Fall is a time of transition. It is evident all around us. The trees and shrubs are changing into their vibrant and beautiful colors and slowly dropping their leaves in preparation for the winter. Temperatures, which, just a few weeks ago were raging with the intense heat of summer, are dropping into the coolness of autumn. And then there is the wind: slowly increasing in strength at times and reminding us that winter is on the way as we feel the cold breeze from the North.
The autumn harbors a certain melancholy that can leave us feeling a little sad at the ending of summer, but it is also filled with possibility—a time when we, too, can strip down to a quiet essence of being and begin to prepare for a bit of hibernation ourselves. The fall brings with it a predominance of air element and is dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool, subtle, and clear. These are all qualities shared by the Vata dosha, and because like increases like, autumn is considered a vata season. This is why taking a few simple steps to balance vata this fall can be tremendously beneficial.
Why Do We Bother with a Seasonal Routine?
Ayurveda considers a seasonal routine an important cornerstone of health, year around. Balancing the nature of your local climate with lifestyle choices that offset the potential for seasonally-induced imbalances is one of the simplest ways that you can protect your well-being. (Keep in mind that the seasons vary widely from one place to another, as do the qualities that they engender) “Vata season” is whatever time of year most embodies the attributes that characterize vata dosha: dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile, and clear.
Autumn is classic vata season.
Beginning to observe your environment from this perspective empowers you to respond to both daily and seasonal variations in your area. The reality is that many of us have already incorporated seasonally habits without even realizing it. For instance, summer is a time when we often enjoy salads and watermelon in abundance, both perfect antidotes to the heat and intensity of the summer. Whereas by October and November, we’re often baking delicious pumpkin breads and dining on hearty, grounding soups—foods that naturally reduce the dry, light, and erratic nature of the fall. 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.
Navigating The Vata Season
If we consider the Ayurvedic principle that opposites balance, vata season overall will be less aggravating if you fill it with warmth, oiliness, deep nourishment, loving relationships, and a sense of stability, routine, and groundedness. You may also find it helpful to familiarize yourself with signs and symptoms of vata imbalances so that you are better prepared to address those immediately, if they do arise. The following recommendations are appropriate for most people, but if you know your constitution or your current state of imbalance, you can tailor your seasonal routine appropriately. The following suggestions are for your consideration.
Vata Diet for Fall
Your diet is a powerful way to pacify vata this fall. Oily, nourishing foods that are high in protein, high in fat, supported with warming spices and served hot, will go a long way toward keeping you grounded through the vata season. You’ll also want to favor the sweet, sour, and salty tastes. Breakfasts of cooked grains—like oatmeal, tapioca, cream of rice, and cream of wheat are perfect this time of year. Lunches and dinners that include steamed vegetables, hearty grains, soups, and stews are grounding and moisturizing. Enjoy the abundance of root vegetables and fall squashes. If you eat meat and eggs, this is one of the best times of year to enjoy them. In general, you’ll want to reduce your consumption of raw vegetables, cold and frozen foods, as well as the bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes.
Vata Lifestyle Choices
One of the best ways to support vata is by establishing a daily routine. Try to do the same things (wake up, exercise, eat meals, go to bed, etc.) at roughly the same times each day. Set the tone for your day by waking before the sun comes up and take advantage of the silence, stillness, and peace that are characteristic to the early morning hours. Then, you can calm your nervous system and ground your energy before beginning your day. Enjoy early morning meditation, gentle movement and/or self oil massage, Abhyanga. Follow this practice with a warm, relaxing shower, leaving a coat of oil on the skin to absorb throughout the day. Consider using steam baths and humidifiers this winter to preserve internal moisture as well. Wear enough clothes that you stay warm throughout the day. When you step out into the elements, cover your head and ears to protect them from the biting wind and cold. If possible, minimize your exposure to drafts, loud noise and aggressive music.
Try to be in bed by 10 p.m. so that you get plenty of rest before dawn.
Yoga for Vata Season
Incorporating a sense of warmth, grounding, stability, and focus into your yoga practice has a profoundly calming effect on vata and can work wonders during vata season. Your breath should be deep and fluid. If you practice pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), alternate nostril breathing is very balancing this time of year. In your asana practice warm up slowly and include some joint rotations. Move with intention and fluidity—grounding the hands and the feet on the mat whenever possible. Slow, gentle flows like sun salutations are perfect for vata. You can also favor standing and balancing poses such as mountain, warrior I, warrior II, and tree pose to increase stability and strength. Quiet the mind with forward bends such as seated forward fold. Gentle inversions and restorative poses such as legs up the wall are also very good for vata. Close your practice with a long corpse pose, covering yourself with a blanket so that you don’t get chilled.
Please keep in mind that each of us are unique. A seasonal routine is an investment in your own health and well being. There are huge benefits to aligning ourselves with nature. More internal peace. Less struggle. Stronger immune system and an ability to handle stress better.
If you are unsure of your dosha you can take a quiz here.
May you be healthy, grounded and at peace this Fall.