Vata Dosha

Introduction

An element in the body that is responsible for any sort of movement is called ‘Vata dosha’. Vata has special importance among Tridoshas. There are 5 subtypes of Vata Dosha.

पित्तं पंगुः कफः पुनः पङ्गवो मलधातवः |
वायुना यत्र नीयन्ते तत्र वर्षन्ति मेघवत्’ ||(A.H.Su.)

In the human body, Pitta, Kapha, tissues, and wastes are handicapped from doing their activities independently. Every action needs the stimulation of Vata dosha. We can observe the same thing in nature. The movement of clouds, sea waves, shifting of sand, movement of tree leaves, and even earthquakes are all due to the principle of propulsion. 

Vata nirukti

तत्र ‘वा’ गतिगन्धनयोरिति धातुः । (S.Su. 2:5)

“Ta” is a suffix to “Va’. “Va” word is concerned with movement (gati) and enthusiasm (Gandhan) so, the movement, needed for union and separation is carried by Vata dosha.

Composition of Vata

Although Vata is Panchabhautika (made up of five primordial elements) Vayu and Akasha substances are predominant.

Structure of Vata

 ‘अव्यक्तः व्यक्तकर्मा च’ । (S.Ni. 1:7)

Vata dosha is invisible but can be experienced from its functions. It does not possess physical measurements like length, breadth, or height but the activities of Vata can be seen. Vata can be compared with electrical energy. We can not see electricity but we can experience its functions like lightning bulbs, tube lights, televisions, and various other electrically operated machines. 

Properties of Vata Dosha

तत्र रूक्षो लघु: शीत: खर: सूक्ष्मश्चलोऽनिल: | (A.H.Su. 1:11)

To understand Vata functions, first, we must understand Vata properties. Every property is directly or indirectly helping the main function of Vata i.e. movement. 

1) Ruksha (dry) – For the normal activities in the body like respiration, and movement of limbs, the body requires a constant supply of oiliness and water element. If these are not supplied to the body, it becomes dry and Vata increases. Hence dryness is the quality of Vata. This is the opposite of oiliness. Unctuousness is useful for union and dryness is for separation. Dryness can absorb water and oil. Therefore due to dryness, molecular union breaks and separation occurs. In different periods of life, dosha predominance differs.

For example, at a young age there is Kapha predominance while in old age, Vata activities are dominant. That is why in old age, dryness of Vata causes increased dryness in the body, which makes a cracking sound in the joints, wrinkles on the face, and cracks on the soles and palms. When a person understands that the cause behind these symptoms is dryness of Vata, it is easy to adopt preventive measures, Therefore all persons after 40 years of age, should carry out abhyanga – apply warm sesame or coconut oil to the whole body every day or at least at weekends and should take one cup of warm milk and 1 spoon of cow’s ghee every night.

2) Laghu (light) – Aggravation of Vata means loss of tissues. which results in lightness. Due to this quality, mobility increases. Fasting makes the body light. Exercise can also increase lightness. Heavy is opposite to light. In an obese person, due to heaviness, mobility decreases. 

3) Sheeta (cold) – It is our experience that in Nature when the wind gets combined with heat, it results in hot air, while when the air mixes with cold it turns into cold air. Hence many commentators claim that Vata is Yogavahi. However, while treating the patient, Vata gets alleviated by the hot quality and hence the quality of Vata is cold. Cold quality also reduces tissues and thereby increases Vata.

4) Khara (rough) – The property by which scrapping is done is rough quality. Scrapping helps in separation, which is a function of Vata dosha. To reduce the fat content of obese people, the physician has to use drugs with scrapping properties.

5) Sukshma (subtle) – It is a well-known fact that during fasting when the person does not get proper food, his activities get reduced. This shows that Sukshma quality is responsible for increasing Vata. This property enables molecular separation and reaches the deepest possible atomic structure. This property helps to exhibit Vata activity at microscopic levels. 

6) Chala (mobility) – Movement is the main function of Vata, hence chala or mobility is the quality of Vata dosha.

Other properties of Vata mentioned by the critics (commentaries on original Ayurvedic classics) are as follows: 

1) Yogavahi – Yoga means union. Vahi means to carry with you. The substance, when mixed with another substance, carries Vala-Dosha the properties of the other substance (without losing its properties) are called Yogavahi substance i.e. catalyst. Catalyst carries substance more correctly and faster. Vayu is Sheeta (cold) but also a catalyst. Therefore when Vata mixes with Kapha, it becomes cold but when it mixes with Pitta, it becomes hot. 

“योगवाह: परं वायु: संयोगादुभयार्थकृत्‌ ।

दाहकृत्‌ तेजसा युक्त:, शीतकृत्‌ सोमसंश्रयात्‌’ ॥  (C.Chi. 3:39) 

Honey is an example of the best catalyst. So many Ayurvedic drugs are given mixed with honey. 

