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Vata Dosha Characteristics

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

woman in a white dress in a field with her arms up and her eyes closed

Vata (pronounced vaata or sometimes waata) dosha is the dosha that is all about movement. It helps us to move our limbs, go for a walk, swallow food, breathe, eliminate waste, and more.

Vata is composed of the air and ether elements, according to Ayurveda.

Vata dosha is quite beautiful when balanced, but can create anxiety, worry fear, insecurity, and loneliness when out of balance. When it is out of balance over time, it can lead to constipation, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and other degenerative diseases.

Unfortunately, Vata dosha is the dosha that goes out of balance the easiest for all of us, all of the time, no matter our constitution, because it has movement.

Keep reading to learn more about Ayurveda and vata dosha, or skip ahead to vata dosha characteristics.

First, the Definition of Dosha

In Ayurveda, dosha is defined as "that which goes out of balance" or "fault". The doshas are energetic properties in the body that are used to:

  • describe constitution. This is known as prakriti, the combination of doshas present a the time of birth (or some say conception) that make up an individual. This constitution doesn't change over time, but the doshas can go out of balance.

  • describe the current state of balance. Vikriti is when the doshas fluctuate, which usually means that they increase, which is called aggravation. The doshas are in excess of what should be present for a particular person's constitution.

  • describe the systems within the body. The doshas rule different sites and functions in the body. For example, vata dosha rules the colon and is also responsible for the movement of waste through the colon. When there is excess vata, constipation may ensue.

3 women in a sunflower field

The Three Doshas

Ayurveda recognizes three doshas:

  • vata

  • pitta

  • kapha

Usually, people have a predominance of two of the doshas and the third dosha is not as prominent. For example, I've been told that my constitution is pitta kapha, but I still have vata in my constitution, just much less.

Some people are tridoshic, meaning all three doshas are basically of the same quantity in the constitution (33 1/3 vata, 33 1/3 pitta, 33 1/3 kapha). This is pretty unusual.

It's also possible to meet people who seem like one dosha is predominant and the other two are much less. Although, this is also quite rare.

young woman with her hair blowing in the wind

How to Figure Out the Ayurvedic Constitution

Many books about Ayurveda will include a constitution test. Or you can try an online constitution test like this one from Banyan Botanicals.

My suggestion when doing these tests is to try to answer based on your memories of yourself from childhood. If the questions are answered based on current conditions, you may find your current state of balance (vikriti) rather than your constitution (prakriti).

Book recommendations to help you in this journey:

Prakriti by Dr. Robert Svoboda

Why Should I Care About My Constitution (Prakriti)?

By knowing your constitution, it's possible to find balance and to know when the body is out of balance. It may take some time to clear up imbalances before the constitution really begins to shine through, so don't get discouraged.

When I first started studying Ayurveda, I identified a lot with vata dosha, because I, unknowingly, had a vata imbalance. Looking at me it's quite obvious that my constitution is pitta kapha, so I was confused for quite a while. Once I understood it was a vata dosha imbalance and I got it mostly back in balance, then my pitta kapha constitution made much more sense.

a dry desert scape with cracked soil and a dry tree

Qualities (Gunas)

The qualities (gunas) in Ayurveda are helpful in finding balance in the body. There are 10 pairs of opposite qualities, plus some other qualities discussed in the classics of Ayurveda. These opposite qualities include dry vs oily, light vs heavy, and cold vs hot. The general rule of Ayurveda is that like increases like and opposites decrease. For example, if there is too much dryness in the body, then Ayurveda recommends oil to help alleviate that dryness. You can read more about the qualities here.

Vata Dosha Qualities

  • dry

  • light

  • rough

  • cold

  • subtle

  • mobile

  • clear

Qualities to Pacify (Reduce/Balance) Vata Dosha

These are the qualities opposite to the list above that help to balance, or reduce, vata dosha.

