Driving through my neighborhood this last week I kept seeing people preparing their houses and yards for winter. It occurred to me that this alertness to the change of seasons also needed to extend our own physiologies. As we head into the fall season it is very important to start taking measures to pacify Vata dosha. Vata controls all movement in the body and not surprisingly, it is the first dosha to move out of balance. Late fall and winter are known as Vata season because they are marked by the same qualities that characterize Vata: cold, dry, and moving. As Vata increases in the environment it increases in our bodies.
Vata imbalances include insomnia, aching joints, arthritis, back pain, constipation, high blood pressure and anxiety. All body types are vulnerable to Vata imbalance at this time of the year, but those whose body types are predominantly Vata need to be especially alert to staying in balance. Today let’s look specifically at back and joint pain.
The Vata/Kapha Connection
One very common result of Vata imbalance is the sudden onset of back pain. Often it seems to come out of nowhere. You get out of bed in the morning or lean down to tie your shoe and suddenly find yourself immobilized.
Ayurveda recognizes that back pain is often the result of Vata and Kapha imbalances, aggravated by a build-up of ama. This helps explain why lower back pain often appears in the fall and winter, and why the incidences of back pain often increase with age. According to Ayurveda, when we are 60 and over we are in the Vata time of life. It makes sense that Vata imbalances — and their resulting problems — appear more frequently during Vata season and during the Vata period of life.
In the case of back pain, the build up of Vata interferes with the ability of Kapha dosha to support and lubricate the spine. This dryness further aggravates Vata, creating a vicious cycle leading to back pain, aches and stiffness in the joints, and constipation or difficulties with elimination.
Ama —toxins and impurities that accumulate in body—is another factor to be considered with back and joint pain. When Vata and Kapha are aggravated they mix with the ama, creating either a Vata-aggravated ama or a Kapha-aggravated ama. This ama can become lodged in the joints, blocking joint movement and interfering with the production of fluid lubricating the joints. This leads to cracking joints, stiffness, pain, loss of cartilage and overproduced bone growth at the joints resulting in osteoarthritis.
Effective preventive treatment for chronic lower back pain should include regular stretching, such as yoga exercises. The authentic, traditional Ayurveda treatments (Panchakarma) offered at The Raj specialize in removing ama and impurities that have accumulated in the joints and tissues. They also help balance Vata, allowing Kapha to once again function normally.
If you are prone to lower back pain, avoid eating Vata-aggravating foods such as dry foods and raw vegetables. Also avoid root foods, which not only aggravate Vata but also have certain properties that can adversely affect joints. To reduce ama, avoid cheese, meat and heavy, fried, or processed foods. Eat your main meal at noon and take a lighter meal in the evening. Drink lots of warm or hot beverages, such as herbal teas (like licorice root and ginger teas) throughout the day. Avoid cold, iced drinks and food. This is the time of year to make sure you include ghee and olive oil in your foods, as the oil helps combat the dryness of the season.
Daily Oil Massage
Pacifying Vata is the key to keeping everything else in balance. A simple home oil massage each morning or evening can help soothe Vata and also help remove ama from the skin tissues.
Many people find that their back goes out when they are under stress. In a stressful situation the whole body can tighten, tense, and can easily go into muscle spasm, which can push vertebrae out of place. At The Raj, daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique is recommended to reduce stress, thereby reducing incidences of lower back problems.
For more information on Panchakarma treatments or Transcendental Meditation, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site: