Wellness, Naturally: Balancing Vata in Winter
Seasonal changes affect our lives in many ways. They play a role in a person’s very nature, something known as a dosha in Ayurveda. The winter season can affect and imbalance a vata dosha, or constitution, so balancing vata is important during this season.
Vata is one of the three constitutions in Ayurveda. Associated with the air element, it expresses itself in attributes like cold and dry skin, feeling restless, having a thin body, talking a lot, and gravitating toward a warm climate.
It’s important to be mindful of how a dosha imbalance happens. Once you understand this, you can focus on preventing it or bringing yourself back into a state of balance. Some factors that imbalance vata include sleep problems, high-pressure work situations, a lot of worry and stress, and an abundance of talking or traveling. During the winter season, cold and windy climates can throw off a vata constitution. Winter is generally hard on a vata type, because of their cold and dry skin, cold hands and feet, and overall difficulty handling cold weather.
These problems are particularly pronounced when a person’s vata is unbalanced. Some things that indicate an imbalanced vata include problems with the joints, body pains, restlessness, and trouble sleeping.
A vata constitution will feel much better when in balance. You’ll feel healthier and happier, with a more calm state of mind. You’ll sleep better, feel less pain, and have a more stable and focused mental state. And throughout the winter, you’ll feel warmer and experience healthier skin and circulation. While there are numerous steps you can take to balance vata, try these three methods this winter:
Follow a daily schedule
Create a better routine that provides balance. Your schedule should help manage your workload and personal responsibilities by breaking them down into smaller steps and allocating enough time. This way, you can reduce stress and still remain productive. Plan ahead of time for personal care and meditation. Make an effort to get to sleep earlier by making your nighttime routine more calming. Try to find motivation in getting more sleep, such as noticing the difference in how you feel, both mentally and physically, when you go to sleep earlier.
Help yourself achieve a better state of calm by cutting down on stimulants. This includes caffeinated beverages like coffee, as well as processed sugar that creates a quick sugar high and then an energy crash. Instead, find more stable sources of energy through complex carbohydrates and healthy fats and proteins. Meditate and use other methods to calm and rejuvenate yourself, rather than reaching for stimulants.
Follow a vata diet
Rejoice in winter comfort foods. Foods that are cooked, warm and soft will be good for you, so enjoy stews, macaroni and cheese, and similar comfort foods. Take in healthy oils and a lot of moisture through foods and beverages. Some ideal vata-balancing foods include olives, dairy products, avocado, nuts, seeds and wheat. Also, choose salty, sweet and sour tastes like fruit, yogurt and kimchi instead of bitter, pungent and astringent ones like radishes, kale and legumes. Fried dishes and overeating can cause problems to vata, while rich yet nourishing meals help balance this constitution’s lightness.
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Walking the Path: Going With the Flow in March
Going With the Flow
March tends to be that time of year that is like a line from the movie Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.” It can come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, or serve up any number of weather combinations in between.
Because the weather can be so unpredictable at this time of year, things are not black and white in terms of our Ayurvedic daily routine. We need to go with the flow and be comfortable in the grey areas, too. Some days may find us walking around in hats, scarves, and gloves, deep in thought, and other days may find us driving around with the sunroof open, jamming to our favourite songs on the radio without a care in the world.
Flexing Your Ayurvedic Muscles
If you’ve been practicing Ayurveda for a while, March provides you with the perfect opportunity to ‘flex your Ayurvedic muscles’, and see how you fare with attempting to go with the flow. When you observe how you are feeling and do a little bit of calibrating, you can take the ‘March Madness’ weather in stride, and remain in balance.
If Ayurveda is new to you, this can be a tricky time of year to navigate. Perhaps you have just gotten used to your winter routine, and now Mother Nature is throwing you all sorts of curve balls from one day to the next. Never fear, Ayurveda is here! Here are some tips to support you during this transitional time of year.
