If you have ever experienced restless sensations or twitching in your body, arms or legs when you are relaxing, sitting down for meditation, or sleeping — you are not alone. Restlessness in the physiology is a common experience for many.
Ayurveda identifies this imbalance as related to Vata dosha — specifically Apana Vata, a subdosha of Vata that governs downward flow in the body. The movement associated with Vata is fast; it is the dosha that governs movement, after all. But with Vata imbalance, symptoms can be expressed as restlessness in the body, arms or legs. Ayurveda focuses on digestion as the primary source of balance and good health. When digestion is not strong due to weak agni (digestive fire), or environmental stress, our bodies can build up accumulated impurities or toxins, known as ama. These impurities lead to our doshas going out of balance, and Vata, being responsible for movement, will usually be the first to be affected. The result, in Vata-dominant people, can experience spaciness, occasional constipation, feeling cold in a temperate environment, worry and, for purposes of this article, restless limbs.
Ayurveda recommends a seasonal cleanse at the change of the seasons, from Summer to Fall and from Winter to Spring — more on that below. Too much Vata means too much movement, such as excessive travel, rushing through the day, or taking on too much at one time. Vata may be naturally high if you are a Vata-predominant person, and this may be indicated by cold hands and feet, by excessive worry or occasional anxiousness, by quick multi-tasking skills, or by a tendency towards constipation. Vata can also increase during the season of Vata (October - February) or if you follow an irregular routine from day to day.
Ayurveda offers natural dietary and lifestyle tips to help balance Vata and calm the body, arms and legs:
Stay regular. Daily elimination is a prerequisite for good health. In fact, if you visit an ayurvedic practitioner, you will be asked about your bowel movements. Irregular elimination can allow toxins to build up, causing you to feel "plugged up" physically and mentally. Regularity of bowel movements is important to pacify the natural downward flow of Apana Vata and reduce ama, which can accumulate and cause blockages in your body. Try adding more fiber to your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, quinoa or amaranth. Encourage healthy gut bacteria and promote elimination for better digestion with a tablespoon of Organic Psyllium & Flax and warm water just before bed; or if you find that this brings on restless sleep, try it in the morning.
Herbal Cleanse, a natural laxative for intestinal cleansing, is a gentle Detox Management® formula for occasional constipation. It provides a healthy, long-term solution.
Or add in Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) before bed, as part of your daily detox routine.
Follow a Vata-balancing diet. Favor sweet, sour, salty, oily, and warm foods. Reduce light, raw, cold, pungent, bitter and astringent foods to balance Vata. Here is our thorough list of Vata Balancing Dietary Guidelines. Start the day with warm, cooked fruit such as a stewed apple or pear with a few cloves. Eat lunch as your largest meal of the day and favor warm, well-cooked grains and legumes cooked with ghee, and vegetables such as squash, asparagus, and green chard. Have your dinner at least three hours before your bedtime. And favor a lighter dinner of soup or cooked vegetables to ease digestion in the evening when your digestive fire is burning lower. Avoid overeating. Eat enough that your body can comfortably digest what you give it.
Regularly massage with warm oil. Abhyanga, warm oil massage, is a powerful practice to start the day balanced. Before your morning shower, warm some sesame oil, Moisturizing Herbal Massage Oil or Youthful Skin Massage Oil and apply a thin layer of oil to your entire body. You may want to designate a specific set of towels, that you don’t mind getting oily, to your abhyanga routine. Carefully pour the oil into your hand and, starting with your hands and arms, massage the oil in — using long strokes over your long bones and circular motions over your joints. After your arms, move to your back, midsection, the front of your body, legs, and finish with your feet. Pay special attention to areas that are sore or may be holding tension. Need more instruction? Watch this Ayurvedic Abhyanga Massage video.
Support circulation. Circulation is essential for keeping your joints lubricated, eliminating impurities, and delivering vital nutrients to the joints. Give your legs a nurturing, therapeutic oil massage just before bed to support natural circulation around your joints. Use a mix of 80% sesame oil and 20% Joint Soothe II herbal oil.
Balance with aroma. Put a drop of one of these dosha-specific Aroma Therapeutic Blends into your diffuser any time of the day or night. Choose the one that smells best, as your body (nose) will direct you to what your body needs at that time.
Have a nightcap. An evening cup of Organic Calming Vata Tea, made in milk or water, is a great way to slow down and calm Vata before bed.
Add in balancing herbals. Worry Free twice daily after meals is a great way to balance Vata dosha. When the seasons are changing and that Vata imbalance starts to be felt, Organic Ashwagandha is a great single herb to help ground you.
Balancing the doshas is one of ayurveda’s specialties. Curious to know your prakriti, or current state of dosha balance? Take our Dosha Quiz. And to learn more about the doshas, watch our Dosha Q&A Series featuring Integrative Neurologist Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary.--
SAFETY NOTE: All oils are highly flammable. Please observe proper safety precautions. Clothing, linens, towels, etc. that have absorbed oil should be laundered immediately, thoroughly and with special attention. Storing oily towels can result in spontaneous combustion/fire hazard. Automatic drying can overheat the oil residue in cloth and create a fire hazard. If machine drying, use low heat and remove as soon as dry.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of 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 concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.