By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Vata is one among three doshas.
Vata is said to be most important one among three doshas. This is because vata controls all activities in body. No activity in body occurs without motivation and involvement of vata. Vata is thus master of body orchestra. Read – Understand Vata Dosha By Its Functions
Table of Contents
Salient features of Vata (Vayu)
Vata is mastermind of body activities – If human body is a machine, vata is formula, engine and remote control which controls all activities in it. Other two doshas i.e. pitta and kapha, tissues and excreta are all mobilized in body from one place to other only after being motivated by vata. It also controls mind and mind doshas. Thus all elements of body are under control of this super-force called vata, they are dependent components of body. Vata, on other hand is independent. Read – Vata Dosha – Mastermind Behind All Body And Mind Activities
Definition of Vata – That which causes gati and gandhana is called vata.
‘va’ part of vata spells meanings of
- gati which means movement, knowledge or obtaining something and
- gandhana which means reflection of enthusiasm and interest, response to something, carrying a message, continued effort
Therefore vata can be defined as ‘that which causes movement, enables obtaining knowledge, makes one reflect enthusiasm and interest, respond to stimulus and make continued effort’
Meaning of vata covers physical and mental abilities, sensory and motor responses and all activities happening in body as conducted by vata. Read – Different Causes For Vata Dosha Imbalance, Increase
Vata Dosh forms one’s body type, vata type of constitution
Doshas form our body types at time of conception. This is called prakriti and it remains our identity throughout life. It doesn’t change at any point of life. Changes occurring in basic physical constitution after birth is called vikriti, pathological form of vata. When vata is predominantly forming constitution, it will be addressed as vata prakriti i.e. vata body type. In combination of other doshas, it forms 4 kinds of body types.
Vata type of personality ranks last and least among three types of basic body types. Read – Prakriti – Ayurveda Body Types, Importance In Treatment And Remedies
Vata and air
Vata dosha v/s air outside our body
Vata is said to be representative of air element present outside our physical body, in nature. Air outside body distributes heat and coldness uniformly and maintains their balance through vikshepa (distributing) function. Similarly, vata dosh in our body will maintain balance of heat caused by pitta and coldness caused by kapha. Read – Nourishing, Depleting and Distributing Functions Of Tridosha (Visarga, Adana And Vikshepa)
Vata, a yogavahi
Vata has a unique property of adaptability. This is called yogavahi quality. When air flows over fire, air will be warm. We can also consider breeze in summer. Similarly, air flowing through a lake will be cold. Similarly, vata dosha will cause heat related changes and burning sensation when associated with pitta. When associated with kapha, it causes coldness of body. Read – Vata Kalakaliya Adhyaya – Charaka Sutrasthana 12
Makeup of Vata – Vata is made up of combination of air and ether element. Among three great qualities, vata is made up of rajas quality. It is with help of this rajas quality, vata propels and mobilizes things in body. This means to tell that pitta, kapha, tissues and excreta move in body in their respective channels of transportation owing to rajas quality of vata.
Qualities, location, subtypes
Qualities of Vata –
Location of Vata – Vata is predominantly located in lower portion of body, below navel to be precise. This covers lower part of abdomen and pelvis. Chief seat of vata is colon. Being here, vata controls other sub-types of vata and all functions of body. Thus, colon becomes chief operational seat and head office for vata. Read – Vata Dosha Dominance In Different Body Parts – How it affects health?
Other seats of vata –
Subtypes of vayu, their location and functions
|Vata subtype||Location||Areas of movement||Functions|
|Prana Vayu||Head||Chest, throat||Commands intellect, mind, brain and sense organs, causes sneezing, eructation, respiratory movements and deglutition|
|Udana Vayu||Chest||Nose, navel, throat||Production of speech, effort, energy, strength, endurance, color, memory|
|Samana||Stomach, intestines||Stomach||Digestion, bifurcation and assimilation of food|
|Vyana||Entire body||Entire body||Distribution of essential things in body|
|Apana||Below navel||Anus, urinary bladder, groin, penis||Excretion of feces, urine, elimination of menstrual blood, ejaculation of blood, delivery of fetus|
Normal functions, variations
Variations of vayu
Vata presents itself in three kinds of manifestations.
- Sthana / samya – state of balance – this state contributes towards good health
- Vriddhi – pathological increase
- Kshaya – pathological decrease
Functions of normal vayu
When vata is in a state of balance, it renders following functions –
- Enthusiasm, zeal to work, keeps person in right spirits
- Enables proper breathing and oxygenation of body, synchronized inspiration and expiration
- Controls all activities
- Propels all urges of body
- Helps proper mobilization and transportation of tissues and materials needed for tissue construction from place of production to place of need in channels of body
- Enables proper perception of sense objects by sense organs
Vata predominance during day
Vata is predominant during evening time of day. By evening, cold climate which is little dry is favorable for vata increase. Vata pacifies in morning once again when kapha becomes predominant in this part of day.
