Rasayana, or rejuvenation for vata is needed in a variety of vata-related situations. It is important to address vata rasayana in individuals of vata prakriti, during the management of imbalances due to vata, in the vata season (autumn), and in the vata time of life (from age fifty onwards). Rejuvenation of vata is also important for those who live in jangala desha, the vata-predominant regions of the world—arid, with less vegetation, and much high wind.1 In terms of the United States, this description of jangala desha incorporates most of the desert and mountain West, with its high altitudes and arid or semi-arid conditions.
The king of vata rasayana herbs is ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) also known as winter cherry. Ashwagandha is a shrubby plant with greenish-yellow flowers and red berries. Although it is particularly famed for its action on the deeper dhatus, (majja and shukra), ashwagandha rejuvenates the dhatu agni of all seven dhatus. This broad-spectrum activity could be related to the large number of active principles in the herb root; its main active principles being steroidal alkaloids and steroidal lactones. At least thirty-five different withanolides, or steroidal lactones as well as twelve alkaloids have been identified in ashwagandha.2,3
To support ease in the muscles and tissues, ashwagandha can be used together with yogaraj guggulu. In vata-type skin conditions, it combines well with manjistha and turmeric. To promote sexual health, a teaspoon of ashwagandha can be taken at bedtime in a cup of hot cow’s milk. For vata menstrual discomfort, ashwagandha can be combined with shatavari. The ultimate situation requiring rejuvenation of vata is balakshaya, or vata-type weakness. Ashwagandha is the herb of choice in this situation, and is traditionally taken with gritamadhu, a mixture of ghee and honey. For those who want to support healthy bacteria levels in the body and are unable to take gritamadhu as an anupan, almond milk is a good substitute that supports rejuvenation of ojas.
A fifty-year-old practitioner of yogic disciplines presented complaining of nervousness, anxiety, forgetfulness, and nocturnal emissions. An individual of vata prakriti, he was also entering his vata time of life and was a resident of a arid environment, living at over five thousand feet in the windy, dry conditions of Colorado’s Front Range. His lifestyle was vata provoking in that he slept six hours or less a night and rose at three in the morning, unaware that vata prakriti requires at least seven hours of sleep a night. He quickly took to a more vata-soothing lifestyle, incorporating self-abhyanga and svedhana into his weekly routine. In addition, he was advised to take a cup of hot cow’s milk in the evenings with a teaspoon of ashwagandha. Although ashwagandha is a celebrated aphrodisiac and shukral herb, it nonetheless supported this aspirant in his quest for brahmacharya, or celibacy. His nocturnal emissions were unrelated to lust or excess libido but rather were a manifestation of shukra gati vata—vata invading the shukra dhatu. Thus, the vata-soothing and shukra-rejuvenating impacts of ashwagandha served to support him on his yogic path. He became calmer and his memory was better supported.
Another important rejuvenative for vata is Sesame Oil and its derivative forms—such as Ashwagandha Bala Oil. Sesame Oil is considered specifically for vata just as ghee is for pitta or honey for kapha. Daily abhyanga is an essential feature of a vata-rejuvenating lifestyle.
A forty-year-old woman of vata prakriti complained of vata-type imbalances such as lack of energy, depression, irregular menstruation, and unease. Her symptoms worsened every fall and had also greatly exacerbated once she moved from California to the dry and arid environment of Colorado. She responded fairly well to a vata-soothing formula including ashwagandha, vidari, and dashamula to nourish and ground vata. However, her best ally was Sesame Oil and vata-soothing medicated sesame oils such as Vata Massage Oil and Sleep Easy Oil. Regular self-abhyanga with sesame oil, as well as sesame oil basti, helped her make it through the challenging fall season. Over a five-year period of continuing to live in a vata-provoking region, she found each fall and winter period went better than the preceding one, as long as she stuck with her practices of abhyanga and basti.
The Importance of Sleep
Above and beyond any herbal therapy, the best rejuvenative for vata is a good night’s sleep.
“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.”
It is during sleep that the body engages in processes of growth and repair, and hence in the absence of proper sleep, even the best of rejuvenative herbs will prove ineffective.
When Wordsworth wrote the following, he described the importance of a good night’s sleep.
“Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:
So do not let me wear tonight away:
Without Thee what is all the morning's wealth?”
In vata provocation, sleep—important as it is for vata—is often hard to attain. In extreme cases of vata-type fatigue, day and night become reversed with disruption of the natural cortisol cycle. The patient is tired all day, only to become hyperactive at night. Eventually falling asleep after sunrise ushers in kapha time, they then sleep until mid-morning or later. However, day sleep only serves to exacerbate their insomnia and fatigue, as these hours are not optimal for the body’s repair processes. Fortunately, our vata-rejuvenation allies, ashwagandha and sesame oil, both contribute to vata’s ability to obtain the most vital rejuvenation of all.
Possessed of activity similar to the calming neurotransmitter GABA, ashwagandha helps induce sound sleep. A teaspoon of ashwagandha in a cup of warm milk at bedtime will help promote sleep in a vata-deranged individual. Sesame oil massage is likewise invaluable in promoting sound sleep. Simply oiling the soles of the feet at bedtime with sesame oil, Vata Massage Oil, or Sleep Easy Oil calms the system and induces good sleep. In addition, soporific and nervine herbs such as bhringaraj, passionflower, nutmeg, skullcap, and chamomile can promote sleep, the greatest vata rejuvenative. A formula such as I Sleep Soundly is thus valuable in the rejuvenation of vata.
With our key vata allies, ashwagandha and sesame oil, all vata systems can be rejuvenated; and the impact of obstacles to health such as a naturally vata-provoking region or onset of the vata time of life can be minimized, if not eliminated.