The Fall or Autumn is upon us and nature is preparing itself to confront the harsh winter. Trees shed their leaves, the earth gets browner, and the colder winds start to drop the temperature.
According to Ayurveda, the outside environment is relative to our body and mind. This holistic healing science also suggests following the rhythms of nature to live healthy and happy.
Fall is also known for carrying cold and flu viruses, skin problems, painful joints, etc., with the tides of winter. Experimenting with the basics remedies of Ayurveda this Fall can keep these issues at bay.
What are doshas and gunas?
But, before we discuss the application and effectiveness of this medical system, let’s talk about the energetic forces of nature, also known as doshas (a foundational concept of Ayurveda), for a better understanding of human physiology.
Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are the three doshas that constitute every human body. Each of these doshas has its own functional role to play in our body. Imbalances of these fundamental forces can wreck our health. To understand Ayurveda, it is important that we understand the elemental composition of these doshas thoroughly.
According to this ancient form of medical science – ether, air, fire, water, and earth are the building blocks of all forms of life. Each of the doshas contains all the five elements of nature but predominated by only two.
- Vata Dosha – Air+ Ether
- Pitta Dosha – Fire+ Water
- Kapha Dosha – Water+ Earth
These three doshas are present in every matter of this world but in different quantities. Actually, the specific proportion of vata, pitta, and kapha inside every one of us is different and can help us to determine our optimal health.
Now, let’s study the qualities (gunas in Sanskrit) of these doshas.
- Vata Dosha – Clear, light, dry, cold and mobile
- Pitta Dosha – Oily, light, liquid, hot and sharp
- Kapha Dosha – Soft, stable, oily, smooth, heavy, stable, cool and sticky
If a specific dosha gets aggravated, we can reduce the influence of its qualities by balancing it with another opposite dosha (e.g. in Ayurveda we balance cold with hot or light with heavy).
Fall is Vata Season
As stated in Ayurveda, autumn is the vata season i.e., the dosha of wind. An imbalance of this dosha is a very common phenomenon during the fall. The positive qualities of this dosha involve better temperament, innovativeness, higher tolerance level, zeal, warmth and energy. But, imbalance of this force can cause:
- Stress & Anxiety
- Out of focus
- Gastric problems
- Dry and dull hair and skin
- Weight loss
Due to a sudden transition in climate, you might simply lack strength and confidence. You can treat this disproportion by adding qualities of Pitta and Kapha through foods and balanced lifestyle.
So, how should you change your lifestyle during Vata season?
1) Create heat through movement
As Vata is cold it can be balanced by heat. A great way to generate heat is by physical exercises like walking, jogging or yoga. Yoga and physical movements during fall also play a crucial role in reducing stress and functionalizing the joints. In addition, it strengthens your immune system to stay fit during this season. You don’t have to aggravate yourself with tricky exercises. Here are a few exercise and yoga practices to keep you healthy and warm:
- Incorporate Ujjayi breath or Kapalabhati (aka breath of fire) into your routine to create heat in your body
- Sip a cup of lukewarm water before starting your yoga practice
- Start every practice with Sun Salutations, also known as Surya Namasakara, to warm up the body
- Include poses like Tree Pose, Warrior I-III and Triangle Pose, to increase your heart rate and body heat
- Heat is often created from the belly center. Your core is connected to Manipura Chakra, the element of fire. Ignite this energetic fire through abdominal exercises like Boat Pose (find more poses for strength here)
- Include inversions like forearm balance, handstand, headstand to stay warm during autumn and winter
- To warm up your spine and back muscles during this cold climate add some backbends like Camel Pose
2) Stay warm, heavy and slow down through self-care
Apart from exercising, sleeping and relaxing to play a vital role in rejuvenating us during autumn and chilly winters. Besides from cold, Vata is also clear, light, dry, and mobile which means it can be balanced by sticky/cloudy, heavy, moist/oily and static. Here is how you can include these qualities into your fall self-care routine:
- To maintain appropriate body temperature, warm your toes with a pair of socks. Also, use a sweater from the very beginning of the winter to balance the core body temperature.
- According to Ayurveda, an oil massage is an effective way to retain body heat and is very grounding. Incorporate an oil massage in your (daily) routine before taking a bath to lock the moisture of your skin. Castor oil, mustard oil, avocado, and sesame oil can efficiently relax your senses and warm your body.
- To accelerate the blood circulation during the winters, never skip bathing. Take long hot baths and restore optimum blood circulation. This technique is also very functional in eliminating toxins from the tissues and relaxing your nervous system.
3) Eat yourself healthy
Now, it’s time to talk about nutrition during the fall – here the same concept applies. You should try to incorporate warming, sticky, heavy and oily food into your diet.
During Autumn, the transitional phase, you should also feast upon plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to stock up vitamins. Late-summer harvested fruits like apples (cooked) and pears are perfect. Full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, these nutritious fruits help to digest heavier foods and detox your body during the winters. Some good produce veggies for fall are pumpkin, corn, figs, eggplant, sweet potato, and beets.
Here are more yummy products you can bank upon to live good during this climate:
- Healthy fats are best to consume during the colder months. Vegetable fats like olive oil, seeds, nuts, avocado, and animal fats like raw milk and ghee can help you to stay warm and strong.
- Easily digestible food items like stews, broths, soups, boiled pulses, and veggies can properly nourish you throughout the winter.
- Hot and nourishing beverages are also effective during the chilly winter. This fall, rejuvenate yourself with spiced tea, turmeric milk, honey milk. These beverages also help you to calm down your nervous system and enhance immunity.
- Energize yourself with the goodness of spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, black pepper or saffron in this windy Vata season.
Use these tips to nurture yourself this Vata season with all the virtue of Ayurveda Wisdom to stay warm and stable during Fall.