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Dealing with Winter & Vata
Ayurveda is roughly translated from Sanskrit as “the complete knowledge for a long life.” This natural approach to healing has existed for over 4,000 years and it remains deeply rooted in Indian culture today.
Treatments are largely based around balancing the three fundamental energies – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Ayurvedic theory states that each human is made up of a unique combination of doshas that create our temperaments and personalities. When our doshas exist in unequal quantities – we become ill. Contrary to other medicinal approaches which seek to eliminate the cause of disease, Ayurvedic principles indicate that illness is a symptom of imbalance. If we are able to balance our complex bodies, we will feel energy and vitality.
In order for Ayurveda to be effective, one must look at it as a lifelong process of incorporating new practices in your daily life. Prevention is as important as treatment – a stark difference to the current approach of pain killers, sleep meds, and quick fixes. A patient is encouraged to make practical changes in their life. Nearly anything can be used as medicine – herbs, foods, drinks, smells, touches, environments, and lifestyles...
Although a variety of imbalances can occur in different people, the vast majority of us suffer with a Vata dominance due to our fast paced, high stress, sugar laden lifestyles. It leaves most of us breathless, anxious, and exhausted. Winter can be especially aggravating for a Vata, as the weather turns dry and cold (characteristics that are already prominent within the body). When we feel the stress of excess Vata, it is best to counteract it with grounding rituals, nurturing activities, gentle exercises, wet foods, and warmth. These are especially important in the days leading up to Christmas as we get busier and our lives are more chaotic.
Signs of too much Vata in the body are:
- dry skin and eyes\chapped lips
- stiff, aching muscles
- a fretful, worried, and racing mind
- inability to focus
- a short memory span
- irregular digestion\constipation
- lack of menstruation (for women)
- unstable emotions
Warm foods and herbs are extremely beneficial, as are warming spices (cinnamon, ginger, pepper, licorice, etc). A little sesame oil with vegetables is well digested by a Vata-type. Fish, eggs, and the dark meat of chicken and turkey are good protein options. For a vegan, nuts are especially useful. It is important that you do not skips meals and set a routine for your food and sleep – keeping a consistent pattern of work and rest during the week. Although exercise is important, Vatas tend to overdo it. Try quiet, calm exercises like walking or yoga to ease the mind. Supplements that are helpful for Vata are tulsi, coconut oil (take a teaspoon internally and use externally to soothe the body), garlic, tumeric, ginger, cardamom, and bee pollen.
When Vata is in balance, we are enthusiastic, creative, energetic, and full of life. Fine tuning our daily routines so that we are enriched and not hindered by Vata can be a challenge, but one that is more than worth the effort.