How to stay balanced in Autumn with Ayurveda
Article Written by Tegan Wallis, Sukhavati Ayurvedic Consultant
“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” The Autumnal – John Donne, The complete Poetry and Selected Prose
Autumn is a beautiful season – the weather starts to cool down, the leaves start to dry and change into gorgeous vibrant colours, and the air becomes fresh and crisp.
In Ayurveda autumn is seen as the season of transformation, but also of deficiency. When the weather starts to deteriorate, the body struggles to protect itself and stay balanced. According to Ayurveda, autumn is the season governed by the Vata (Air) dosha. Vata is seen as windy, cold, rough and dry, so as these qualities increase in the environment around us, they also start to increase in our internal environment. We can see and feel this in our mind and body: as the leaves on the trees become dry and crack, so can our skin and joints; when the weather becomes changeable, so does our mind.
Under the influence of Vata you can feel light, carefree, creative, spontaneous and energetic when in balance. So autumn is a great time to start creative projects as the ideas will be flowing and the motivation strong. But Vata is easily disturbed this season and when out of balance you may begin to feel spacey, scattered, unstable, unsettled and anxious. As Vata governs the nervous system, mental afflictions are strongest now. Symptoms of a Vata imbalance manifest as anxiety, fear, insomnia, constipation, dry skin, and stiff and painful joints.
This is the time to change our diet and lifestyle to become in tune with the physical changes in the environment. Seasons change, and so should we. By connecting with the natural laws of the season, we can create a sense of balance in our mind and body. It’s also important to ensure building a strong natural immunity, nourish deficient tissues and thicken the skin to prepare and insulate for the cold winter months.
Now is the time to introduce warm, grounding, stabilising, moisturising and softening qualities into your diet and lifestyle to pacify this Vata and nourish and protect your body.
Here are some recommendations that Ayurveda offers to enjoy the Vata season:
- The most important tip for the Vata season is to eat warm, cooked foods. Since Vata is dry, cold and rough, we need to consume foods with opposite qualities to create balance. Warm foods combined with good quality oil like ghee, immediately grounds and calms restless Vata. Foods such as sandwiches, salads, dry cereals and cold milk are foods that increase Vata so should be avoided during this season. The body intuitively gravitates to earthier, warmer, richer foods during this season as you start to crave stews, curries, cooked fruits, roasted root vegetables, sweet grains, savoury soups and heartier meals compared to the light, raw salads consumed during summer.
- Favour sweet, sour and salty tastes.
- Warm drinks such as spiced milk, Vata tea and ginger tea should be consumed regularly.
- Increase warming spices such as ginger, basil, cardamom, cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard, black pepper, fennel, asafetida into meals.
- As autumn is the season that causes drying and deficiency, it’s important to eat good quality, rich, moisturising foods to prepare the body for winter. This includes using good quality dairy (un-homogenized and organic), adding oils to foods such as ghee, olive and avocado, and using tonic/immune boosting herbs and foods such as ashwangandha,almonds and dates.
- Practice self-oil massage to combat dry skin. Autumn sees the air become cool and dry, and because of this the body needs more moisture to fight dryness of the dermis and also the tissues within. Use warmed Black sesame or Almond before showering.
- A regular routine and plenty of rest is the best way to combat Vata. Wake at the same time everyday, practice yoga and exercise at the same time and for the same duration, eat meals at the same time and go to bed at the same time. This helps to anchor you into the cycles of the day to stay focused and clear.