Vata Pacifying Remedies for Insomnia, Joint Pain and Constipation
Autumn is now in full effect. Her presence surrounds us with falling leaves, blowing wind, cooler air and shorter days. Even in sunny Los Angeles where I live, the summer heat has turned down a noticeable notch. I now close my windows at night and take a bit longer to get out of bed due to the darker and colder mornings. I’ve had to dig out my long sleeves and sweaters and I’ve even turned on my heater a few times; a sharp contrast from the constant hum of the AC only a few weeks ago.
These are sure signs of a seasonal shift and if we weren’t paying attention, we may have allowed some new symptoms of sickness to creep in. These symptoms are actually right in sync with the rhythm of Mother Nature. In Ayurveda our bodies are considered microcosms of the earth’s macrocosm, so they too go through transitions along with the seasons.
In Ayurveda, each season has a dominant Dosha. In the Northern Hemisphere fall is Vata season, so we often experience changes in the environment and our bodies that encompass the Vata qualities of cold, rough, dry, light, mobile and subtle. For example, during a recent series of at least 30 Ayurvedic consultations I provided at the Los Angeles Women’s Expo, I started to observe a pattern. Most of the women had similar seasonal complaints: insomnia, joint pain, constipation and dry skin, hair and eyes. The vast majority of those I met with reported that these symptoms had either just suddenly occurred or worsened a few weeks prior. While the appearance of symptoms was confusing to them, this made complete sense to me within the context of Ayurveda and the recent transition into the autumn months.
Below are several of my top recommendations to address common Vata complaints: insomnia, joint pain and constipation.
Sleep is considered one of the three essential pillars of health in Ayurveda because the body heals itself when in a state of deep, restful sleep. I’m sure most of you will agree that when we get good sleep we have more energy, mental clarity and an overall sense of happiness and well being. Therefore, prioritizing sleep in a health routine is a must! Unfortunately, about 1 in 3 people in the U.S. suffer from at least mild insomnia due to a wide range of reasons such as stress, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, prescription medications and caffeine or other stimulants.[i] In the fall, people may begin to experience sleep issues or their existing sleep problems may worsen. While all three doshas can impact sleep, Vata-type sleep issues arise due to Vata’s mobile and subtle qualities. Difficulty falling asleep, racing thoughts, restlessness, waking up repeatedly during the night and many dreams with lots of movement are all indicative of a Vata sleep disorder.
To help relieve insomnia incorporate the following practices into a regular nightly routine:
Joint and Body Pain
Just as a car needs oil to run smoothly, so too do our joints need lubrication to function properly. The oily and stable qualities of Kapha provide this for the joints. However, during autumn, the dry, cold and mobile qualities of Vata can dry out Kapha.
One of Vata’s sites is the bone: when the mobile quality of Vata increases, its dryness moves into the bones and joints leading to cracking, stiffening, pain and degeneration. 1 in 5 adults in the United States is diagnosed with arthritis - a categorical term defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as “inflammation of a joint or joints,” and which includes roughly 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and gout.[i] Many others suffer this pain undiagnosed and undertreated, underneath the radar of their doctors. Thankfully, by applying the fundamental principles of Ayurveda we can counter the effects of Vata in the joints and relieve the symptoms of pain, cracking and stiffness.
To do so, try implementing the following practices:
Vata is responsible for all movement in the body, and as such it can be the main driver in the disease process due to its mobile and subtle qualities. Since the colon is considered the main site of Vata, it is critical to promote its downward flow (known as the subdosha Apana Vayu) and that this flow be optimally maintained. Regular (at least once-per-day in the morning), well-formed and complete bowel movements indicate that Apana Vayu is functioning properly. When there is obstruction in the downward movement of Vata, symptoms like gas, bloating and constipation manifest. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is imperative that you address this situation as quickly as possible. Your body must eliminate waste, lest it become a site of icky ama (toxic waste) that has been linked to many other health problems. It is estimated that 12 to 19 percent of Americans suffer from constipation, which can lead to hemorrhoids, anal fissures and fecal incontinence.[i]
To ensure the downward flow of Vata and healthy elimination, try the following:
As you listen to your body more closely, recognize and address signs of Vata increase early on. Dryness, pain and mental agitation like anxiety are all good indicators. Addressing it early will save you much agony in the long run. Since it is always beneficial to keep Vata in check no matter the season, try to incorporate Vata-pacifying practices into your daily routine consistently, but most definitely during fall season.
Namaste and happy healing <3!
The purpose of this article is to provide information about Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health problems please consult a trained health professional. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor, call (800) 215-9934 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide you with our affiliated practitioners. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.
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Ahh, Kapha. A Dosha that we all have, made up of earth and water. It gives us many of our best human qualities, such as our grounding, stability and warm emotions. When in excess however, it can have negative consequences on our overall health.
To reduce or pacify kapha, Ayurveda has given us dietary, lifestyle and herbal treatment strategies. To reduce Kapha, emphasize stimulation, exercise, lightening, warming and drying in your diet and lifestyle.