Updated: Aug 7, 2019
The feel of the slight crispy chill of the morning air, and the cooler touch of the autumn sun, tell us that it is now the time for the season's change. Autumn season, from September until December, with its transition from the heat and intensity of summer (pitta season) into the gusty autumn of vata season. Leaves are falling to the ground... such beauty in decay. The time of the harvest equinox has passed, nature starts to slow and change Her colours, as days get shorter. All this can easily be observed in our environment and the great beauty of Ayurveda is to use our powers of observation.
Fall is a time of movement and drying out, stripping down and turning over, all qualities of air and ether—vata dosha. Being mindful of our physical environment helps us to identify with the inner world and notice what challenges the seasonal change brings to our physiology. The elements of air and ether, that of vata, can make it challenging to keep our physiology balanced during autumn season. Ayurveda informs us that it is much harder to balance air and either, than the denser elements of water and earth... so it is wise to pay extra attention to pacifying vata during these times. Vata dosha is known as the "king of all doshas," because it governs prana (life force) in the body, which is responsible for all movements within the body. Also, during awakening, vata imbalances are a very common occurrence... so why not address this preventively, by implementing lifestyle and dietary changes, which will protect our health and well being throughout the winter?
So we have identified the external dosha at play this season but how does this relate to my internal environment? The three doshas express our physiologic, mental and emotional individuality, and were handed down to us by our parents at the time of conception. We are all three doshas yet one or two will be predominant, rarely you will be tridoshic meaning all three doshas will be in balance. Otherwise you are either Vata or Pitta or Kapha dosha. Or a dual doshic type with a predominant dosha and a second dosha which easily gets out of balance, ie: Vata-Pitta, Vata-Kapha, Pitta-Vata, Pitta-Kapha, Kapha-Vata, Kapha-Pitta. The minority are those who are clearly one dosha have it easy as they are balancing just a dosha yet still having to understand & navigate the seasonal influences. Those with dual doshas have to be more aware of which dosha they need to pacify in order to maintain harmony and balance.
Sensing the Doshas Within
One of the saddest things in today's world is that we seek advice from professionals who know little or nothing about us when things go wrong. However, when we apply the tool of Ayurveda, we get to know our own body's cycles and needs by just observing our internal environment (our thoughts, our feelings, physical changes in our bodies, etc.). So it is important to stay present for ourselves so that we can become our best diagnostician and healer. Let's delve deeper into our understanding of the doshas. If you have not yet tested your dosha makeup with a vidya (Ayurvedic doctor), you can take the quiz provided for a quick understanding.
Ayurveda provides the tools through which we can recognise our own doshic balances—or lack thereof—in the way they express at each given moment, through our bodies, minds, and emotions. Let's briefly explore each of the doshas.
Vata is a combination of space and air, and vata people will usually have slim light body frame with bright smallish eyes. They will express a light and changeable mood. When out of balance dryness of the skin, dry hair, brittle nails, teeth are usually uneven and eyes are dry. Skin is rough and dry and is expressed in the bowel as constipation. In the mental realm, vata governs clarity, comprehension and perception, a quickness to grasp and adapt; however, when imbalanced, creates a restless, racing mind, inability to make decisions or think clearly. In the emotional domain it rules subtle feelings; a balanced vata individual can be bright, joyful, and fun to be with; however, when imbalanced, vata brings about anxiety, fear, restlessness and mental instability. Thus, if we observe the state of our physiology, thoughts and feelings, we can easily develop an understanding of when our vata dosha is out of balance, and needs to be pacified.
Pitta is made up of fire and water, and its qualities are hot, sharp, light, oily, and sour. The light quality is expressed by a medium muscular frame, a sensitivity to light, and a sharp, brilliant mind. Sour saliva, acid digestion, oily skin, prone to rashes and redness/inflammation, bleeding tendencies such as gums and nose, typical of pitta predominant individuals. If these qualities sound familiar, it is likely that you are pitta dosha predominant. Pitta, when imbalanced can induce a tendency toward emotions such as irritability and anger, as well as the the undesirably quality of jealousy, competitiveness and aggression. When these mental and emotional expressions arise within us, as well as rashes, increased indigestion, heartburn, bleeding from the nose or gums, we can learn to become aware that our pitta is out of balance, and is in need of pacification.
