Although it's taken some time for the weather to change here in Virginia, we are now officially in autumn. For me, the transition to fall is always the most notable seasonal shift of the year and for a lot of people, it's the time that they start to pick up the cold and flu. Luckily, Ayurveda gives us practical, actionable guidance on how to stay healthy and vibrant during the fall.
First, a bit of Ayurvedic theory. The fall season corresponds with Vata, the elements of air & space. The qualities of Vata (and autumn) are: dry, light, cold, mobile, subtle, and rough. In Ayurveda, like increases like and opposites balance. Therefore, the qualities that balance Vata dosha and the falls Eason are: oily, heavy, warm, stable, gross, and smooth. Vata dosha people are more likely to experience high Vata during the fall, and in general Vata is the first dosha to go out of balance, and often does so fairly quickly. When Vata dosha is high, you might experience anxiety, insomnia, constipation, dry skin, racing thoughts, restlessness, cold hands and feet, and spaciness. In order to stay balanced during Vata season, here are some of the most important things you can do:
- Get on a routine. Vata dosha is aggravated by a lack of routine. Even if your job creates a lot of variability in your life, can you create a rough "template" for what your day looks like - when you wake up and go to sleep, when you eat meals, when you exercise, etc.
- Don't overdo. It might be tempting to do <all the things> during the fall season, but make sure that you are not spreading yourself too thin. Make sure you're not overworking yourself or draining your energy in any way. Rest and relaxation are essential to keeping Vata dosha in check.
- Try abhyanga. This warm oil self-massage before your shower is one of the most relaxing, grounding practices of the season that can ease not only dry skin but also aching joints, anxiety, and insomnia. Check out Banyan Botanicals' how-to video here for more information. Ideally, Vata predominant people would practice abhyanga 5-7 times a week, Pitta 3-5 times a week, and Kapha 2-3 times a week.
- Dress warm & cover your neck. It's sweater season for a reason, y'all! Make sure you're keeping yourself warmly during this chillier season. Ayurveda says that covering your neck and ears is especially important, so get out those scarves!
- Make time for stillness and silence. Taking time to do nothing is vital to keeping Vata dosha in check. It might feel tempting to go-go-go during this season but taking time to slow down and give your senses a break is very important. Whether you meditate, float, sit outside with your morning cup of coffee or tea, find time to just be.
- Emphasize warm, oily, heavier foods. Minimize raw, uncooked foods. Put down the salad and pick up the soup! Cook your vegetables in healthy fats like sesame and ghee. Don't skip meals!
- Emphasize sweet, sour, and salty tastes. This doesn't mean you should go out and buy sour patch kids, potato chips, and cake. Sweet tastes include meat (no more than 1-2 meals a day with meat), rice, root vegetables, and potatoes. Sour includes fermented foods, dairy, and citrus. Salty includes seafood and good quality sea salt (no table salt).
- Take a freakin' nap and prioritize good sleep routines. Fall is most important time of year to make sure you're getting good, restful sleep consistently. If you're tired, let yourself take a nap. If you're feeling especially exhausted, let yourself sleep without an alarm. Practice good sleep hygiene - minimize screen time 1 hour before bedtime, and go to sleep & wake up at the same time each day if you can.
- Emphasize slow, steady, heavy forms of exercise like lifting weights and slow moving yoga. More fast-paced activities like running can exacerbate Vata dosha during the fall. If you choose to run, consider moving inside on especially chilly days. If you are a Vata-predominant person, consider applying oil to your body (especially your joints) before exercise, almost like a mini-abhyanga. Try more alignment-based yoga styles with longer holds, and sprinkle in some more restorative yoga and yoga nidra.
- Consider taking ashwagandha. Considered the best rejuvenative herb in Ayurveda, ashwagandha can be found relatively cheaply and helps for all conditions of weakness and tissue deficient in children, the elderly, those debilitated by chronic illness, those suffering from overwork, lack fo sleep, or nervous exhaustion. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp to warm milk or hot water once or twice a day. Ashwagandha is contraindicated If you have severe congestion or significant white coating on the tongue.
If there were ever a season to get a little indulgent with your self-care routines, fall is it!
Until next time,
P.S. - I'm going to be adding Ayurvedic health consultations to the Bright Body universe soon, so stay tuned!