As long as we are not living in harmony with nature and our constitution, we cannot expect ourselves to be really healed. Ayurveda gives us the means.
Ayurveda Top 5 Tips for Autumn Season
Ayurveda calls Autumn the "Vata season". Vata is one of the three doshas - constitutional types - that have a list of attributes, and that can be applied to a human, to nature and, in fact, the whole universe.
The main qualities or attributes of Vata dosha are cold and dry. This means that Autumn being a Vata season, will make you particularly prone to imbalances that manifest the Vata qualities. A simplistic way of looking at it would be to say that you are likely to experience a decreased circulation in Autumn which can make you feel cold in your body, or to say that in Autumn more than any other season you are likely to experience the dryness and roughness of the skin or your digestive tract which can manifest as constipation.
But the wisdom of Ayurveda is a lot more complex than that. If you dare to venture even deeper into this science and art of healthful living, you'd discover that Ayurveda describes Vata also as the most mobile and unstable of all three doshas, making it a constitution that correlates with imbalances like anxiety, fear, worry, doubt and feeling un-grounded.
If we look at nature, the Autumn season brings a decrease of activity in the plant and animal worlds, a drop in temperature, abundant winds, a transformation of colours, shapes and qualities, and very importantly, a preparation for the Winter hibernation. Ayurveda balances imbalances that we become prone to in this changing environments by using the opposites. For example, it invites us to balance the rapidly changing environment, instability and its influence on us by introducing a more steady routine. It invites us to approach the two main qualities of Vata - cold and dry - by adding more warming and liquid meals into the diet. By making diet and lifestyle choices that counter the effects of each season, you can better maintain your internal sense of balance throughout the year. Ayurveda however also invites us to mimic nature's wisdom too in many ways - for example, by taking rest.
Why a Seasonal Routine is Important?
Ayurveda considers a seasonal routine an important component of health, year around. Balancing the nature of the climate in which you live with lifestyle choices that prevent the potential seasonally-induced imbalances or diseases is one of the easiest ways that you can stay healthy and invest your efforts into well-being. The list of recommendations I have created is mostly adapted to European climate, but can also be applied to similar weather conditions in the Northern Hemisphere in Autumn.
And here is a simple list of my top 5 pieces of advice on how to keep your health and sanity over the next few months.
Vata is the most unstable of all doshas. This means that physically the immune system is under pressure and mentally you are more prone to experiencing de-stabilizing effects of Vata imbalance such as a feeling of overwhelm, racing thoughts, mental busyness, anxiety, interrupted sleep (even if you are usually a pretty good sleeper). To begin to stabilise your body and mind, one of the most effective methods is establishing a daily routine. Do the same things (waking up, yoga practice or exercise, eating, going to bed, etc.) at approximately the same times each day. Try to rise early, perhaps before the sunrise as it happens later and later each day, and enjoy the morning hours dedicated to your self care routines like meditation, yoga, preparing a warm and wholesome breakfast. Waking up early also offers you a possibility to enjoy silence, calm and stillness of the morning hours.
Throughout the day if possible, minimise your exposure to anything that can be over-stimulating and depleting like loud noises and aggressive discussions, alcohol and stimulants. Try to be in bed by 10 p.m. (maybe right after a warm bath with Epsom salt to help you ground, relax muscular tissue using magnesium that Epson salt contains, and even gently detox). Use a heavier blanket than usual. These pre-bedtime rituals combined will ensure you fall asleep easily and that you get plenty of rest before your early morning start!
2. Exercise and Yoga
The best times of day to exercise are in the early morning and evening hours (6–10 a.m. and 6–10 p.m.). It's easy to vitiate vata by activities that are aggressive, fast, or overly strenuous, so opt for slow-paced and strengthening forms of exercise instead. Restorative yoga or slow paced nourishing practices are great additions to more active forms of movement. Swimming, slow hiking, tai chi, chi gong and all excellent choices too, especially if you don't end up straining yourself. Ideally, try to use fifty to seventy percent of your capacity when you are exercising and use nasal breathing while you do. Remember to balance your activity with an appropriate amount of rest, relaxation and sleep so that your body can restore and rejuvenate properly.
Continuing on the rest topic, it is relevant throughout the year, but particularly in Autumn when your system needs additional support and care. One of the best gifts you can offer yourself this time of year is rest in different forms: yin and restorative yoga (they are not the same thing by the way), quality sleep with the right amount of delta-brainwave time (this deserves another journal post which I'm working on), yoga nidra meditation. As you re-plenish your resources, you'll be more prepared to face the transition into the cold and dark season charged up with energy, stronger immunity, perfectly functioning digestion and glowing, radiant skin.
To balance your digestive system in the Autumn season, remember the routine advice and keep your meal times regular and at approximately the same time every day. Favour foods that are nourishing, soothing, moderately spiced and warming. A perfect meal for this season would be liquid and warm - think hearty soups spiced with ginger and turmeric that are both satisfying, delicious and still easy on the digestive system. If you eat animal products, chicken broth is a great Vata seasons support remedy, and if you prefer a vegetarian option, root vegetable soups are the most grounding and satisfying of choices for these few months.
Favour warm breakfast to keep your digestive fire (agni) stable and strong. Keep yourself hydrated with lots of water and herbal teas (ginger is a great choice for both Autumn and Winter). Liquorice root, basil, anise, black pepper, cinnamon, mustard seeds, rosemary, nutmeg, cumin, coriander and fennel are other great options for the Vata season which you can use as herbal tea ingredients or spices.
If you have signed up for the newsletter below and received your free Home Retreat Guide that I have created, you have already got all the instructions for Abhyanga - warm oil self-massage technique (if not, you can still do it - just go to the footer of the page). Abhyanga is an ancient and extremely pleasant method of nurturing your body, creating a protective film on your skin that supports your immunity and even calming the mind through therapeutic oleation that pacifies Vata and its qualities. It literally changed my life a few years ago when I promised to my Ayurveda teacher to really give this ancient practice a chance!
I wish you a wonderful health-full Autumn season, and I look forward to introducing you to yogic practices and Ayurvedic wisdom in the upcoming retreats in the Swiss Alps and Balinese jungle.