Ayurveda in March
If you’ve been using sesame oil for your winter oil massage (abhyanga), and it seems a bit heavy right now, you may want to explore siwtching to an oil like apricot kernel that still pacifies winter qualities (vata), but also has the ability to appease the spring qualities (kapha). Apricot kernel oil is smooth, light, and supports healthy functioning of the circulatory, lymphatic, muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems. Its redolence is lovely, too! You can also stick with your current oil, but alternate oiling one day and dry brushing the next.
If you live in an area where you are receiving more rain, or a good deal of snow is melting, you may want to get cooking with a variety of grains that are slightly heating and naturally diuretic, such as barley and millet. The warming and astringent quality of these grains will support your body’s ability to let go of any excess water or dampness that it might otherwise retain at this time of year.
On a personal note, I always get outside all year round for a walk or run, but this year I found myself not getting out as much as usual. I noticed that I felt disconnected and sad sometimes, without any particular reason. As soon as I got back outside, I felt re-energized, reconnected, and it really elevated my sense of happiness. Getting out in nature is a simple act, but has profound results. Try to notice whether you got outside enough this winter, and how it may have affected your overall mood and energy level.
Practicing Ayurvedic principles doesn’t have to be all or nothing – a few simple steps can make a big difference in our health and happiness. We don’t call it Ayurve-duh for nothing!
– Diana Bellofatto
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Ayurvedic Recipes: Sauteed Asparagus with Slivered Almonds
Asparagus is known for its antiseptic, diuretic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also very low calorie – 10 calories per 100 grams. It’s low in fat and cholesterol, and high in fibre, folates, B vitamin complex, and vitamins K and E.
This makes it a great food for March, where vata season is turning into kapha. It helps decrease water retention, weight gain, improves overall immunity, and increases elimination. Besides the above, asparagus is also good for both women’s and men’s reproductive health, for skin, hair, nails, beauty, and strength. Making the recipe with ghee helps to stimulate the digestive fire, or agni, and the almonds and sesame seeds provide protein and omega fatty acids – the good fat that the body needs for immunity and endurance.
Sauteed Asparagus with Slivered Almonds
Prep time: n/a
Cooking time: 11 minutes
1 tsp ghee
1 bunch asaparagus
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Heat ghee in pan. Add asparagus and saute until tender (about 10 minutes). Add slivered almonds and cook for 1 more minute. Season with black pepper, salt, maple syrup, and lemon juice.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Ayurveda Recipe: Chai Tea
Chai originated in India and the folklore surrounding the tea dates back between 5000 and 9000 years ago. Some say the reigning king created the recipe for Ayurvedic healing. The first Chai tea recipes varied in preparation and taste depending on the region, it was only in the 1930’s when black tea was introduced to the recipe. Here we share a spiced turmeric Chai tea recipe that is warming, nourishing and calming.
1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Turmeric Powder
Fresh Ginger (grate as finely and as much as you desire)
1 Teaspoon of Cardamom pods
1/4 Teaspoon of Cinnamon powder or stick
A few Cloves (optional)
Pinch of Nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of Fennel Seeds
2 Cups of Rice Milk (or Almond milk or simply water)
Pour the milk (or water) into your pot, add the spices and allow to boil, cool down, strain, then serve. Delicious.
Some of the health benefits:
Ginger: Aids digestion, improves circulation, boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation.
Cardamom: Aids digestion and supports the immune system, helps detoxify the body and improve circulation.
Cinnamon: Contains digestive properties and has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant effects.
Fennel: A source of antioxidants, Vitamin C, potassium and fibre.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Ayurveda Recipe: Sesame Cookies
As we ease into fall and the leaves begin to change we naturally move into a different rhythm and explore other ways to spend time. Getting creative in the kitchen can be a wonderful way to ground and nurture yourself. Read on for a delicious ayurvedic sesame cookie recipe, perfect for dunking in those warming teas as you snuggle on the couch.
Sesame is a special seed, it contains an unusual trio of tastes: bitter, pungent, and sweet. Its naturally balanced composition of heating, cooling, and building qualities makes it a tonic for increasing strength and immunity.
