Ayurveda is a traditional medicine system from India. It is based on the idea that we can cultivate health through bringing our bodies, minds, and spirits into balance. This holistic approach to well-being is pro-active in the prevention of disease and disorder as opposed to reactive when illness has already occurred.
The doshas are the energies that of which we are made. They are vata, pitta, and kapha dosha. Each person is a unique combination of all of the doshas. Dis-ease occurs when we experience an excess or deficiency in one or two of the dosha.
Just like each person is made up of the three doshas, these energies are present in the world around us as well. The doshas are what give each season and geographical location its own special “flavor”. In the northern hemisphere, autumn is known as vata season. Vata is the energy associated with air and ether. It has the characteristics of being cool, dry, light, and active.
Addressing vata imbalance during the autumn.
We may experience too much or too little vata energy when it is out-of-balance. When we experience too little vata we may find ourselves feeling uninspired and lethargic. Too much vata, which is the tendency in a vata-dominant season such as fall, can lead to physical problems such as constipation and dry-skin. Vata imbalance wreaks havoc on our emotions as well, leading to mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
We balance vata by decreasing the amount of vata-oriented energy and increasing the pitta and kapha energy we regularly experience. We can balance the dosha through our daily routine, nutrition, home environment, and self-care practices.
Finding balance in our daily rhythm…
Ayurveda recommends waking and going to bed with the sun. Although this may be the ideal situation, it is very challenging for most modern western people. Even though most of us have jobs that require we wake before daylight and retire well into the evening hours, we can certainly make improvements.
Certain times of the year, such as spring and summer, lend themselves to increasing activity. During the autumn and winter, we are inclined to rest, reflect, and stay close to home. As daylight hours become fewer, the lack of natural sunlight signals to our bodies and minds that it is the time of year for rest. Regardless of our lifestyle, it is critical we create more time to rest during vata season. Consider this: by choosing to make time to rest we are investing in our ability to stay well for fall and winter’s duration. Although the effort may seem inconvenient, choosing not to live in alignment with nature’s cycles would create far more difficulty in time.
Seasonal eating is not only good for our bodies, but it is also good for our budget! During the spring and summer, we enjoy fresh juice, abundant fruit, and crisp, cooling salads. Our bodies thank us. Believe it or not, but these foods generally do not contribute to overall health and well-being during the fall and winter. Vata season requires a shift in what we eat and how we prepare food. This is the time of year for warming soups and stews made from the colorful produce available wherever we purchase our food. Have fun trying recipes that call for apples, squash and root vegetables of all kinds!
How we care for our homes…
When it is cold and gray outside, it is particularly important to make our homes warm and inviting. We can do this through lighting, color, and even music. Candlelight need not be just for dinner! With some mindful precautions, we can burn candles in our home all day. If we prefer not to use candles, we can create a similar warming effect through the lightbulbs we use. Some bulbs have a warm glow and others are cooler. During vata season, it is helpful to opt for the warmer bulbs. How we decorate has a warming or cooling effect as well! Colors such as red, orange, and yellow are bright and cheery. Upbeat music can go a long way in keeping our spirits uplifted during vata season.
Through bodily movement…
Finally, we can navigate vata season through shifting the way we move our body. Perhaps we took a break from intense vinyasa-style yoga classes during summer’s heat. This is the perfect time to sweat it out on our yoga mats! Most bodies are fortified through more challenging physical exercise during colder months. Building physical strength and cardiovascular endurance are wonderful health goals to work towards during vata season. However, if our individual constitution tends to be vata-dominant, we must take care to avoid fatigue. Dance, Pilates, and other creative forms of moving with awareness are perfect for those with vata imbalances.
Now it’s your turn! What are YOUR favorite autumn self-care practices? How will YOU treat your body, mind, and spirit well this fall? SHARE WITH US BELOW!