Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Balancing Vata in Fall

As the seasons change, and the climate shifts to cooler days, you may notice changes in your body, your thoughts and your emotions.  The change of seasons influences people differently depending on the individual constitution that they were born with.  According to Ayurveda there are 3 vital bio-energies (doshas) that make up a person's constitution: vata, pitta, kapha - each made up of a combination of the 5 elements (earth, air, fire, water, space). 

The 3 doshas are not only found within us, but also exist around us in nature. As we prepare for fall, it is helpful to understand the impact that the change of the seasons can have on your health.  Fall is considered vata season because the qualities that characterize vata - dry and cold - are dominant at this time of the year.  The weather changes are apparent with colder days, dry wind, lightness in the air and crackling leaves. 

Characteristics of Vata

Vata is made up of the air and space elements and has the qualities of dry, cold, light, moving, irregular, subtle, rough and quick.

Vata loosely translates as "wind" and its function is movement - one can think of vata being their internal wind that keeps things moving. Vata body types are active and mobile, and they often find themselves doing many activities at once. Physically, those with a vata constitution tend to be thin with a light frame and energetic in bursts. They tend to be lively and creative when in balance. 

Functions of Vata

As vata is responsible for movement, some of the functions in the body include:
  • Circulation
  • Movement in the digestive tract
  • Sensory perception
  • Speech
  • Nerve impulses
  • Breathing
If any of these functions are not functioning optimally, it is likely that an imbalance with vata is involved.  Due to vata's mobile nature, it is the easiest dosha to experience imbalance. 

Common Health Conditions

Vata tends to become unbalanced and accumulates in the body and mind when there is too much Vata in our life. Irregular eating or sleeping, concerns with stress, erratic schedules, overstimulation and excess worry can contribute to a vata imbalance.  In addition, seasonal and weather changes can impact the balance of vata, pitta & kapha.  An excess of Vata can manifest in a variety of health concerns which include (but are not limited to): 
Though all individuals are susceptible to the changes brought on by fall, individuals with a constitution that is vata dominant, are more susceptible to aggravation as the environmental factors add to tendencies that already exist internally.  

To help keep vata in balance during fall, incorporating daily lifestyle routines and eating according to your constitution can ease the transition into the cold season. 

5 Suggestions to Balance Vata in Fall

The following suggestions are important for those with a Vata constitution, but are also valuable for other constitutions during the Vata seasons of fall and winter.

  • Stay warm: Dressing in layers and drinking warm liquids can help keep us warm as the temperatures dip.  Drink herbal teas during the day and incorporate nourishing soups, stews and broths. Avoid cold foods and excess raw food.
  • Eat a Vata-balancing diet: Choose seasonal foods that are organic and local, such as apples, squashes and root vegetables.  Warming spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and black pepper, can also be a great addition to your meals.  Flavours that are naturally sweet, salty & sour help pacify vata.
  • Establish routine: Fall can get busy and we are soon swept off our feet and find our heads buzzing with erratic schedules.  Waking up and sleeping at consistent times and eating meals at the same time each day can bring stability and help keep us grounded during fall.
  • Choose rejuvenating activities: Plan time in your schedule to get sufficient rest and relaxation time. Activities that are relaxing and rejuvenating, such as curling up with a book as you sip ginger tea, taking a hot bath with essential oils in the evening or embracing meditation into your routine, are valuable at this time. Plan to get to sleep earlier as the body needs more sleep in the winter than in the summer.
  • Enjoy oils: Healthy oils are essential in counteracting the dryness associated with fall. Internally, oils such as ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil, can pacify vata when added to your meals. Externally, warm oil massage (abhyanga) with oils can be a wonderful way to relax and nourish the skin. This can be done in the morning or evening on your own, or abhyanga can be done by a qualified practitioner with customized oils to suit your constitution.

Keeping the 3 doshas balanced within ourselves is vital in staying healthy as seasons change.  Ayurveda offers many tools to balance vata dosha.  Only when we understand our unique constitution can we do the necessary groundwork to stay healthy in fall.  When we can make changes that support our constitution, we can enjoy fall while staying healthy and energized ! 

If you would like a comprehensive healthcare plan which includes understanding your Ayurvedic constitution and how that impacts your health, you can book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia, ND, at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic: 905-940-2727.