On the one hand we have life and on the other hand, we have ageing and eventually death. When we talk about life, we talk about the forces of change. Another way of describing this is ‘energy’.
The cosmos with its planetary movement is made up of energy.
Human beings are both part of this and benefit from it. In our evolution, we have developed from molecules through a more primitive mammal stage and then into human beings by the force of movement of energy. In the same way, the energy of the sperm goes through the process of moving towards the ovum.
This is energy in movement. And similarly, the main principle our life is based on is one characterised by the possibility of movement. If we don’t move, we decay and face death.
From a direct understanding of yoga intertwined with the knowledge of ayurveda, I would like to now explain what Vata is responsible for and how we can use it.
The subtle energy of movement is described as one of the 3 main forces (doshas) and is referred to as VATA. Vata combines the 2 elements of air and ether.
When you look at how we are connected to the elements by simply standing up, you will notice that we are connected to the earth with the help of cosmic energy. It is this downward moving energy in the body that provides the essential connection between us and the earth.
From the waist up, we experience more subtlety that allows us to move freely and express ourselves through the movement of the torso, arms and head. Simply wave your hands through the air and notice how you can feel the wind on your hands and the lightness of space.
You will also notice that with the desire to stand upright, energy moves upwards.
Vata means Wind
and is related to the term ‘vayu’, a term which is used to describe both downward and upward moving energetic forces. The third most important direction for Vata is that it is capable of moving around, ie. through circulating our blood and breath.
So, to recap, life is not possible without movement. Being attuned to VATA means to be attuned to life and life’s development.
However, wind and space need to be dealt with cautiously (as do Pitta and Kapha, the other 2 doshas – more in my next blog post).
When wind stagnates by sitting all day, eating food that is too heavy, moving too little, we are looking at the opposite of a healthy life force – we are looking at stagnation that often leads to disease.
Simply look at what happens when mucus becomes stuck in your sinuses or when food doesn’t want to move, resulting in heartburn, or when you find that you need to cough to free up your breathing. Or notice the emotional stress on your system that results from breathing that is too shallow. These are, of course, symptoms of dis-ease which will eventually lead to a weakening of the life force. In these cases, the problem is one of stagnation of the life force.
On the other side, too much movement and expansion can lead to feelings of not being able to concentrate, feeling overwhelmed, bloatedness (too much wind in the digestive tract) or not being able to sit still.
In short, well functioning Vata (aka Movement) awakens the life force so we can be healthy and radiant, while too much or too little movement brings disease.
How can we find a balance?
Here are some simple ways of keeping VATA in check:
- Have rhythm in your day to day life (when you eat, sleep and wake up so movement is regulated and not erratic)
- Move the body regularly (ie. get up from your desk at work every so often and make use of the lightness of the upper body – by moving it in all directions – and engage in breath body practices regularly)
- Wind is cold, so if you are noticing permanent coldness in your system, eg cold hands and feet (poor circulation means poor movement) or indigestion (due to coolness in your digestive tract), then introduce warm foods, warm clothes and relaxation (maybe by stopping once an hour to take a minute of slow breathing). Heavy blankets are also helpful to harness movement.
For more tips check out my facebook page ‘Yoga and Ayurveda with Alexandra’ this week to get ideas on foods and practices that help to promote a healthy functioning vata.
Make it a healthy day,