According to Ayurveda, the way most of us get carried away in our daily lives is due to the vata or pitta dosha. Vata is made up of either and air while pitta is made of fire and water elements. Each has its own way of influencing our bodies and beg to be understood and given the attention and care needed to maintain balance so that we can benefit from their most helpful and useful expressions instead of getting thrown off by them in excess. The most useful way to learn about how vata and pitta roll is through understanding their qualities. Then we can begin to see them emerge anytime, everywhere.
We will begin with vata…vata is cold, mobile, dry, rough and subtle. A great example of how qualities influence each other is through looking at wind. We can see all these attributes in wind. I know many people who feel thrown off by windy weather, becoming forgetful, spacey or anxious and un-grounded. This is because the environment is increasing the qualities of light, mobile, subtle, rough and dry within ourselves when we are surrounded by wind. Vata is also known to show up and whisk us away in a whirl wind of fear, anxiety or worry. We were in one moment enjoying a casual conversant and the very next instant – dread. What will we do about the bill we have been struggling to pay, the relationship that’s rocky or the future that is so impossible to predict? It seems so hard to manage when these thoughts and feelings seem to pop up out of nowhere. It can really feel like we are at the mercy of some ominous unseen energy- and we are! That is vata left unchecked my friends.
Pitta on the other hand is fiery, hot, penetrating, sharp and luminous. Its flame burns so hot and deep that we can find ourselves literally burning out. Some early signs of pitta getting out of hand include headaches, heart burn, breaking out, loose stool, and anger, irritability and being impatient. It can drive us to overwork, over think and over analyze. It’s especially hard to enjoy the present moment and connect to others in this state because we are so caught up in our heads. This can lead to loneliness and a deep longing for connection. You can probably guess that the hot summer months as well as hot spicy food all serve to aggravate or increase pitta.
Thankfully there is a way to help ourselves regain balance and quite down the dosha that is wreaking havoc. Ayurveda loves to apply the opposite qualities to help the aggravated dosha calm down and chill out in the above two scenarios. So when we recall that vatas qualities are cold, dry, rough, subtle and mobile we look to bring in experiences and foods that are warm, oily, sweet, nourishing and grounding. This might look like a warm bath with essential oils, a self-massage with herb infused massage oil or a nice slow-paced grounding yoga class. These will all help vata calm down and we can finally feel our feet on the floor again, able to once again engage and appreciate the present moment instead of getting swept away by the whirlwind of vata. Then vata can once again serve us the way she was meant to – by helping us remain flexible in our hearts and minds, inspiring creativity and helping us to not get stuck in a rut.
Pitta on the other hand, requires cooling, soothing and calming qualities to regain balance. Some foods that help with this are mint, hibiscus, as well as watermelon, lime and cilantro. Pitta people tend to enjoy sweetness in their life and their food which cools the jets a bit. They do well to turn off electronics a few hours before bed and get enough rest to nourish the adrenals since they do tend to push themselves. As they slow down and cool off they can then begin to appreciate the people and world around them.
Our lifestyles and culture ask us to push harder, work harder and do more. When we can slow down, tune in and pay attention we can see where we need support and balance and use these ancient and powerfully simple tools to provide ourselves with the experiences we need to fully savor and enjoy our lives and the people in them. This is a beautiful dance we can do moment to moment, observing ourselves and learning each day, ways that we can more fully love in all that we do.