LIGHT + ENERGETIC: VATA
Notes compiled in collaboration with holistic nutrition intern Sara R., who shares details about the pitta life force here.
Vata as air, lightness, breath.
Vata is movement. This life force nourishes fluidity, with a focus on the nervous system and elimination. Those who identify strongly with vata tend to be more energetic and creative. They are always on the go, always in motion, and as a result can be easily fatigued (both physically and mentally). When vata is imbalanced or aggravated, one's sleep can suffer (ie. insomnia), digestion is easily compromised, and other issues can arise, such as weight loss, constipation (think: lack of movement), arthritis and immobility, anxiety and worry, as well as overall restlessness.
Here are a few of the physical attributes that can identify as vata:
- slim figure
- thin, dry hair
- weaker boned
- skin is cold, rough, dry
- erratic appetite
- hands and feet often cold
Note: Because each individual is a unique combination of life forces, not everyone with these characteristics will necessarily be vata; these characteristics are just one piece of the puzzle, and will likely overlap with attributes from the other life forces, Pitta and Kapha.
Nourishment to release instability, get grounded.
Unlike pitta, which has very strong digestion, vata has a much more sensitive digestive system. Because vata is intolerant to cold, dry weather, it is important to consume foods, which are warm and moist. Soup, stews, and teas are incredibly nourishing for vata's sensitive digestion and cooler thermostat. It is best to avoid too many raw foods, as these can increase vata and create an imbalance. Eating too many raw salads, for instance, can actually impart excess vata for some individuals and aggravate vata-specific symptoms, such as physical chill, dryness, and even mental instability. Cooked vegetables, whether steamed, stewed, or roasted, are a much better option when trying to manage the vata life force.
Easily excited; the sensitive, feminine, creative one.
On a cognitive level, those with vata dominance are blessed with a quick-to-think mind, can be incredibly mindful, and are often creative. However, vata also tends to be more susceptible to experiencing anxiety and even fear. It is therefore important that vata types include calming activities in their day to day routine. This can be different for everyone, but for vata types it is easy to feel unstable and insecure, both within the body and mind. It is imperative to create opportunities each day for grounding; these are opportunities that can help to manage feelings of instability, physically and mentally. This may mean incorporating a mindfulness practice of meditation, restorative yoga, or journaling. Nutritionally, drinking herbal teas, like chamomile or valerian root, can be very calming to the nervous system. When consumed in moderation, warm, cooked whole grains like basmati or brown rice can also be very nourishing for vata.
I am of pitta-vata constitution, and express both life forces harmoniously, depending on what is happening throughout my environment, internally and externally. Mentally, I shift back and forth between my deeply emotional pitta, which has improved significantly through much of my personal work on learning to let go and cultivating self-acceptance... and the instability of my vata, which also requires daily management of feelings of anxiety and fear-filled thoughts. We're all human, hey?
The right kind of exercise can be a vata’s best friend. Lighter forms of exercise that help to provide stability and grounding are beneficial for vata — think yoga or tai chi. Dancing can also be great for vatas, as it exercises both the body and mind, creatively. But even the right kind of weight lifting could be really beneficial for vata, as this can activate major muscle groups and encourage nourishment of the nervous system. If you're unsure where to start in the strength training department (or any new form of exercise, really), it's best to always consult a strength coach or professional well-equipped with the knowledge and expertise to help guide you. I have plenty of resources for this kind of thing, so please let me know if you'd like more guidance.
Routine is incredibly beneficial for vata types, who seek stability and structure for balance. Implement morning and night routines, eat at regular times (assuming digestion and appetite are both adequate), and create space for rest and relaxation to replenish and revive vata's spurts of energy. Take time for you.
For notes about Pitta, see here. Stay tuned for notes on Kapha, plus some of my favourite ways to incorporate Ayurvedic practices into the everyday.