Vata is the bodily air principle, composed of air and ether elements, with air as the primary element. Vata is the principle of movement – bodily air can be characterized as the energy that drives biological movement and governs subtle changes in the metabolism. The functions of Vata are movement, breathing, natural urges, transformation of tissues, motor and sensory functions. Vata also governs the emotions of freshness, ungroundedness, fear, emptiness, and anxiety.
Vata is responsible for the stimulation of nerves, initiation of motor functions, and the creation of impulses and reflexes. It is necessary for the expression of emotion, enthusiasm, and creativity. Vata is the seat of circulation. It keeps the heart beating and sends blood, oxygen, thoughts, and nutrients throughout the body. Vata is also responsible for the delivery of a fetus from the womb.
Vata manifests in the mind as joy, vitality, creativity, enthusiasm, and generosity. Those with a Vata constitution are likely to be artistic and creative and to have a good imagination. They may lack a good memory and have a difficult time putting ideas into practice as new ideas constantly catch their attention.
Vata Constitutional Characteristics
Body – Very tall or very short, thin frame with prominent joints and bone ends, poor muscle development
Skin – Thin, dry, darkish, and cool
Hair – Thin, dark, coarse, and curly
Face – Long and angular, often with an underdeveloped chin
Neck – Thin and scrawny
Nose – Small and narrow, and may be long, crooked, or asymmetrical
Eyes – Small, narrow, or sunken, dark brown or gray in color, with a dull luster
Mouth – Small, with thin, narrow, or tight lips
Teeth – Irregular, protruding, or broken, set in receding gums
Key Qualities of Vata
Factors that Increase Vata
Optimal physical and psychological health requires that you maintain constitutional balance. Different internal and external factors can cause an imbalance, and is it best to restore balance as soon as possible. In order to do that, it is helpful to recognize factors that cause imbalance and act to avoid those factors and remove any excesses. Below is a list of factors that increase Vata:
- Exposure to cold
- Insufficient sleep
- Too much traveling
- Too much sex
- Lack of routine
- Eating too much frozen or leftover food
- Eating foods with bitter, pungent, or astringent tastes
- Too much or inappropriate exercise
- Stimulants or other drugs
- Worry, fear, anxiety
- Fall and early winter
Signs and Symptoms of Excess Vata
The following can be an indication of a Vata imbalance:
- Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep
- Fear and anxiety
- Weight loss
- Dry and rough skin
- Feeling ungrounded
- Excess worry
- Sensitivity to cold
To decrease Vata and bring the body into balance, employ Ayurvedic dietary, lifestyle, and herbal strategies.
Diet is a key component of the Ayurvedic strategy for decreasing Vata and balancing the body. Below are some guidelines for which foods to favor and which to avoid:
- Sweet fruits such as mango, melons, and peaches
- Citrus fruits
- Cooked vegetables
- Asparagus, beets, carrots, cucumber, garlic, onion, green beans, zucchini
- Oats (cooked), rice, wheat
- Beef, chicken or turkey, fried or scrambled eggs
- Mung beans, tofu, and lentils
- Sweeteners (except white sugar)
- Dairy products
- Apples, pears, cranberries, pomegranate, and watermelon
- Dried fruits
- Raw vegetables
- Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, tomatoes
- Barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats (dry), rye
- Lamb, pork, rabbit, venison
- Legumes (except mung beans, tofu, and lentils)
- White sugar
Vata-Balancing Lifestyle Recommendations
Those with a Vata constitution are attracted to intense exercise such as running and cycling. However, this type of activity increases Vata and can be damaging to the joints, which are especially prone to injury in those with a Vata constitution. It is best to engage in daily gentle exercise such as walking and restorative yoga.
Vacations with a single destination in a warm, sunny climate are best for those with a Vata constitution. Locations at sea-levels are ideal. Sight-seeing and touring, which involve constant change and new experiences, aggravate Vata. It is best to fill days and nights with relaxing activities and to spend time being idle and enjoying beautiful scenery.
Herbs are an excellent accompaniment to dietary and lifestyle strategies for balancing your constitution. These are some of the best herbs for decreasing Vata:
Good for constipation, cleansing, and colon health
A rejuvenative herb, especially for the muscles and for Vata constitution; helpful for weight gain; one of the best herbs for calming and nurturing the mind
A combination of herbs to support the digestive process
A blend of herbs from Banyan Botanicals to naturally relax the muscles and calm the mind
A blend from Banyan Botanicals designed to decrease Vata and support overall health
More information about herbs to balance Vata can be found here.
Your constitution may shift as you move through life seasons and gain new experiences. It can be helpful to periodically test for your dominant dosha. If your constitution changes, you can then make adjustments to diet, lifestyle, and herbal supplementation accordingly.