As I have been going through a lot of changes lately, I have also chosen to move. Moving is one of those processes in life that can become a really big deal if we let it. I am so grateful for my yoga and meditation practices which have kept me so grounded while I move. But, sometimes we need something more.
When people talk about moving, they often discuss the stress, the worry, the exhaustion. There is so much involved: organizing, gathering help, caring for treasured objects that can be easily broken. For most people this also involves supporting the children or family through the process, all while feeling our own struggles with the changes. We are saying goodbye to friends or family. We are leaving something, and going into the unknown.
All of these stresses are impactful on what we call Vata - in other words, they are stressing issues. Vata is how Ayurveda terms the functions in the body that are responsible for movement, inspiration, and a sense of flow in our lives. The parts of our body that involve vata include, but are not limited to, the actual pulses of the heart, the nervous system, the initiation of movement (to do the actual moving), and the large intestine. There are so many complex factors at workin our body when we find we are moving or going through big changes. In any situation involving moving or travel and stress, vata clearly needs support. When we move, or start a new job, or when we are dealing with any times of stress and change, this aspect of us can respond so well to specific methods of care. We are so lucky that Ayurveda and Yoga provide a lot of options. But I like to keep them a little narrowed down.
Vata also wants to start “scattering” or jumping around to different options. Picking one or two things and making them into a rhythm is one of the best ways to help Vata.
So, I thought I would share my three main “go-to” practices to care for myself during this process.
Caring for Vata 101:
Sleep as you are able. Generally we want to keep a really good rhythm of getting to sleep by 10 pm. When we are moving or traveling or dealing with stressors, this can become complicated in a number of ways. I, personally, never enjoyed naps. Yet, during this time I am sleeping as I am able. This means trying to physically get in the bed at 9 (no - I don’t always make it). It also means that if I feel like sleeping longer, I try my best to do so. Additionally, this period of travel or moving is classically noted as one of the times we can take naps. I have a new respect for this practice. Still, I generally only nap when I am trying to support Vata after or during a major stressor.
2. Take warm drinks. In the United States, it is really common for people to take their drinks with ice. Cold can be jarring to vata, and to the digestive system. When we are experiencing stress, vata will often show up in the digestive tract, and people can experience trouble with elimination. I generally drink room temperature and warm drinks, but during times of stress I move more towards the warm drinks. I sip warm water or teas, and I follow cold meals or foods with warm water. This has a soothing effect on the digestive tract as well as on the nervous system.
3. Practice the art of Abhyanga. This is the term for a self-massage using oil. Body type determines the best oil to use, but a gentle shower after applying warm oil on the body is soothing and has anti-stress effects on the nervous system. You can see a video about it here.
Can you think of key moments when you may need to care for vata?
Which of the options above would you be most likely to use to help support yourself?