Updated: Oct 3, 2020
The concept of Tridoṣa is one of the fundamental principles of Ayurveda. Once you hear about Ayurveda, the mystical Vata, Pitta, and Kapha will pop into your mind. It is surprising and sad that most confusion happens here in the very basics of Ayurveda. Today, I would like to focus on one of them and bring more clarification.
The doshas are energies that are present in and around us and maintaining the functions of the body. You cannot touch them because they are not a structure, but as every power, you could feel them and their effects.
Vata considered the master dosha and most essential among all three of them.
"For all the good and bad of the world, pavana (Vata) in its normal and abnormal state is the only cause, especially so in the human body. It is the doer of all actions, the soul of all things, possessor of all forms, chief of all living beings, the creator, supporter, and controller of all; is omniscient, destroyer, lord of death and death itself. Hence all efforts should be made to maintain it normally always". - AH.Ni.15.1-3.
Vagbhata emphasizes the importance of Vata not just in the human body but in the whole Universe. There no creation or destruction could happen without Vata involved. Just imagine our Universe without any movements. Any growth and life are only possible with the energy of the Vata. The only unleaving matter could sustain without it, but even so, Vata would be responsible for the process of creation of this matter.
Think about the destructive power of the motion. The ocean is just water, but give it the power of wind, and it could turn into a tsunami. The hurricanes, earthquakes, tornado, volcano eruptions - the most severe destruction is happening with the power of motion.
The same happens in our bodies. We need a power of motion to support our life and to create a new one. Even while we are sleeping or relaxing, there a lot of movement happening in our body: heartbeat, blood circulation, breathing, fighting of bacterias or infection, cell division, etc. But once we are neglecting to take proper care of this power, it will burst out with a variety of diseases. The most harmful and fast killing disorders carry the energy of Vata Dosha or caused by the blockage of its movement: heart diseases, stroke, paralysis, asthma, etc. I'm not saying that the other Doshas could not be involved, but the Vata would be the most responsible one. According to Ayurveda, there are 80 disorders that categorized under Vata, 40 under Pitta, and 20 under Kapha imbalances.
Let's discuss what we could do to preserve the energy of the movement and keep it in its balanced state. Unfortunately, modern life is itself a cause of aggravation of Vata dosha. How so? The Vata is the energy composed of two elements: air and ether. Hence, it inherits the quality of those elements: subtle, mobile, dry, rough, cold, light, irregular. The more similar qualities we add, the more unhappy Vata becomes. The breeze is a pleasant wind, but the windstorm not so much, right? The same happens in the body. The Vata is moving all over and supporting the functions of the body. Once you are adding more qualities mentioned above, you will face the consequences. The dryness of the skin is a very mild example of Vata aggravation (increased the dry quality of the Vata). Dryness, stiffness of the joints is another example, not so mild one, especially when the pain is present. Now let us see what our modern life looks like. The pace of life is a quick one, minimum time to eat, and even less to prepare the food. As a result, the food is dry and cold (sandwiches), heavy and sluggish (blocks the passage of Vata obstructing it from freely movements), taken fast without proper chewing or with the destruction (in front of the computer, while watching TV, etc.). Another Vata provoking situation is an erratic schedule. Irregularity is one of the qualities of Vata. Once you are skipping meals, or your schedule fluctuates a lot, the Vata will be getting out of balance. Late nights and sleeping/non-sleeping at the proper time (oversleeping in the morning) responsible for many more health problems that you could relate. Staying at home during the Covid-19 Pandemic could be very discouraging for your sleep pattern. I see it every day in the health conditions my Rogis (health seekers) bringing to me. You might be surprised how bad late nights, oversleeping in the morning, or sleeping during the day could affect your health. Modern medicine agrees here with Ayurvedic wisdom but has a bit different explanation. The Circadian rhythm doesn't care if you are "owl" or "early bird", or "wanted to finish some work at night." Your inner clock has its own schedule, so if you are not sleeping when it is time, it affects the hormonal regulations, immunity, appetite, metabolism, cholesterol level, etc. Sleep is not a waste of time. There are modern researches you could read to confirm. According to Ayurveda, late nights are drying, and as we know, the dryness causes an imbalance of the Vata dosha and suppressing of the vitality (Ojas). As a result, neurodegenerative, psychological, and autoimmune diseases can occur.
As you could see, taking proper care of Vata dosha is essential to keep our body and mind healthy. I added a list of simple but vital tips to prevent it from aggravation. For an easier understanding of the reasons behind these suggestions, always remember the qualities of Vata: subtle, mobile, dry, rough, cold, light, irregular.
Avoid overexertion but do daily activities and exercises.
Sleep at the proper time, avoid late-nights.
Eat warm, freshly cooked, nourishing food, especially during fall and winter. Nourishing is not the same as heavy, overprocessed, or greasy.
Avoid raw salads if you often feel bloated and during the cold season.
Chew food properly, avoid using distractions while eating. Your mind could only be focused on one thing at a time. Once you do multitasking, the mind becomes too agitated, or your body will be focused on the task you mean as secondary.
Take time for yourself, practice yoga, pranayama, and meditation.
Avoid exposure to wind and cold; wear warm clothes while you do. Doesn't mean you need to lock yourself at home during cold month, fresh air is vital for your health as well.
Practice Self-Abhyanga (oil application on the body) at least once a week. If you are too busy, at least apply little oil on the feet before sleep and few drops on the top of the head and ears.
Do not suppress natural urges. It could obstruct the normal flow of Vata.
I hope it does make sense and brings more clarity about Vata dosha and its influence on our health. As usual, you are welcome for comments and questions.