- Vata - composed of air and space (or ether)
- Pitta - composed of fire and water
- Kapha - composed of water and earth
All three doshas are needed for the functioning of the human body and all three co-exist and work together. However, when one is off balance, the other doshas can also be affected in how they function.
Read: The 3 Doshas of Ayurveda
Vata being light and airy, controls your breath, circulation and all movement, including the elimination portion of the digestive system.
Vata is also known as the king dosha because without Vata, the other doshas cannot move or do what they need to do.
Pitta and Kapha follow the direction of Vata. If Vata is unable to flow correctly, then that would affect how Pitta and Kapha work.
Each dosha also has sub-doshas, which are more detailed as to the functions of the individual main doshas.
The primary sub-dosha of Vata is Prana, or the breath.
The breath, we all know, is essential for life as we all need oxygen to function and therefore is considered to be the first to move.
Prana Vata ensures that the brain, lungs and heart get all the oxygen it needs to support the intellect, sensory organs, and even consciousness. Aside from breathing, other functions of Prana Vata include sneezing and swallowing.
Next is Udana Vata, which is known for its upward movement. Udana Vata controls speech, including the sound, your energy, strength, and memory.
Samana Vata fans and controls the digestive fire known as Agni.
Apana Vata has downward movement and controls all elimination within the body.
Lastly is Vyana Vata which moves in all different directions, and controls general movements of the body, including blinking, stretching, and circulation.
As you can see from the various functions of Vata and its subdoshas, Vata is always on the move.
In some cases, Vata is meant to flow upwards, sometimes downwards, and other times it moves all over the place.
Signs of an Unsettled Vata
The lightness of Vata means that it can be easily thrown off balance and you can feel quite unsettled really quickly. Some signs and symptoms of having a Vata imbalance include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Having excessive thoughts
- Feeling scattered
- Feeling anxious
- Having dry or itchy skin
- Feeling bloated
- Constantly changing bowel habits
- Having dry or brittle hair and nails
- Constantly feeling cold.
The bigger question here is how do you settle an unsettled Vata? Here are my top five tips to pacify Vata and bring yourself back into balance.
1. Have a Routine
Vata loves structure and loves it when you are predictable.
In an ideal Vata balancing routine, you would have a regular bedtime and be asleep by 10:00PM, then wake before 6:00AM. If these hours are not suitable, it is best to still try and establish a regular bedtime and wake time.
Additionally, you want to aim to have your meals at about the same time every day and avoid having to run around too much. Planning your day in advance can be quite calming and soothing for your Vata.
2. Manage High Stress
What annoys Vata more than a lack of routine is stress. When your body is chronically stressed, your sympathetic nervous system goes into over drive mode and constantly sends off the “fight-or-flight” response to help manage your perceived levels of stress.
Since the nervous system is governed by Vata, this means that Vata is overwhelmed with all the excessive communication and signals that the nervous system is firing off.
Therefore, it is ideal to have some tools that can help you manage your stress levels.
For example yoga, meditation, relaxation, journaling, colouring, walking, exercise, arts and crafts are just some techniques that can help you relax and reduce your stress levels.
3. Have Warm Food
Vata by nature is cold and dry due to the combination of air and space. Those who are Vata aggravated tend to either feel cold all the time or have cooler hands and feet.
The best way to counter this and nourish Vata is by having warm and oily foods.
Cooked foods are easier to digest and the warmth is soothing. Soups, stews, stir-fries, roasted vegetables, and essentially organic and wholesome food is nourishing and satisfying for Vata.
When cooked with healthy oils and spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, a feeling of warmth will overcome the excessive feeling of cold.
4. Favour sweet, sour, and salty tastes
There are six tastes in Ayurveda, which are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.
A Vata-pacifying diet consists of foods which are naturally sweet, sour or salty.
For example, naturally sweet foods includes beetroot, carrots, sweet potato, bananas, mangoes, dates, rice, and almonds.
Sour foods include lemon, grapefruit, yogurt, cheese, pickles, and tomatoes.
Salty foods include anything with added salt. In addition, celery, seaweed, and cottage cheese naturally contain high amounts of salt.
5. Do Breathing Exercises
Given the fact that Vata is the king dosha and Prana Vata is the vital life force, breathing exercises, such as Pranayama are excellent for pacifying and settling Vata.
Any exercise that focuses on your breath, will help to reduce your stress levels and allow you to feel a sense of calmness which will bring stability back to Vata.
An unsettled Vata can really make you feel off balance and quite scattered. The above points will help to keep Vata in balance because when Vata is happy, Pitta and Kapha will also be content.