Yoga For Your Doshas: Vata
Being in the middle of the cold Vata season of the year, it is no coincidence that low energy is a common thread among many. If you suffer from low energy and lack of motivation you may know just what I’m referring to.
What does it mean?
For those of us who are aware of our inner and outer surroundings, it’s important to realize that we don’t all function the same way. We are all very different; not just in the way we look and feel, but on an entirely molecular and functional level as well. The ancient sister science to yoga, Ayurveda, has realized the need to not apply one cure to all, but to differentiate between different body mind types, the Doshas.
Each Dosha has unique qualities and challenges. To get the best results in any kind of lifestyle choice–be that food, exercise, even yoga and meditation–it is helpful to know which predominant Dosha you are and how to make adjustments that are sustainable based on this knowledge.
The Ayurvedic Doshas are assigned to elements found in nature; Vata is associated with air and space, Pitta with fire and water, and Kapha with water and earth. These elements lend each Dosha their characteristics.
Pitta tends to be a strong-willed and hot-headed type; Kapha is sturdy, grounded and easy going; and Vata is changeable and variable in many ways, be that emotions, career, health regimes and energy levels.
In part one of this series, I want to introduce to you the Vata Dosha.
In general, Vata is happiest when warm, be that living in a warmer climate or bundling up with layers of sweaters and blankets when the colder seasons hit. Ayurvedic warm oil massages, such as Abhayangha, are very beneficial for keeping muscles and joints well lubricated and nourished and for preventing the skin from drying out and cracking. Steam therapy or saunas are also beneficial.
Vata is most aggravated in the fall and early winter. This is a good time to stay inside, reflect and nurture yourself with plenty of rest, nourishing and warm foods, gentle yoga and light activity.
Vata and Food
The characteristics of Vata are dry, cold, rough, subtle, light and mobile. The flavors that enhance Vata and increase these qualities are bitter, pungent and astringent. So naturally, to balance Vata we want to avoid foods with these qualities. Vata will benefit from foods that naturally have sweet, salty, and sour flavors, and are heavy in quality. Sweet potatoes, seawater fish, sweet and sour fruit, and root vegetables are great choices for the Vata person. It is also important for Vata to get plenty of good quality oils and fats in their diet to counter the inherent dryness of Vata. Lightly cooked and steamed foods with plenty of spices are easy to digest and will help warm up this cold type.
Vata and Exercise
Vata tends to have bursts of energy throughout the day. We often see Vata types involved in high intensity activity such as running, cycling or triathlons. Vata people love extreme sports and they can be adrenaline junkies. Yet to balance Vata, all these kinds of activities, though fun, are not the most beneficial. Movements that require focus, increase core heat, challenge balance and are multi-functional make best use of Vata’s energy. The plank hold is a classic example of an exercise perfect for the Vata type. It requires focus, increases core temperature, uses Vata’s variable energy wisely without overexerting the adrenal system, and the plank can be made more challenging if performed one legged, one armed, or with arms or feet resting on a Bosu Ball.
The Vata Mind: Meditation
Vata has a very busy mind. When you think of the monkey mind, think Vata. This person’s thoughts will be all over the place and may jump back and forth between last night’s dreams, shopping lists, and conversations had or to be had. If you find yourself to be a Vata type, you might consider a form of meditation that will keep your mind busy, focused on one object. Counting your breath or Japa Anusthana (Mantra meditation using a Mala or Rosary) will work best for you as it gives your mind a steady focal point.
The Vata Yogi
Similar to other exercise, the Vata person will do well with a style of yoga that allows for longer holds that don’t tax the adrenal system. Try some challenging poses, balances and styles that engage the mind. If you are a Vata person, you may enjoy a traditional Hatha Yoga practice or a practice that will involve your mind and spirit, such as Jivamukti Yoga. You will also greatly benefit from Restorative Yoga that gives your nervous system a break.
Poses that are particularly beneficial for Vata are asanas that stimulate energy flow while taking a load off the lower back, floor poses and spinal flexion, such as Urdhva Danurasana (floor bow pose), Bhujangasana (cobra pose) and Urdhva Mukha Savasana (upward facing dog pose).
You can see that knowing which Dosha type you are can help you live a more balanced, healthier and fulfilled life.
Stay tuned for part two and three of this series to learn about Pitta and Kapha Dosha.
What's your Ayurvedic dosha? Take this quiz and find out
The balance of your Ayurvedic doshas, also known as prakruti, is a key part of understanding your holistic health.
Doshas are the three energies found in nature, and also in the human body. They are broken down into three types: vata, pitta and kapha. The doshas are responsible over our bodies, minds, emotions, and thoughts. From birth, we are each individually made with a very specific blend of the five basic elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. That unique blend is your prakruti, or what uniquely constitutes your individual body, and can be broken down by a combination of the three doshas: vata (ether + air), pitta (fire + water), and kapha (water + earth).
