The Vata Dosha
As we saw in the previous blogs, dosha is a metabolic pattern that runs not only the human body but also the entire universe. In fact, dosha is the universal rhythm reflected in the human body as well. As we can see the brain, but not the mind; similarly, we can see the body but not the dosha. But dosha becomes visible with its effects on our physiology.
Each dosha has an origin, special properties, functions, and abodes in the body.
Vata is the most powerful dosha of all. Charak Samhita says – “The pitta and kapha dosha are immobile. Like the way the powerful wind drives the clouds everywhere and creates rain; similarly, vata dosha drives the other two doshas (kapha and pitta) throughout the body.”
In another reference to vata dosha, the ancient texts say “vata is the controller of the system called body.”
What is vata?
The Sanskrit word “vata” has multiple meanings. It signifies movement, enthusiasm. Therefore, any movement in the body, whether it is the betting of the eyelids or running, vata is the system working behind it.
As a system, vata works on the entire universe. But its visible impact differs from substance to substance. For example, the vata in nature creates rain and wind currents, even cyclones. In the body, vata can create glandular secretions, movement of the muscles, and even dizziness.
What is vata made of?
Ayurveda believes in the concept of basic elements. These elements are Space, activity, heat, adhesive forces, and matter. Vata is a combination of space and activity.
It may appear to be a little vague. However, imagine a moving hand. It works on two factors -
Space, where it can move; and the energy that moves it. So, there can be no displacement without space and force. So, vata is a subtle combination of space and force. It creates displacement, movement, or any kind of structural change (by force) in the matter.
However, vata is not matter/mass. It is an energy that works on the matter. Just like the air that works on the clouds.
Qualities of Vata
Vata dosha has specific qualities. These qualities reflect the presence of vata biophysical energy. According to their importance, they are –
Like the way air dries up a leaf, vata dosha also produces dryness in the body. In a balanced state of dosha trio, this dryness is good as it balances the excess mucus. But in excess, this dryness can soak up the essential tissue fluid and lead to cell degeneration.
Let us take the example of osteoarthritis. The disorder is a result of dried-up synovial fluid in the knee joints.
According to Ayurveda, knees are the special abode of vata dosha. Old age is the time when vata dosha becomes dominant in the body. Therefore, an imbalanced vata dosha in old age may cause dryness in its station – the knees.
Therefore, I find that although we are not able to see dosha, the dosha theory provides a perfectly logical and precise explanation to almost all life situations, whether they are physical, mental, or spiritual.
Made up of space and air elements, vata is off course light. But what does this means? It indicates the lack of matter in the body. Where there is no matter, there is space for activity.
Therefore, vata dosha is responsible for the formation of all kinds of hollow spacious structures inside the body – like the glands, blood vessels, or any kind of cavity (whether it is the abdominal or the tooth cavity). And this is only one of the multiple ways of manifestations vata lightness.
Excess vata dosha in the body creates excess lightness. For example, when you do not fill your body with food, you become light and thin. Excess vata also produces dizziness, when your mind is "light" or ungrounded.
Deficiency in vata dosha leads to an excess in other doshas. The result is excess inflammation (pitta) or matter-based heaviness (kapha). For example, a lack of movement (vata dosha) naturally leads to weight gain or heaviness.
Vata dosha produces coolness. Logically, kinetic energy should produce heat. In the sequence of element formation, the air element produces the fire element. So, how can vata dosha produce coolness in the body?
Only obstructed kinetic energy produces heat, for example – rubbing of two stones produces heat, but if a stone is thrown up in the air with a cumulative force, it will not heat up to produce a fire.
So, with the activity, the vata dosha absorbs the heat to produce movement, and therefore incidentally produces coolness. For example, the molecules in a heated liquid move faster and use up the heat energy.
All the qualities of a dosha are related and produce a comprehensive impact. That is the reason each dosha has a bunch of naturally related qualities.
Vata dryness absorbs the natural body moisture and leads to roughness. For example, excess vata in the skin may lead to dry and rough skin. Roughness comes as a natural deteriorating effect of vata dosha.
However, we also require roughness in the body. For example, the outer layer of the skin is rough compared to the inner soft and smooth tissues. This dead rough layer protects the inner skin.
Vata is the factor responsible for all movement inside the body. This is the quality that makes vata the most important of all dosha. With mobility, vata is responsible for peristalsis in the digestive tract, secretion from glands, heart pulsation, and so on.
Every other activity inside the body or by the body is a direct result of vata dosha. Probably, that's why Ayurveda believes that limbs are a prominent site of vata dosha, as they are engaged in movement or locomotion.
Vata dosha is pervasive. It has a penetrating power that helps to induce synchronous activity inside each cell of the body. The speed of vata action also derives itself from its subtlety.
Let us consider the power of hormonal action, the action of morphine or snake poison on the body. These substances spread across the body at a lightning speed because they are very subtle. It can penetrate different layers of metabolism effortlessly. These fluids use the power of vata subtlety to disperse rapidly and affect the body within seconds.
This is a very short blog to cover the basics of vata dosha. It is nothing more than a scratch on the vata iceberg. However, I hope that it brings you useful information about the basic principles of Ayurveda.
In the next blog, let us discuss the pitta dosha and how it affects the body.