2) Vishada – means clear. It cleans the substances. Due to this property, Vata absorbs excessive water or secretions making the site cleaner.

3) Daruna – This means part becoming cleaner or harder. Due to excessive dryness, sometimes the part becomes stiff. 

4) Rajobahula – For the creation of any substance in the universe, super qualities like sattva, rajas, and tamas in addition to five primordial substances are required. Amongst these higher qualities, Sattva is a stimulator, Rajas is the activator and Tamas is the controller. Vata is Rajobahul (i.e. predominant in rajas) because rajas are related to movement. 

Qualities of Vata 

Charaka  Sushruta  Vagbhata
Ruksha, Shita, Laghu, Vishada,
Sukshma, Chala khara, daruna,  anartatya & yogavani
Ruksha, Shita, Laghu, Muhuschara,
Vishada  khara, vaishtambhya, avyakta, tiryak ashukari,
Ruksha, Shita, Sukshma, Chala,
khara, vibhu, ashukari

Benefits of understanding Vata properties 

To keep balance in Vata dosha, above said properties should remain balanced. But if a person follows the diet or activities, similar to properties in excess, then as per the principle of homologous and heterologous, Vata dosha provocation can take place. For example, if somebody eats too much dry substances like popcorn, toast, sandwich, and salads, Vata dosha gets aggravated and abdominal pain can start. Similarly, too much physical activity can disturb mobile and light properties. This type of Vata can create symptoms like fatigue, giddiness, weakness, etc. 

Common Functions of Vata Dosha 


वायुस्तन्त्रयन्त्रधर: , . प्राणोदानसमानव्यानापानात्मा, .. प्रवर्तकश्रेष्टानामू उच्चावचानां, नियन्ता प्रणेता च मनस:, सर्वे्द्रियाणामुद्योजक: , सर्वेन्द्रियार्थनामभिवोढा, सर्वशरीरधातुव्यूहकर: , सन्धानकर: शरीरस्य, प्रवर्तको वाच:, प्रकृति: शब्दस्पर्शयो: , श्रोतरस्पर्शनयोर्मूल॑, हर्षोत्साहयोनि: , समीरणोड5ग्ने:, दोषसंशोषण:, क्षेप्ता बहिर्मलानां, स्थूलाणुस्रोतसां भेत्ता, कर्ता गर्भाकृतीनाम, आयुषोउनुवृत्तिप्रत्ययभूतो भवति अकुपित:’ ।   (C.Su. 12:8)

Akupita means, which is not Vikrita (abnormal). In the above text, the different functions of normal Vata dosha are given. In a further paragraph explain each phrase.

  • Vayustantrayantradhanah: If we see the structural and functional framework of the human body, it can be compared with complicated machines. If this machine (yantra) has to work smoothly, there should be some specific operational system (tantra). The machine (human body) and its mechanism are dependent on Vata dosha. Every organ in the body should be structurally normal, at its appropriate site, then only it can function properly. This is the hardware of the human machine. But due to structural defects, there can be a valvular defect in the heart or can be a case of undescended testis, so here is the importance of balanced Vata activity in embryonic and fetal development. Similarly, body mechanisms like respiration (14-16/min) or cardiac beats (72/min) are controlled by Vata dosha. Therefore, controlling the hardware and software of the human body is the main function of Vata dosha. All the following functions are a part of this main function.
  • Pranodanasamanavyanapanatma: These are the subtypes of Vata dosha, according to the site, functional variations. We are going to study it afterward.
  • Pravarsakashchetanamucchavachanam: Initiates upward and downward movements.
  • Niganta praneta cha manasah: Niyanta means to control and Praneta means to stimulate. Vata dosha offers a stimulus to the mind for its normal functioning and also controls its moves. Vata dosha makes the mind think about “good and bad” and selects the appropriate one. Mind is called ‘Ubhayendriya’ (dual nature – sensory and motor).
  • Sarvendriyanamudyojakah: Vata dosha stimulates sensory and motor organs and the mind. Vata dosha helps with the smooth functioning of the senses.
  • Sarvendriyarthanamabhivodha: Abhivodha means attraction or indication. The attraction of sense organs towards their object is due to Vata dosha. e.g. good perception of sound by ear can occur due to Vata.
  • Sarvashariradhartu-Vyuhakarah: Vata dosha is responsible for making proper arrangements of different tissues and organs in the body. For the creation and maintenance of complicated networking of structures and functions, Vata dosha is responsible.
  • Sandhanakarah sharirasya: Sandhana means to unite or to join. The union or binding is due to Kapha dosha but the stimulation is of Vata.
  • Pravartako Vachah: Vachah means to speak. Vata dosha is responsible for speech. Vata is also responsible for different sounds produced in the body e.g. heart sounds, respiratory sounds, abdominal peristalsis sounds, etc.
  • Prakritih shabdasparshayoh; Shrotrasparshayormulam: Constitution or root cause of sound and touch is Vata dosha. For the perception of sound and touch Vata is necessary. The main composition of auditory senses and touch sense is from Vata dosha
  • Harshorsahayonih: Yoni means origin. If Vata is in a normal state, physical and mental happiness can be maintained since Vata is a stimulator for the mind and senses.
  • Samirano-Agneh: Vata dosha stimulates the digestive fire.
  • Doshasamshoshanah: The subtle waste products (Kleda) created during body metabolism are absorbed, due to stimulation of Vata.
  • Kshepta Bahirmalanam: The movements required for throwing waste out of the body are done by Vata dosha. Vata dosha does the function of the excursion of urine, stool, and sweat.
  • Schulanusrotasam bhetta; karta garbhakritinam: Sthula means big, macro and anu means small, micro. Strotas means channels and giving specific sizes and shapes to body organs in the fetal life is a function of Vara dosha.
  • Ayusho-Anuvrittipratyayabhutah: For the continuation of life, the above-said functions of Vata dosha are contributory. For the continuous union and amalgamation of physical body + sensory organs + mind + soul, Vata dosha is helpful. Man lives, till the functions of vata dosha are normal.

