that even if we start witha few of the modifications suggested for healthy living, it brings us great health benefits.
We hope this post answered your basic question on what is vata dosha. We hope the information here helped you understand the importance of this dosha, how it affects the workings of our body and mind and how you can work to keep it healthy and in balance.
If you have any questions on this, please do write to us. For product queries, do DM us on whatsapp.