The three fundamental concepts in Ayurveda are:
- Food is medicine.
- Disease can be prevented and eradicated by changing one’s daily habits.
- Lifestyle recommendations are based on an individual’s physical-mental-emotional blueprint, or dosha.
The ancient texts of Ayurveda identify three fundamental physical-mental-emotional types, or doshas, that are present in everyone. Each person has characteristics of all three doshas, but one dosha is usually most dominant, one secondary, and the third least prominent. The original Sanskrit words for the three doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Disease is caused by either an excess or deficiency of Vata, Pitta, or Kapha.
Vata represents movement for all bodily processes. It is considered the “king” of the three doshas because of its ability to move the other two doshas. Vata’s characteristics are dry, light, quick, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, and clear. On a seasonal basis, Vata is most prominent in the fall and at the change of each season. Because Vata is always in motion, one of the basic principles for balancing Vata is to create regularity in one’s daily routine to help ground all its moving energy. That is why meditation is an effective way to reduce Vata.
Vata individuals have the benefit of a quick mind, flexibility, and creativity. They usually grasp concepts quickly, but also forget them just as quickly. Vata individuals are alert, restless, and always moving. They tend to walk, talk, and think fast. Because of this constant state of movement, they often become easily fatigued. Vata people tend to be thin, have prominent bones, small frames, dry skin, and cold extremities.
Vata individuals also tend to have less willpower, confidence, and tolerance for fluctuation than the other doshas. They can easily feel unstable or ungrounded in the midst of change. When out of balance, Vata individuals become fearful, nervous, and anxious. In finances, they tend to earn money quickly and spend it quickly. Vata individuals are often not good long-term planners because of their tendency to change. Vata people tend to be the most slender of the three body types. Vata people can actually find it difficult to gain weight. Physically, Vata individuals are thin with prominent bony structures. They tend to be cold all the time, have dry skin and hair, and have little muscle tone. Vata skin will also tends to be pale and thin due to the tendency towards poor circulation associated with this dosha.
Vata individuals have fluctuating appetite and digestion—sometimes feeling ravenously hungry and other times forgetting to eat altogether. Vata types are balanced by warm, cooked foods and sweet, sour, and salty tastes. However, they are often attracted to foods that aggravate Vata, such as salads, cold foods/drinks, and raw foods. With a tendency towards dryness, their bowel movements are often hard, dry, and in small quantities.
Vata individuals also tend to produce little sweat or urine. In the body, Vata resides in the colon, brain, ears, bones, joints, skin, and thighs. Vata people tend to be more susceptible to diseases involving the principle of air (i.e., emphysema, pneumonia), arthritis, gas, tics/twitches, dry skin and hair, neurological conditions, constipation, and mental confusion. Vata increases with age and is more prominent during the fall and at the change of seasons. Activities that increase Vata—such as frequent travel, constant stimulation, exposure to loud noises or bright lights, consumption of caffeine, drugs, alcohol, or excessive sugar—should be minimized.
Since Vata individuals tend to be more prone to addictions, they need to be particularly careful about the consumption of caffeine, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and sugar.
Vata individuals have a hard time maintaining routine and staying grounded but regular routine is essential for balancing Vata. Vata types fatigue easily and often need more sleep, so going to bed by 10 pm is essential to maintaining balance. However, when
Vata individuals are out of balance they often suffer from insomnia. The Vata dosha is most balanced by warm, moist, oily foods. Daily massage, steam baths, humidifiers, and moisture are also helpful in balancing Vata.
Dietary Recommendations for Vata
Warm, well-cooked, oily foods balance Vata. Regularity in meal times is vital to keeping Vata under control. They can eat more oils in their diets than Pitta and Kapha individuals and they need to limit their intake of raw foods. Meals such as soups, stews, and casseroles are ideal for Vata types. Ideal breakfast choices for Vata are well-cooked oats and rice with lots of water and ghee (clarified butter). Fruits that have been stewed in water with added ghee are also another great option for breakfast. Cooked vegetables are best for lunch and dinner.
Nightshades—tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers—should be avoided, especially if a Vata individual has stiff, aching joints or muscles. Sweet, ripe, and juicy fruits are good for Vata.
Good sources of protein for Vata individuals are dairy products, eggs, chicken, turkey, and fresh fish. Legumes can be difficult to digest for Vata people so they should be consumed in limited amounts. The legumes should be of the split variety and should be soaked for several hours before cooking. Vata types tend to have a very sensitive digestive system. Cooking with spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, and hing (asafetida) helps Vata individuals better digest their food. All nuts and seeds are good for Vata, but soaking or roasting them will make them easier to digest.
All oils are good for Vata as well, especially sesame oil and ghee. All dairy products, with the exception of hard cheeses, are also good for Vata.