Vata refers to a constitution type that is made up primarily of the space (ether) and air elements.
Physically, vata-dominant people have a thin, bony frame and tend toward underweight. Their features are usually long and narrow - long fingers, a long oval-shaped face, long torso or long arms/legs. They tend to be either very tall or very short. Vata skin is often dark or olive and eyes are generally small, also dark. They may have small teeth and gums. They tend toward irregular hunger and digestion. They usually walk and walk quickly, but more so when they are out of balance. They tend toward dryness - skin, hair, nails, constipation, etc. They often suffer from coldness, especially complaining of cold hands and feet. They tend toward gas and bloating, as well as low back ache.
Emotionally, vata-types are very sensitive and can be fearful or even suffer from anxiety. They may be shy, but can also be very outgoing and social. They are easily excited, very adaptable and very happy when balanced. They are very perceptive to the feelings of others and are often intuitive or clairvoyant.
Mentally, vata-dominant people are creative, artistic and imaginative. When balanced they are alert and clear-minded, but when out of balance they can be "spacey" or disorganized and indecisive. They are mentally flexible and able to grasp new ideas quickly, but may also forget the information quickly. They love plays, stories and jokes or pranks. They can tend toward insomnia or may be light sleepers.
Ways to Balance Vata
Vatas greatly benefit from a regular routine to be followed each day. They love to be spontaneous, however, so having a regular morning and bedtime routine with a set time for lunch mid-day is all that needs to be adhered to. Getting plenty of non-doing time (ie. meditation, relaxation, reading, etc.) is important because of the moving nature of air and space. Keeping warm and honoring the need for gentle environments is also important.
Food for vata should be sweet, sour, salt, warm, moist and heavy. Think of comfort foods. Food should be cooked, and raw food should be avoided, save for small amounts of fresh parsley or basil for garnish. Cold foods and dry foods, such as popcorn and crackers, are best avoided.
Examples of foods that balance vata include root veggies; winter squash (all kinds); animal protein; heavy oils, such as olive, coconut and ghee; sweet and juicy fruits like mangoes, bananas, peaches and dates; nuts and seeds (as long as digestion is strong, and then only a handful at a meal); avocados; warming spices like black pepper, cloves and paprika; whole grains but especially amaranth, oats, quinoa and brown rice.
Examples of foods that aggravate vata include dried foods such as popcorn, crackers and chips; cold foods and drinks of any kind; caffeine; raw foods; most legumes, but split mung and tofu are okay; too many bitter greens.
For Vata-Pitta Constitutions
Vata and Pitta both contain the quality of lightness, so make food choices grounding and allow yourself to slow down. While vata loves warmth, too much will aggravate pitta, so monitor how much time you are spending in baths, hot tubs, saunas and the hot summer sun.
For Vata-Kapha Constitutions
Vata and Kapha share the cold quality, so it is important for vata-kapha types to stay warm. Eat warm foods, bundle up on cold days and cook with plenty of spices.