In the Ayurvedic tradition, dry, cool vata energy is associated with movement, be it thoughts passing through the mind or food through the digestive system. When vata puts its stamp on a person, she’s lean, fine-featured, often tall.
She might work for a start-up or go into writing or the arts. But all that nervous energy can leave her stuck in high gear, an anxious wheel-spinner. She can be short on follow-through, and “an airhead," Bhattacharya says bluntly.
When vata energy is exaggerated, the quick, active mind becomes nervous, agitated, and prone to insomnia and sometimes headaches. A common first line of defense is addressing diet ( eat hearty, warming foods ) and lifestyle (get on a regular schedule: early to bed, early to rise). An Ayurvedic practitioner may then prescribe a preparation that includes ashwagandha, a heating herb that can stabilize nervous energy during the day and enhance sleep at night. Too much dryness in the system leads to incomplete digestion, constipation, and/or excess gas. Using pepper and ginger in cooking heats up the “digestive fire" that can burn rather weekly in the cool vata. Dryness often shows up in the joints as pain or even osteoarthritis, and can be helped by using anti-inflammatory spices such as ginger and turmeric.
In Ayurveda, the key to proper nutrition for everyone is eating whole foods – whenever possible, in season. But each dosha type has to exercise special care with foods that can exacerbate her dominant energy, especially in the season when that energy runs high. A vata person who eats dry, cold vata foods (for instance, cereals and raw vegetables) in vata season (late fall/early winter: think cold, desiccating winds) is creating a recipe for imbalance. Instead, go with moist, warming foods like soups and stews, and add a warm piece of salmon to a salad.
Vatas tend to hit the ground running – sometimes in circles. Bhattacharya recommends a morning meditation to focus the mind and a set routine to bring some discipline into the picture. Vatas are drawn to – and built for – high – energy sports like jogging and cycling, but they can wear out quickly. K. Michael Ferranti, a New York City practitioner and educator who runs Gotham Ayurveda, recommends yoga (gentle Hatha is a good choice) or Pilates to balance those aerobic efforts.
“They say in a relationship, one person is the kite and one is the string," Bhattacharya notes. “Vata is the kite." Vata-in-balance can bring spontaneity and fun to any relationship. A vata out of balance can be a flighty novelty-seeker-but Garivaltis says that she may pacify her excess vata energy by finding a loyal kapha mate to ground her. “Two vatas together will have a ball and then burn out quickly," she warns. In the bedroom, vatas usually want frequent sex – but if they indulge that craving everytime, they’ll drain their shallower energy reserves.
“Oil is vata’s best friend," says Garivaltis, who recommends applying sesame or almond oil at least every other day, either in the morning or before bed. The heavy oil, generously applied, locks moisture into vata skin, which has a tendency to dry out, especially in vata season, and a gentle 5-to-10 minute massage with it has a calming effect on the tightly strung vata nervous system.