1 cup sesame tahini
1/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp Everyday Sweet Spice Mix
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg, whisked
2 tsp sesame seeds, plus extra for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lightly greasing with ghee or coconut oil or else lining with parchment paper.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix the ingredients together in the order listed. If the batter is too runny to shape, put it in the fridge for 5–10 minutes (but batter that’s a little runny bakes nicely). Shape batter into tablespoon-size balls or drop with a spoon onto the prepared cookie sheets. Leave a few inches between the balls, as they will puff up when they bake. Lightly press down on the balls with a fork. Sprinkle tops with extra sesame seeds. Bake for 10–12 minutes, until they are firm enough to touch without your finger sticking.
Let them cool completely before removing from baking sheets and serving. Puffs will be soft when you eat them. Yum!
Source: The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook
Yoga and Ayurveda
The benefits of Yoga and AYURVEDA
- Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences from the ancient wellness tradition of India. Ayurveda is a science for keeping the body in balance through right diet, exercise, meditation and herbs. In Ayurveda there are three doshas:
Vata dosha which is made up of ether and air
Pitta dosha which is made up of fire and water
Kapha dosha which is made up of earth and water
To have optimal health these doshas are balanced, particularly your predominant dosha is balanced.
When vata is imbalanced there can be anxiety, fear, depression, worry, insomnia. If pitta is out of balance we may have poor digestion, poor elimination, poor detoxification. When kapha is out of balance we may feel lethargic, tired, lacking energy and enthusiasm. So how do yoga and Ayurveda work together to help us stay in balance?
How does yoga helps the doshas?
To reduce vata we practice in a quiet, grounded and systematic way. The balance between strength and flexibility is critical for a positive experience of the vata dosha. Being still is the vata challenge and reward. Vata wants to move; vata loves vinyasa flow. Vata needs quiet, calm, slow, deep breathing to balance that element and not imbalance the other elements. Great postures are forward bending poses.
Pitta energy presses forward in an impulsive manner. Excess pitta is reduced by practicing in an effortless, non goal oriented way, working at about 75% of our capacity. We hold postures for longer periods to reduce pitta. We slow down. Pitta has a tendency to work the breath too hard. Working effortlessly and softly while being strong is pitta’s work. Forward bends and twists are very effective in reducing excess pitta and bringing up low pitta.
Kaphas have a tendency to be a little lazy or lax. “I don’t really want to do this kinda thing.” The challenge for kapha is to keep the level of effort needed to reduce their dosha. Kaphas benefit from standing poses, headstands, inverted poses and back bends. Headstands and handstands are especially good for reducing kapha. Downward dog is a good posture to reduce kapha if someone is on the heavy side and not a regular practitioner.
Sometimes what we resist the most in our yoga practice is what we need to balance our dosha. Vata people really like vinyasa flow but it can increase vata. Pitta people like a challenge and work very hard in yoga when they should be working less. Kapha people are hard to get to yoga. They may be drawn to a gentle class or a restorative class when a moderate class may serve them better.
Working together, yoga and Ayurveda can strengthen our system and bring us into much needed balance, despite the obstacles we may face in daily life. Discover the benefits of yoga through the Art of Living Retreat Center’s yoga retreats.
Thank you for joining us! If you are interested in learning more about your body type and how Ayurveda is relevant to your lifestyle, try a free Ayurvedic consultation over the phone at the link below.
Developed from a talk given by Kim Rossi on Yoga and Ayurveda. Thank you for joining us.
From Vata Imbalance to Vata In Balance
VATA IN BALANCE:
In our last post, we looked at signs of vata imbalance. Now, I’d like to introduce some practical tips for how to keep vata in balance when it gets out of whack.
1. Some Tips to Warm Up
How to balance vata? Stay warm and stay calm. When you are relaxed, you also feel happy and well. It helps to have a warm, cozy place to be, a warm bed, and a hot water bath. Ayurveda also recommends applying oil and massaging the body as the best way to balance vata. You can have a traditional Ayurvedic body massage, called Abhyanga, or you can do a self-massage. Following that, various steam and heat treatments help to balance vata. You can use electric warming pads, hot stones, or a steam chamber. In ancient times, they would heat a large stone, and a person would lie down on the stone, which would take away the excess vata. So different types of steam and heat treatments are recommended according to the various types of vata imbalance.
