Ayurveda Fundamentals

What is Vata Dosha?

The three doshas play a very important role in Ayurveda and Samkhya philosophy. They exist to provide an expression of the five elements (pancha mahabhutas) at play in nature. The three doshas are vata, pitta, and kapha and all three are vital energies present in everything in nature. The doshic balance is different in each person and is determined at the point of conception. In the following article I will be going into detail about what vata dosha is and why it is important to us.

So what exactly is vata dosha?

First I must start by saying that you are not actually your primary dosha(s). It is simply a construct to describe your current state of balance or imbalance. Vata dosha is characterized by two of the five elements: Ether, otherwise known as space, and Air, or wind. It is “lives” as you might say in the colon area of the body. Each dosha has a primary home where it resides inside of you. Additional homes include the hips, bones, ears, and thighs.  SpaceAir

Vata is responsible for movement in the body, making it the most important of the three doshas because it mobilizes the other two. However, the flip side to this is that it is also the easiest to go out of balance.

You might be asking yourself, what does movement in the body mean? Well some examples are heartbeat, blood circulation, and breathing. More examples can be found later in this article.

Vata has many qualities

If you recall from above, vata is made up of the space and air elements. When you think of space and air what type of qualities come to mind? Look at the following list and see if you came up with something similar:

  • Cold
  • Light
  • Dry
  • Mobile
  • Clear
  • Flowing
  • Subtle

When I think of space and air I think of movement and capacity. It would make sense then that vata dosha is responsible for movement throughout the body as its main elemental characteristics are space and air. Objects move through space and air provides the vehicle for this movement. The qualities listed above are derived from the gurvadi gunas that come from Vedic texts used to dictate the Ayurvedic system of medicine. Look out for a future post about this topic.

If your body moves, thank vata

As previously mentioned, vata is responsible for all the movement in our body. It is important to remember that when speaking of not only vata dosha, but pitta and kapha as well, that we are referring to the body, mind, and spirit. Vata moves things so any movement in our bodies can be attributed to vata dosha. Examples include blood circulating through the body via our veins, our heartbeat, and even breathing through our lungs.

Another type of movement that we are not always conscious to is nerve impulses being sent from our brainnervous_system to different parts of our body. It becomes very important to bring these impulses to consciousness in order to see how certain actions affect us spiritually, emotional, physically, and mentally.

Arguably the most important form of mobility is our digestion. Vata is the key player in taking nutrients from the food, energy, and emotions that you consume and dispersing them throughout your body. It is also responsible for collecting the waste products from these and bringing them back to be eliminated out of the body. Vata makes it possible for the transformation and absorption of food in the physical body.

Make vata your friend and all will be well

There is a saying that if you make vata your friend all will be well in your life. This is primarily because it is the easiest to go out of balance. If you recall from above, vata lives in the colon, and when an excessive amount of vata builds up in your system, creating imbalance, it will begin to spill over and move into other parts of the body. This is the beginning of disease for any dosha.

A disturbed or imbalanced vata dosha can have detrimental implications because it will allow movement of imbalancepitta and kapha dosha out of their respective homes causing further destruction. You might be wondering at this point, what causes a vata imbalance? In general what and how you consume food and drink cause imbalances in your body as well as karmas and your ability to adapt to change around you.

The following list is not comprehensive, but will give you a good idea of contributors to vata imbalance:

  • Anesthesia
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive screen time (laptop, phone, TV, etc.)
  • Lots of movement
  • High speed travel
  • Overeating
  • Dried fruit
  • Artificial heat
  • Stimulants, such as caffeine
  • Lack of quality sleep
  • Irregularity in schedule

Vata dosha, given that it is primarily light and airy, is easy to “move” out of balance. Keep reading to find out ways to help keep vata happy and in harmony.

How can I get vata dosha back into balance?

Now that we’ve learned ways in which vata goes out of balance, I think it’s important to find out what a person can do to keep it in balance. By now, we know that vata is movement and when thinking about harmony with movement we have to keep the following principle in mind, “like attracts like and the opposite brings balance” provided by Myra Lewin from Hale Pule.

When we consider that the opposite effect will help to bring balance to vata dosha and keeping in mind the qualities of vata it makes sense that the following actions will bring balance:

  • Meditation
  • A regular eating and sleeping schedule
  • Reduced stimulation
  • Warm cooked food
  • Clean and organized environment
  • Warm bath or shower
  • Less movement
  • Frequent “pauses” throughout the day
  • Breathing exercises

More often than not, we simply need to stop doing the things that cause imbalance and our body, mind, and spirit will bring themselves back into a state of balance. Our inherent nature is to be in a state of harmony and whether that is our current state our subconscious is always striving to reach it.


Well there you have it…

When thinking of doshas it is important to remember it is not just the physical body I am talking about, but the mind as well. We not only consume nutrients via food, but mental nourishment through different energy and emotions. Vata plays a very important role via movement throughout our body. It must have just the precise right amount of space to move, but not too much or too little. This will cause imbalance.

bodyKeeping in mind the qualities of vata and its function you will be better prepared to do the things that keep it balanced and recognize those that will make it wander from its primary home. Remember that excess dosha or lack thereof, are the beginnings of disease in the body. As long as you take responsibility and correct the imbalances you have all the power inside you to cure yourself and live a life of true health and happiness.

Please stay turned for a quiz to determine your dosha type!



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