I accidentally stumbled upon the concept of doshas about 3 years back. I had just quit my job and embarked on a sabbatical without knowing for sure what type of work I wanted to do next. My stressful job had left me suffering from mild adrenal fatigue, so I was looking for unconventional ways to “repair” and find myself. During my literature research, I came across doshas and the Ayurvedic approach to regulating imbalances. The quiz I took revealed that my dominant dosha, Vata, was out of balance. I gathered as much information as possible about ways to pacify this dosha and began making small and gradual adjustments to my diet and lifestyle. Over the next year or so, most of the extreme aspects of the imbalance were remedied with the help of diet, acupuncture (I saw a TCM practitioner for a few months), Chinese herbs, exercise and, probably most importantly, lower stress levels. Vata, however, remains my dominant dosha, so I’ve been focusing on developing a sustainable Vata-friendly lifestyle in order to prevent imbalances.
Food was the easiest aspect to tackle. A Vata pacifying diet should comprise 55% grains, 20% of vegetables, 15% fats, dairy, and nuts, and 10% pulses. Among those, foods that have an inherently sweet, sour or salty taste and a warm, liquid, oily or heavy quality should be favoured, while pungent, bitter or astringent foods should be avoided, as they to increase Vata. So, for instance, I’ve increased my consumption of carrots, beetroot, sweet potatoes and okra, and reduced intake of broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. All food should be consumed warm and preferably in soupy format, while drinks should be consumed hot. For years my breakfast had consisted of uncooked oats with yoghurt and nuts, consumed at room temperature. To create a Vata-friendly version, I switched to oats cooked in dairy milk or almond milk with berries, soaked and peeled nuts and a pinch of cinnamon, eaten warm. I’ve reduced my sushi and sashimi intake and swapped raw green salads for warm, cooked salads. Now, some of these changes were easier to cope with than others. I’d never been into ice cream, cold beverages and green salads, so avoiding them was no big deal. I do love my spicy food, however (the spicier the better), so turning down the heat was not a particularly enjoyable process. I also do not function as a proper human without my morning coffee, so that is one habit I’m sticking to, Vata or no Vata.
In addition to selecting Vata-pacifying foods, I also started making a conscious effort to eat my meals slowly and in a quiet environment, rather than on the go or while working. Vata individuals are prone to indigestion and bloating due to a vishani agni type of digestion. In order to stimulate agni, I try to eat fresh ginger with salt and lemon juice before my main meals, and I refrain from drinking water or other liquids for one hour following the meal.
As far as physical exercise is concerned, as a Vata individual, I naturally gravitate towards workouts that involve moving quickly, like barre and HIIT routines. However, in order to balance Vata, I need to include exercise routines that are calming and grounding, such as restorative yoga, tai chi, swimming or weightlifting. This is the reason why I started going to yoga classes and, even though I found the slow tempo of yoga quite painful to sit through. That is, until I found Vinyasa yoga and my craving for fast movement was satisfied. Still, while I love Vinyasa, I make a conscious effort to balance it out with slower forms of yoga and/or longer relaxation sessions in Savasana at the end of the practice. When practicing on my own, I make sure to include rooting asanas like Vriksasana and Virabhadrasana I and II, as well as forward bends (e.g. Paschimottanasana) and twists (e.g. Vakrasana). I am currently working on incorporating calming breathing exercises that balance excess Vata, like nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and bhramari (humming bird), and massaging sesame oil into my skin daily before bathing.
I believe that the relaxation and stomach cleansing techniques I learnt during my YTT course will help me to make further progress on my journey to a Vata-friendly lifestyle.