Kapha, The predominant elements of this dosha are water and earth, which express as the qualities of heavy, cold, slow, oily, soft, dense, cloudy and thick. They are seen in the body as heavy body frame with dense muscles, the tendency toward a chubby frame, large beautiful eyes, thick lips, cold hands and feet. The oily quality in kapha is seen as oily skin, thick oily hair and nails, with excessive secretions. In the mental realm, kapha-predominant individuals can have cloudy perception, be slow to learn and understand, but have great perseverance and endurance. In the emotional realm, Kapha individuals are naturally very unconditionally loving, kind, and loyal—they make great friends—yet can become possessive and stubborn when this dosha is out of balance. By understanding the basics of how kapha dosha behaves when imbalanced, we can learn to recognise these tendencies, and intervene with initiating a kapha-pacifying diet and lifestyle.
In upcoming issues of this special edition, as the seasons change, we will address each dosha in more depth, explain how to recognise when each is out of balance, and provide simple interventions to pacify them.
Tips to keep Vata balanced
Whilst outlining your routine, try to add these considerations. As vata dosha is predominant twice daily between the times 3 am - 6 am & 3 pm - 6 pm, it is recommended during those times that one should not overly exert the body, as this will aggravate vata, creating imbalance. This is the time to evacuate the bowel, to avoid the excessive use of speech, and to drink warm herbal tea. Stay warm and wrapped up; consider a warm hat to insulate the body, as vata dosha is easily aggravated by the cold. Gentle exercise like slow yoga, walking, tai chi and pilates get the body moving and focused without depleting the nervous system. Massaging the feet with sesame oil before bed, entices vata to feel more grounded, and induce a good night's rest. Vata Balancing Diet A vata pacifying diet consists of cooked food, which is warm, soft, soupy and oily (not to be confused with greasy, deep fried foods). In colder climates, use salads and raw food only moderately, and heavy-to-digest pulses such as adzuki or black eye peas, or this will aggravate vata. Root vegetables, seeds and nuts are particularly very nourishing and grounding for vata, and can be made into a soup, chutney or dessert let your creativity and intuition guide you.
Red lentil and mung dal are the easiest to be digested by the body, and vata would benefit dals a few times a week. An ideal breakfast for vata types would be warm oats with almond milk, stewed apples with soaked dried fruit. Eating small portions more frequently is more suited to vata-predominant individuals. Vata enjoys a fun, relaxing environment and meals at a routine time daily in silence with loved ones and a mealtime blessing while eating slowly and without distractions like reading, TV or radio. So more recipes for this season on this page.
Vata dosha loves spices and enjoys all spices, except that pungent spices such as cayenne and chilli should be used only in moderation. Use grated fresh ginger or powdered ginger in meals or teas, include all herbs and spices like cumin, black pepper, basil, mint, thyme, anise, clove, turmeric, dill, fennel, mustard seeds, oregano, parsley and paprika. Fear and nervousness dissipate energy and aggravate vata so it is very helpful and healing to stay happy and cheerful. Listening to music with singing is very soothing and enriching for vata.
Resting often for tea breaks and to regain equilibrium is wonderful and Vata types should not rush to leave the dinner table but stay and digest for 10 - 20 mins.
Vata Balancing Tea
(1 serving per cup)
Ingredients 1/2 Lemon
1inch Cinnamon bark
1/2 tsp Fennel seed 1/2 tsp Cumin seed 1/2 tsp Coriander seed 1 cups Boiling water
Add seeds to water and heat till they boil.
Turn the flame off and steep for 10 mins.
Drink and enjoy this soothing brew throughout the day.
It is tridoshic meaning good for all doshas & aids digestion!