Vata Pacifying Regimen + How To Do A Vata Pacifying Abhyanga

This season Mother Nature has shown us what a huge impact she can have on our vikruti (current state of balance). Before the weather dropped to the 30’s, I remember walking down Hood Street toward Cedar Springs Road to start my day seeing clients and as I was taking in the colors of the Fall, I was awestruck by a long train of wind carrying leaves. It was beautiful and swift. Right then I said to myself, “Vata is here and she is going to bring about rapid change”. Sure enough, a few days later the weather turned from the high 60’s to mid 30’s, then to the high 70’s and now low 50’s. This is vata at her best– change.

The magnificent science of Ayurveda proves itself with each seasonal shift. Living an Ayurvedic lifestyle means living with Mother Nature, attuning yourself inwardly to her beauty both destructive and life-giving.

The vata dosha is imaginative, on-the-go, and has an active mind. It is also dry, light and cold. Vata moves like the wind and changes direction often. When those with a vata nature lack a consistent schedule it disturbs the body’s internal energy or prana. This leads to anxiety, nervousness, feelings of overwhelm, insomnia, constipation, dry stools, bloating, gas, and dry skin. Vata does best when stable, regular routines help to channel and focus their  large, natural amount of energy, prana. With structure vata types are able to accomplish a great deal within a very short period of time and can be more productive than any other doshic type.

Diet

In Ayurveda, seasonal eating is primarily beneficial for prevention. A vata pacifying diet is best during the early Fall which will prevent vata from becoming aggravated in the Winter.

If vata is aggravated in the winter, a vata-pacifying food program may prevent overflow or minimize symptoms.

Vata Pacifying Regimen + How To Do A Vata Pacifying AbhyangaVata is balanced by foods that have a sweet, sour and salty rasa (taste). Foods should be heavier and nourishing and moderately spiced. This is the season for spices and all spices are good for vata as long as not taken in excess – ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, fenugreek, etc. Food and drinks should be taken warm, never ice cold, raw or uncooked as this will support a strong agni – digestive fire. For those with more vata in their prakruti/constitution, they do best when they eat more frequently, 5 times a day. Food should be taken in small amounts as to not dampen the agni. Meals should be taken at the same time each day.

Here are some of my favorite winter recipes: Fall Veggie + Quinoa Soup, Winter Chai Tea, Warm Spiced Milk, Stewed Spiced Fruits, Warm Spiced Quinoa Cereal

Yoga

Yoga should be practiced in a warm environment with slow and calming asanas with a connection and awareness to the earth. Keeping vata grounded to prevent excess mobility is essential. For example, tree pose (Vrksasana) and mountain pose (Tadasana) root your feet into the ground, reducing anxiety and overwhelm. Warrior I and II are also beneficial, helping to ground you while building strength in the thighs, lower back and hips which are main regions of the vata dosha. Since vata is prone to constipation, standing or sitting forward bends that compress the pelvis are healing.

Fast-paced vinyasas or flow sequences can aggravate vata. Slow movement supports the joints while quick movements increase mobility, creating dryness. To make a vinyasa more vata-pacifying, move deliberately and slowly, extending the length of time that you hold each pose. Moving through transitions between poses, with conscious awareness rather than rushing on to the next pose will help you to remain present.

Finally, vata types benefit from doing a long, deep corpse pose or savasana – at least 15–20 minutes. Keep a blanket nearby so that after your practice, you can cover the body allowing you to contain the heat from your practice.

Sleep

Vata Pacifying Regimen + How To Do A Vata Pacifying AbhyangaOne of the most common signs of a vata imbalance is difficulty falling or staying asleep. Too much creative energy, anxiety or worry is surging through the mind and the body becomes restless. Rest is rejuvenating and has heavy and stable qualities that help to balance the light and mobile tendencies of vata. It is important to go to bed and wake up at or about the same time every day. A general rule is that we are in bed by 10:00pm and wake with the sun, sunrise! Establishing proper bedtime routines can be life saving!

Avoid tv, computer, phone, or any stimulating activities an hour prior to bed. Instead, spend the last hour before getting into bed doing one or more of the following: do a warm herbal massage, take a warm bath, meditate, curl up in bed with a warm cup of chamomile tea and a book.

Aromas

Vatas do best with oils that are warming and calming – think sweet and spicy! The sweeter the oil the more nourishing and the spicier, the more warming. Blending oils can help you get both qualities vata needs. Sweet oils such as sandalwood, jasmine, chamomile, or lavender mixed with spicy oils like cinnamon, rosemary, patchouli, or basil can be beneficial. You can put these into a diffuser to create an aromatic environment in your home or room. You can make a room spritzer by adding a few drops of each a spicy and sweet oil to a spray bottle of distilled water. You can add oils to your bath water to get that nice relaxing and warming sensation while bathing.