Vata variations in different seasons
Vata accumulates in summer season. It aggravates in monsoon i.e. rainy season. If vata vitiation is addressed in this season, it gets pacified all by itself in next season i.e. autumn season.
Read – Normal Vitiation of Doshas As Per Seasonal Variation
This rule is applicable to everyone in creation. If vata vitiation is not taken care of in season of its aggravation i.e. monsoon season, vata doesn’t get pacified in autumn season. In fact it further gets vitiated with availability of etiological factors favourable for its aggravation and causes many diseases after going through various stages of pathogenesis.
Read – Relationship Of Doshas With Seasons
Vata relationship with tissues
All doshas have an inseparable relationship with tissue(s) or excreta of body. Vata has a residence and resident relationship with bone tissue. Vata is located in bone and is responsible for bone health. Vata fluctuations may affect bone and bone pathologies reflect vata morbidity.
Vata relationship with age of an individual
Vata gets predominant during old age of a person. Immaterial of body type person carries; vata is high during later part of life. This happens due to gradual depletion of tissues which happen at this age. This will give scope for increase in vata. Vayu further damages tissues if not taken care of. Bone and joint related issues, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, restlessness of mind, and degeneration of tissues are some of common problems one would face at term of life due to predominance of vata.
While people of kapha and pitta body types can tolerate damaging effect of vata at this age, it is difficult for vata people to do so due to similarity of dosha and body constitution. Old age care and taking care of vata with vata mitigating interventions, tissue rejuvenators, immune modulating medicines, counselling, external treatments like herbal oil massage etc are very essential to combat old age related problems caused due to vata. All body types have to take care of this; vata bodies should take extra caution. Vata can be taken care of at onset of old age itself. This will be a preventive strategy against vata before it creates havoc in body.
Vata – digestive fire
Digestive fire is influenced by doshas. When vata influences fire, fire behaves in a weird way. It is called vishamagni. This type of fire sometimes digests food properly, sometimes not. Read – Understanding Agni: Concept, Definition, Functions, Types
When this type of fire persists for long periods without being addressed, it causes vata type of indigestion. It is called vishtabdhajirna. Not only this, vitiated vata and fire influenced by it will cause wide array of diseases of vata origin.
Vata and Bowel movement
When bowel movements are controlled by vata, it is called krura koshta. In this, person will have difficulty in passing feces. Passage of stools is generally hard and difficult. These people generally suffer from constipation and flatulence. They may need regular purgatives or laxatives to clear his bowel. This is also found in vata-kapha type of personalities. Read – Koshta: Understanding Gut Behaviour And Gut Reactivity
Vata – digestion
Vata relationship with phases of digestion of food, formation of vata
Vata is responsible for swallowing food, digestion of food with help of pachaka pitta, distribution of nutrition and excretion of waste products of digestion. But vata itself is formed at end stage of digestion. This is known as Katu Avastha Paka and is a stage of digestion which takes place in colon, before fart and feces are excreted.
When totally digested food comes to caecum, first part of colon, excreta is formed. Excreta composes of three fragments i.e. feces, urine and sweat. Read – Understanding Digestion Process From An Ayurveda View Feces component moves ahead into colon and is subjected to action of shoshyamana vahni i.e. drying fire. Feces lose its water and useful components which are reabsorbed into intestine. Feces is fully formed and propelled by action of apana vata gets excreted from anus.
During this process a pungent environment is produced in colon. This environment favours production of vata. This vata is formed on regular basis from end products of digestion in colon and supports other vatas of body.
Vata and tastes
, sour and salt tastes have antagonistic qualities as those of vata. Therefore they pacify vata. On other hand, pungent, bitter and astringent tastes have similar qualities as those of vata. Therefore they increase vata. Read – Six Tastes Of Ayurveda: Qualities, Benefits, Therapeutic Action (Shad Rasa)
Imbalance causes, symptoms
Etiological factors for vitiation of vata
- Excessive exercises and sexual indulgence
- Fasting, starvation
- Fall, injury, fractures
- Depletion of tissues
- Excessive awakening all night
- Suppression of natural body urges
- Excessive administration of cleansing procedures / Panchakarma
- Excessive consumption of cold foods and activities
- Fear and irritation
- Excessive consumption of dry foods
- Excessive consumption of astringent, bitter and pungent foods
- At evening, during cloudy and rainy season
- After digestion of food
Symptoms of vata imbalance
Vata imbalance occurs in two kinds. They are pathological decrease and pathological increase.
