"Vata" is an Ayurvedic term referring
to the aggravation of the "wind element," what is astrology
is called the air element; but it generally involves a mixture
of the air and ether elements. "Derangement" is another
Ayurvedic term; it implies that a "dosha" or "fault" has
occurred that is affecting constitutional balance and harmony.
The primary characteristic of "vata" imbalances
is that the symptoms are quite changeable, often causing the uninitiated
to believe that the problems are entirely psychosomatic . . . because
no pathological basis for the conditions are detectable. This attitude
is a disservice to patients who suffer from vata problems, which
is a large number of people in the world.
According to ancient medical tradition,
whether Chinese, Indian, or Greek, good health depends on balance
of the elements, which are variously seen as competitive with each
other or supportive or inhibiting. For instance, fire is hot and
the other elements are cold and therefore needed to regulate temperature
and keep fevers from damaging the body.
is light, cold, and dry. In ordinary language, this means that
air, the invisible element whose activity is deduced by observation
of the bodily functions, is quick, mobile, and insubstantial. On
a psychological level, we might say that worry is "groundless" whereas
phobia has some basis in actual emotional experience. If you forget
a phone number or an appointment, it is inconvenient or embarrassing
but not likely to be disastrous. However, if you are looking over
your shoulder for challenges that may or may not be serious, a
higher level of psychological incapacitation is implied.
Air worries over mainly trivial things:
losing keys, careless mistakes and accidents, and "baseless" concerns.
Regardless of how unimportant such preoccupations might be, they
take their toll on the nervous system so "lightness" is
mainly characterized by nerves . . . which, in turn, accounts for
the erratic appearance and disappearance of symptoms.
These types of vata conditions are
best contained by rhythm and regularity. This means that higher
levels of predictability bring more order into chaos. If a person
burns the midnight oil one night and takes a nap the next day,
rises at six and crashes at ten the next, does twenty errands the
next, turns into a couch potato the next, the body cannot find
a rhythm for calibrating all the ideas that drive the individual
to set the daily agendas. This causes wear and tear on the nervous
system and plays havoc with the vata dosha.
Creating reasonable schedules, sticking
to them, and allowing for integration of information and stimuli
between activities pacifies the wind. Here's a way to grasp the
point better. If a person is cooking dinner, watching the news
on TV, opening mail, and talking on the phone, the focus is pulled
this way and that making assimilation of the information next to
impossible, certainly improbable. However, if a person watched
the news, thought about it a bit over dinner, and then called a
friend to discuss what stood out as important, there would be a
better sequencing of stimuli and more likelihood of organizing
the information and remembering it. Doing mindless tasks between
mental efforts in another way to integrate and ground experiences.
This could mean doing laundry, walking the dog, weeding the garden,
anything that one can do more or less on autopilot without much
Herbally, there are also some remedies
to consider. First, there are herbs that belong to a classification
called nervines. Those that increase the elasticity and resilience
of nerves are best for conditions of lightness. Secondly, there
are those that increase the buffers between the nerves, either
by helping to maintain the nerve sheaths or increasing the water
buffers between nerves. High quality oils are ideal for this purpose,
those that are high in essential fatty acids like evening primrose
oil or borage seed oil. These generally come in capsules, but can
sometimes be found as liquids.
What I like to tell people is that
locking oneself out of one's car is not grounds for a doctor's
appointment, but it is a sign that there is more going on that
the focus permits so it is time to slow down, assimilate, and take
some precautionary measures, such as eating foods that are more
moist. In other words, on the day of distractions and minor inconveniences,
do not eat rice crackers but consider perhaps a meal with sweet
potatoes or squash.
Making order out of chaos also greatly
reduces strain on the nervous system. This might include organizing
cupboards and closets, desks, and accounts. It could also mean
fixing things that are broken and non-functional.
Coldness is the second major attribute
of vata derangement. People with coldness usually have poor circulation
because the air element is not propelling the blood smoothly through
the arteries. They tend to have cold hands and feet but may be
generally cold and very sensitive to drafts and artificial air
movement such as caused by fans and air conditioning. While some
people are soothed by breezes, air types dislike wind and tend
to be less comfortable and more uneasy both in wind and when the
seasons are changing.
Psychologically, coldness is expressed
by detachment, indifference, and rigidity. While air types value
freedom, they can carry openness and non-judgmental attitudes to
the extreme of non-involvement and psychic and social isolation
which feel more paralyzing than liberating.
Coldness doesn't feel good to the
person who is cold. Besides feeling removed and therefore out of
touch, it is physically uncomfortable. The thaw therefore comes
from warmth, friendliness and joy as well as inner thermal ease.
In terrible extremes, coldness can be brutal because the ability
to feel for another is compromised by extreme detachment. It can
also be almost physically paralyzing, but unlike lightness the
paralysis is not due to inflexibility but ice-like immobility.
People who are cold become fearful
and often cowardly. They are cured by the passion and courage of
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2002
Four 90-minute cassettes, $