Updated: Jun 26, 2020
With our eyes we can see the blood flowing through blood vessels, but can we see the impulses travelling through the nerves? While blood is responsible for carrying oxygen to every cell of body, nerve impulses are tasked with carrying messages between body cells and brain. But just because we can’t see them with our eyes, we can’t deny the existence of nerve impulses. Similarly, one can’t deny the presence of Vata dosh in body. Unlike other two Doshas - Pitta & Kapha which are visible to our eyes, Vata dosh is invisible just like the wind blowing in nature. However, that does not nullify its presence & significance.
even though Vata dosh is an invisible entity, its presence can be felt and confirmed through its properties and their effect on individuals
What is Vata?
The Sanskrit root of word Vata is ‘va’ which indicates mobility or dynamic nature. Therefore, Vata essentially means an entity that is dynamic and movable. This is the only bioenergy in body that has capacity to move. As wind in nature is responsible for movements of clouds, pollen grains and water waves, Vata bioenergy is responsible for all movements in body. Every movement in body, voluntary or involuntary, is made possible by Vata which is also addressed by other names like Vayu, Marut, Anil, Sameer and Pawan. When wind becomes too fierce and gusty in nature, it takes form of storms & hurricanes and could be quite devastating. Similarly, aggravated Vata dosh could be dangerous for body and jeopardize one’s health.
What is the importance of Vata in our body?
Vata dosh is dominated by wind element. And like the wind in nature, Vata dosh makes all movements possible in body. Movements of heart, lungs, alimentary canal, gallbladder, urinary bladder, fallopian tubes, uterus, eyeballs, eyelids, tongue, jaws, muscles, joints and even brain. Circulation, respiration, excretion, reproduction, conduction of nerve impulses including auditory impulses in ears are made possible by Vata dosh. It is the Vata dosh which keeps voluntary & involuntary nervous systems active.
Where can be Vata located in our body?
Doshas exist everywhere in body. Vata dosh is also not an exception to that. From nerves to iris in eyes and from oesophagus to vagina, Vata dosh is present wherever there is movement. However, just as a bank has branches everywhere but has a primary branch or headquarter, Vata dosh has its main abode in pelvic region of body. That is why, medicated enema (called Basti in Ayurveda) given through anus is the chief treatment for diseases caused by perturbed Vata.
How can Vata be recognized in an individual?
Well, that’s a very important question, especially given the fact that Vata is an invisible entity. How would we describe an elephant to a child that has never seen it before? Perhaps one would say – ‘Elephant is a giant, black animal with long trunk.’ Next time when the child goes in a zoo and sees a giant, black animal with trunk, it would immediately think – ‘Ah, this is surely the elephant!’ The giant size, black colour and presence of trunk were the characteristics that would help child differentiate the elephant from other animals. Similarly, all three Doshas can been recognized by their unique properties or characteristics which have certain effects & influences on body, mind and even personality of an individual. When these properties remain within optimum range, body functions in a normal healthy manner. However their abnormal increase or decrease has some unhealthy, undesirable effects. It is interesting, how Ayurveda has enlisted properties of each Dosha along with the influences these properties have on physical, mental & social aspects of a person. Characteristics of a Vata individual are as follows:
Chala – means dynamic or mobile. This is the main unique property of Vata which no other Dosh has. Normal movements of lungs, muscles and other body parts become possible when this property remains within normal limit. However, abnormal, unwanted, unhealthy movements may be observed when this property increases, e.g. arrhythmias in heart, tremors in extremities, shivering of body and chattering of teeeth reflect excessively high level of this property. As against this, frozen shoulder or paralyzed body part suggests that this property has decreased abnormally in that particular body part. Stiffness of joint felt after prolong sitting indicates decline in this property of Vata.
Because of this property, dominant Vata-constitution individuals are quite dynamic & active but is unwilling to sit at one place for long time. They love to run and play games on ground but feel uneasy if asked to sit in library or meditate for too long. Their mind is generally very unstable and they find it hard to concentrate on one thing for too long. Their memory too is unstable. For example: such individuals may grasp the topic of a lecture very quickly but won’t be able to recall anything afterwards. Their moods are also quite unstable and change very quickly & frequently. They may quickly lose temper but also cool down very fast.
