Ayurveda Tips for Autumn
If you've been following our entries on Ayurveda, you will by now have a reasonable understanding of the importance of eating and living in sync with time ––that mighty bastard! By living in sync with time, we mean living and eating differently depending on the stage of life we're in, the time of the year, the time of the day and, of course, our specific Ayurvedic constitution (also known as Prakruti).
This in mind, as those of us in the Northern hemisphere make our way into the darker and colder portion of the year, it's important to remember that it is precisely the qualities most characteristic of this season ––its innate windiness, dryness, roughness, and coldness–– that will need to be countered and balanced by means of the lifestyle choices we make to keep our doshas in check. And while this is a season that those on the fiery and watery end of things will really welcome (congratulations, Pitta and Kapha types), this can be a particularly tricky period for those of us with a natural predisposition towards the very attributes mentioned above (as in someone with a Vata constitution).
Still, one doesn't need to be a Vata type in order to suffer from a characteristic Autumn Vata imbalance... And while Ayurveda naturally recommends to eat and live according to our main dosha first and then pay attention to the season ––something known as ritucharya–– it's always wise to bear both in mind at times of transition. And what is fall if not a transition from warmth to cold, from light to darkness? So let's have a look at what we can do in order to help ourselves stay healthy and strong as the year rolls to an end.
Though Vata season begins officially in the later portion of September, November ––or the later portion of fall in general–– can be labelled as high Vata season. For those of you not so familiar with what Vata season entails, it suffices to have a look at the world around us to realise that 'as outside, so within!'
Indeed, fall is the time of the year where things begin to recede to a dormant or quasi-dormant state. Trees and bushes begin to lose their leaves, which turn yellow and brittle before they fall; the wind picks up too, blowing all that's fallen away; and as the foliage begins to grow scarce once the temperatures drop, most animals fly away to warmer areas, or else prepare to spend the colder portion of the year tucked in at 'home,' ready to make do with whatever food they've managed to store in the previous months.
In a similar way, we humans begin to evidence a variety of 'signs' of Vata season operating at full speed. Amongst the most obvious, we'd have to name the presence of dry lips and dry skin, as well as cold hands and feet. But other signs may go unnoticed such as bouts of slight insomnia, unusual bloating (aka, 'wind') or constipation, increasing anxiety, crackling joints or bone stiffness, and trouble concentrating and remembering things. Indeed, in Ayurveda, the main mantra argues that "like increases like." And so in Autumn, the Vata season of the year, Vata Dosha will become naturally aggravated for most of us.
The solution to seasonal Vata imbalance is to cut down on any bitter, astringent, and pungent flavors, as per the characteristic six tastes of Ayurveda ––bitter, astringent, pungent, salty, sour, and sweet. But least we fail to make ourselves understood by using so-called 'technical Ayurvedic language,' let's just say that we must try and bring more of the warm, moist, heavy, and oily elements typical of the season prior back into our diet and routine. We want more of the salty, sweet, and sour flavours back into our plate.
Taking warm baths, for example, is a great way to start; as is consuming more warm soups, indulging in oil massages, or simply drinking warm beverages more regularly. The main idea is to bring more of the Kapha Dosha qualities back into our life, particularly for Vata types, to try to neutralise any potential exacerbation of the windier, dryer, and most brittle energies within us. By this we mean bringing more of the oily, heavy, grounding, and sweet qualities normally associated with Kapha back into our lifestyle and our plates!
The Season to go Seasonal
There really is a point in following the innate wisdom of Mother Nature when thinking of what to put into our plates, and this is as simple as consuming more of what it naturally gives us in each specific season of the year. Autumn being such a bounty to the stomach (and the eyes!), there's plenty of delicious and nutritious ingredients ready to help us bring more sattwa into our lives. This is, after all, pumpkin and apple season, but also the season of oranges and of anything orange and yellow in general!
Indulging in apple pies, warm fruit compotes, or apple sauce to accompany our meals, drinking room temperature orange juice, enjoying figs, dates, bananas, or consuming pumpkin soup, for example, is one easy way to stay ahead of the cold; as well as amping our consumption of so-called 'sweet' foods: things like pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes, oats with cinnamon, and, do not forget, pumpkin!
As a rule of thumb, we want to steer clear of any cold foods and beverages, as well as any raw vegetables. Leave those for high Pitta season (aka, summer). Remember to drink plenty of tea ––ginger, mint, chai, or lemon with honey, for example, are all great options––; indulge in as many stews, soups, and casseroles as you can think of; and, though you can still eat them, go easy on the beans. They are naturally high on Vata, which means, they naturally enhance our 'inner windiness and dryness'; so be mindful when choosing to consume them and cook them for longer than you normally would.
Beyond the Plate
Aside of what we can do to help our bodies from within, there are certain seasonal recommendations for our lifestyle to help us once fall's here. Getting enough sleep is one of them, as being well-rested helps our immune system be at its best when fighting against the attack of the occasional cold or flu. So is opting for exercising routines that will help to ground us and slow us down, instead of draining us of a much needed energy and stamina. Indeed, the days grow shorter and life goes on stand-still... and so should we. So the rule of thumb is not to over-exert ourselves and give our entire body-mind systems a really needed rest. This goes as well for our Yoga practice. We want routines that help us replenish and leave us feeling rested and with our feet well planted on the earth.
An excellent recommendation at this particular time of the year, for instance, is to get a hold of a neti pot to practice one of the main shatkarmas or yogic purification techniques. By regularly performing nasal showers, we'll help clear our nasal cavities of excessive mucus and prepare our sinuses ––our main barrier against colds and flus–– for the colder winter months.
So now you know. It really is that simple, though life has a way to make simple things very complicated!