- What is Vata/ Vayu?
- Tattva, prakriti and dosha
- Five categories of Vayu/ Vata and their imbalances
What is Vata?
Vata/ Vayu means air or wind and is made up of the ether (space) and the air element. We already know that the movement of wind (Vata) in the (outer) atmosphere affects weather and climate by creating low/ high pressure, storms, tornadoes, high/ low humidity, etc. In the same way, the movement of Vata in the body helps with the movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide, or movement of nutrients and toxins, excretion, circulation, etc.
Check this article to know about Vata in more details Ayurveda- Vata Dosha and Vata Diseases
Tattva, prakriti and dosha ( elements, inherent nature and faults)
Before moving forward just a quick understanding of how the nomenclature is used in Ayurveda.
The combination of elements ether and air makes Vata; this Vata has got certain inherent nature or characteristics which is called its “Prakriti” in Sanskrit (similarly the Pitta and Kapha will have their own inherent nature); when this inherent nature (Prakriti) gets out of balance it creates a dosha (fault or a problem). If this fault is because of an imbalance of air and ether then it is called Vata dosha, an imbalance of fire element causes Pitta dosha, and the imbalance of earth and water element cause Kapha dosha.
Five categories of Vata and their imbalances
The Vata can be divided into five parts depending on the type of movement they bring in the body. These are
Prana is the life force, It is something that gives us life. There are many things that help us to sustain life like water, food, and air (oxygen). Out of these, the most important is oxygen without which you cannot live further than a few minutes, water is the next one without which you can only go a few days and food comes next without which you can live a few weeks or months. The prana from air, water, and food get into our body with the help of Vata; the part of Vata which helps with getting the Prana into the body is called Pranavata or Pranavayu. This is present in the lungs area which helps us to absorb the oxygen, our main source of Prana.
Imbalances of Pranavata/ Pranavayu can occur due to many external as well as internal reasons
External reasons for Pranavayu/ Pranavata imbalance
- Breathing polluted air, smoking
- Cough, cold, and other diseases of the lungs
Internal reasons for Pranavayu/ Pranavata imbalance
- Bad posture- Rounded shoulders, and upper back tightness can lead to sinking in of the ribcage which wouldn’t allow you to take fuller inhales. Check out these articles to find the details; 8 Stretches for Shoulders & Upper Back Opening and 11 Yoga Asanas to Correct Your Posture
- Inefficient breathing- There are many ways in which you might have conditioned yourself to breathe, some of the breathing like chest breathing, clavicular breathing, and paradoxical breathing can create stress and anxiety whereas Stomach breathing and Yogic breathing can relax you. Find more details here Is Your Breathing Efficient? and A breathing technique for relaxation and Yoga Practice and respiratory system
- Stress, tension, and anxiety – Emotions that bring stress, tension, and anxiety have a tendency to tighten the areas around the lungs like the ribcage, diaphragm, and stomach. This makes it hard to take fuller inhales.
Not all the component of the food that we eat is useful for us, the parts which cannot be digested and the toxins are excreted out of the body. This movement is brought out with the help of the Apanavata/ Apanavayu. It is present below the navel. It helps with the downward movement required for the expulsion of feces, semen, and menstruation. When imbalanced it can cause constipation, diarrhea, painful menstruation, etc.
External reason for Apanavata/ Apanavayu imbalance-
- Food- The food that you are eating and whether it suits your body type (Prakriti) can create an imbalance in this Vayu.
- Cold, dry, and windy weather
- Being in an environment away from home where your body cannot relax.
Internal reason for Apanavata/ Apanavayu imbalance
- Fear- This Vayu can get imbalanced because of fear-related stress like the thought of losing a job, or being in a fight or flight kind of situation (remember the phrase “I almost shat myself”).
- Not being able to let go of an idea that you have created.
- Muladhara and Swadisthana chakra issues
The component of the Vata which helps with the process of digestion is called the Samanavata. This is present in the abdomen area and works on the organs like stomach, liver, pancreas spleen, etc. This Vata is highly dependent on the fire element.
External reasons for Samanavayu/ Samanavata Imbalance
- Food- Eating food that is hard to digest for you, or eating food that is not supporting your body type (Prakriti).
- Weather- Eating food according to the weather outside. All regions and cultures have different types of food which might suit their body according to the climate.
Internal reasons for Samanavayu/ Samanavata Imbalance
- Anger- This might increase the fire in the system and might create acidity kind of problems
- Worry- Too much worry stagnates and freezes the energy decreasing the fire element and difficulty in digestion
- Low self-esteem/self-worth.
Udana means to breathe upwards. That component of the Vata which helps us with thought processes, memory, and speech is called Udanavata or Udanavayu. Udana is located around the shoulder, throat, and head region.
External reasons for Udanavayu/ Udanavata Imbalance
- Weather- High-pressure/low-pressure kind of conditions created before a storm or monsoon. Windy weather can also aggravate this Vata.
- Crowded area- More the number of people, the more the thoughts are around and we keep on catching the thoughts and energies of people. This can create a “spaced out” kind of feeling where it is too many thoughts, leaving you unable to actually focus.
Internal reasons for Udanavayu/ Udanavata Imbalance
- Stress due to responsibility- Think of it as carrying a heavy load of responsibility on your shoulders.
- Getting stuck in never-ending loops of thoughts.
- Bad posture- Rounded shoulder and forward head posture.
Vyana means to connect mutually; the Vyanavata is the bridge between all the other Vata types and helps them to connect with each other. Eg. The process of digestion requires the breaking down of the food, the nutrients absorbed from this process might be required to build the wear and tears of the body or for some other process, the undigested part might need to be thrown out of the body. This connection between different functions of the parts of the body is done by the Vyanavata/ Vyanavayu. This is present in our circulatory system, the skin, and the muscles.
External reasons for Vyanavata/ Vyanavayu imbalance
- Weather- Cold, dry, windy weather which can affect the skin and make it dry. Hot weather can make the skin more prone to acne and rashes.
- Being exposed to harmful substances or products which react with your skin.
- Food- Highly processed food, and inorganic food with loads of fertilizers, pesticides, etc.
Internal reasons for Vyanavata/ Vyanavayu imbalance
- A feeling of “needing some space”- Situations where you have confined yourself to your own ideas and judgments and are not able to fully express yourself. The unjustified demands and expectations of your friends and family around can also create this “I need some space” kind of situation.
- Not exercising/ working out – To keep this Vayu in proper flow you need to stretch, strengthen or use some other kind of physical expressions like dance or martial arts.