Aka. How to stay balanced this Fall with insights from Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, yoga’s infinitely wise sister science of longevity, adapting ourselves to seasonal changes is essential to maintaining health and preventing disease. As the seasons change and with it our outer environment – so does our inner body ecology.
Why does this matter? Subtle or large shifts in our environment impact our bodies and our minds. We are not islands. Rather, we are interconnected to all aspects of our universe and much more so than we think. If you have ever experienced cracking in the joints, or stiffness at the onset of autumn, or a general feeling of scattered, spacey-ness, or even anxiety, you know exactly what I mean.
In Ayurvedic terms, Fall is considered to be a classic “vata” season.
What is a Vata season? A time of the year when the Vata dosha or bio-energy is more prevalent. Vata which is comprised of the air and space elements, is known to be light, quick and mobile, dry, cool, rough and expansive.
Traditionally, Fall exhibits similar qualities, though you may notice differences given your particular geography. E.g. in the Pacific Northwest, where Fall can also be moist and wet. Still, consider the “Vata-ness” in the rustling of dry leaves that have lost their summer moisture, in the fast changing weather and a quick-ness in how we move through our days – a contrast to the easygoing slow days of summer. Notice also, how we naturally shift our behaviour, re-applying moisturizer on our hands to combat dryness, sipping warm drinks versus cold water and because we are running around all the time, we crave more introspective, quiet time.
In a sense, when we tune in to our natural wisdom we hit upon two simple Ayurvedic principles that help us to create more balance in our lives. The first is “like increases like” and the second is that “opposites balance.” Simply put, to balance the cold, dry, rough, quick, expansive qualities of Fall Vata season, we need to actively seek out the opposing qualities of warmth, moisture, softness, slowness and introspection. This calms Vata and helps us to remain healthy and vital. In contrast, if we continue to live in a way that is Vata aggravating in a high Vata season, we will feel more out of balance and easily fall sick.
Here are some simple Ayurvedic practices to bring you health, balance, warmth and ease this Fall.
- Daily Routine:
– Establish a consistent daily routine. Consistency is the opposite of erratic and helps to calm Vata. Awaken early and sleep by 10 p.m. We need more sleep in the fall and winter and it helps us to focus and plan our days better when we awake early and are not rushed. Eat at regular times and make lunch your main meal. Skipping meals impairs our digestive fire.
- 2. Get Oily:
Give yourself a daily abhyanga or oil massage before you shower. Use about 2 tbsp of warm sesame oil if you run cold, otherwise almond oil is fine. You can add some grounding scents such as saje, cedar, pine, or geranium to your base oil for your abhyanga. Apply over your entire body from extremities toward the center in short light strokes. Shower 20 minutes later.
- 3. Eat Seasonally:
When we eat seasonal foods that grow in our locality, they are full of healing benefits. Pumpkins, squashes and many root vegetables are naturally sweet and dense. Roast them with easily digestible fats such as grass fed ghee or coconut oil to create a nourishing meal and add warming spices such as thyme, rosemary, saje, or cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, ginger and cumin.
Mung beans, red lentils and adzuki beans, well-spiced tofu and split peas are also excellent and if you eat meat, include grassfed meat in your diet, preferably as stews. Steamed and braised dark, leafy greens will gently cleanse the body, while a side of raw grated beets with lemon and ginger is a warming condiment to meals. Lastly, favour cooked grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice and wheat berries. Avoid yeasted breads, dry crackers and chips. Relish the seasonal bounty of fruit such as apples, pears, persimmons and cranberries.
- 4. Less Coffee!!! Sip warm, hydrating drinks instead!
Avoid coffee, black tea, carbonated water, iced water and raw foods. If you enjoy tea, switch to green tea and if you love your morning coffee, ease out of it slowly before you switch to a warming, spiced nut milk or tea as your morning wake up beverage. Coffee is drying on the gut and in Vata season we want to keep the gut nicely lubricated so our digestion flows well.
– Drink warm water during the day or ginger tea to keep the digestive fires stoked.
5. Yoga + Meditation + Breathing
– Commit to a routine daily meditation practice, even if it is 5 minutes long. Try either the early morning upon waking or before winding down. Even a few moments of quietness will help you to calm Vata dosha down and experience more clarity in your life.
– Practice yoga more slowly. Include sun salutations and strong, grounding warrior poses with long, slow, deep inhales and exhales, twists, seated poses and inversions to calm the body and the mind.
– Include Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing to balance the right and left channels in the body and help to move excess Vata out of the body.
Above all relax. Try to move a little more SLOWLY so you don’t wear yourself out. If we can channel any excess excitability and nervous energy in this high Vata season, we will experience more ease and rejuvenation vs. exhaustion.