September brings cooler temperatures and shorter days. This change of season is known in Ayurveda as Vata season which is governed by the elements of air and ether. Ayurveda believes that keeping this energy in balance through this season will reduce the risk of colds and flus in the months to come. At this time of year, Ayurveda recommends a light Kitchari cleanse, as well as choosing warm, cooked and seasonal foods, to combat internal dryness. Massaging warm oils into the skin is especially beneficial at this time. Routines help balance the body, so consider incorporating meditation and yoga into your daily practice to transition peacefully through both daily and seasonal changes.
When vata dosha predominates, there is an increase in the dry, rough and cool qualities of our external and internal environments. In excess, dryness can begin to disturb various tissues and organs. Most noticeably, dry skin and lips are examples of excess vata. Internally you may notice dryer stools as vata accumulates in the colon. Though we all notice the seasonal effects of autumn, people whose constitutions are vata-predominant and the elderly, are most susceptible to this change.
Symptoms of vata-aggravation are:
Dry skin and lips
Little or low appetite
Foods that are in season such as root vegetables and winter squash help nourish and balance the body. Try carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and Winter squash. These have the qualities of sweet, heavy, smooth, dense and moist which are most balancing for vata. In general, at this time of year, favor sweet, sour, and salty tastes in your diet, while limiting bitter and astringent tastes.
Some sweet grains to include this season are basmati rice, wheat berries, brown rice. Also, whole wheat pasta and or buckwheat udon noodles can be especially grounding for vata. Include ghee and other healthful oils such as almond, sesame or sunflower for internal oleation, kindling digestion and increasing absorption.
When preparing food, use warming spices such as black pepper, ginger and cinnamon to help to stoke the digestive fire. Casseroles, soups and stews are easily digested and can be very nourishing and warming.
Other important dietary guidelines for balancing the body:
Eat at routine times each day, having lunch be the largest meal.
Take time to lovingly prepare and enjoy nutritious meals.
Avoid ice cold drinks, particularly taken with meals or immediately after.
Limit raw, cold foods such as salads and raw vegetables.
Minimize caffeinated beverages and other stimulants. These increase vata, aggravating the nervous system.
Include warm milk spiced with a pinch of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. This is a nutritious way to soothe the nerves and, when taken before bed, will promote sound sleep.
Our daily activities have a profound effect on our health. A routine, practiced daily, is stronger medicine than an occasional remedy. Consistency is of particular importance as we enter into vata season. When the cool, fall weather arrives and the holiday season is upon us, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain a peaceful, grounded state of being. Having a routine to follow restores balance throughout the day, everyday, safeguarding against the anxiety and stress associated with increased vata.
According to Ayurveda, abhyanga, or oil massage is an essential component to a daily routine. This practice nourishes and strengthens the body, encourages regular sleep patterns, stimulates internal organs, enhances blood circulation and can significantly reduce vata.
Additional lifestyle tips for balancing vata:
Stay warm and avoid drafts.
Avoid excessive exercise or physical movement.
Eliminate sources of emotional stress.
Get enough restful sleep each night. Most people require 6-8 hours.
An imbalance of vata can manifest as a mind full of fear and anxiety. Creating a spiritual practice using meditation and pranayama can help to calm these emotions and create a sense of peace and well-being. Invite calm and relaxation into the body for a few minutes each day. Be still. Direct your attention inward. Notice your breath. Allow this practice to act as a protective shield to the destabilizing influences of the external environment.
When we are feeling swept up in the fast pace of life, slowing down and taking a few deep belly breaths will do wonders to help relax the nervous system, calm vata dosha, and balance prana in the body. Allow the belly to fill like a balloon upon inhalation and then allow the belly to naturally sink in towards the spine with the exhalation.
Caring for yourself during the autumn will help your body’s ability to maintain health through the winter. Now is time to keep warm, nourish yourself and protect your vitality in preparation for the months ahead.
This is also a great time to prepare the body for winter by observing a Fall Cleanse. This will be offered the first week November with details to come.