During the fall and early winter vata increases in our environment and within our own physiologies. Pacifying vata during this time is important for all body types because vata dosha can significantly affect both kapha and pitta doshas. Because one of the qualities of vata is movement, vata can move out of position, or out of balance, very quickly. Vata is usually the first dosha to become imbalanced. Vata imbalances are the most common causes of chronic disorders. If you are vata by nature or are prone to vata disturbances such insomnia, constipation, dry skin, and excess worry or anxiety, this is the season to be extra alert to activities, foods and other influences that increase vata.
Exercise is important and so is a winter exercise plan. Exercise affects bone density, muscle mass, aerobic capacity, strength and other key biomarkers of aging. According to the Charaka Samhita, the oldest, most complete and authoritative writing on Ayurveda, “From physical exercise, one gets lightness, a capacity for work, firmness, tolerance of difficulties, elimination of impurities, and stimulation of digestion.” It is important for all of us to stay active during the winter months.
Strenuous exercise, however, can increase the principle of vata in the body. While exercise such as jogging is generally fine for pitta and kapha types, vata types may suffer from the impact of such rigorous sports. A brisk walk is a better option. Cycling, cross-country or elliptical machines probably provide the best inside exercise. They give a good aerobic workout without harmful impact, and they work both the upper and lower body.
Combine cardio exercises with stretching exercises such as Yoga and Pilates, which are grounding and help develop strength and balance. Remember, qualities of vata include the words “irregular”, “moving”, “quick”, and “changeable”. Jumpy and erratic exercises, such as aerobic workouts, will increase these qualities in your physiology.
Avoid strain. Exercise should be joyful and make you feel energized. If you are feeling grumpy or tired after exercise, you need to ease up on the intensity.
The ideal time to exercise is after sunrise in the morning, when kapha dosha is lively.
If you do decide to exercise outside during the colder months, be sure to cover your head and ears and to stay protected from the wind and cold.
When you hydrate while exercising, always opt for warm or hot water. Carry a small thermos with you so that you do not have to drink cold water.
During this time of the year, healthy oils are your friends. Ghee, butter and olive oil help counter the drying effects of vata. Nuts are wonderful vata-pacifiers. Enjoy warm, heavy soups and stews. Avoid dry foods such as rice-cakes and cold cereals. Cooking oatmeal with apples and raisins is a wonderful and nourishing way to start the day.
The transitions from season to season put an extra strain on the body. This is the ideal time to visit an Ayurveda expert and get input regarding what your body needs to maintain balance and how best to address symptoms of imbalance.
The quality of vata which allows it to move easily out of position also allows it to move easily back into position. For this reason it is much better to address vata imbalances in their infancy, before they have gone on to influence pitta and kapha doshas—doshas whose imbalances are more difficult to correct.
For more information on consultations with Ayurveda experts, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:
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