The three doshas are the building blocks to understanding our prakruti, and once you understand which is your dominant dosha, you can know what your balanced state looks like. This is vital, as through this lens you can spot exactly when your body goes out of balance, and how to bring it back into balance. Humans are being of nature, constructed from the same five elements, and thus can use the opposing elements as needed to bring us back into balance.
It all hinges on knowing your doshas, however. You can get a general sense of where your dosha balance lies, and go from there to correct the problems. You can even seek out the help of an Ayurvedic practitioner, who can take a look at your insights and prescribe anything from food and herbs to a new lifestyle. Thanks, Ayurveda!
Tally up the number of v’s, p’s, and k’s you receive (standing for vata, pitta, and kapha), whichever you have the most of is your dominant dosha:
- v) I am a slender person and I hardly gain weight
- p) I am medium build
- k) I am well built and I gain weight no matter what I do
- v) My skin is dry, thin, and itches often
- p) My skin looks flushed; I have lots of moles and freckles on my body
- k) My skin is smooth and soft, it looks pale sometimes
- v) My hair is dry, thin and brittle
- p) My hair is neither dry nor oily (for men: I have a receding hairline)
- k) My hair is thick, full, lustrous, and slightly oily
- v) My face is oval
- p) My face is triangular (pointed chin, prominent jaw line)
- k) My face is round
- v) My eyes are small; they feel dry often and have a bit of dullness (usually brown)
- p) My eyes are medium in shape; sharp & penetrating (usually blue)
- k) My eyes are big and round in shape, full eyelashes
- v) My hands are generally dry, rough; slender fingers; dry nails
- p) My hands are generally moist, pink; medium fingers; soft nails
- k) My hands are generally firm, thick; thick fingers; strong & smooth nails
- v) My joints are small, prominent bones, and often crack
- p) My joints are medium and loose
- k) My joints are large, sturdy, with lots of muscle surrounding
- v) I am a very active person (always on the go, mind constantly thinking)
- p) I like to think before I do anything
- k) I am steady and graceful (I don’t like to rush)
- v) I walk fast and talk fast
- p) My actions are very thoughtful and precise
- k) I like a slower pace and I take my time to accomplish things
- v) I do not sleep soundly at night. I tend to toss and turn. I wake up early in the morning
- p) I am a light sleeper but if something wakes me up, I can go back to sleep easily
- k) I am a heavy sleeper
- v) Varies, sometimes I feel hungry, sometimes not, I feel anxious if I don’t eat
- p) I always feel hungry. If I don’t eat I get irritable and angry
- k) I don’t feel very hungry. I can go without food easily for a day
12. Bowel Movement
- v) I tend to have constipation and can go a day or two without a bowel movement
- p) I am regular and sometimes stools are loose (tend to get diarrhea)
- k) I have no problem. I wake up to go to the bathroom.
- v) My voice tends to be weak or hoarse
- p) I have a strong voice, I may get loud sometimes
- k) My voice is deep, has good tone
- v) I am a born worrier, I often feel anxious and nervous
- p) If things don’t happen my way, I feel irritable and angry
- k) I am a happy person, very caring and loving
15. Weather Preference
- v) I love warm and humid weather
- p) I enjoy cool weather, I dislike a warm climate
- k) I like warm but dry weather
- v) I sweat little but not much
- p) I sweat profusely and it might have an unpleasant odor
- k) I never sweat, unless working very hard
- v) I remember quickly and forget quickly
- p) I remember what I want to remember and never forget
- k) It takes me a while to remember, but once I do I never forget
- v) I tend to be spontaneous
- p) I am a list maker. Unless I plan, I don’t do anything
- k) I don’t like to plan, I prefer to follow others
- v) I like to do things in spurts and I get tired very easily
- p) I have medium stamina
- k) I can work long hours and maintain good stamina
- v) My mind gets restless and racing easily
- p) I get impatient easily
- k) It takes a lot to make me mad. I usually feel very calm
21. Decision Making
- v) I change my mind more often and will take time to make a decision
- p) I can make a decision easily and stick with it
- k) I want others to make the decisions
- v) “Is it too late to change my mind”?
- p) “It’s my way or the highway”
- k) “Don’t worry, be happy!”
- v) I like action
- p) I like to win
- k) I like to have fun
24. Health Problems
- v) My symptoms are mainly pain, constipation, anxiety and depression
- p) I often get skin infections, fevers, heart burn, and hypertension
- k) I tend to get allergies, congestion, weight gain and digestive problems
- v) I like art (drawing, painting, dance) and travel
- p) I like sports, politics, and things that get my adrenaline pumping
- k) I like nature, gardening, reading, and knitting