What Is Vata?
Vata is 1 of the 3 doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), which together form the unique constitution of an individual. If you're looking at this and saying to yourself, “what the heck is a dosha?” take a look at this post on doshas for a little more background info ;)
Vata Dosha is how we see the elements of Space (aka Ether) and Air show up in the body. The most obvious example of this is the breath, but it is also any kind of movement that happens within us, and the desire for external movement. The downward motion of food throughout our digestive systems is Vata, the movement of blood through our circulatory system is Vata, the movement of air through our vocal cords to produce voice is Vata, and even the urge to dance or move our bodies is Vata. We see space in our bodies in the hollow places where the outside world meets the inside of us like our sinuses, lungs, and in our intestines.
Vata in the Physical Sense
Those who are predominate in Vata embody the airy quality of movement in things like their propensity to dance and yoga, in their quick speech, and need to fidget. They are predominate in air and space (no water here), so dryness is an issue for them. Vatas tend to suffer from dry skin, eyes, scalp, and even dry insides, so constipation can be an issue for them. Vatas are very lean people, and if they have any issues with weight, it is usually the problem of keeping weight on. They have a very slight build, and have smaller features to match. A Vata body is a pretty sensitive body, inside and out, so they get cold more easily, dehydrated more easily, and may seem to be ill in one way or another more often than those predominate in Pitta and Kapha.
Vata in the Mental/Emotional Sense
When we hear air and space as qualities, (or at least when I hear them) we might think of airy and spacy as adjectives to go along with them...well if you are thinking that you're exactly right. People predominate in Vata are often described as such, but these qualities come with the creativity that they are naturally gifted with. Their creative minds are flourishing with ideas, so many that they may seem to just flit from one thing to the next. When in balance, Vatas are creative, whimsical, and optimistic, and have a lot to offer the world. Out of balance, they are nervous, anxious, and insecure, which often inhibits them from sharing their gifts with the world. When Vata is too high, so are the nerves, bringing about constant worry and pessimism.
I want to reiterate that these “categories” as they may seem to be, are very general. We all have all three doshas in us, which means that all qualities are always possible for each person. Again, Dosha means “fault”, as in “fault line”, or the area that we may be weakest in- the qualities that we tend toward and may need to really tend to when we are out of balance. A person can absolutely be predominately Vata in mind, but Kapha in body, Pitta in digestion, and Kapha in their spirit. This is why in the quiz that I put here, I recommend that you print it out or write it down or something, so that you can see which dosha you answered for each question.
Though we use the Doshas as a starting point, you are not just one thing, you are a multifaceted being with a lot going on. When working with an Ayurvedic Health Counselor or Practitioner on specifics for your unique self, if they're good at what the do they will know this, and will work with you to find what works for you as a whole human, not just for one Dosha. <3