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By Nadia Marshall
Has anyone else noticed that this winter is particularly Vata- aggravating?! It is cold, dry and crazy windy in Mullumbimby... and my Vata is playing up big time! Aggravated Vata means COLD to the bone feet and hands, dry skin, cracking lips, a rushing mind and a tendency towards anxiety. Who me? Anxious? Waking up at 2am worrying about stuff? Never...
Vata has the qualities of COLD, DRY, MOBILE and IRREGULAR. So, the ultimate medicine for Vata constitutions or anyone with a Vata imbalance (i.e. most of us) is to expose ourselves to the opposing qualities – WARMTH, OILINESS, STILLNESS and REGULARITY. The last two can be a little tricky for deranged Vata so it's easiest to start with warmth and oiliness!
Aggravated Vata can also be pacified through foods of a particular taste. Vata is made up of the elements of Air and Ether... so the taste most capable of pacifying Vata is... drumroll.... the SWEET taste, made up of the elements of Water and Earth. Sour and Salty are close runners up but Sweet is the winner!
What do we crave when we feel ungrounded, spacey, rushed, anxious, light-headed and agitated? We crave comfort. We crave grounding, steadiness and safety. This is what the sweet taste provides. Unfortunately the kind of sweetness we usually turn to (refined sugar) has the opposite effect. It aggravates Vata further. So, when craving comfort food, make sure you turn to unrefined sweetners like jaggery, rapadura, coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup. You'll also get a subtle vata-pacifying sweet hit through certain whole grains (like rice, wheat, oats, quinoa); milk and ghee; sweet veggies and fruits; sweet nuts and sweet oils. Here is a list of sweet foods that pacify vata.
And here is a list of things I do to pacify, or rather, to care for my Vata...
- I try to stay physically warm… I'm not afraid to carry a nanna rug, an extra pair of socks and a hot water bottle around, just in case
- I favour warm, cooked foods and warm drinks
- I use plenty of warming spices in my cooking, especially ginger
- I drink Sarah's Rejuvenate Warming Tea throughout the day
- I avoid cold and very cooling drinks and foods such as iced drinks, salads, smoothies and raw foods (this obviously changes slightly in the summertime)
- I generate internal warmth by exercising everyday, even if it is just a walk… but my exercise is always pretty gentle (excessively exercise can aggravate vata).
- I regularly engage in a little 'warmth therapy' in the form of soothing music, sweet scents and uplifting company or a fun movie/series
- I eat A LOT of ghee because it has the specific quality of enkindling the digestive fire and is delicious
- I avoid overly dry and astringent foods like breads, crackers and processed cereals (and raw food which is dry as well as cold)
- I give myself a warm sesame oil massage (self-abhyanga) at least once a week (see our how-to video here). Sesame oil is warming so is the best massage oil for Vata
- I book in for an Ayurvedic Massage from someone else at least once a fortnight (one of the perks of running an Ayurvedic clinic!)
- If I'm feeling particularly flighty and am having trouble sleeping, I'll give myself a warm sesame oil shirropicchu before bed to help me sleep (see our how-to video here)
- I do oil pulling (swishing warm sesame oil in my mouth for about 1-3 mins) most days in the shower, which helps to pacify Vata in the head and neck area and strengthens the teeth (see our oil pulling video here)
- Everyday I mindfully and deliberately slow myself down. I slow down my speaking, walking, movements and multi-tasking. I even drive slowly... like a nanna
- I avoid all commercial television and radio (reading the news is less agitating)
- I try to avoid being late because rushing aggravates Vata big time
- And… I try to stop moving altogether once in a while. Regular periods of rest are the REAL best medicine for Vata
- I try to say no to things so I'm not constantly over-committing and recently, I've been trying to ask for help more!
- Most importantly, I try to slow down my mental environment, through mindfulness practices, so I can better care for my 'family' of emotions when they need it most. Anxiety (a vata emotion) is a high maintenance child of mine that needs a lot of extra cuddles! (See my anxiety article here for some more tips about anxiety)
- I try to stick to a daily routine that works with my lifestyle. I've organized this around what I enjoy, rather than what I think I 'should' do, to make it easier to stick to!
- The most important things are getting up and going to bed at a similar time and eating meals at a similar time each day. Regularity calms Vata.
- I try to be consistent and committed to what I'm doing. My Vata-fuelled tendency is to get distracted and search for new and exciting things to try. But the real solution is to be gently consistent with what I already know works for me…
Finally, to cultivate even more sweetness in life, I try to do things that fill me up with a feeling of sweetness! They are often the simplest of things… getting up early to give my puppies a good snuggle, walking on the beach at sunset, giving my hubby a massage, having a good stretch, enjoying an un-rushed cup of tea with friends, filling my pantry with fresh produce, taking time to cook a special meal for my family, going camping… you get the drift.
So there you have it my friends... a rather lovely list of ways to care for your Vata and, therefore, to look after your health and happiness!
What do you do care for your Vata??