Ayurvedic Medicine, General Wellness, Lifestyle

Vata Balancing in Fall & Winter

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Snow In Autumn by Garett Gabriel
"“Time, nature, necessity, accident, elements, energy, intelligence – None of these can be the First Cause. They are effects, whose only purpose is to help the Self rise above pleasure and pain.” Upanishads."  Upanishads
Vata kapha pitta_Vata Balancing in Fall Winter

When the leaves change colors, fall from their branches, and drift away across the landscape, we are witnessing Vata in nature – the energy of movement. When the summer flowers finish their lifespan, become dry and rough, and return to the earth as primary elements we can understand the Vata characteristic of aging, cycling, and satisfying the grasp of time over matter. And when a deer leaps, a bird flits about, or a squirrel moves in and out of his branch home with winter stock, we can see Vata at work in wildlife. Without this energy which can move things, the other doshas – Pitta (growth) and Kapha (strength) cannot operate and our world would come to a standstill.

By watching nature unfold in this season, we can come to understand how Vata and its companion energies animate us. Nature has so much to teach us about our own constitution (doshas), and what happens when it falls out of balance. For example, in June of this year, a farmer in South Dakota lost his tractor to a tornado, and found it again in Montana! And in July the very vata Berylhurricane moved nine inches of water from the ocean to the capital of Puerto Rico, displacing thousands. Vata energy facilitates the mobility of destruction, birth, and growth – without favor.

Simple definitions

If Charaka, the father of Ayurveda (Indian Medicine), was correct that man is a microcosm of nature (recorded in 300 BCE) then what we need to know about balancing our bodies and retaining wellness is all around us, even in weather calamities. The five basic elements have conspired to create our bodies, and are managed by the doshas, the three energies which animate all matter on this planet. Wellness begins with balancing these energies.

Our seasons present such an opportunity, each having distinct characteristics. Spring is kapha with its cool rain; summer is pitta – hot, and Fall/winter is vata with its dry and cold climates. The characteristics of each season inspires unique responses from our bodies, supporting or compromising the balance of our doshas. We are constantly within this struggle – to live here with health and happiness though the environment persistently threatens to send our doshas off-kilter. To avoid illness or the expression of unwanted symptoms, we can make some small adjustments to our lifestyle to keep the doshas in equilibrium.

The Vata Fall & Winter

Is you Body Vata out of balance?

Fall and winter change the Earth. Long days of cold, dry climate forces wildlife and vegetation into hibernation, the promising dormancy that precedes everything wonderful and new. September, October, and November are the most challenging months for your vata energy because this energy requires opportunities for evolution and progress. Forced to come in off the beach and return to solitude and focused productivity, creative instincts are corralled together with freedom thinking and the eternal optimism that you will indeed take over the world. This abrupt shift can bring about mental and physical incongruences that could manifest quickly as general instability, viruses, change in weight, and dry patches on the skin and feet.

But getting back in the box doesn’t require your vata energies to give up the ghost and wait for Spring. Just as you swam and sunned at the beach last summer, your internal mind and body also require a little worship. Vata has supreme control of the air which moves between the heart region and the eyebrows. This is why there’s an epidemic of common colds the minute the sweaters come out of the attic. So it’s time to prepare for three glorious months of heart and voice-centered serenity and self-care.

Balancing Vata in the body

To see vata in balance in nature, watch a cloud moving slowly across the sky, or listen to leaf song as the breeze moves softly through the trees releasing our precious oxygen. Sit beside a moving creek and see the small fish continuously in motion, touching each other gently as they glide through the soft waves. Harmony is all about us offering a multitude of drishti (focused gaze) that might inspire our own vata energy to synchronize with the marvels of this place, our temporary gift.

When vata is in balance in you, your body systems move normally and comfortably. You don’t sleep much, maybe 6 hours a night, rising early in the morning. And sometimes, you read three books all at once!

Pillars of balanced Vata

People with a vata predominant nature do well in warmer environments – they keep balanced and healthy. But in the Fall and winter they can get uncomfortable fast, can get chilled to the bone and become sad and quiet. But you don’t have to be vata predominant to suffer, because we all have all three doshas working together in our bodies all the time. Depending on your own unique constitution, winter might increase your sense of harmony or stir up nascent tendencies toward excessive reclusiveness, undereating, too much exercise, or starting a lot of projects that will never get finished.

