Vata Season: Part Two
Vata Season has hit me hard this year. I love fall and seeing the trees bursting with color, but my nerves are begging to be plunged into a vat of warm Vata oil. In lieu of that happening, I’ve been treating myself to almost-weekly abhyanga massages at a local Ayurvedic spa, and doing self-massage in between. If ever there was a time to follow my own advice, this is it.
I am grateful to be Ayurveda-aware, because I truly believe that awareness is key to staying healthy and balanced. But sometimes all the knowledge in the world doesn’t help when your own Vata is deranged (Ayurveda’s term, not mine!). All of the information overload, reading, writing, etc. seems to be fueling my imbalance. I love to learn and read and write, and share what I’ve learned with others. It truly is my passion. But Vata, which is the dosha of change and movement (think air/space), can easily become erratic and unbalanced, especially during fall and early winter–Vata Season.
If you missed last month’s newsletter on transitioning from Pitta Season to Vata Season, now would be a good time to read it to familiarize yourself with Vata dosha. Click HERE.
When a Vata imbalance arises, it’s time to S L O W D O W N. Sooo hard for Vata people. We are the busy bees and the hummingbirds, who like to flutter from one thing to the next. We tend to have high energy that quickly crashes and can easily become depleted.
How did I let myself become so unbalanced this year? Two things happened over the summer that set up sort of a perfect storm for a Vata imbalance once fall arrived. I had three bouts of heat exhaustion during the summer months and I realize now that I let myself get seriously dehydrated. Dryness is one of the primary characteristics of Vata people, and they can also be prone to electrolyte imbalances. We had a brutally hot summer here in NYC and I just didn’t cope very well this year.
Then a vacation filled with lots of activity and poor food choices left me feeling depleted. Coupled with the dehydration, my digestion went haywire when I returned home. Ayurveda teaches that digestion is key to just about everything. It affects our emotions (and vice-versa) and can be at the root of almost all illnesses and diseases. After all, our blood is built by the very foods we eat.
Before I knew it, my digestive problems drove my Vata energy to epic proportions and I started exhibiting signs of a real Vata imbalance. I felt scattered, unfocused and anxious. A little bit of travel thrown in derailed me even more. Travel can be very un-grounding for Vata people. Now I am working hard at bringing my Vata dosha back into balance.
If we don’t heed the early warning signs of poor digestion (bloating, gas, acid reflux, burping, constipation/diarrhea, loss of appetite, etc.) malabsorption of our food will likely begin to occur. Undigested food particles (called ama in Ayurveda) become toxic and begin traveling outside the digestive track to other parts of the body. These toxins lodge in areas of the body and before you know it, disease sets in.
Ayurveda believes that most illnesses are the result of a buildup of ama and poor agni, (digestive fire) which compromise our immunity. This applies to digesting our emotions and thoughts, as well.
Remember, Vata doesn’t need to be your primary dosha to have an imbalance, but those of us with a lot of Vata in our constitution need to be particularly vigilant, especially during Vata Season. And keep in mind that anyone over the age of fifty is in the Vata time of life so they may experience these symptoms as they age.
Here are some classic red flags that your Vata dosha could be imbalanced:
- Weak digestion (see above)
- Feelings of anxiety, fear, restlessness, hyperactivity, spaciness, insecurity, feeling jumpy
- Lack of focus
- Unusual pain
- Heart palpitations
- Bothered by wind and cold
- Excess dryness anywhere in the body–skin, nails, stools, lips, hair, mouth, etc.
- Dark, discolored skin
- Poor circulation, cold hands and feet, tingling or numbness
- Insufficient sweat
- Dehydration, excessive urination (or not enough)
- PMS symptoms such as bloating, cramping, lower back pain, anxiety
- Painful or irregular periods or painful intercourse
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstrual period) or absence of sperm
- Low libido
- Ringing in ears
- Feeling depleted
I recently wrote a blog post about my seven years experiencing fibromyalgia. Discovering Ayurveda was key to finally healing from that painful condition. As I look over the list I just compiled, I realize that I had almost every symptom on this list. So, fibromyalgia sufferers, take note.
Here are suggestions for bringing Vata dosha back into balance:
- Stay warm and protected from the wind, as much as possible. Always wear a scarf to protect your neck (a very vulnerable area of the body) from the cold and wind.
- Drink warm/hot water with fresh lemon or lime and a pinch of salt (plus fresh ginger, if desired) a half an hour before dinner to hydrate your stomach and help ignite your digestive fire. And sip hot water/herbal teas throughout the day.
- Eat warm, gently cooked foods that are easily digestible. Avoid foods that cause gas or bloating, especially raw foods. HERE are some guidelines for a Vata-pacifying diet.
- Be sure to eat adequate protein throughout the day, especially at breakfast. Vatas generally need a lot of protein.
- Avoid excessive exercise. Instead, opt for gentle walking, yoga, tai chi, qigong.
- Slow down
- Meditate and practice breathing exercises
- Avoid excessive stimulation (i.e. computer, tv, even reading too much)
- Avoid crowded, noisy places
- Maintain a regular daily routine. Up by 7:00 a.m. at the latest, breakfast by 8:00 a.m., lunch (biggest meal) at noon/12:30 p.m. and light dinner at 5:30/6:00 p.m. In bed by 9:30/10:00 p.m. Vatas tend towards irregularity and routine is key to staying balanced.
- Keep the body lubricated, inside and out. Practice abhyanga self-massage with warm Vata-pacifying oils. Lubricate dry eyes with 1-2 drops of ghee before bedtime. Add plenty of ghee to cooked foods.
- Use the herb Triphala to keep the colon clean. The colon is the main seat of Vata dosha and also tends to be dry. Note: Listen to the wisdom of your own body when trying any herb.
- Forget multi-tasking! Focus on one thing at a time, including eating meals. When you multi-task you are making the body send energy to too many parts of the body at the same time. Especially when it comes to digestion–the body doesn’t like you multi-tasking.
- Ground yourself by being in Nature (bundled up, of course) as much as possible.
I hope this gives some clarity to those of you who have been feeling ungrounded, anxious and dealing with digestive issues. Fall is such a beautiful time of year. Please pass this information along if you have a friend or family member who is struggling with a Vata imbalance so they can feel better and enjoy the season.
How to do Abhyanga, a Self Massage with Warm Oil