Touch

Studies show that the sense of touch can bring just as much healing as the food we take into our bodies. A lead researcher, Dr. Tiffany Field from the University of Miami School of Medicine states that, “touch is the first sense to develop and the last to fade even after sight, hearing, smell and taste have faded with age”.

Benefits of touch:

  • reduces aggression
  • stimulates growth and development in children
  • improves sleep and alertness
  • reduces pain, depression and stress by reducing cortisol levels, a hormone that rises when we are under stress.
  • increases dopamine and serotonin, two brain chemicals that improve mental outlook
  • improves the immune system and increases T-cells that fight cancer and viruses

Vata Pacifying Regimen + How To Do A Vata Pacifying AbhyangaAyurveda massage with herbal, warm oils is called “snehana” which means, “to love”. The daily application of oil to the body builds self-love. Abhyanga (ayurveda massage) daily can be life changing for those with a vata imbalance. The primary qualities of Vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle and mobile. These qualities are opposite to those of the warmed, herbal oil. The great teacher Sushruta said, “The deranged vayu [Vata] of the body is restored to its normal condition by the help of Udvartana (oil massage).” Sushruta Vol.2, 24:28.

It is important to consider the type of oil you choose for massage. Vata benefits from warm, heavy, moist oils such as sesame and almond.

Vata Pacifying Abhyanga

It is best to do the abhyanga in a warm place to avoid getting cold. I like to turn the heater on in the bathroom or place a space heater in the room.

The oils should be warmed (not hot) prior to application. You can do this by putting a cup of the oil into a squeeze bottle and place it in a warm water bath in a pan on the stove or in the bathroom sink filled with hot water.

Sit or stand on a dedicated “oil towel”, an old towel or bath mat that you don’t mind getting a little oily. I like using a bath mat and then I just roll it up after each use.

Without being in a hurry, lovingly and patiently massage the oil over your entire body for 10-15 minutes,beginning at the extremities and working toward the center of the body. Use long strokes on thelimbs (long bones) and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise,circular motions. In the morning, I like to do more fast vigorous motions to stimulate lymph and circulation and in the evening I do it more slowly to promote relaxation.

To apply the oil to the crown of your head, put about a quarter size amount of oil into your hand and using the pads of your fingers massage your entire scalp in circular strokes. Sometimes I do a “hair oil bath” about once per month where I drench my hair in the oil and leave it over night in a towel – great for beautiful, shiny, strong hair!

Lastly, put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger and apply to the opening of the ear canals and to the opening and inside of the nasal passage.

I hope these recommendations bring you warmth and grounding energy this season!

Photo: Morguefile.com

Since 2005, Christina Vargas has been teaching yoga and sharing her passion and gift for helping others live a life of balance as an avid yogi and licensed instructor. It was when she returned from teacher training in 2005 when she was introduced by a friend (now husband) to Ayurveda that her life was changed forever. Discovering this healing science that has been practiced in India for more than 5,000 years was the catalyst for SimpleVeda. At SimpleVeda, Christina offers one-on-one consultations and personal chef services in which she takes a holistic approach to helping clients adjust their lifestyles to achieve balance, reduce stress, and lessen chronic and acute health conditions. She is excited to help clients assess the areas in their lives in which they seek balance most. Through instruction, education, and guidance, Christina offers clients personalized service that results in happier and healthier lives — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Witnessing how her work and the science of Ayurveda have changed her clients' lives is what motivates her each day. She is passionate that the philosophy of Ayurveda and Yoga is for everyone! With two kids and a busy lifestyle she knows first-hand how simple this lifestyle can be and what a difference it can make on one's well-being. She will help you understand your unique body type and guide you in making small simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. Her clients appreciate her ability to guide and support them through the complex world of diets and fads. Christina graduated from the California College of Ayurveda in 2009, where she studied to be an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner, Ayurvedic Chef, Ayurvedic Herbalist and Yoga Therapist. She and her husband reside in the Dallas area, and have two children.

2 comments

  1. Hello, I’m a vata/pita, diagnosed by Ayurvedic doctor. I currently live & work in Morocco & I want to use either olive oil or melted Shea butter for my self massage because it’s readily available here, thus economical. Are either of these oils suitable for my prakriti? We are just coming to the end of a very hot summer here where I did feel overwhelmingly hot because the climate in Marrakesh is unlike that which I’m used too. What do you think?

    • The Ayurveda Experience

      Hi Jerindi,
      Both olive oil and shea butter are good for your constitution. You can also use sunflower oil.
      Enjoy~
      Jennifer

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