Central to Ayurveda is the concept of the 5 elements (Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth), all of which are present in the universe as well as in the human body – the human body, according to Ayurveda, is viewed as the microcosm of the macrocosm that is this universe.
These elements combine to form the constitutional makeup of our bodies – known as ‘doshas’ or bodily humors. These are Vata = Air & Ether, Pitta = Fire & Water and Kapha = Earth + Water.
There are qualities associated with each element, which determine the qualities of the Dosha. The qualities of air are light, cold, dry, rough, irregular and mobile. The qualities of ether are light, cold and dry.
Qualities of Vata – Cold, Light, Dry, Rough, Irregular, Mobile, Quick and Changeable
Vata governs all movement in the body – It is for this reason that Vata is known as the ‘King of doshas’. Vata is responsible for our breathing, blinking of our eyes, beating of our hearts, the activities of the nervous system and the process of elimination. In the mind Vata governs the movement of thought.
Physical Characteristics: Those with a predominance of Vata dosha have a light frame and are either short or tall. They have an oval shaped face and smaller facial features. They have long necks and fingers. They typically have dry skin, hair and nails.
Functional characteristics: Vata types tend to have a variable appetite, sensitive digestion and tendency towards constipation. They are fast talkers and light sleepers. They often have cold hands and feet and hence prefer warm and tropical climates. Their energy comes in bursts, so they are likely to experience bouts of fatigue.
When the Vata dosha becomes imbalanced, it can manifest in the body as gas and bloating, constipation, weight loss, pain, arthritis, weakness, fatigue, tremors and restlessness.
Emotional Characteristics: Vata types tend to be energetic, lively, creative, artistic, adaptable, alert, enthusiastic and compassionate. Think of them as the ‘social butterflies’ and the ‘life of the party’. Their heightened intuitive abilities make them good clairvoyants and psychics. Vatas love excitement and new experiences. They are quick to anger but also to forgive.
When Vata becomes imbalanced, one is prone to worry, overwhelm, anxiousness and fear. One becomes disorganized, moody and impatient, and often suffers from insomnia.
Keys to Balance Vata
Ayurveda balances the doshas, using a simple yet powerful concept and that is the ‘principle of opposites’. In Ayurveda we treat the imbalance by bringing in treatment modalities (food, herbs, lifestyle practices) with the opposing qualities that the Dosha is presenting with.
In the case of Vata imbalance, the qualities that are in excess (or imbalanced) are light, cold, dry and mobile. Hence we balance Vata by bringing in heavy, warm, moist, mildly-spiced nourishing and grounding foods, performing grounding practices such as self-massage with warm medicated oils and establishing stable routines, especially around meal-times and sleep. Lastly, cultivating faith is an important way to balance Vata in the mind.
Sandhiya Ramaswamy CAS, PKS is an Ayurvedic Practitioner and an Ayurvedic chef. She is a faculty member at the California College of Ayurveda (CCA) and the Director of the Southern California Campus of CCA. Born and having lived in India, she has had a lifelong and intimate connection with Ayurvedic healing. Her practice Green Lotus Wellness www.greenlotuswellness.com is based in Dana Point, California