“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall” -Oscar Wilde
The ancient wisdom of ayurveda is largely based on the seasons and the elements of earth, fire, air, water and ether/space. It teaches that each of our constitutions are comprised of a specific combination of elements that are defined as doshas. Doshas are energies that circulate within the body and perform various physiological functions.
The fall season is related to Vata dosha, which is a combination of the elements of air and ether.
Physiologically speaking, vata governs all functions associated with movement, including breathing, speaking, digestion, elimination, urination, menstruation, circulation, nerve impulses and movement in the muscles and tissues. Psychologically, vata governs communication, creativity, flexibility, and quickness of thought. Vata is characterized by dry, rough, fast moving, erratic, cold, light and changeable qualities- the same characteristics that are present in nature during autumn.
Even if your primary dosha is not vata, people of all doshas will feel the affects to some degree.
Why? Because whatever is happening in nature is always reflected in each of us, and since like attracts and increases like, if we do nothing to harmonize vata energies, we’ll likely experience imbalances that cause us to feel unstable and depleted. Here are some signs to be aware of:
What Causes Vata Imbalance?
- Eating vata aggravating foods
- Eating on the run or when upset or irritated
- Partaking of stimulants
- Staying up late
- Not having a solid daily routine
- Being exposed to the cold
- Drinking ice-cold beverages
- Over exposure to highly stimulating or stressful environments and people
Here’s the good news:
When we are able to balance our vata, we can experience high levels of creativity, are able to express ourselves more clearly and communicate effectively. Often times, we feel more energetic and vital, are inspired to be more active and possess an air of optimism that’s infectious.
So how do we go about balancing vata?
The ayurvedic approach to balance is to work with opposing qualities, which means, in this case, introducing and incorporating conditions that are moist, calm, still, consistent, stable, slow-paced, grounding, warm and routine-oriented. This can be achieved through making simple changes in diet, relationship dynamics, schedule, daily rituals and climate/temperatures. Here are 5 additional guidelines for ensuring a harmonious seasonal adjustment:
Making dietary adjustments is a powerful way to soothe vata. Vata is comforted by nourishing foods that are:
1. High in protein and healthy fats
2. Seasoned with warming, stimulating digestive spices
3. Served warm and eaten fresh
4. Sweet, sour and salty in flavor
5. Softer in texture and cosistency
Follow the above guidelines to help keep you grounded throughout the season. Also be sure to:
– Garnish generously with ghee or organic oils, such as sesame, olive or avocado
– Make a breakfast porridge of cooked grains, such as oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat or teff
– Choose Roasted root veggies and squash over cruciferous vegetables (ie- broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower)
– Prepare hearty grains, soups, and stews for lunch and dinner
– Snack on nuts, seeds and organic dairy products, such as yogurt and soft cheeses
– Reduce your consumption of raw, cold and frozen foods as well as ice-cold beverages
– Avoid consuming foods and spices that have bitter, pungent, and astringent flavor profiles
If you decide to eat foods that don’t fall within the vata season guidelines, consume them in moderation and make sure that they are soaked (nuts and beans), well cooked, seasoned with digestive spices and topped with ghee. Autumn is also a great time of year to do a mono-diet cleanse, such as kitchari. It’s important to note though, that vata requires adequate nourishment so it is best to avoid fasting.
One of the best methods to support vata is to create a daily routine.
Try to do the same things (wake up, exercise, eat meals, go to bed, etc.) at about the same times each day. Rise early and set the tone for your day by taking full advantage of the silence, stillness, and peace that are inherent in the early morning hours. This will help to wake up the tissues, muscles and joints, calm the nervous system and ground your energy. Administer some self care by massaging your skin with warm, organic sesame oil. Follow with a warm shower and allow a light coat of oil to remain on the skin to help hydrate and nourish the tissues. Steam saunas and humidifiers can also help to maintain internal moisture levels.
Gentle yoga and ten to fifteen minutes of daily meditation will assist in supporting your sense of stability and wellness. Vetiver, geranium, and citrus essential oils help to soothe and comfort mind, body and spirit during this time of year. Be sure to wear clothes that keep you warm throughout the day and when outdoors, cover your head and ears to protect them from the detrimental effects of the wind and cold. Minimize your exposure to loud noise, fast-paced movement and excessive sexual activity whenever possible. Try to be in bed between 9:00 and 10:00 PM so that you get plenty of rest before dawn.
Be sure to surround yourself with people that are supportive and uplifting. Carve out time to feed your soul by doing things that bring you joy. Spend plenty of time in the outdoors, breathing in the fresh air and taking in the beautiful colors. This will help to keep the spirit light as the days grow shorter and we move steadily toward the darker days of winter.