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Ayurveda Basics: Qualities of Vata
In the ancient Ayurvedic text Charak Samhita, Charak describes all the etiological factors which contribute to disturbances in the body’s channels (srotas).
The seven tissue systems (dhatus) in Ayurveda are comprised of the srotas.
The doshas or three constitutional types (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) are a functional element of the dhatus.
Doshas are characterized by their qualities. Since Ayurveda operates on the principle of “like increases like”, diets and lifestyle which are similar to the qualities of the three doshas aggravate the dhatus and can cause srota dushti (blocked channels).
When Ayurvedic doctors or practitioners evaluate a patient’s prakruti and vikruti, they categorize imbalances as Vata/ Pitta/ Kapha and then further delineate this according to the qualities (gunas) which are vitiated.
The classical Ayurvedic text Ashtanga Hrdayam Samhita elucidates the qualities of Vata: “Tatra ruksho laghu sheetah, khaara sukshmaschalo nilah”. This means: let us examine the qualities (gunas) of Vata dosha.
Qualities of Vata
The first of the qualities of Vata dosha is dryness (ruksha in Sanskrit). Dryness is based on the spectrum of emolliency between dry and oily.
This can be found in both food and lifestyle. Eating dry foods such as dry fruits, dehydrated foods, freeze dried fruits, nuts, crackers, and toast will increase the dry quality of Vata. Living in a dry climate and doing activities such as dry brushing increase the dry quality.
This quality manifests as extremely dry skin, dehydration, and fatigue. Excessive dryness also shows up as a dry cough, sore throat, and constipation. This creates dryness in the rasa dhatu or the lymphatic system
The next of the qualities of Vata dosha is lightness (laghu). Lightness is measured in terms of weight.
Fasting, flying, excessive running or jumping creates a sense of lightness in the body. Thus, it is hard for the body to receive nutrition. Eating light food such as popcorn, sprouts, or salads creates an airy feeling in the body.
These all can lead to weight loss, malnutrition, anorexia, agoraphobia, or fatigue.
Coldness (sheetah) is another of the qualities of Vata. Eating old, cold, or frozen food will create stagnant veins and constrict the movement of the plasma (rasa dhatu) within in the body.
This temperature imbalance manifests as varicose veins, poor circulation creating cold extremities, indigestion, congestion, and cough.
The rough (khaara) quality is also associated with Vata dosha. Raw foods have a lot of “roughage” and and take a great deal of time to digest due to their texture. Thus, one must have strong agni (digestive fire) to consume rough foods.
Dry massages, dry saunas, or rolfing are also rough activities.
Rough texture shows up as brittle nails, cracked heels, dry, scaly skin, and hoarseness of the voice.
Being mobile (chara) is another one of the qualities of Vata. In our fast paced society, we are always multi-tasking and ever active. We have irregular lifestyles and difficulty following daily routines. Eating fast food, eating “on the run”, drinking alcohol, consuming coffee, sugar and other stimulants, and eating a lot of beans increases the mobile quality.
This makes the rasa vaha srotas (lymphatic channels) jittery and leads to tachycardia, palpitations, arrhythmia, attention deficit disorder, restless leg syndrome, tremors, and spasms.
Being subtle (sukshma) is another quality attributable to Vata dosha. Goosebumps, hiccups, and ticks are examples of how the subtle quality manifests. Psychologically, this can also show up as nervousness, insecurity, anxiety, and introversion.
Subtle is measured in terms of density. Alcohol, prescription and non-prescription drugs, and cayenne peppers are examples of subtle substances.
The clear (vishada) quality of Vata can manifest as spaciness, clairvoyance or someone who learns quickly and then forgets information just as fast.
High altitudes, flying, and excessive amounts of mediation create the clear quality. Too many enemas or purgation therapies will also cause clearness in the boy and mind. Foods which are clear may include broth, clear juices, and aloe vera.
The clear quality can create a narrowing of the lymphatic channels and contrition. There is increased capillary permeability and the blood vessels collapse. This also creates a pulse which is impalpable in pulse reading.
Clear is measured on the adhesion continuum.
When vata goes out of balance
Vata vikruti can be created to poor dietary habits, incompatible food combining, poor lifestyle habits, and a daily routine which imbalances Vata dosha. By examining a person’s sixth house in their Vedic astrology chart, we can see how well he/ she does with daily routines and habits.
Once the qualities of Vata dosha get vitiated (Vata dushti), it requires diligence to bring it back into balance. Again, this is difficult due to the mobile quality of Vata.
You can start on the path to balancing Vata by utilizing a tongue cleaner daily after brushing, doing an oil massage with sesame oil or a Vata pacifying body oil, and taking supplements to help with Vata digestive issues.
A full Ayurvedic consultation will give you a complete picture of what you need to do to achieve success on the road to health.