Ayurveda is understood by the five elements found in our universe – Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. These energies are understood by the qualities that surround us in our environment known as the physical gunas: hot & cold, wet & dry, heavy & light, and mobile & stable.
Ether is cold, dry, light and stable. Air is cool, dry, light and mobile. Fire is hot, wet, light and mobile. Water is cool, wet, heavy and mobile, and Earth is cold, wet, heavy and stable.
In Ayurveda, the body is made up of three basic energies known as the doshas - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha - which govern our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual makeups. The Vata dosha consists of ether & air with the qualities of cold, dry, light and mobile, the Pitta dosha is a made up of fire & water with the qualities of hot, wet, light and mobile and the Kapha dosha is a combination of water & earth with the qualities of cold, wet, heavy and stable. Each of us has a unique combination of the doshas, which make up our constitution, one being prominent, one secondary and third less present.
Ayurveda also believes there are three seasons each year represented by these three doshas known as the Vata, Pitta and Kapha seasons. Each year these doshas go through three stages where they build and accumulate, then increase or aggravate and finally alleviate and rest.
This month we will be discussing the Vata dosha and season (October-January), which accumulates during the hot and dry summer months, then aggravates during the cold and dry fall months and finally alleviates in early winter and spring months when it is warm and moist.
The Vata dosha means, “that which moves” and provides the motion necessary for our physical, mental, and emotional processes. This dosha is sometimes called the king of doshas because without this the other doshas have no movement.
People with a more prominent Vata nature tend to be physically light, their bones are thin and their skin and hair are dry. They often move, think and speak quickly and, when out of balance, they tend to lose weight, can become constipated and are inclined to weakness in the immune and nervous systems.
Ayurveda uses the five sense therapies to treat imbalances, which include: Sight-color therapy and gemology, Hearing- mantras and chanting, Smell-aromatherapy, Taste-food, beverages, spices and herbs, and Touch, which include massage (abhyanga) and gemology.
In order to bring balance to Vata, programs are designed that emphasize the qualities of warmth, heaviness, moistness and stability. A grounding Vata diet would consist of foods that are sweet (heavy and wet), sour (hot, moist and heavy) and salty (warm, moist and heavy) are best. Good food choices are grains, rice, sweet fruits, most nuts, dairy products and warmer spices like ginger, cardamom and fenugreek.
With the air element predominant, the Vata dosha has a tendency of being ungrounded so creating a daily practice (Dinacharya) of opposite actions is advisable. Upon waking 5-10 minutes of seated meditation, self abhyanga (massage) with sesame oil, a warm shower and most important eating warm foods especially at breakfast which brings the qualities of warmth, heaviness, moisture and sweetness whose qualities will ground the natural tendencies of being cold, dry, light and mobile.
Ayurveda and Yoga are considered sister sciences both mentioned together in the Rig Veda (original texts of India), and in turn the practice of yoga, pranayama and meditation are very intertwined in our overall heath.
The grounding Vata yoga practice should be more warming, systematic and introspective without adding excess air element. Incorporating the earth element with standing and seated forward bending, as well as spinal twist and inversions, are beneficial. Extended backbends are not recommended because of the air element, but a longer savasana is imperative.
Holding poses longer will build core strength and increase flexibility, and using the breath will create presences, calmness and groundedness. Vata is centered in the colon and prone to constipation, so poses that compress the pelvis and engage the lower back and thighs will bring balance.
Pranayama (yogic breathing) practice should include Ujjayi, Viloma and Bhramari, which will bring calming, focus and warmth.
In order to bring balance to Vata, programs are designed that emphasize the qualities of warmth, heaviness, moistness, and stability. A grounding Vata diet would consist of foods that are sweet (heavy and wet), sour (hot, moist and heavy) and salty (warm, moist and heavy) are best. Good food choices are grains, rice, sweet fruits, most nuts, dairy products and warmer spices like ginger, cardamom, and fenugreek. ll ground the natural tendencies of being cold, dry, light and mobile.