Depending on where you are in the world, autumn may have arrived recently. When it did, if you are the Pacific NW like I am, this year felt like an especially rapid transition from summer. I feel like we barely got through a record-breaking heatwave and now, the ground is covered with soggy leaves.
Ayurveda, the oldest known health science, places special emphasis on keeping in balance during seasonal changes. When the seasons change, we need to adapt our schedules, meals, and activities in order to stay in balance.
When the air dries out and becomes cooler, leaves fall, and many plants go to sleep preparing for the upcoming winter, our bodies are strongly affected, even if we are in our temperature-controlled homes. Ayurveda teaches us that everything is connected, and to keep in balance when the seasons go through a major shift, we need to make changes.
Very simply: Ayurveda teaches that everything in the natural world is under the influence of three doshas which are combinations of the five great elements, space, air, water, fire, and earth. Pitta dosha, predominant in summer, is a combination of fire and water and is responsible for transformation. Kapha dosha, responsible for structure and solidity, is predominant in late winter and early spring and is composed of earth and water. It is. Vata is made up of space and air and is responsible for movement.
Fall is ruled by the Vata dosha which has the qualities of cold, dry, moving, and changing. Do you notice you might be feeling a little scatterbrained, anxious, ungrounded, forgetful, cold or dry? You can thank Vata for that! To stay balanced and in good health this time of year we need to increase Vata balancing practices.
Here are a few ways to move gracefully into the cooler months ahead:
1 – Warm up your intake! Ayurveda never recommends ice-cold foods or beverages, but especially as the weather cools, warmer foods and drinks are a must. Switch from cold salads to sautès and soups. Switch your cereal for breakfast to oatmeal or other warm porridge-type meal. Use lightly cooked vegetables instead of raw. The other way to warm foods is to add warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, and garlic.
2- Warm up your skin, the biggest most exposed organ in our bodies! Self-massage with oil is an Ayurveda recommended daily practice. As the air dries and cools, it can lead to rough and dry skin. If you don’t already have daily oil massage as a practice I recommend trying it! Your skin will feel and look much healthier. The massage itself can be beneficial to lymph, muscles and even your mood!
During fall, your skin needs a lot more moisture. In summer, we use coconut or safflower, or sunflower oils, lighter and cooler. With the change of season, try changing to heavier warmer oils like almond, sesame, or olive. Warm the oil in a pan of hot water (not too hot!) then rub all over your body. If that seems like a lot to do, many of the benefits of daily oil massage can be obtained by just doing your feet and hands before bed. Give it a try, your skin will thank you, and you will feel pampered and hydrated!
3 – Hydrate inside and out. Oil on the skin is the best way to keep your skin hydrated, but what about your insides? If you drink water, drink it at room temperature or even warm throughout the day to be sure you maintain hydration. The entire digestive system can dry out in the coming months, so be sure you are not only hydrating but also adding warm oils to your diet. Even soups and stews can benefit from some added oils. The most prized oil in Ayurveda, ghee, can be added by the tablespoon to almost any dish for a delicious, grounding, moisturizing gut supporter! Ghee is a specially prepared butter product, all the fat, but none of the proteins that can bother lactose-intolerant people. For a special treat, look for ghee that has been infused with various herbs and spices.
4 – Move! You may already have an exercise routine, but consider adding a few minutes of cardio to warm up the entire body each day. It can be as simple as 5 – 10 minutes of dancing to your favorite music, or a quick run! Of course, my favorite movement practice is yoga, and this time of year we want to increase the grounding practices like meditation and slow movement and longer holds in the poses. When you do slow movement practices, focus on your feet as they connect to the earth.
5 – Practice grounding. Usually, when I recommend grounding practices the list is topped with walking barefoot on the earth. In the mud and cold, I don’t recommend that one now. Still, any time you spend in nature, connecting mindfully with where you are, can be a grounding practice. Grab your boots, raincoat, and gloves, find a forested area, and stand close to or touch trees. Breathe deeply in and out and use all of your senses to connect you to the early smells and the calming energy. Feel your feet connected to the earth, if you are sitting focus on the parts of your body that touch the chair and your feet on the floor. The earth supports us and balances our elevated Vata.
6 – If you are a meditator, practice grounding meditations. If you don’t know what that is, download the free meditation app Insight Timer and look for meditations with Grounding, Calming, quiet, stillness, or anxiety in the title. Find a teacher whose voice you love and sit and listen. I’m working on recording meditations right now, soon there will be a grounding meditation you can listen to right from my website!
Even small changes can help you stay in balance as you transition through the seasons. If you have questions about how to keep your balance, physical, mental or spiritual, feel free to respond to this email, attend one of my yoga classes, or sign up for a free consultation.
Blessings to all for a healthy fall!