1. Pathological decrease of vata –
When vata decreases, it doesn’t cause any diseases but produces symptoms of deficiency. On other hand, symptoms of increase of kapha are found. Vata and kapha are mutually antagonistic. When one increases, other decreases, converse is also true. Read – Vata Kshaya Lakshana: Symptoms Of Decrease Of Vata Dosha Symptoms of vata decrease are –
- Weakness of body
- Less speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Deterioration of activities which are normal to Vata
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Altered consciousness
- Feeling as if body activities have slowed down / come to a halt
- Liking towards things, food and activities which increase Vata
- Liking towards pungent, bitter and astringent foods, those which are dry, light and cold. All these qualities and tastes increase Vata.
- Symptoms / diseases of kapha increase – including sluggish metabolism, indigestion, excessive salivation, laziness, heaviness, whitish discoloration of body, feeling of abnormal coldness, looseness of body parts, shortness of breath, cough and excessive sleep
2. Pathological increase of vata
This takes place in six stages. It is not mandatory that all stages are manifested. If earlier stages are treated at earliest, consecutive stages are not manifested. Below mentioned are stages of pathological increase of vata. Read – Symptoms Of Vata Dosha Increase And Imbalance – Vata Vruddhi Lakshana
a. Sanchaya: Accumulation of vata in its own seats – produces below mentioned symptoms –
- Hardness / rigidity of intestines and hollow spaces of abdomen
- Feeling of fullness inside intestines and hollow spaces of abdomen (hypo-peristalsis of intestines)
b. Prakopa: Severe vitiation of vata in its own seats – produces below mentioned symptoms –
- Pricking sensation in abdomen
- Sounds in abdomen / feeling of air moving in tummy
Below mentioned symptoms are also inclusive –
Symptoms of Vata increase / Vriddhi lakshanas
- Blackish discolouration of body parts
- Emaciation of body parts
- Desire for hot foods, substances, climate and comforts
- Fatigue, loss of immunity and strength
- Failure of perception by sense organs
- Pathetic look, helplessness
Pathological manifestation of vitiated Vata:
- Visceroptosis – displacement of an organ(s) from their original places
- Dilatation of organs or tissues, expansion beyond their normal limits
- Feeling as if someone is beating with sticks
- Numbness in body parts
- Inertia – stoppage of functioning in some organs or parts of organs
- Pain in body parts
- Pricking pain
- Splitting / gnawing pain
- Retention of materials without being evacuated
- Dropping of an organ
- Twisting sensation
- Hyperaesthesia and tingling sensation
- Roughness and scaling
- Necrosis, resulting in formation of pores
- Twitching and ticks
- Squeezing pain
- Feeling of astringent taste in mouth, spasticity
- Blackish and brownish discolouration of body
c. Prasara: Stage of spread
In this stage, vata which has undergone aggravation in previous stage will leave its seats and spread all through body. It either spreads alone or spreads after getting admixed with other doshas and blood. Sushruta has considered blood also as a dosha. Combinations in which spread of vata takes place in this stage are as mentioned below –
Spread of vata along with associated doshas can occur in either direction, upward, downward or sideward. It produces diseases in whichever direction it travels. Similarly, vitiated doshas can take three courses i.e. visceral organs, tissues or vital structures, bones and joints. Diseases are produced in whichever course vata along with its associated doshas travel.
Below mentioned are symptoms of vata spread –
- Flatulence and gurgling sounds in bowels
d. Sthanasamshraya – Stage of lodgment of vata in tissues – When vata is not taken into control in previous stage, it gets lodged in weak and susceptible tissues, wherever it finds in direction of its movement. This lodgment of vata in tissue is called sthanasamshraya of vata. Amalgamation of vata and tissue is called dosha dushya sammurchana. This provides a suitable backdrop for production of diseases. Vata damages tissues in which it gets lodged. With this onset of disease occurs but disease is not completely manifested. Since admixture of morbid vata and weak tissues take place, premonitory symptoms of disease are manifested in this stage.
Depending on tissue / organ / organs in which vitiated vata gets lodged, diseases are manifested in those tissues or organs.
Examples: Vata getting lodged in –
- Abdomen – produces tumors and diseases of vata origin, loss of appetite etc
- Urinary bladder – produces vata type urinary disorders, diabetes, urinary stones etc.