Laghu – means light in weight. It is because of this property that aggravation of Vata dosh can reduce weight of person. Physical exercises can increase this property easily. It is because of this property that Vata-constitution individuals generally have low body weight and do not put on weight easily. Blood vessels and muscle tendons are clearly visible on their body. Due to low weight such individuals can move very fast and are generally excellent sprinters & athletes. They also walk, eat and speak very fast.
Sheet – means cold. It is because of this property that Vata-constitution individuals usually have cold extremities and shiver quickly when air becomes cold. They like warmth and don’t complain immediately even if air temperature rises as they can tolerate heat well. They dislike swimming in cold water and catch cold easily if they do so. Hugging loved ones throughout the day is a common behaviour among dominant Vata personalities.
Sukshma – means tiny in size. Molecules of Vata are extremely tiny and enable Vata to penetrate tiniest channels in body and reach every cell. It is because of this property that Vata-constitution individuals generally have short stature, narrow waist and small breasts. They usually require smallest sizes of clothes, hosieries, undergarments and shoes. Reduction in size of an organ caused by atrophic changes indicates rise in this property of Vata.
Ruksh – means dry. Dryness of eyes & skin experienced in winter essentially indicates abnormal rise of this property of Vata. Application of creams and oils usually prove useful against such problems as they reduce this property of Vata. individuals of Vata-constitution generally have dry skin, hair and eyes due to this property. They often suffer from dryness in stools and frequent thirst. Their voice is usually dry.
Khara – means rough. This property generally coexists with Ruksh property. It is because of this property that Vata-constitution persons have rough skin and nails.
Kathin – means hard. This property is often closely associated with above two properties. Normal hardness seen in nails, teeth and bones is because of this property of Vata. But nail loses its normal hardness and becomes soft if this property reduces abnormally. Rise in this property can make stools hard and help in formation of stones of urine and bile. It is because of this property that hard substances like betel nut and nutmeg aggravate Vata quickly.
Parush – means hollow. When this property of Vata increases abnormally in bones and teeth, they lose their normal density and tend to become hollow & brittle. Joints of a Vata-constitution person are generally hollow and therefore often produce crepitation sounds while moving and walking.
Vishad – means clear or opposite of sticky. If we put honey in a dish, the dish remains sticky even after emptying. To remove that stickiness, we apply detergent while washing the dish which removes the stickiness caused by honey. This property to remove stickiness is described as Vishad. It is because of this property that Vata dosh absorbs the digested food and cleans up the intestines from inside after every meal. Due to this property, joints of Vata-constitution individuals are not well lubricated and they lose their lubrication very fast as they age. Their skin lacks stickiness and develops cracks if weather becomes cold. They also suffer from anal fissures due to same reason.
Hence, even though Vata dosh is an invisible entity, its presence can be felt and confirmed through its properties and the effects of those properties on the individuals.
What can aggravate Vata dosh?
Food items and activities which possess or enhance above properties can increase Vata qualitatively as well as quantitatively. Here are some examples:
Excessive fasting, low intake of food, crush diet
Frequently changing food timings
Excessive consumption of lentils, cereals and salads
Items that are very dry in nature, e.g. some varieties of bread, pop corns
Bitter, pungent & astringent items
Cold items just taken out from refrigerator
Items kept in refrigerator for several days
Stale food like stale bread
Smoking tobacco & drugs
Consumption of alcohol for years
Excessive movements, hectic activities, physical exercises or sports activities
Lifting heavy load
Excessive travelling, walking, running, talking
Lack of sufficient rest & sleep
Long exposure to wind, air cooler and air-conditioner
Excessive sexual activities, mental activities, thinking & stress
Stay in desert or at cold places
How to maintain Vata balance?
Whatever is opposite of above mentioned things can help in controlling Vata. E.g.
Adequate rest, movements, Yoga & Pranayam
Warm, unctuous, fresh cooked food
Moderate sexual & mental activities
No smoking & alcohol
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