Are you feeling scattered, unfocussed and anxious? Have your body’s systems become a little irregular over the past couple of months? (i.e. digestive issues, constipation, irregular menstrual cycles, sleep issues or a changeable appetite?) If you’re experiencing anything like this, it’s likely you’re currently experiencing excessive Vata energy, the energy of air and wind, change and irregularity.
The Three Doshas
Within the world of Ayurveda, there are three primary doshas – and in this case, the word ‘dosha’ refers to your mind / body type. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These three energies exist in all of us to varying degrees; if you’re considered a Vata ‘type’, it means you possess more Vata qualities, such as a slim frame, bony joints, a tendency towards dry skin, and emotional qualities of creativity, fast thinking (and fast talking) and being prone towards anxiety. Your elemental qualities are air and ether. If your dosha is primarily Kapha, it’s likely your frame is a little bigger, your joints are strong and your figure is perhaps naturally curvier; your elements are earth and water, and you’re also likely to resemble qualities of kindness, loyalty and a love for routine – as well as habits like occasional comfort eating. Primarily Pitta types are governed by fire and water; they’re classically ‘fiery’ and love intensity, whether it’s intense exercise, work or relationships. Pitta types are usually of a medium build, with strong digestion and an even stronger appetite, prone to inflammation, irritability and impatience when aggravated.
So, we’re all born with either one or two primary doshas, which stay with us forever and are essentially our psycho-physio blueprint. (remember that we have all three doshas in us, but one or two are primary). Whilst we maintain our baseline dosha forever, we experience fluctuations of energy all the time – for example; you could be a kapha-pitta type, but experience excessive Vata qualities due to your current circumstances. The changing energies we feel on a weekly or daily basis are known as our vikriti, and knowing this is really helpful if you’re working through a particular imbalance or illness.
- Dosha = your fixed mind / body type. Determined at birth. It’s your psycho-physiological blueprint.
- Vikriti = your current state. You may experience changes in how you feel physically and emotionally from season to season or on a weekly basis. Different imbalances are signs of different issues within the body and mind. E.g. during Autumn many people have dry skin and cracking joints, which is an example of accumulated Vata in the body.
If you want to find out your own personal dosha type, click HERE to take a quiz
Balancing Vata Energy
Our environment is a huge determining factor when it comes to our state of being. If we experience a stressful life change, an illness or injury, or if we eat a type of food that doesn’t agree with us, this can all cause one of the doshas to become aggravated and excessive. Depending upon which dosha is aggravated, there are different methods and tools to practice in order to rebalance and re-harmonise ourselves. Why is this important? Because right now, many of us are probably experiencing a Vata imbalance; ‘regular’ life has stopped, routine isn’t fixed, and the future is unpredictable, thus influencing the potential to feel anxious and unsettled. If this is you, try the following two practices and empower yourself with the knowledge of how to balance your body and harmonise your mind:
- Routine, routine, routine
It may sound a little boring, but routine is really the cornerstone of helping Vata-related issues. Being air and ether governed, Vata is hard to pin down, but this is really important in order to prevent the whirlwind of unpredictability if you’re already feeling scattered. Nature has its own routine or rhythm; the rhythm of day and night; seasonal rhythms, and even the cells and organs in our bodies have a rhythm. Our minds feel more relaxed when we have a routine, which allows our digestive system to settle into a balanced rhythm too.
To get started, re-set your circadian rhythms (your sleep-wake cycle) by stepping outside as soon as you can after waking up, thus exposing your body to sunlight, which interacts with suprachiasmatic nucleus or ‘SCN’, telling your body to fire up and get ready for a new day. At night, switch off your screens so your eyes don’t absorb the blue light emitted from them, which has been shown to prevent the release of melatonin and therefore also prevent a good night’s sleep.
Next, simply write down what you’re going to do each day. I know it’s ridiculously simple, but your mind won’t be as scattered if you can literally look at your list and know what you’re going to do next. Your list could look something like this:
- Reply to emails
- Phone relative
- Daily walk
- Creative work
- Jobs around the house
If you really want to get focussed, you could even write down the time you’re going to do each activity. If you’re not currently working or have lost your routine altogether, use the Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine clocks to inspire you.
- Breathe Better
The way we breathe constantly sends signals to our brain and nervous system about how we should be feeling. Short, shallow breaths tell the body there’s something to worry about, initiating the stress response, releasing cortisol, raising blood-pressure and heartrate, and when chronic – damaging the immune and hormonal systems, causing brain fog and impaired digestion. A slow, calm breath of course tells the body the very opposite: to relax, to feel safe, balanced, and resilient, whilst helping maintain the health of the immune system, hormones, digestion, blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Whoever you are and however much yoga you’ve practiced, it’s likely that you’re still not breathing optimally all the time (pretty much all of us will have a portion of the day where we’re unintentionally holding the breath of shallow breathing). The more we catch ourselves shallow breathing, the more opportunities we have to re-set the breath and rebalance the mind and body. Try putting your hands on your stomach and consciously relaxing the stomach completely – it might puff out or protrude, but it’s completely natural and is so much better for our health. Next, imagine starting your breath from your feet and slowly breathing up the length of your entire body, exhaling back down the length of your body to your feet again. This encourages a slower, longer breath. After a few rounds of this, try focussing your breath into the centre of your body – breathing into your stomach, your sides and your back. After a few rounds of this, combine both techniques by inhaling from your feet upwards, and expand your stomach, ribs and back when you reach the centre of your body. Make your exhale even longer to relax the nervous system further and bring your awareness back down to your feet. Practice for a few minutes each day, and whenever you notice you’re holding your breath or feeling anxious.