- Anus / rectum – vata type of fistula, piles etc
- Skin, muscle, blood – produces vata type of skin diseases, herpes etc
- Feet – produces vata type of filariasis, gout, spur, joint pain etc
- Whole body – produces diseases like fever, tetanus etc
Note: above said manifestations are only examples for purpose of understanding. Manifestation of diseases in other organs and tissues should be understood in same lines.
e. Vyakta – stage of manifestation of disease – When disease is not addressed in its budding stage i.e. even in fourth stage, vata further damages tissues and causes diseases with clear cut characteristic signs and symptoms in fifth stage. Diseases are formed at same places where vata gets lodged, in same direction and same course. Read – Roopa – Symptoms: Definition, Types, Benefits of its knowledge
f. Bheda – stage of complications – If disease is not treated even if the disease is completely manifested, vata causes severe damage to tissues leading to manifestation of complications of disease, which may be life threatening.
Different pathological manifestations of vitiated vata
Apart from above mentioned conditions, vata has several kinds of pathological manifestations, some of which are not applicable to other doshas. That is why vata is said to be a superior dosha and boss of all activities in body. Below mentioned are some extraordinary pathological presentations of vata.
a. Sama – Nirama stages of vata
Ama is a metabolic toxin. When food is not digested properly or incompletely in stomach owing to presence of weak digestive fire, an improperly processed byproduct of food is formed. This is called ama. This ama is absorbed into intestines in an immature way and put into circulation through heart. By virtue of its sticky nature, this ama sticks to walls of channels of transportation and walls of cells into which they enter. With this, it blocks the passages and cells. This would eventually deplete nutrition to cells and consequently lead to cell damage. This becomes a root source of many diseases. Ama is also formed at tissue level when tissue fire is weak. Read – Association Of Ama With Doshas, Tissues And Waste Products
When doshas get associated with ama, they are called sama doshas. This is one of pathological manifestations of vata. If these morbid doshas are to be removed, ama should be separated from doshas because in presence of ama association, doshas stick to walls of channels and tissues and cannot be eliminated.
Symptoms of Sama vata:
- sluggish metabolism, indigestion
- sleepiness, drowsiness,
- feeling as if covered by wet cloth
- heaviness of body
- sounds in tummy
- pains all over body
- pricking pain
- unctuousness of body
- lethargy, weakness, laziness
- feeling of cold
- loss of digestive power
- gets aggravated on use of oil or ghee for externally or internally
- gets aggravated early in morning, cloudy climate and night
- liking towards consuming pungent and dry foods
Symptoms of Nirama Vata:
- clarity and dryness of mouth, skin etc
- dryness of mouth skin etc
- absence of constipation or blocks in body
- less, negligible or feeble pain
- gets pacified by hot and unctuous comforts
b. Gata Vata – vitiated and stubborn vata deep seated in tissues and organs
Gata Vata is a pathological condition of Vata wherein vitiated Vata gets deep seated in tissues and visceral organs. This causes vata type of disorders in concerned structures.
Examples of Gata Vata of Vata –
Twak gata vata – When vata gets deep located in skin, it causes dryness, cracks, numbness and darkness of skin. Skin seems stretched with red coloration and pain in small joints of fingers.
Amashayagata vata – When vata gets deep seated in stomach, it causes pain in flanks, abdomen, chest and navel, thirst, cough, belching, dryness of throat and mouth and short of breath.
Note – There are many such conditions explained related to Gata Vata type of pathology, these are few examples for sake of understanding.
c. Avarana – diseases caused by obstruction of vata by tissues, doshas, excreta and subtypes of vata
Avarana is a condition in which one or more of below mentioned obstruct vata and meddle in its smooth functioning –
- Pitta or kapha obstructs vata or one of its sub-types
- One of tissues of body blocks Vata
- One of sub-types of vata obstructs other sub-type of vata
- Food, feces or urine obstructs vata functions
That which obstructs is called avaraka. Vata or its sub-type which gets obstructed is called avruta. When avarana occurs, functions of avaraka will be exaggerated and functions of avrita will be reduced leading to functional imbalances and serious disorders in body.
Example of avarana of vata by other substances
- Pittavruta Vata – When vata gets obstructed by pitta, it causes burning sensation, thirst, colic, giddiness and liking towards cold things and cold comforts.
- Raktavruta Vayu – When blood obstructs vata, it causes burning sensation and pain between skin and muscles, swelling and redness, circular skin eruptions
Examples of avarana of vata by its own subtypes
Pranavruta Vyana (Vyana vayu obstructed by Prana Vayu) – When vyana vata gets obstructed by prana vata, it causes emptiness in sense organs, decrease in memory and strength Read – Classification of Vyadhi (diseases) according to Ayurveda
d. Vata diseases caused due to destruction of tissues
Depletion and destruction of tissues leads to increase in air and ether elements in body. This leads to increase of vata and consequently vitiation of vata. This vata causes many diseases.
e. Ashayapakarsha – displacement of doshas by vitiated vata
Ashayapakarsha is a condition in which vitiated vata displaces pitta or kapha from its place. This causes relative imbalance of doshas leading to manifestation of many diseases.
