Such a beautiful time of year in the Midwest! With its glorious colors and refreshing temperature change, autumn is a lovely transition after the summer season. Autumn brings the decline of Pitta dosha, with its dominance of the fire element, and the air element of Vata dosha begins to rise. Vata embodies the energy of change and movement, a time of transition. You can feel its cool, windy, irregular, and drying qualities swirling thru the air… just like the leaves on my windy walk yesterday. These qualities of Vata that are present in autumn can easily begin to distract or dysregulate you. It is important to be aware of balancing diet and lifestyle during this time of year, in preparation for even more change to come!
Simple changes in lifestyle can help us to stay centered and grounded in body, mind, and soul. As the days grow shorter, we feel a natural urge to draw inward, get cozy, reconnect, and gather our energy. We gather the intensity and energy of summer and use it to move us through fall and into winter, so this is a great time to plan projects to do as you spend less time outdoors. (One reason I love fall is that it is time for working on puzzles!)
As the days get shorter, aligning our daily routine with the change of season often means feeling ready to go to bed earlier. Without the distractions that come with a longer day and extra outside time, we can align with the Ayurvedic clock and cozy into bed by 10 pm. An extra blanket on the bed helps to ground Vata energy and adds another layer of coziness to promote restful sleep. This also will help us feel more rested when we wake in the early hours, in alignment with Ayurvedic wisdom, which suggests awakening by 6 am at the end of Vata time to begin our day and establish a solid daily routine.
Because autumn is Vata season, we experience more dryness, and our skin reacts to this. Daily practice of abhyanga, Ayurvedic self-massage, is especially important this time of year and can be done as part of your morning or evening daily routine. The Astanga Hrdayam, one of the great texts of Ayurveda, states that “Abhyanga wards off old age, exertion, and aggravation of Vata” (S: II 8-9). Abhyanga takes a little extra time each day, but the advantages are great! An article from Banyan Botanicals explains how to enjoy this daily practice: Ayurveda self-massage
With practice, yoga has a calming effect on Vata, as it brings warmth, stability, grounding, and focus. Warm up slowly, grounding your hands and feet on the mat whenever possible. Standing poses and balancing poses—warrior 1, warrior 2, tree pose, and mountain pose—will build strength and stability. To help you connect with the earth, include child’s pose and cobra pose (or variations of cobra). Legs-up-the-wall pose or forward bends will help quiet Vata and soothe the nervous system. Yoga Nidra practice or guided meditation also help turn energy and attention inward. When relaxing, take care to stay warm; once again, a cozy blanket helps to create warmth and provide a grounding quality.
A fall Ayurvedic diet favors warming, grounding foods. Think delicious veggie soups, rice and dal, vegetable chili, steamed vegetables cooked with ghee and/or healthy oils and warm and gently stimulating spices (turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cumin, coriander). The grounding and internally moisturizing qualities will balance the cool, rough, and dry qualities of Vata in the environment. Consult with an Ayurvedic professional to learn more specifics about the foods to favor based on your Prakruti or Vikruti during Vata season. Fasting is not encouraged during autumn, but it is a good time of year to do a simple cleanse by eating a mono-diet, such as Kitchari.
Enjoy the beauty of the season, and stay balanced!