If you feel your body’s vata is indeed depressed, making a few of these adjustments could help.

Diet

  • Increase intake of naturally sweet, sour and salty foods
  • Eat warm, cooked foods
  • Add warming herbs & spices to all your meals: ginger, cumin, cinnamon
  • Drink warm fluids
  • Increase intake of high quality oils and butter
  • Eat slowly, resting while sitting up afterwards
  • Eat in peaceful, beautiful, warm environment
  • Eat at regular times. Vata’s benefit from 4 small meals daily: 7 a.m., noon, 4:00 tea, 6:00

Yoga

Adopt a few grounding asanas to your daily practice:

Paschimotanasna
  • Makarasana (crocodile)
  • Paschimotanasna (seated forward fold)
  • Padmasana (lotus pose)

Lifestyle

  • Stay warm
  • Massage yourself daily with warm sesame oil
  • Wear natural, soft fabrics
  • Take gentle exercise like walking, yoga, or Tai Chi
  • Keep a consistent schedule
  • Bed by 10 PM. Get around 6 hours sleep. Rise immediately in the morning upon waking.
  • Plan your most important work between 2:00-6:00 when your energy is highest

Balancing the Vata Mind

Vata mind graph

When vata is balanced in the mind, you can be very spiritual, intuitive, easy to learn, creative and charming. You are comfortable being alone, working independently. You are often asked for advice from friends and feel comfortable offering your thoughts and stories. But when vata is excessive because it has no productive outlet, it turns inward causing a rift in your personality. Think of it like trying to contain a wild antelope in your purse. He’s going to cause some damage.

Happily, righting this misdirected enthusiasm might be as easy as providing direction for its innate vitality. I know that for myself, if I am not writing(usually poetry) consistently, the wild antelope in my purse will cause great discomfort in my left hip joint and lower back. I once had a patient in my clinic in Rajasthan who presented with an uncontrolled rash covering the whole of her left leg. Steroids hadn’t halted it in 2 years. Through discussion I learned that the rash had started when she moved into a smaller house, sacrificing her art studio. When she started painting again, the rash subsided. Whatever your outlet it, use it! Here are some other suggestions to keep the vata energy positively working toward your increased mental stability.

  • Add organic scents to your infuser, or essential oil for the body : lavender, clary sage, basil, orange, rose, geranium, clove, patchouli, vanilla
  • Use more warming colors in decorating and summer clothing: yellow, orange, green, purple
  • Find sounds that gives the overactive vata energy of the mind something to focus on and follow, such as mellow, deep, soft music with strings, chimes, or the didgeridoo from Australia
  • Hang withKapha friends – very grounded and realistic
  • Don’t listen to your Pitta friends who tell you to follow the rules and march in step with them, at their speed. This is not possible and not advisable.
  • Find a meditation technique that suits you best. Find a qualified teacher to teach you a few options.

As a devoted student of Ayurveda, balancing the doshas is the supreme focus of my own lifestyle and education I provide clients. As a Vata predominant person, I can now recognize the wisdom that my overactive imagination offers when it hijacks me at inopportune moments. With these few changes, we can all remain in balance this winter and dramatically increase our enjoyment of the season.

The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

References

Textbook of Ayurveda Fundamental Principles, by Vasant Lad, 2002

Ayurveda: A Life of Balance, by Maya Tiwari, 1994

Shreejan Sita

Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist, and Director of Yoga Programs at Shri Jasnath Asan (ashram) in Rajasthan, India where she brings visitors to an annual Yoga Lifestyle Workshop in December. On Amazon, you can read a chapter Water the Seed: The Shocking Statistic That Transformed My Health Forever, from her upcoming book of wellness-seeking adventures in Rajasthan where she worked & studied for five years. Or learn some traditional Rajasthani cooking from Yogi Recipe Book: From Our Ashram Kitchen from her first in a series of cookbooks. linkedin/shreejansita| shree@sitawellness.com
Shreejan Sita

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