Media for the Activity of Vata Dosha

Vata dosha is described as – Avyakto Vyaktakarma cha (it is invisible, but can be understood by functions). The body elements through which Vata dosha works are the media. 

Three important media are:

1) Dhamani – In Sushruta Samhita, in the chapter on ‘Dhamani Vyakarana’, the functions of Dhamani are explained as follows – For getting knowledge there should be this chain – of mind-›dhamani-sensory organs-object. 

2) Sira – Sushruta has mentioned Vatavaha-sira and its color as blackish. Vatavaha sira means which gets stimulated by Vata (and does not mean, which carries Vata). 

3) Stimulation from molecule to molecule level – Actually each activity of Vata takes place via molecular propulsion. Even the cause of the first two media is also molecular propulsion. 

Common Sites of Vata-dosha 

The nature of Tridoshas is all-pervading throughout the body. But the organs where Vata dosha functions predominantly observed have been mentioned as its main site.

“पक्‍्वाशयकटी-सक्थिश्रोब्रास्थिस्पर्शनेन्द्रियमू ।

स्थान॑ वातस्य, तत्रापि पक्‍्वाधान॑ विशेषत:’ ॥  (A.H.Su. 12:1)

1) Pakvashaya (large intestine) – Here, digested food gets separated into Sara (useful) and Kitta (waste) by Vata dosha. Also, waste parts are thrown out of the body by stimulation from Vata. Vata dosha and Pakvashaya are intimately related to each other. Pakvashaya is the place. for the genesis of Vata, the main site of activity, the site as an origin of pathogenesis, and a selective site for the main treatment of Vata (i.e. basti or medicated enema).

2) Kati (Pelvic girdle) – This region incorporates important organs like the large intestine, rectum, anus, urinary bladder, uterus, and ovaries. These organs are related to excretory activities like micturition, defecation, menstruation, etc. These functions are part of the separations type functions of Vata dosha.

3) Sakthi (Thigh) – Walking, and running are the activities of legs. These movement functions are related to Vata dosha.

4) Shrotas (Ears) – Ears perceive sound. Sound is a property of Akasha (ether) Mahabhuta. The composition of Vata includes Akasha. For the proper activity of Vata in the ear, Ayurveda has suggested Karna Purana (filling of ears with oil) as a part of the daily regimen (Dinacharya).

5) Asthi (Bone) – Bones and Vata dosha has a special relation called ‘Ashrayashrayi’. Bones are ashraya (Media) and Vata dosha is ashrayi (dweller). a). Body activities are mainly concerned with body joints, and activity can not take place without Vata. b). Bone is the hardest element in the body.

6) Sparshanendriya (Sense organ of touch is skin) – Skin perceives different touch sensations like cold, hot, soft, and hard. Vata dosha is composed of Vayu and Akash (air and ether). Touch is a property of Vayu Mahabhuta, hence, the relation of vata dosha with touch sensation is established.

By Dr.Dimpal Baldha

I'm DR. Dimple Baldha, an Ayurvedic doctor and I have treated more than a thousand patients in my couple of years of experience in this field. This has given me a lot of insights and positive areas to work with people from different parts of the world managing arthritis issues, Dietary changes, healthy lifestyles, and metabolic disorders. I have good knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine, Panchkarma treatment, Healthy lifestyle and yoga. I have treated so many diseases like spondylitis, psoriasis, allergies and bronchial asthma. Talks about #health, #ayurveda, #wellness, #healthylifestyle

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