Since I began studying and following Ayurveda, the ancient Eastern approach to a healthy life, I've been learning to navigate my imbalances - Vata in particular. This posting will help to shed some light on ways to counteract those imbalances. Balancing Pitta and Kapha will be future blog postings.
A few definitions to start - Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning science or knowledge of life. The three doshas or energy forces in nature (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) are made up of the five elements ether, air, fire, water and earth.
Vata (ether/air, wind, movement), Pitta (fire/water, transformation, digestion) and Kapha (earth/water, structure, stability) are the three doshas. We are each made up of all three doshas in differing degrees and amounts. Our physical and mental characteristics are reflective of our doshas from birth, called our constitution, and our current state, including imbalances.
I'm generally following a vata-pacifying lifestyle. This is a path of balancing vata with my habits, routines, and daily practices. In Ayurveda, adaptation of my lifestyle and being mindful of how I'm living from day to day—even in relatively simple or subtle ways—can help me return to or maintain balance.
Vata is an energetic force that is highly mobile and active, so when it is elevated, I'm usually over-committed, stressed-out, and sometimes exhausted. A sense of routine is potent medicine for balancing vata because it creates a number of anchor points throughout the day that serve to ground my energy, calm the nervous system, and disrupt the self-perpetuating cycles of stress and busy-ness that can overtake me even in the peaceful ashram setting of the Bahamas.
Every substance and experience I encounter has the potential to influence my health. Hence, there truly are an infinite number of ways to support my path toward balance.
Below are some tips that will give you the basic tools necessary to begin to adapt your lifestyle in favor of calming vata, if you should need it, like I often do.
Understanding which types of influences are most supportive is helpful.
Vata is soothed by experiences that are:
In general, it’s important to slow down, ground, and create a sense of routine and stability. Making time for rest, sweetness, deep nourishment, and meaning will be potent medicine in and of itself. Pacing yourself throughout your day, and experimenting with creating space and acceptance for self-care helps to release any attachment to spontaneity just long enough to experience the benefit of having a sense of routine in your life.
Another key balancer - each time you are presented with a new opportunity, be willing to pause and consider the real impact that saying 'yes' may have on you.
This is really needed and a difficult one for me. I tend to say 'yes' quickly and
far more often than I should.
Environmentally, it is best to insulate yourself from intensely cold or windy weather. Cooked, nourishing foods are Vata-pacifying as well.
Keep in mind that just one or two intentional shifts can have a dramatic impact, and that it is important not to over-extend yourself. This is a perfect opportunity to embrace going slow, being intentional, and remaining open to the possibility that less may truly be more. What’s important is to follow consistently, and to keep things as simple as possible.
Ayurveda advocates for daily routines. An appropriate daily routine is one of the single most powerful Ayurvedic tools for improving overall health and well-being. This holds true even when we're in near perfect health.
To be a real game changer, consistency is highly important. No fanaticism is needed, but creating predictability as an anchor to the nervous system that creates a feeling of normalcy, security and safety is key.
Your routine might be as simple as waking and going to bed at the same times each day, or it might be more elaborate. Elaborate or simple, it should only include elements that you can successfully engage with on a regular basis.
Consistent practices might include sleep and wake times, meal times, and work schedules. You might also want to consider consciously committing to more rest than you might think you need. Sleep deprivation often accompanies Vata imbalances.
Yoga asana (postures) practice, Pranayama (breathing exercises), Moderate exercise and Awareness will all benefit and can be Vata-pacifying. Not overdoing, and intentionally creating a sense of warmth, grounding, serenity and nourishment in your practices is the overall approach to take. Being careful to not get chilled, allowing movements to be slow, steady and graceful, and embracing fluidity in movements for joints and the spine that are grounding and stabilizing - nourishing and strength building, rather than depleting of energy.
Avoid exercising between 2–6 a.m. and 2-6 p.m., when a natural lightness, clarity, and transitional energy in the atmosphere can be especially vata-provoking. 6-10 a.m. would be an ideal time to exercise. To work on this imbalance, exercise is generally best done at about 50% of capacity, and exercising outdoors can be nourishing and effective. Allow time to rest and recover.
Alternate Nostril Breathing, Bhramari or Humming Bee Breath are two impactful pranayama practices that soothe and pacify the mind and nervous system. These practices also help to support sound sleep and can dramatically improve our state of mind and overall well being.
An overall awareness practice helps us to develop an attitude toward life that fosters and nurtures well being and balance. Intentionally filling our days with supportive experiences and limiting those experiences that are not, will lead to powerful healing.
Bringing qualities of nurturing, soothing, calm into our daily lives through our foods, yoga, pranayama and exercise practices will be the most effective to encourage a return to balance.
Peace and Love to each of you,