Balancing Vata with a Fall Cleanse
One of most important gifts of Ayurveda is the knowledge that we are not separate from anything else in the Universe, even the intangibles. Our mind, body and spirit are all one in the same along with our connection with all else that exists. When a butterfly flutters its wings on the other side of the planet, we really are affected by it in a subtle way.
When the environment around us changes, we are affected much as a boat is rocked by the movement of the ocean. Our system constantly works on maintaining homeostasis, making constant adjustments to adapt and remain its harmony with nature. But sometimes even through the best of efforts, we are thrown out of balance when there are too many changes, too many toxins accumulated or a weakness has developed, especially in our digestion. It is easier to maintain harmony and balance when we stay near equilibrium. It is when we allow imbalance to build and accumulate that we may see more drastic and long lasting effects, which in turn, are more difficult to eliminate.
According to Ayurveda, disease begins during the time when one season cycles into another. The change in seasons especially has a strong impact making us more vulnerable for imbalance to take root. In the fall, Vata shows itself as drier, rougher and windier weather which in turn increases these qualities within ourselves. The leaves dry up and fall off the trees, the cold wind blows and the days grow shorter and darker. In ourselves we may develop Vata imbalances such as dry skin, stiff joints, constipation, bloating, disturbed sleep, and changeable moods like anxiety, loneliness and brain fog.
As Ayurveda believes that Vata is responsible for sixty percent of all diseases regardless of Prakruti or constitution, it is important to soothe Vata as soon as these little niggly symptoms begin to appear. To stay healthy, we need to eliminate the buildup of excess Doshas on a regular basis and as fall naturally stirs up Vata, it is a perfect time for many of us to do a Vata soothing cleanse.
The Ayurvedic Cleanse
Another wonderful gift of Ayurveda is the wisdom of how to aid our body to rejuvenate and cleanse itself. We can regularly practice an Ayurvedic cleanse at home or for a more thorough purification, we can turn to Panchakarma, a special and profound type of balancing, which is performed under the supervision of a trained Ayurvedic specialist.
You can add more support to your cleanse by tailoring it to address whichever dosha is most out of balance. Today we will take a special look at calming vata.
Soothing is the perfect word to help us understand how to care for Vata. As Vata is changeable, light, dry, cool and rough, we want to focus on the opposite actions of calming, quieting and gently loving ourselves to bring Vata back into its home. Here are some general guidelines to help you on your way:
- In North America, generally the best time to do a Vata pacifying cleanse is between late October and late November as fall is near it’s end and is beginning the transition to winter.
- Treat yourself with gentle and loving kindness in all things. Keep calm and focused. This is the time to slow down and enjoy life. Avoid too much screen time and other distractions. Unbalanced Vata loves distraction!
- Give yourself an oil massage (Abhyanga) everyday, best early in the morning or late in the afternoon. When you give yourself the massage, only do the massage; no multi-tasking! You can use plain Sesame Oil or Sahacharadi Oil.
- Practice Nasya – put a bit of Sesame Oil or ghee on your pinkie and rub a small amount into your nostrils a couple times a day to help protect them from the windy and dry weather of fall.
- Basti is the most important therapy to soothe Vata imbalance, best done under professional guidance so check with your Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor for specific recommendations.
- Eat fresh, lovingly prepared, Vata calming foods. The best are warm, soothing, grounding, cooked and slightly oily, like a Vata pacifying Kitchari. Kitchari is a balanced, spiced stew of rice and mung dal that provides support and nourishment while at the same time, allowing the digestive system to relax and rejuvenate. I like to add a stick of kombu to the beans at the beginning of cooking to provide more minerals as well as help with digestion. Feel free to bit more grated ginger to further warm vata. Remember to eat in a calm and quiet way and enjoy the experience of nourishing yourself.
- A healing diet gladdens the heart, nourishes the body and revives memory.
- Practice Vata calming Hatha Yoga (slow, gentle and restorative), Pranayama (breathing exercises– especially nadi-shodhana) and simple meditation. Do these daily, at regular times, giving them your full attention. Practice mindfulness throughout the day. The mind is the first to become imbalanced and having pranayama and meditation practices are very helpful to calm it down.
- Make “Don’t worry, be happy” your motto. Live simply and don’t sweat the small stuff. Your practices of Hatha Yoga, Pranayama and meditation will all help you learn to handle stress with ease. Life is wonderful when you train yourself to relax into it.
Keep in mind that sometimes the very techniques that soothe Vata can disrupt Pitta or Kapha, so it is important to know both your Prakriti and Vikruti (current state of health), before you begin. An Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor will identify any imbalance and determine the best path for you. In this way you will learn how to fine tune your routines, diet, lifestyle and habits to keep yourself in the best health.
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