2. Nourish Yourself
Food is the major factor that influences vata. Cold food, frozen food, large beans, dried food and foods with bitter, astringent, and pungent flavors aggravate vata. However, sweet, sour, and salty flavors along with sweet dishes, oily foods and rich food help to balance vata. Foods with a heating effect balance vata, while foods with a cooling effect disturb vata. So it’s good to know how foods will affect your constitution.
On the balancing level, take food according to your constitution and what element is out of balance. Let’s say you are a pitta person with a vata imbalance, then it is good to follow a vata diet. However, there are certain foods that balance pitta but aggravate vata. So it’s important to understand food and its effects.
3. Find Stability through Meditation
Along with massage, which is the best method to balance vata, accompanied by steam and heat treatments, meditation helps calm vata. With these life-supporting habits, more or less, vata gets balanced, and small aches and pains disappear. These positive actions more or less balance vata.
What if…my vata’s still flying wild?
Let’s say a part of the body is in pain. Massage, meditation, and heat treatments will help, as will warming food with sweet, sour, and salty. But when there are too many problems, such as continuously hurting joints, it requires further insight into which part is being affected.
The physical makeup is divided into seven substances: blood, muscular tissue, fat tissue, bones, bone marrow, lymph, and the reproductive fluids. Once we know which part is out of balance, then it is easy to balance the affected area. For example, is it affecting the nerves, the joints or the bones? Taken for some time, specific herbs help balance vata. One such herb that pacifies vata is turmeric, which also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
Use of Panchakarma
And when vata has grown too far out of balance, when it is beyond the control of modifications in food, lifestyle, massage, and herbal supplements, then we can use panchakarma. Panchakarma, which is an elimination therapy, removes the vitiated vata using various herbal decoctions and oil preparations in combination with specialized treatments to treat the root of vata imbalance. Before disease comes, we are able to correct it.
I invite you to continue your journey by checking out more articles in the blog or visiting with a consultant. We are currently offering free introductory consultations over the phone with one of our Ayurveda Health Counselors.
If you’d like to learn more about how Ayurveda can better help you preserve your health and increase your quality of life, I invite you to check out our ebook, Ayurveda 101: Find Vibrant Health with the Science of Life.
Recognize the Signs of Vata Imbalance
VATA: THE MOVER AND SHAKER
In the last post we looked briefly at the three main constitutional types in Ayurveda. Here, I’ll go into more depth about vata, the mover and shaker of the three constitutions.
This information will be especially useful for readers who:
- have a vata constitution
- have a hectic lifestyle
- have a vata imbalance OR
- live in a climate that is struck hard by vata weather conditions, in cold, dry climates, or as generally felt in late summer and fall.
Principally associated with the air and space elements, Vata is the main force which controls everything in the body.
In Sanskrit, it is said:
“Just as a cloud cannot move without the help of the wind,
pitta and kapha cannot move without the aid of vata.”
When vata is balanced, everything is fine. When vata is out of balance, this can lead to problems in the body, including pitta and kapha imbalances also.
Vata controls all movements in the body, including but not limited to energy circulation, blood circulation, hormones, joint movement, muscular movement, neuro-muscular coordination and also the flux of thought and emotion. So what are the things that aggravate vata? Only by knowing these can we know how to balance vata. They are:
- Too much talking
- Too much traveling
- Less sleep
- Not sleeping at the proper times, such as working all night and sleeping during the day also creates imbalance in the system. So proper sleep is also important
- Too much swimming or other water games
- Exposure to cold or windy climates
- Working under pressure creates stress in the system, aggravating vata
- Worries, emotional imbalance and stress. There are so many emotions that may affect our system.
THE EFFECT OF FOOD ON VATA:
From an Ayurvedic perspective, in morning time kapha is the dominant principle. Noon is pitta time and evening is vata time. So in Ayurveda, generally leafy greens and salads are not recommended in the evening, though they may be very good earlier in the day. Eating large quantities at night may aggravate vata in the body. Other foods that may disturb vata are cold items, frozen foods and large beans that produce more gas in the system.