  • oily

  • heavy

  • smooth

  • hot/warm

  • gross

  • static

  • cloudy/sticky

a woman in white dancing and stretching

Vata Dosha is Responsible For:

  • movement

  • creativity

  • joy

  • happiness

  • sneezing

  • speech

  • prana vayu--one's vital life force

  • apana vayu--the downward flow of movement governing the elimination of feces, urine, menstrual flow, semen, and the downward movement of the fetus

  • and more

Physical Vata Dosha Characteristics

  • light, flexible bodies

  • big, protruding teeth

  • small, recessed, dry eyes

  • fluctuating appetite and thirst

  • often experience digestive and malabsorption issues

  • delicate in health

  • dry, kinky hair

  • tending toward constipation

  • dark complexion, hair, and eyes

a young woman holding a violin while the breeze blows her hair

Behavioral Vata Dosha Characteristics

  • alert and quick to act without much thinking

  • fast walking and talking

  • often light sleepers

  • like to move furniture or residences because of boredom

  • seek constant action

  • make good money, but spend it on trifles and have difficulty saving money

Psychological Vata Dosha Characteristics

  • easily excited

  • good imaginations

  • enjoy daydreaming

  • loving people

  • fear of darkness, heights, and enclosed spaces

  • flexible in faith, but faith may be fleeting

  • understands new information immediately and forgets immediately

a woman swinging on a swing with a dramatic sunset behind

Vata Dosha Characteristics When Balanced

  • flexible

  • joyful

  • creative

  • free

a woman with a blurred head indicating distress or anxiety

Vata Dosha Characteristics Out of Balance

  • fear

  • insecurity

  • worry

  • anxiety

  • loneliness

  • constipation

  • dry skin, nails, hair, eyes

  • thirst

  • racing thoughts

  • excessive movements

  • and may eventually lead to diseases such as:

    • osteoporosis

    • osteoarthritis

    • degenerative diseases

    • restless leg

    • memory loss/dementia

    • and more

Now That You Know the Characteristics of Vata Dosha, How to Find Balance?

There are many ways to find balance for vata dosha. And remember that vata dosha is the dosha that goes out of balance the easiest, for all of us, all the time, no matter the constitution.

Here are some great places to start when trying to balance vata dosha:

a woman oiling her foot

1. Abhyanga

One that has had a profound effect on my own life is abhyanga, self-massage with warm oil. Remember how we talked about the qualities of vata above--dry, light, rough, cold, subtle, mobile, and clear? When there is an excess of these qualities, applying the opposite qualities helps to pacify vata. The qualities of oiling the body are oily, heavy, smooth, warm (if the oil is warmed first, which it should be), gross, and slimy. All of these qualities associated with oil help to reduce vata. When there is anxiety, worry, fear, insecurity, and/or loneliness, oiling of the body can be used to help ease these emotions.

In Sanskrit, the language in which Ayurvedic texts were originally written, there is a word "sneha". Sneha means oil, but it also means love, so this oiling of the body is an act of self-love.

Learn more about abhyanga here.

Or book an appointment for an abhyanga treatment with me if you're in Washington, DC or Shepherdstown, WV.

butternut squash and sweet potato soup

2. Eating warm, moist foods

This one is simple, but not always easy to remember. Eating warm, moist foods that are cooked in good quality oils (like ghee, sesame oil, mustard oil, olive oil) helps to reduce vata when it is out of balance. Avoiding dry, light, rough, and cold foods like chips, crackers, raw veggies, rice cakes, and iced beverages will also help to reduce vata.

Some examples of warm, moist foods include:

a woman in a hammock doing nothing

3. Taking time to relax and do nothing

This may sound like quite a challenge, especially in our busy, busy world, but vata, as mentioned before, governs movement. And, more importantly, the more movement one makes the more vata increases. Taking time to be still and relaxed can really help to reduce vata. Maybe take time to sit outside in nature or on the couch with no tv, no phone, no book, no music. Just being still and quiet, with no distractions

the sole of the feet of a woman sleeping on her belly in bed

4. Getting a good night's rest

Sleep is one of the pillars of Ayurveda and a good night's rest helps to calm vata. Ayurveda recommends getting to sleep by 10 pm and waking by 6 am or sunrise. Everyone may need a different amount of sleep, but people with vata in their constitution, or those who have a vata imbalance, need more sleep. You can read about some Ayurvedic sleep techniques here to get a good, deep sleep.

a woman listening to a yoga nidra recording with ear pods

5. Yoga nidra

Yoga nidra, translated as yogic sleep, is a beautiful practice that helps to settle vata dosha. There are many yoga nidra practices available online and on Spotify. Here's a site that offers free yoga nidra.

Or, Mona Warner, a friend of mine, offers yoga nidra recordings for sale on Amazon.

Here are some other yoga nidra recordings.

6. Consider booking an online Ayurvedic consultation

During an online Ayurvedic consultation, we discuss individualized Ayurvedic practices that are appropriate for you and your current state of balance. You can book a 90-minute initial consultation through the link below.


Upcoming 6-Month Deep Dive Into Ayurveda to Feel Fully Alive Series
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This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website, or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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