Vata in the human body
Vata in nature is cold, dry, light, and windy.
Vata is the aspect of intelligence that governs all movement in the body, including digestion, the nervous system, the mind, communication - including speech - and movement of the joints.
Imbalanced Vata can lead to excessive nervous system activation and excessive mental activity, causing symptoms such as
Insomnia (mind can’t slow down)
Anxiety (heart can’t calm down)
High blood pressure
What Does It Look Like Physically to be Vata Dominant?
While doshas generally occur in combinations, a text-book Vata dominant physiology would have some of the following unique characteristics:
- Slender and hard muscles
- Large prominent joints (relative to rest of limb)
- Irregular features, such as ears too small or too large for the head, crooked nose or large shoulders and hips on a fine boned frame
- Dry, rough skin
- Dry hair
- Inconsistent, not hearty appetite
- Little sweat
- Light sleeper, tending to insomnia
- Restlessness, excitability, nervousness, anxiety
- Quick walk and talk, even manically
- Easily chilled so dislikes cold weather
Dietary Guidelines for Vata Types
While dealing with Vata's tendency to a restless excitable nervous system at the level of the mind is critical, diet is also very important.
Below are general guidelines for the hypothetical pure Vata, so don't be too rigidly attached to these, listen to your body and let it tell you what it needs in order to be strong and healthy.
Dairy products: All dairy products pacify Vata. Heat milk with ginger or cardamon, and don't drink with a full meal. With grains alone is ok. Cheese should be soft and fresh, like cottage cheese, not aged, like cheddar.
Fruits: Favour sweet, heavy fruits, such as avocados, grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, berries, plums, bananas, sweet oranges, pineapples, mangoes and papayas. Avoid or reduce dry light fruits such as apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries and dried fruits. (Dried fruit can be taken first soaked in hot water. Dates are best taken with ghee). Apples and pears are ok if cooked.
Sweeteners: All unrefined sweeteners are good for Vata - sweetners are warming and moistening, but be moderate with your intake.
Beans: Avoid all beans, except for tofu and mung dhal - beans are considered astringent, which aggravates Vata.
Nuts: All nuts are good - warming, moistening.
Grains: Rice and wheat are very good, but beware of wheat if you are gluten intolerant. Barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye, and oats in moderation and well cooked.
Oils: All oils pacify Vata but warming ones are best: sesame and olive
Spices: Cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed, and small quantities of black pepper pacify Vata. Avoid chilli or too much black pepper. An excellent Churna spice mix for Vata is two teaspoons each cumin, ginger, 1 teaspoon each fenugreek, turmeric, turbinado sugar, salt, and asafoetida.
Vegetables: Beets, carrots, asparagus, cucumber, and sweet potatoes are good, but they should be cooked and not raw. The following vegetables can be eaten in moderate quantities, cooked and especially cooked with Vata reducing spices: peas, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini and spinach. Avoid sprouts and cabbage.
Activities that Regulate Vata
Breathing, gentle exercise, meditation, adequate rest, good friendships, warmth from colour and light.
Activities that Aggravate Vata
Late nights, overwork, dealing with anxiety and worry, overstimulation by media, especially fast media like television, and video games, stimulating drugs, air travel, excessive travel.
Warmth through Light
Just as someone with excess heat or Pitta should avoid the noon sun in summer, if you are a cold Vata type, maximise your sun exposure (within the realm of skin safety) in late autumn, winter, and early spring. Try to get out at least a little bit during the day to "feel" the sun with your pineal gland.