Snap, crackle, and vata!

It is a crisp fall day…. Have you noticed how often we describe autumn as “crisp”? If you stop and think about it, that is actually an odd way to describe a season. Consider what else we describe as crisp: crackers, cereal, potato chips…. Or perhaps I’m just hungry.

When we describe something as being crisp, it usually has qualities being dry, light, and airy. From an Ayurvedic perspective, “crisp” is the perfect way to describe autumn. In the northern hemisphere, vata is fall’s most prominent energy. Vata is air, ether, and energy. It generates movement and motivation. The word dosha means “blemish”, and it occurs when we are energetically out of balance. Imbalance contributes to disease and disorder. There are three dosha imbalances: vata pitta, and kapha.

Because vata’s energy is so predominant this time of year, we may suffer a vata dosha imbalance if we do not incorporate elements of the other two doshas into our self-care practices. Pitta is the energy of fire and light. It is the action taken after we have been inspired by vata. Kapha is earth and water energy. It is our inspiration and action manifested on the physical plane.

A pinch of Pitta and Kapha for balance.

It is not as complicated as it may seem to balance the doshas in the fall. For example, vata is cool, dry, and airy. A common complaint many people have in the fall is dry, itchy skin. That is a symptom of vata imbalance. After we identify the symptom we are experiencing, we can treat the symptom by incorporating its opposite. The opposite of dry, itchy skin is oily skin. Oily is a quality of kapha. One way to alleviate dry skin is skin oiling. Simply slather your body in sesame or coconut oil and rinse it off in the shower. By bringing in the qualities of another energy, we alleviate our symptoms and create balance.

Perhaps we find ourselves easily chilled as the season changes. One option is, of course, to externally address the situation by turning up our thermostat. However, we can internally work with our vata imbalance of coolness by incorporating pitta’s heat and fiery energy. We can retain pitta energy by way of heat in our bodies by wearing additional clothing or covering up with a blanket. We can also increase pitta’s energy by drinking warm liquids and eating spicy foods.

If Ayurveda is beginning to sound like the good ol’ common sense remedies you learned from your grandma, it is because it is! Even our autumn and early winter holidays provide ample opportunity to balance vata dosha. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Yule… these are big, boisterous holidays that are centered around surrounding ourselves with loved ones and making merry! This is not only for fun or for religious observances. It is because we need these holidays during the vata season. Autumn and early winter holidays are grounding and warm our hearts. From an Ayurvedic perspective, they are the perfect antidote to imbalance during vata season, both personally and collectively.

Shellie’s top-ten favorite ways to balance vata!

  1. I am not ashamed to admit that when I am working from home (blogging, planning classes, prepping for yoga teacher training) I put on a big fluffy robe over my yoga clothes!
  2. Herbal tea is my buddy. My current favorite is the Lemon and Ginger Yogi Tea.
  3. It is never too soon to listen to festive music! All y’all who turn on your Christmas tunes before Thanksgiving, do your thing! I start my Halloween playlist on October 1st.
  4. Body brushing followed by sesame oil… This feels so good! And, yes, I love the smell, as do my cats. In fact, they try to lick me for at least half an hour after I rinse it off if I don’t cover every inch of my skin! Which leads me to number five…
  5. Cover every inch of my skin: pajamas, hats, scarves, fuzzy socks, and I’m good to go! I don’t care if it is October. I will don my fuzzy boots if it is 50 degrees outside. 50 degrees feels just as cold in October as it does in February.
  6. Wear the heck out of my red lipstick!
  7. Every October I pick out a novel that I’ve really wanted to read. Last year was The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. Loved it!!! This year I’m reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Ravens of Avalon by Diana Paxton.
  8. I light my inner fire by getting even more deeply involved with issues I am passionate about. For example, I participate in Amnesty International’s annual December letter writing campaign. Nothing alleviates seasonal (or social) depression like participating in hopeful solutions!
  9. Even a non-cook like myself is trying some new recipes this year. My favorite so far is baked rutabaga chips. Yes, rutabaga! I didn’t even know what they were for until a couple of weeks ago, and now I’m hooked!
  10. This is not my favorite time of the year to do Yin Yoga. Vinyasa, anyone?