Ayurveda: Breaking down vata dosha

Written by Keith DeBoer on . Posted in Ayurveda

Individuals whose physiology is dominated by vata dosha tend to be thin and have a small physical frame. Their joints tend to “crack,” they become cold easily and tend toward dry hair and skin. They can be light sleepers and move, talk, think, learn and forget quickly. This often results in a changeable, yet friendly and enthusiastic, personality.

Vata dosha’s qualities are: quick, light, dry, rough and variable. This dosha controls all movement systems in the body including breathing, blood flow, temperature regulation, elimination and the transmission of nerve impulses and thoughts. Because vata dosha regulates mobility, the other doshas cannot move without it and vata is considered the leader or “king” of the three doshas. At the same time, because vata is highly mobile and changeable it is the dosha that is most easily imbalanced.

Vata can lead the other doshas into imbalance and cause disease. That’s why there are more diseases associated with vata than the other two doshas combined. Furthermore, we live in a vata vitiating society that is characterized by rapid change and constant over stimulation of the eyes and ears through TV, computers, movies, flashing lights, signs, cars and the endless pressure of deadlines.

This dosha may go out of balance at any time but is particularly vulnerable when the weather is cold and dry (winter) or when the seasons change or we travel and lose our daily routine. Signs of imbalanced vata dosha may include: anxiety, indecision, insomnia, constipation, dry  hair and skin (dandruff), exhaustion, lack of appetite and excessive weight loss. Long term vata imbalance can lead to chronic anxiety, insomnia, migraine headaches, arthritis and diseases associated with elimination, including menstruation.

Vata dosha is nourished by regularity in the routines of sleep, diet and exercise.  Eating foods that are heavy, oily, warm, wet, sweet, sour and/or salty will also help to decrease excess vata. Staying warm and avoiding overexertion, loud music, computer games and violent movies will also assist in reducing and balancing vata dosha.

Tips to balance vata:


  • Drink hot or warm, caffeine-free liquids like herb tea
  • Give yourself an oil massage (abhyanga) as often as possible
  • Stay warm, avoid wind, fans, drafts and air conditioning
  • Favor hot soup, casseroles and any food that is oily, heavy, salty, sweet or sour.
  • Reduce light, dry, cold (raw) foods and pungent, bitter and astringent tastes
  • Maintain regularity in your meal times, sleeping patterns and all aspects of your daily routine
  • Make sure you have regular, daily eliminations

Vata balancing diet:

  • Eat three full meals per day, and no snacks between meals
  • Dairy: All dairy products are okay, but let your cheese or yogurt come to room temperature before eating it. If you drink milk, boil it and drink it while it is hot.
  • Sweeteners: Sugar and maple syrup are okay in moderation
  • Grains: Rice and wheat are best
  • Fruits: Oranges, bananas, avocados, grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, berries, plums, pineapples, mangos and papayas. Reduce dry, light fruits such as apples, pears and cranberries. Avoid dried fruits unless they are cooked first into a fruit stew.
  • Vegetables: Zucchini, summer squash, carrot, fennel, artichoke, asparagus, tomato, fresh basil, fresh ginger, celery root, parsnip, beetroot, turnip, sweet potato, green and red peppers, beets and cucumbers. The following vegetables are okay in moderation when cooked in oil (but not deep fried) peas, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini and potatoes.
  • Spices: Cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed, fresh basil and fresh ginger and small quantities of black pepper.
  • Nuts: All nuts are good.
  • Beans: Reduce all beans including tofu.
  • Oils: Any oil is okay, but olive oil and ghee (clarified butter) are best.

Foods to avoid:
General:  Cold, dry, astringent, bitter, pungent or raw foods
Grains:  Corn, barley, millet, rye, buckwheat, wild rice
Pulses:  Tofu and all beans except mung
Veggies:  Orange squash, green beans, spinach, cucumber, celery, potato, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard, kale, tomato, sprouts, chives
Sweetners and Fruits: Honey, cranberry, pomegranate and dried fruits

For more info: mapi.com.

What’s my dosha? Take the quiz here.

Disclaimer: The sole purpose of this article and all my writings is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively.



Keith DeBoer is a freelance writer, lecturer and consultant who became a certified teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique in 1976. He has studied Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi Ayurveda in the United States, Europe and India, and is the former Director of Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center in Lancaster, MA.  He has a doctorate of World Peace Studies from MERU Holland.

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