Example of Ashayapakarsha:
Vata which gets aggravated due to decrease of kapha, pulls normal pitta and displaces it from its seat. Though pitta is in a state of balance, it causes burnouts and inflammation owing to its corrosive and burning nature wherever it goes after being displaced by vata.
f. Udavarta (Abnormal movement of Vata)
Abnormal and haphazard movement of vitiated Vata, especially in upward direction is called udavarta. This causes disturbance of all activities of body. This condition is caused by forcible suppression of natural body urges or reflexes. These include urges of urination, defecation, hunger, thirst, sleep etc. Read – Udavarta – Reverse Movement Of Vata Dosha Causing Disease
g. Samanya Vata Vikara – General diseases or sub-type of disease caused by vitiation of Vata
When Vata is predominantly involved in formation of disease type, it will be named as Vataja type of that disorder.
Examples of Vata Samanya Vikaras are:
- Vataja Jwara – Fever caused by vitiated Vata
- Vataja Atisara – Diarrhoea caused by vitiated Vata
- Vataja Kasa – Cough caused by vitiated Vata etc
Note: These diseases also have subtypes which are caused by pitta and kapha, double or triple doshas. Read – Vata Disorders (Vatavyadhi): Definition, Causes, Symptoms
h. Nanatmaja Vata Vikara – diseases caused by vitiation of ‘only vata’
These diseases are those which are caused by vitiation of only Vata. Other doshas, i.e. pitta or kapha will not be involved in causation of these diseases like in general vata diseases. They are 80 in number. Read – How To Balance Vata Dosha? Line Of Treatment And Reasoning
i. Vata Vyadhi – Special diseases caused by Vata
Special diseases caused by vitiation of Vata are called ‘Vata Vyadhis’.
Examples of Vata Vyadhis are:
- Pakshaghata – hemiplegia
- Ardita – facial paralysis
- Gridhrasi – sciatica
- Khanja – Limping
- Sandhigata Vata – osteoarthritis
- Akshepaka – Convulsions
- Hanugraha – lock-jaw
Note: All gata vata diseases, avaranas are also included under vata diseases Read – Charaka Vatavyadhi Chikitsa 28th Chapter
j. Vata – as a part of samsargaja and sannipataja disease types
When two doshas are jointly vitiated, it is called dwandwa / samsarga dushti. When three doshas are vitiated together, it is called as tridoshaja / sannipataja dushti.
Vata is vitiated along with pitta and kapha in these dual and triple vitiations. Proportionality of vitiation varies in each combination. Read – Sannipataja Dosha Dushti – When All Three Doshas Are Imbalanced
Treatment options in vata imbalance
Prevention – keeping away causative factors of vata vitiation is very important while handling vata disorders. Read – Diet And Lifestyle Advice For Vata Dosha Body Type
- Abhyanga – Massages with herbal oils prepared with vata mitigating herbs
- Samvahana – delicate massage with herbal oils prepared with vata mitigating herbs
- Swedana – sweating treatments
- Sarvanga dhara – stream pouring of medicated oils, ghee and milk prepared with vata mitigating herbs all over body
- Murdni Taila – stream pouring of medicated oils, ghee and milk over head, head massage with herbal oils, keeping a swab dipped in herbal oils on crown of head and tying it with bandage to keep it in place and pooling of oil over head
- Local pooling of medicated oil in painful areas of body caused by vitiated vata – This includes pooling of oil over knee joints, low back, neck etc to relieve pain in arthritis, spondylosis etc conditions.
- Upanaha – medical poultices
- Snehapana – intake of medicated lipids in metered doses until body cells get saturated with medicinal properties is called oleation. This is administered as individual therapy or as pre-treatment procedure for purgation.
- Virechana – medicated purgation
- Vasti – herbal enemas including decoction and unctuous enemas with ghee and oil given through anal, urethral or uterine routes
Diet, lifestyle activities and exercises
Unctuous foods, foods predominant in sweet, sour and salt tastes, meat and meat soup of animals living in marshy areas are good to combat vitiated vata. Hot and fresh foods are preferred. One should avoid spicy, pungent, bitter and astringent foods.
One should avoid excessive indulgence in exercises, fasting, injuries and fractures, awakening at nights, suppression of natural urges, stress and consumption of cold foods.