VATA IMBALANCE: WHEN THE BODY GETS WINDED
What to do to balance vata? We’ll continue in the next post with a description of just that – simple actions you can take to stay focused, balanced and steady. If you’d like to find out more about your constitution or current state of balance, you can schedule an assessment. You can visit us in Boone, meet me during the Ayurveda for Vibrant Health Tour or even schedule a complementary phone consultation with one of our Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselors.
Know Yourself by Knowing Your Ayurvedic Body Type
KNOW YOUR TYPE:
Your Ayurvedic body type, or constitution, is at the heart of Ayurveda’s approach to well-being. Knowing your constitution allows you to maximize your quality of life, health and happiness by following the recommendations for food and lifestyle for each constitution.
An Ayurvedic pulse diagnosis with an expert is the best way to recognize one’s constitution.
I’ve spoken about the general characteristics of each body type to help familiarize readers with general tendencies. So read on to acquaint yourself with the main constitutions and the self-discovery that is the joy of Ayurveda.
THE GOOD LIFE (for your type):
Ayurveda means the science of longevity; it is the science of how to live a long, healthy life. “Ayu” is the life span we spend with the body. The spirit is immortal — it can be with the body or without it, but the union of body, mind and spirit — how long that combination stays, that time span is called ayu. How to live that time happily and in good health is the knowledge of Ayurveda. So how do we live this way?
In this respect, Ayurveda says there are four aspects:
- What is good for the body
- What is unhealthy
- What makes us happy
- What makes us sad
It is like driving a car in that once you know the rules of the road, you can drive safely. And it is the same with life also, once you know these four aspects.
For that we need to know the body and mind. The body is made of five elements, space, air, fire water and earth. Physiologically, these elements function as three bio-dynamic forces, called vata, pitta and kapha. These are called variously dhatus, substances, dosha, or prakriti, our natural constitution. What is the importance of knowing you Ayurvedic body type?
Those who are born with more of the space and air element have a vata constitution. Generally, a vata person will be very thin, more talkative, restless; they typically have a lower body weight, dry skin, brittle nails, thin hair, and small, slightly sunken eyes. While walking, their joints may make sounds. In terms of climate, they tend to prefer warm or hot weather, while they may have trouble tolerating the cold. They have a hard time gaining weight, so they tend to be thin with a low weight.
Next are pitta people, those who are born with hotter constitutions, containing more of the fire element. A pitta person is generally active, good looking, a perfectionist, dynamic, intelligent and also short tempered. They may have leadership qualities, a moderate build, a smart personality, a sharp nose, and their eyes will also be sharp, sometimes offset with a slight pinkish tint. Due to the unfortunate ease with which a pitta person gets imbalanced, hair loss and early greying are common. They are generally slightly warm to the touch with rosy lips and pink nails with a slight curve.
Kapha indicates a preponderance of the water and earth element. People with this kapha constitution are generally cool, calm, lazy, cheerful, stocky (if not overweight). If assigned a task, they never complete the task in time. Actually, Ayurveda says that because a kapha person is the least bothered, happiest type of person on the whole planet, the best constitution is kapha. They’re cheerful all the time! Other qualities include a thick build, thick, dark hair, big eyes with white around, and prominent, shiny, white teeth. The skin may also be thick, moist, and a little cool to the touch. As a personality type, while they tend to accumulate stuff, they also have a sharing streak that moves them to service for society.
These are the three main Ayurvedic body types, though mixes also appear — pitta-kapha, pitta-vata, vata-kapha and saamya, one whose constitution contains all of the five elements in equal ratios.
Constitution is what we are born with. When we eat the proper food and follow the lifestyle that suits our Ayurvedic body type, we have better chances of staying fit, healthy and happy for a long time.
We’ll continue in following posts with more detail on each constitution and some tips for each type to keep your body in balance. To talk with an Ayurvedic practitioner about your body type, you can select a free consultation via telephone at the link below.