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Tips to balance out Vata dosha imbalance: sleeplessness & over-active mind

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The weather in the East Bay this week has been dry, warm, and windy. These are the perfect conditions to exacerbate your Vata dosha and keep you awake at night, wondering why you just cannot fall asleep nor remain so. For those of you still unfamiliar with the term Vata, it refers to one of three Ayurvedic doshas that make up your prakriti, or constitution (Ayurveda being the 5000+ year old traditional medicine from India).

The three doshas include: Vata (wind), Pitta (fire), and Kapha (water, earth). According to Ayurveda we are made up of all three in various percentages. Most people are mainly one dosha, or a combination of two (e.g. Pitta-Kapha or Vata-Pitta). Rarely do you see a perfect balance of all three.

Vata corresponds to the wind element, so Vata people tend to embody windy characteristics: tall, thin, spacey, creative, and energetic. They have fast/erratic metabolisms. People who simply "can't gain weight" are in this group. They aren't always the healthiest of the bunch (strong, stable Kapha wins that award), but they tend to have the most energy. This is not endurance and strength energy, as those are strong Pitta traits.

When Vata is out of balance you can have an over-abundance of spacey energy (think about how you would feel mentally after studying a difficult subject for five hours straight). And if you are mentally over-active, sleep is not always an option. Many rock stars are Vata, allowing them to stay up all night and either create music or party like no other.

Not everyone has the schedule to allow for all-nighters, and after a week of restless sleep you might be crying out for sanity and someone to knock you out. Here are a few easy tips to help quell the overpowering Vata environment and help you sleep like the exhausted being you are.

Vata Balancing Tips

(credit given to Whitney Kear and Ayurbalance)

  • Cut out the raw food, if only for a few days. This doesn't mean to binge on junk food or hamburgers, just opt for warm, cooked whole-food dishes (e.g. quinoa with sautéed greens and sweet potatoes). Café Gratitude, The Herbivore, and Gather Restaurant all offer healthy cooked meals in the Berkeley area.
  • Heavy food settles Vata, so make sure you eat enough fats, particularly olive oil and ghee (clarified butter). Olive oil retains its optimal nutrients at cool temperatures, so heat up ghee instead. You can find it at Berkeley Bowl and Whole Foods. If you are vegan, sesame oil is a great alternative.
  • Avoid bitter or astringent flavors, and include more sweet, salty, and sour. Again, this isn't an invitation to gorge on unhealthy treats. Seaweed is salty, and cooked fruit is mighty sweet, and both are whole food options.
  • Sip warm water throughout the day, hydration is of the utmost importance.
  • Warm milk is a great bedtime beverage, nut milk included. Add some cardamom and nutmeg, and you'll be snoozing before you know it.
  • As you are getting into bed, rub your scalp and feet with sesame oil (or coconut oil if Pitta also needs some balancing). Don't be afraid to get your head covered, you can always wash your hair in the morning. The massage alone will calm you down. Make sure to sleep with your head on a towel or pillow case you don't mind getting oily.
  • As you lay in bed, take deep breaths and relax your body. Verbally or mentally affirm, "I am relaxed. I sleep so well, I wake up fully rested and ready for my day." And when in doubt, pray!
  • Most importantly, give yourself a break. So often it's the stress of needing to sleep that prevents it from happening, so don't give yourself a hard time for not sleeping well. Just take some measures to balance yourself out and know that you are doing the best you can.

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