Balance Vata with Lifestyle Practices
Based on your current state of balance, we recommend that you follow a vata-pacifying lifestyle. This is a way of balancing vata with your habits, routines, and daily practices. In Ayurveda, adapting your lifestyle and being mindful of how you are living from day to day—even in relatively simple or subtle ways—can be an extremely effective way of encouraging a return to balance. Because every substance and experience we encounter has the potential to influence our health, there truly are an infinite number of ways to support your path toward balance. This resource will give you the foundational tools necessary to begin to adapt your lifestyle in favor of calming vata.
A Qualitative Perspective
As a starting place, it’s helpful to understand which types of influences will be most supportive. Vata is soothed by experiences that are:
- Heavy (think grounding and nourishing).
- Warm (think in terms of keeping warm both physically and emotionally).
- Oily (think unctuous and loving).
- Smooth (think graceful and fluid).
- Stable (think steady, reliable, tranquil, and stress-free).
- Gross (think tangible, measureable, wholesome, and sustaining).
These qualities help to balance vata’s tendency to be undernourished and depleted, as well as its dry, rough, light, cold, and mobile nature. They are also a perfect antidote to vata’s flightiness, anxiousness, and impulsiveness. While incorporating vata-pacifying qualities into your day-to-day experience may require a bit of effort and consideration initially, with practice, it can become quite intuitive.
Elements of a Vata-Pacifying Lifestyle
In general, it’s important to slow down, ground, and create a sense of routine and stability. Making time for rest, sweetness, deep nourishment, and meaning will be potent medicine in and of itself. Pace yourself as you move through your day, and experiment with developing a radical devotion to self-care. Be willing to relinquish your attachment to spontaneity just enough to experience the benefit of having a sense of routine in your life. And when presented with a new opportunity, be willing to pause and consider the real impact that saying yes may have on you. Environmentally, it is best to insulate yourself from intensely cold or windy weather.
Below, you will find a few suggestions to get you started. Please try not to feel overwhelmed. Instead, keep in mind that just one or two intentional shifts can have a dramatic impact, and that it is important not to over-extend yourself. This is a perfect opportunity to embrace going slow, being intentional, and remaining open to the possibility that for you, less may truly be more. What’s important here is to follow your inspiration, and to keep things as simple as possible.
Ayurveda is big on daily routines. In fact, following an appropriate daily routine is one of the single most powerful Ayurvedic tools for improving overall health and well-being. This is true even when we are in near perfect health. And when imbalances are at play, a daily routine can be a game-changer.
While consistency is among the most important aspects of a daily routine, that doesn’t mean that you have to be attached to a specific schedule or place overbearing limits on your spontaneity. Think of it more in terms of creating a sense of predictability that will serve to anchor your nervous system in a sense of normalcy and safety throughout each day. Your routine might be as simple as getting up and going to bed at the same times each day, or it might be slightly more elaborate. Either way, it should only include elements that you trust you can successfully engage with on a regular basis.
The best places to start when creating more consistency include sleep and wake times, meal times, and work schedules. You might also want to consider consciously committing to more rest than you might think you need. While you may find that you generally sleep less than most, your body will likely thrive on more rest than you are used to, and naps can be part of the mix, if need be.
Below are a few particularly vata-pacifying elements to consider including as you craft your routine. For more support and ideas, please see our guide to creating a Vata-Pacifying Daily Routine.
As an important sister science to Ayurveda, the practice of yoga stands to benefit anyone. Remarkably, we can significantly amplify the value of practicing yoga by tailoring our practice to pacify a specific dosha. While there are any number of asanas (yoga postures) that are especially vata-pacifying, it’s the overall approach to your practice that is going to have the biggest impact. As with other aspects of your life, bringing the qualities that calm vata into your yoga practice can very effectively encourage a return to balance.
Intentionally create a sense of warmth, grounding, serenity, and nourishment in your practice. Be careful not to get chilled, and better yet, practice in a space that allows the body to stay comfortably warm. Aim your gaze at or below the horizon, and keep it fixed as much as possible. Practice lengthening your inhalation. Invite your movements to be slow, steady, smooth, and graceful, focusing on the foundation of each pose to encourage grounding and stability. Explore fluidity in your movements—including joint rotations and spinal undulations. And most importantly, frame your practice as one that is strength-building and nourishing rather than depleting. Including restorative postures will help to infuse your practice with the energies that calm and balance vata.
For more support in tailoring your yoga practice, please see our resource on Vata-Pacifying Yoga.
The practice of pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) is one of the most potent subtle therapies around. If you are new to pranayama, we recommend starting with Full Yogic Breath. Once that feels natural and comfortable, there are a couple of practices that are particularly vata-pacifying. Nadi Shodhana (also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing) balances solar and lunar, masculine and feminine energies throughout the system, and is highly effective at calming the nervous system while pacifying excess vata. Bhramari (or Humming Bee Breath) soothes and quiets the mind and the nervous system, invites us to connect with our truest inner nature, and supports sound sleep. Committing to just ten or fifteen minutes of pranayama each day can dramatically improve one’s state of mind and overall well-being.
Even adapting how you exercise can help to pacify vata. Excess vata tends to increase dryness, lightness, and mobility, as do many forms of exercise. Done carelessly, a well-meaning fitness routine can actually be highly aggravating to vata. On the other hand, taking a few simple steps to adapt your approach to exercise can help to encourage an efficient return to balance. Be mindful of grounding and creating a sense of stability, even in your activity. Move more slowly and gracefully than you might naturally feel inclined to, and balance your workouts with plenty of time for rest and recovery. Working out during the kapha times of day (6–10 a.m. and p.m.) will help to buffer the system against excess mobility and depletion. In any case, try to avoid exercising between 2–6 a.m. and p.m., when a natural lightness, clarity, and transitional energy in the atmosphere can be especially vata-provoking.
In general, exercise at about 50 percent of your capacity—taking care not to overdo it, but keeping things engaging and exciting in other ways. Slow down when you might normally tend to speed up. And see if you can invite your mind to be in a more laid-back space throughout your workout. Exercising outdoors can also help to calm and nourish vata. You may also find it helpful to explore gentle activities like walking, tai chi, chi gong, and swimming (if you can be careful not to become chilled). For more on this topic, please see our resource on The Vata-Pacifying Approach to Fitness.
Awareness Is Everything
In Ayurveda, especially when we’re talking about lifestyle, just about anything can be medicine (or poison, for that matter). At the most fundamental level, following a vata-pacifying lifestyle is about inviting more vata-pacifying qualities into your day-to-day experience, whether through specific, focused practices, the overall attitude you cultivate towards life, or both. This is why fostering awareness is so critically important. With a little effort, we can become quite astute at knowing which types of experiences are going to nourish us and support our health, and which might tend to sabotage our well-being. Choosing to follow a vata-pacifying lifestyle is a simple matter of practicing more discernment. It is an invitation to intentionally fill our days with supportive types of experiences, while limiting those that will be less so. As our understanding deepens, and as we begin to understand how, the very way we move through life becomes a powerful opportunity for healing.