One of the main principles of Ayurveda is that like increases like and opposites balance. If you have an excess of Vata (air + space) in your body, mind, and emotions, then you’re likely moving from activity to activity, not finishing things, are all over the place with your thoughts, and your daily health & wellness routine is non-existent. You may experience sleeplessness, heightened anxiety, and irregular hunger, eating, and digestion. So what would be helpful is not more of the same.
To balance all that mobility and flighty thinking/eating/doing, we need to bring in some earth qualities, which can be found in Kapha dosha. Basically, we need to slow down, tether our mind, body, and emotions with regular practices (as well as the grounding, nourishing foods I mentioned in last week’s post). We need the heavy, dense, slow, constant qualities of earth to soothe and stabilize our overwrought nervous systems.
There’s actually quite a growing number of Ayurvedic teachers who feel our modern way of life has nearly everyone in Vata excess. In that case, most of us would benefit from these habits.
So what does Ayurveda recommend specifically? Here are three helpful habits to begin balancing Vata.
Set a routine: Wake with the sun, eat, and sleep at the same times every day. It might seem boring, especially if you’re a person with a Vata-dominant constitution or are experiencing high Vata. It might seem exciting and preferable to do whatever you want, whenever you want. That only contributes to the imbalance. As much as is possible, get yourself on a schedule and do your best to stick to it.
Morning practices: Meditate, pray, walk, or do gentle and nourishing physical practices like yoga or Qigong during early morning hours. Resist the urge to open up your email, jump on your phone and start scrolling. Set aside the first hour or two of waking up for you to receive and enjoy spiritual and/or mental nourishment, and warm your muscles and joints with a gentle physical practice. This will give you a sense of calm and ease that will stay with you the rest of the day.
Do oil self-massage, or abhyanga, every day either before or after showering. Here’s a short how-to video on abhyanga by Kate O’Donnell. If you have dry skin, you can use sesame oil ( I prefer refined sesame oil), or if you have sensitive skin, you can use almond, sunflower, or coconut oil, as long as you don’t have allergies. Coconut oil is a cooling oil, so it is preferred for hot weather or those with mostly Pitta constitutions. If you are in the US, you can purchase high quality massage oils, including ones with herbal blends, from Banyan Botanicals. Abhyanga nourishes your body and mind, increases circulation, moves stagnant lymph, improves vision, tones the body’s tissues, and more. Read in depth about it here.
Because Vata needs consistency, I encourage you to start slow and build your routine over time. Maybe this week you can establish a wake, sleep, and eat schedule. And after you become consistent with that, add a morning meditation. After that becomes regular, add abhyanga. If you attempt to do everything, you may become overwhelmed and do nothing. Better to begin small and make things as easy as possibly for yourself.