This is a fairly regular occurrence for me: It’s 4am and I’m woken up by something. Maybe it’s a weird dream, maybe I need a glass of water, or I have to pee. And then I’m toast. No matter what I try, I just can’t fall back asleep for about two hours, until I hear the birds chirping and see the early light. Does that ever happen to you?
In Ayurveda, waking up at this time would quickly be diagnosed as a Vata imbalance—because Vata rules that time slot between 2am-6am. And even if your dominant dosha is not Vata, you could be suffering from one too. For a dosha refresher, go here.
A quick recap on the Vata thing: All doshas represent elements, and Vata is air. It’s quick moving and it’s easily aggravated by just about anything: season change, travel, too much wine at dinner, stress, and most other things that are part of modern life. This is why it’s so common that we experience its negative effects. Other telltale signs: Dry skin, anxiety, indigestion, and a sensitivity to cold.
Luckily, for those of us who are frequent Vata sufferers, the onset of warmer weather usually helps balance this out. Of course, for you Pittas out there, that can bring on a whole different kind of imbalance: excess heat in the body, a hard time falling asleep, impatience and irritability.
Anyways, back to the sleep thing. When it happens now, I don’t try to fight it. I know like clockwork that around 6am, suddenly the warm veil of sleep will come back over me. Until then I’ll do everything: meditate, read, come up with ideas for blog posts. I’ve been particularly susceptible lately, because I’ve been both traveling a lot and socializing a lot. Booze and travel will get me every time.
What do you do when you wake up like this in the night? And of course, if you know your dosha… Let’s hear it. I’m a Vata-Kapha, whereas Siobhan is a Pitta-Vata (but with a very strong Vata). So you can imagine this wake-up thing’s a problem for us!
If this isn’t a problem for you, by golly, tell us your tricks for staying balanced.
Mine sure has been. And while I’ll get into some theories tomorrow, I know that the arrival of vata season (a.k.a. fall in ayurvedic terms), with all of its loveliness and nostalgia, is also likely to aggravate anyone prone to stress (me! you!). So, while we’ve already covered the ayurveda angle, it all bears repeating and today Well+Good has an interview on the subject with one of our favorite practitioners. If you read the book (aw, remember the book? It feels so long ago now!) you will surely remember the part when Siobhan was washing her face with dried sticks and going to ashrams in search of the perfect acne cure. Well Pratima was one of the first alternative docs that really set her straight in those early days when we were both still using stuff like benzoyl peroxide and glycolic acid.
So let’s hear from Pratima, but first: How has your skin been faring this fall?
From the piece:
Got some dry patches and breakouts with the dip in temperature?
The cause of your contradictory complexion is par for the course, says Dr. Pratima Raichur, an Ayurvedic physician and owner of Pratima Spa in Soho. It’s Vata season.
The Ayurvedic calendar says October through February is a time when our bodies—and skin—are plagued by imbalances and change, says Dr. Raichur, who has made skin health her specialty.
Want to conquer Vata season’s beauty vices? We asked Dr. Raichur to explain how in layman’s terms:
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old healing science. What is its take on skin, particularly this time of year?
Vata is both a season, and one of three Ayurvedic constitutions called doshas that apply to people.
Vata-dominant people will typically have dry skin and hair, be prone to premature wrinkles, and lack skin luster. This time of year, it can worsen and so can health symptoms like insomnia, constipation, and mental blockages.
Even if Vata is not your primary dosha, all of us are prone to these right now.
What diet or lifestyle changes help fend off Vata season’s effects?
I always recommend doing a detox but dietary changes help. Try to avoid cold or raw food, and opt for steamed or stir-fried dishes. Organic soups and grains like quinoa, basmati rice, seitan, and amaranth are excellent, and adding ghee to your meals helps nourish skin cells.
To keep digestion in check, add spices such as ginger, fennel, cumin, and coriander to your meals.
And most importantly, drink six to seven glasses of room temperature water or herbal tea each day to stay hydrated.
It just doesn’t seem right. Why would the food with the most nutrition, the one that makes us look our best, be so hard for some to eat?
A few weeks ago we talked about The China Study, a compelling book that sets about proving how animal protein may be linked to Western diseases. After reading it, I’m more inspired than ever to load up on greens. In fact, I’d be happy to subsist on a plant-based diet alone, as the author proposes, if only I could digest one.
But more often than not, eating veg for many means dealing with a distended belly, gas, and pain. A quick Google search shows this to be a common affliction—do any of you suffer from it?
According to Ayurveda, as someone who is Vata dominant (if you want to know your dosha, revisit this post), I am predisposed to tummy troubles. Many factors may be at play: Time of day seems to matter (afternoon snacking tends to wreak havoc), cold weather definitely aggravates it. But even warm, cooked, vegetables smothered in healthy oils (as Ayurveda recommends for Vatas) can cause problems for this girl.
If you are a fellow sufferer, what have you done to improve your condition? Do you take enzymes? Do you subscribe to the blood type theory? Do you avoid certain vegetables? Do you chew thirty times between bites? Let’s hear it.