Indra is the first of the gods. In the beginning of time, he set the world in motion and came to life as Vayu, the divine wind. You may know his son, Hanuman (pictured above), the symbol of prana and the archetypal devotee. You may have even tried hanumanasana, the yoga pose that looks like a split.
Vayu is the root of vata dosha, named after the principle of these gods. Vata dosha is the quality of air/ether (see yesterday’s post for background). It is associated with movement, sight, creativity, dynamism, expression, comprehension, and agility. Every body and mind has vata. Some have more than others.
Vata exists in the cavities or spaces in us: in the intestines and colon, the throat, the joints, the bone cavities, etc. When it is out balance, it makes itself known as excessive gas, burping, popping of the joints, hyperactivity, etc. Vata as the dominant dosha may manifest in a body as being exceptionally tall or short and usually thin and bony, often with small fast-moving eyes, and poppy joints.
Vata is the original dosha. It is responsible for management of the team of three doshas (air, fire and water). Its job is to keep the team of three in harmony by constantly adjusting, ideally always toward balance. Vata is adaptable, adjustable, and can be good at fitting in. It can help us shift out of unhealthy patterns.
But like all dosha types, sometimes vata can get lured by itself and get carried away. ‘Deranged vata’ is yoga slang for someone spaced out. Agitated vata can be exhausting. Vata is elusive, like the mind. “Oh Krishna, verily the mind is fickle, turbulent, powerful and unyielding. To control it, I think, is as difficult as controlling the wind itself.” (Bhagavad Gita 6.24)
Upon entering the yoga room, the vata type will often look all over the place for a spot, hesitate, changing her mind several times, and then step out to grad something she forgot. I may notice her dry skin, or hear dryness in the throat, and meet her irresistible urge to chat.
The vata student may choose the warmest spot in the room because vata is cool and dry, then change to make sure they are near a window/door/fresh air – for the mental space they are used to. Once standing at the top of the mat to begin practice, she may have increased temptation to look around, twitch, fix the hair, scratch, ask a question, etc.
After class, they often leave assorted belongings strewn about the studio, forgotten due to the natural high they are riding from yoga. We keep these things to be claimed later:-) Vata is the force that makes lost & founds so incredibly interesting in yoga studios across the world.
Vata types especially may be drawn to smoking as a way to relax from their inherent nervousness and restlessness. They also can benefit from yogic breathing exercises as vata is in charge of the inhale and exhale.
When the vata student harnesses her air through the throat and adds sound for chanting the mantra, she can be blown away like a balloon in the sky. Chanting can be an extremely powerful experience. Extended silent meditation or devotional chanting may aggravate excess vata – as would raw foods and cold drinks. The temptation to let a surge of creativity or just restlessness that may keep you up all night, can be tempered over time.
To compensate for any external unsteadiness outside, often the vata practitioner will close her eyes and abandon her driste to enjoy a ride into the outer space of her mind. Like Hanuman, she will leap across oceans and maybe even conquer the demon race, and a moment later open the eyes only to find herself still standing in the same spot.
Vata types seem to be more drawn to the mystical and theoretical aspects of yoga. As thinkers, writers and artists, they are drawn to yoga’s impressive philosophical, mythological and theoretical sides. Their sensitive and sharp minds can sometimes talk my ears off about yoga.
We all have some vata, which when purified can be as light, intelligent, and dynamic as Hanuman ji.