By Bindu Shortt
Right now, in the northern regions of the northern hemisphere, leaves are falling, fields going dormant, temperatures dropping, and animals storing up food or flying south. Nature is preparing for the coming winter. Fall, a time of transition, has a certain quiet. Ayurvedically we are moving into vata season. Vata means “wind.” It is the element of nature that brings the qualities of cold, light, dry, rough and irregular. Vata comprises the energies of air and of the ether (space). Thus, vata can bring a sense of void.
Whatever seasonal qualities are outside you, those same qualities will accumulate inside you during that season. This may lead to health imbalances. In vata season they can show up as colds, influenza, constipation, dry skin, or sleep disturbances. For each season, Ayurveda recommends routines to help you not accumulate too much of its seasonal energies. Working on the principle that the opposite is balancing, Ayurveda offers lifestyle suggestions to keep you well through fall and winter. Much of this may be fairly obvious or automatic for you. This is because your Ayurvedic inner wisdom is always informing you of how to stay well!
First, notice the changes in nature where you live. When it is cold, dry and windy, give yourself warmth, oiliness and stability. It is natural to eat more winter squashes, and root veggies such as beets and carrots and parsnips. All of these build warmth in your body. Include them in your daily diet, rather than the melons and salads of summer, which cooled you.
Eat cooked foods. Hot grain cereals for breakfast are warming and grounding. Soups, stews or casseroles for lunch and dinner will help keep your immunity strong. Nuts and seeds have wonderful protein and fats, both of which will stabilize your blood sugar.
Pies are great desserts at this time of year. Pies with cooked fruits or even veggies warm you up (like pumpkin or squash pie). Favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes. Add more ghee and other fats and oils to your diet. Drink more warm liquids, such as teas.
You can make a wonderful vata supportive tea. Put a half teaspoon each of whole cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a cup. You can put them right in or use a teaball. Pour boiled water over, and let it steep for a few minutes. If the seeds are floating, strain them. This tea is good for digestion, detoxing, immunity, calmness and clear thinking.
Consider adding oils on the outside of your body, by doing a daily oil massage before you shower or bathe. This practice, called abhyanga, will go a long way toward keeping you warm, soothing your nervous system, and moistening your skin. An oil massage also moves your lymph, for a detox. In vata season, sesame is the oil of choice for most people, as it has the most warming qualities. Searching online using “Ayurvedic self-massage video” yields more than a hundred hits! Click here for an example.
By making lifestyle changes into habits, you align yourself with the rhythms of the season. This will help you to enjoy the abundance and harmony of fall and winter. In addition to a vata-calming diet and oil massage, you can wear a light scarf to help hold your body warmth as well as a hat that covers your ears. And give yourself regular sleep. Go to bed by 10 pm and be up by 6 am.