Vata derangement, in the world of Ayurveda, is a relatively common phenomenon, It is not something I had ever experienced, until now.
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian ‘science of life’, a system that looks at individuals holistically and using the elements to put together individual constitutional types known as ‘Doshas.’
There are three different Dosha types and we all consist of all three, with different amounts of each in every one of us. We often have one dominant Dosha which determines our individual physical characteristics and personality traits. I really don’t wish to lecture here about constitutional tendencies so I will explain, as its personally pertinent to me, and a relatively new experience for me, mostly about the Vata Dosha and how this can affect us when it is out of balance. Any of our Doshas can become imbalanced at anytime due to life circumstances, diet, environment, stressful events and so on. In fact most of us are imbalanced most of the time, and many of us have too much Vata going on.
In todays society we experience so much stress and tension, this can leave us with symptoms of Vata derangement.
The Vata energy is from the air and ether elements. Imagine if you will a cold windy autumn day. Cold wind, dry air, dry autumn leaves blowing around, lots of movement, nowhere and no way to get warm or feel grounded and still. A constant need and compulsion to keep moving and to keep distracted because, stillness is scary, if you are still you may notice what’s actually going on and not be distracted…..
Vata energy is needed for movement in the body and mind, we need to move physically, mentally and emotionally, but in excess (as with anything) this leads to problems. Because Vata is cold and dry (think of the Autumnal weather) it causes dryness in the body. In the human form excess Vata (air and ether) energy causes feelings of un-groundedness, akin to the autumn day analogy. In the physical body it causes dryness, constipation, dry skin, wispy hair, brittle nails, cracking joints and coldness in the whole body but in particular the hands and feet.
In the mind, oh wow, here Vata really gets to work! The mind is so restless when aggravated by Vata, excess of this dosha causes insomnia, anxiety, emotional instability, melancholy and confusion.
Are you experiencing any of these things? Its important to readdress the balance using diet and lifestyle routines or these things can progress and cause further dis-ease and illness within the physical and psychological bodies.
A daily Ayurvedic routine can seem very daunting at first as it can mean a total lifestyle change as well as a completely alternative (eastern versus western) way of viewing the body and mind. In order to rebalance airiness, anxiety, cold, dry, light and excessively moving energy we need to embrace things that will ground, calm and reassure us. The bodymind loves routine, it feels reassured by knowing what is happening and when.
Routine!! How boring I thought! (although at my most emotionally unstable I knew this was what I needed and resisted for months!) When I eventually fell as only a Vata imbalanced person in full flight can and badly sprained my ankle, only then did I begin to realise and to really (the following day as I lay, immobile with foot swollen and elevated) consider that I had to now ground and nurture myself fully or things would begin to get much worse.
I fully embraced everything that I knew would help me at that time.
I immediately stopped coffee, any other sources of caffeine (yes even chocolate!), nicotine and any other sources of stimulating my nervous system. I started eating properly, not at all easy at first as I had for months been very sporadic in my diet. Breakfast, lunch and supper were all on the menu, and all healthy ‘proper’ food to alleviate stress symptoms in the body was what I started to eat. I focused on ‘grounding’ foods, sweet root vegetables and warming soups and stews. My relationship with food had completely changed through the stress I had experienced and I no longer felt eating properly was a priority, it took a lot of effort and focus to begin to nurture myself in this way again.
I started taking Ayurvedic herbs to alleviate exhaustion and to promote energy levels and restore ‘Ojas’ (the vital life energy in the bodymind) to myself, as well as anti inflammatory herbs to alleviate my ankle injury and warming spices such as cinnamon to warm the body and calm and ground the Vata energy. Pivotal to this process was a consultation with a local herbalist Dawn of The Hawthorne Practice. Dawn instilled in me a sense of self responsibility and self care and I cannot give her enough credit for this.
Dawn explained how when we eat regularly the receptors in the gut respond and this alleviates stress responses in the body, this in turn will then, with the right diet and lack of stimulants, help to establish a better sleep pattern (hallelujah!) so relieving the insomnia and anxiety symptoms.
So, the insomnia…..two days after I started my new ‘regime’ I began to sleep better. Its been 18 days now and I have had two mildly disturbed nights sleep in all of that time, as opposed before to every night waking at least 3 times between midnight and 6am, if indeed I slept at all! (And on both of the sleepless night occasions I’ve been able to figure out what the trigger for that sleeplessness was). I have a warm turmeric and cinnamon hemp milk before bed, go to bed and listen to a yoga nidra (highly recommended see this link for more information and for free practices: Yoga Nidra). I cannot get past the first ten minutes of the Nidra without falling asleep and I am sleeping all night without waking! Try it please, if you don’t sleep well, just try it.
So I guess the message is here, if you’re anxious, ungrounded, exhausted, and experiencing physical and psychological symptoms because of this, please try this routine, nurture yourself. Don’t feel guilty or daunted, just do this stuff. Keep it up for at least two weeks at first. The first ten days or so you will feel exhausted, keep going, do what your tired out bodymind is asking, rest, eat and sleep. Then you may want to stop, its hard work to keep making sure you eat properly, to resist the coffee every day, to keep grounding yourself, but if you have just one day (as I did a few days ago) when you don’t do this stuff, if the eating goes, the coffee creeps in, then for sure the sleep goes haywire again, the anxiety rises, you really will notice. So the trick is to continue with this routine to keep the calm demeanour going……..and to always always be excessively gentle with yourself.
Ode to Insomnia (written on one particularly sleepless night)
Hello my friend
Here you are again
Like an unwelcome
But obligatory guest
At the least convenient time
I entertain you anyway
You come when no one else
Is here to distract
And when I lie in my
You don’t care
You just let yourself in
Without so much
As a by your leave
You are overfamiliar
In your prescience
And then here you stay
Devotedly by my side
Watching the time
Ticking slowly by
Second by painstaking second
In the darkness
Where thoughts, never good ones
Roam wild and free
In and out of the
The mind twists and turns
Replaying madness and sadness
Feeding your appetite
making the soul
I cannot fight it
I cannot resist you
Like a bad relationship
I keep letting you in
And entertaining you
Every single damn night