Cold hands and feet.
Embraces change as it comes.
A busy mind full of lots of ideas.
If this sounds like you, you may be a vata type. Vata is one of three doshas or mind/body types that Ayurveda Science uses to categorize energy within us.
Science in a very fundamental form can be broken down to the 5 basic elements: Ether, air, fire, water and earth. Ayurveda then condenses the five elements into three doshas or mind/body types.
The three Doshas:
When we can identify which type we are we can more easily identify what brings us closer to or further from our center balance. Whether we’re discussing Eastern or Western medicine, balance is a definition of health. If we are out of balance two things can occur. There is either an excess or a lack of. It can be as simple as that.
So how do we identify what’s in excess and what’s lacking? Well using the context of the elements, too much water element for example can look like flem and congestion. Not enough water can look like dry skin and thirst.
Dry skin and thirst is an example of a vata imbalance. Too much air and not enough water. Vata Dosha represents the energy of ether and air elements as mentioned above. Let’s discuss these two elements further in an effort to better understand the essence of vata energy.
First off, you may be familiar with the four element system used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM does not reference the ether element. Ether is that fifth element used in Ayurveda. It separates the four element system from the five element system.
Ether can be easily defined as space. Think of ether as the container that holds all the elements. When we look outside ourselves we are able to see more ether/space than dense, earthly matter. Well the same exists inside of us. Each cell is 99% space. As without so within. Meaning the laws of nature that exist outside me match the laws of nature inside me. We are more space than we are any other element.
Ayurveda science defines ether as being non-resistant. Ether’s polarity would be earth which offers a lot of resistance. Earth is dense and tangible. Earth’s resistant qualities allow it to support our weight when we walk and sit on it.
The mind has ethereal qualities as the mind is neither dense nor tangible. Like ether, the mind is non resistant. There is no resistance to our thoughts. The mind goes where it wants, when it wants and no one else can stop it. In fact, the mind and it’s thoughts can time travel, visiting the past and future at any given moment. The concept of time is too dense and restrictive to exist in the ethers. Big dreams and new inventions live here in the etheric realm before coming into earth form.
Okay, I could go on and on about my favorite element, ether but I think you have a good grasp on the essence of ether by now.
Let’s discuss the other element that represents vata, air! Ayurveda defines air as movement. No other element is responsible for movement. If you see water moving that is because the air within it is moving. The oxygen within the H2O is moving. Or perhaps you smell the earth. Notice it is the air that brought the smell to your nose. Air moves the other elements.
As without so within. Let’s look inside the body to see where air exists. The air we breathe into our lungs oxygenates our blood. Blood is then able to move throughout the body and brain because of the air binding to the blood cells.
Other qualities of air in addition to movement include light, dry, and cool. If a person has a lot of air in their constitution, they may have more dryness in their skin, hair and bones which would make them lighter and cooler in temperature. A vata type is also likely to have more air in their digestion resulting in bloating, constipation, and dry stools.
How about air in the mind. What might that look like? A vata mind with a lot of moving air energy may have trouble harnessing their thoughts. If you are a vata type, you may find yourself going on tangents then asking, “What were we talking about?” or “What was the question?” It’s possible you may have trouble being decisive and may find yourself wanting to change your mind frequently. Trouble focusing and forgetfulness can be mild effects of vata imbalances. Extreme vata imbalances over time can result in anxiety, worry, insomnia, neurosis, and even dementia.
If you identify as someone who carries a lot of air and ether qualities, it’s probably safe to say you are a vata mind/body type. It’s also safe to say you are probably wondering what to do about it. How can we ground down this airy energy to stay in balance? Start by honoring the gifts of vata energy. Being airy and light is your nature. Your moving energy and the way you talk with your hands is adored by many. You thrive in new places and move gracefully through change in your environment. Your mind is brilliant and expansive the way it sees things that others don’t. Step one, embrace all of the gifts of vata.
Step two, let’s look at all those beautiful ideas floating around in your head, now pick ONE. Write it down. Get your journal and your calendar out and create a step by step plan to bring the thought down from the ethers and into earth form. After all, what good is a thought if it just stays in your head and you can’t share it with the rest of us. Scheduling and journaling are great tools for balancing the busy vata mind.
Another useful tool for vata dosha types is moving meditations. Sitting still in a seated meditation may sound like an impossible task for vata types. If this sounds like you, no worries. Try a mindful walk. Bring awareness to the things you see such as the shapes and symmetry of flowers and plants. As you walk, feel the earth under each foot step. Move through the senses as you heighten your awareness to each one. It’s helpful to recognize that the goal is not to clear the mind. This is not possible. Remember, the nature of the airy mind is to move. In meditation, the goal is to simply slow down the thoughts. Be patient with yourself. With practice, you’ll be able to sit in stillness with your earthy, grounded “kapha” friends.
Next step, incorporate moisture! Air and ether lack the water element. If you find you have dry hair, skin and nails this is a direct result of malnourished bone tissue. Vata types are likely to find their bones/joints crack more than the other dosha types. Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic practice of massaging warm oil into the skin. You can do this yourself. Place sesame oil into a small glass and place the glass in a bowl of hot water. Massage the warm oil into the joints, feet, scalp, face, ears, and all over. Let the skin drink it up, yum yum. Take a warm bath or shower after waiting at least 15 minutes. Add this into your weekly self care routine. The skin is simply another channel to nourish our bodies. The oil penetrates the skin, in turn feeding the bone tissue, and subsequently nourishing bone marrow. Bone marrow houses our nervous system. Vata types are prone to malnourished bone marrow resulting in anxiety. Abhyanga is a great remedy for calming anxiety.
Lastly, eat foods that have the opposite qualities of air and ether. For example, root vegetables that are literally grown in the ground are great foods for balancing airy vata types. Try beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Since vata is cool, Ayurveda suggests warming all your food and liquids. A slow simmered soup full of root vegetables is a delicious counter balance to vata energy. Since the air element is dry, add more oil to your cooking. Try ghee, sesame oil, and olive oil to moisturize the body from the inside out. Throw in warming spices where you can such as clove, cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin. Avoid light airy foods such as popcorn and crackers. Eating on the go and talking while eating can add more air into the body. Take the time to honor meal time with stillness as you nourish your beautiful mind and body.
Vatas. We love you and your big energy and big dreams. Stay balanced so you can share what you see with the rest of the world.