Vata for the Holidays: Ayurveda tips for maintaining balance

Nov 27, 2013

by Marcus Berardino

Marcus Berardino has worked as a Health Coach at Collective Primary Care Servicing Freelancers Medical since it launched in December 2012. He teaches yoga at the Practice as well as two prominent yoga studios in South Brooklyn: Mala Yoga and Prema Yoga Brooklyn. Marcus is also a New York State Licensed Massage Therapist with trainings in sports massage, myofascial release, Thai massage and deep tissue. As a New Yorker for almost 20 years, he's happy to be able to share the work he loves with all the communities he serves.

Feeling unsteady, stressed, and unfocused this season?

Turns out that the ancient system of Ayurveda can provide wonderful insight into why the Holidays make us feel unrooted and offers tools for combating this season’s destabilizing effects.

The ancient Indian wisdom system of Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga. Yoga means divine union or ‘yoking’ the higher self to achieve what’s called in Sanskrit, Moksha or "liberation" from the physical self. While Yoga’s goal is to release mental fluctuations (otherwise known as Monkey Mind) to prepare one for a sitting meditation practice, Ayurveda is the “Science of Life” and is a form of alternative medicine.

Ayurveda is founded on two guiding principles:

  1. The mind and body are inextricably linked,

  2. The mind has more power than anything else to heal and transform the body.

Ayurveda teaches us ways to take care of ourselves based on our unique “Doshas” or nature. There are three such Doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Your particular Dosha is based on many factors from your body “type” to your typical energy level to what kind of foods you are drawn to eat. If you’re interested in figuring out your particular nature, you can take a test here

As with each individual Dosha, every season has a particular Dosha as well.

Mid-February to mid-June: Kapha season (heavy, wet, earthy)

Mid-June to mid-October: Pitta season (heat, fire, agitating)

Mid-October to mid-February: Vata season (cool, windy, changeable)

During such seasonal changes, it is easy for our particular individual natures to go out of balance – especially if the seasonal Dosha matches your personal Dosha (i.e. Vata folks going even more out of balance during Vata season, etc.). But regardless of your particular Dosha, the changeable nature of autumn/early winter, and the added stresses of the holidays, makes Vata -- the season we’re in now -- one of the most challenging seasons to stay healthy, and sane.

The elements that Vata constitutes are ether and air, and they combine to form the energy of propulsion or motion, which is why this time of year can feel so unsteady, un-rooted or imbalanced. It’s the Perfect Storm when combined with the added stressors of the holiday season. Ayurveda healers see early fall/winter as an excellent time to nourish the body and build immunity through wholesome foods and healthy routines.

Here are some Ayurveda tips to assist you through the next few joyful and sometimes stressful weeks of the holidays:

For foods during Vata season, be sure they’re moist, warm, rich, and sweet. Make ripe, sweet fruits a part of your daily diet. Hot cream of wheat or rice cereal is a good choice for breakfast. A cup of herbal tea is soothing on cold afternoons. Slow-simmered soups, hot stews, warm pastas and mixed vegetable pies are perfect food choices.

More on food:

Take time to be in warm environments as much as possible, such as sitting in front of a fireplace or in a sauna. Since Vata is a dry season, drink plenty of room temperature or warm water and give yourself daily massages with good-quality sesame oil to rehydrate the skin.

More on massage care:

Stay in a routine. Go to bed early and follow a regular schedule as much as you can. Since this time of year is fraught with visiting and merrymaking, take time for yourself and dive deep into a personal sitting practice. An Ayurvedic Practitioner friend of mine told me once, “If you don’t have time for at least 5 minutes of a meditation practice a day, then take 60-minutes.” In other words, make it a priority to stop, drop and breathe.

More on meditation:

Yoga poses that are beneficial and grounding during Vata season:

- Garland pose

- Legs up the wall

- Savasana