Picture this: you sit on your mat, intent to get through your yoga practice, and before you get to your first “OM” you’ve grabbed a duster, opened and closed the window twice, remembered to put your phone on silent… quickly sent a Whatsapp, and indulging in distractions, seemingly unable to sit still.
Yes indeed, folks. It’s vata season. In Ayurveda, sometimes referred to as a sister science to yoga, or the “science of life”, the elements of air and space combine to create vata. And in the ayurvedic calendar, autumn is when these elements elevate in our external environment (think wind, dryness, crackling leaves) and, as a result, in our minds and bodies as well.
What is ayurveda?
Ayurveda views the world (our bodies, thoughts, feelings, emotions, nature… the universe) as made up of a combination of five primary elements: earth, air, fire, water and space (sometimes called Akasha).
Each of us has a different mix of these elements within us – some more than others. The ones which appear most dominant in our Self make up our “dosha”. A dosha simply represents the elements that are most likely to become unbalanced, as they already exist in excess, even in one’s natural state.
Ayurveda operates on the principle of like increasing like. Food, drink, exercise, breathing, and lifestyle affect all the elements within. So, if you have more air and space (vata) in your personal make up, the time of year when those elements are elevated in your external environment (autumn and early winter) poses a particular challenge. The other doshas are pitta (fire + water) and kapha (earth + water). Pitta corresponds to the summer; kapha is elevated in late winter/spring.
How do I know if vata is too high in my mind or body?
(In South Africa, especially taking note around March-May)
Regardless of your personal body type, any element can be thrown out of balance by season, lifestyle, diet, movement (exercise), and life events. The following are symptoms of vata in excess:
BODY: Stiffness, cracking joints, constipation, pain, dryness of membranes (eyes, nose, skin), lack of appetite, agitated movement
YOUR MIND: lack of focus, nervousness, anxiety, inability to concentrate or finish a task, insomnia and talking/thinking too much
What to do?
To soothe excessive vata, use warm, cooked foods. This is not the time of year for a raw cleanse.
Use high-quality oils (sesame, sunflower, grapeseed, olive and most importantly, ghee).
Enjoy foods that comfort you, make you feel like you’ve had a “home-cooked-meal”.
Drink warm water throughout the day and sip ginger tea. Caffeine will aggravate vata; avoid.
Do warming, heating exercises that are not erratic
Eg: brisk walking (good); skipping (avoid)
Warming yoga sequences: (avoid jumps)
Weights and core work
Stick to plans
Do things that make you feel safe and comforted
Avoid taking up new studies/projects – delve deeper into current ones
By: Ryan G. Edmonds
(ISHTA Yoga Teacher, Kundalini YT. LELC Studio)