Welcome to Fall…late September is the arrival of vata season. It often comes in with a Harvest Full Moon which won't occur until October 7th this year in 2021. The Harvest full moon invites us to fully come into the change of season and to settle into ourselves. Connect to your breath in this moment, feel your feet on the earth, and cultivate calmness as we move in uncertain waters, as is life, so let's be fluid in our branches, grounded in our roots. Grounded practices is what will keep us balanced in fall.
Allow me to back up to summer, it keeps it's hint of heat in the day and we in northern California can now feel the chilly nights telling us fall is here and winter not too far away. The air of vata season becomes drier each day and chillier nights grow as the season deepens. The leaves come down to earth to settle into the soil, as all of nature begins to do, settling inward for the winter ahead. And as I often say, we can find health by matching the cycles of nature. When we balance the elements within and sync up with the natural cycles in nature we experience healing.
Elemental qualities of a season will rise, reach their accumulation aka peak, and then retreat. Ideally we are doing this dance, rising and falling in the the flow of nature’s seasonal elements, naturally and with ease. But we are human, we live our lives with our tendencies, and we get imbalanced. And so food and spices come in handy to be our seasonal medicine and our wellness ally. The spices in your kitchen are your kitchen medicine. More about that soon.
We can do as fall does, collect ourselves, draw our energy inward as a way to prepare for a new season. With this drawing inward we can have a new sense of self, new ideas, and new manifestations. Let your manifestations become your creations this fall.
The season is of the dry and light qualities, so we apply the opposite to heal. The vata of the season can dry our tissues, and for some challenge the colon creating constipation, irregular digestion and irregular appetite, anxiety or overwhelm, less quality of sleep, possibly fatigue or restlessness.
It’s a time of year to be grateful for that which you’ve put your energy into harvesting already, whether that means from physical labor or other tasks that are now coming into fruition. It’s time to make room for relaxation, easier activities, less plans, and turn within. Find structure and regular routines in your day to keep the air and ether qualities of vata season in the body balanced.
It’s time to be warm and begin to favor warm and moist food, the tastes sweet, sour and salty, steamed root vegetables, grains and legumes and of course apples! See my Ayurvedic Wellness facebook page (check that it's the one with Melanie MacDonald) for the fall post with seasonal food examples or look below....
Before diving deep into the season, rid the body of excess warmth from summer season especially if you are experiencing inflammation, heat conditions of the skin, any burning sensations, loose stools, heart burn, feeling irritated or impatient, or feeling you are burning the candle at both ends. Pitta season is summer time and it accumulated for those months. At the end of summer some folks will have an excess of summer’s heat element; it overflowed from it’s home in the small intestines, seeped out to other parts of the body and created heat conditions as mentioned above.
So before the air of vata has time to accumulate in our body try to drink 1/2 cup of coriander and fennel tea 2 x a day. Put a pinch of each of those powders into boiled water. This is a transition tea, transitioning from summer to fall.
Just in the beginning of transitioning these two seasons have cucumber slices, celery, cauliflower, and other cooling vegetables from summertime as well as green apples. Incorporate these for the rest of September and then dive into the foods of fall. See below for a list of ideas.
Favor warm and moist foods and avoid dry and cold foods and activities; even though the weather can still be warm during the day, the nights and mornings have their chill and the dry cold air of fall is quietly present as the summer weather begins to fade. If you look to the qualities in nature and the patterns of plants as we get into fall, you will know what to do to find balance. See if you can become in sync with nature, use more natural light into the night, go to bed when you feel tired and try to stay off the computer or refrain from busy work after 8, or 9 might be more realistic for you (at least an hour before bed do only relaxing activities).
Listen to the wisdom of your body…(crimes against wisdom is what it's called in ayurveda, it is what it's called when we don't adhere to what the body needs in any given moment, in sanskrit it's called prajnaparadha).
Draw your energy within, even just for 10 minutes twice a day as a way to build more stamina and reserve energy.
Rest when you need to rest, stay hydrated, relax while you eat, and wash your hands well after being in the world: stores, getting gas, etc.., when the seasons change our immune system gets challenged and often people will feel fatigued or run down, so watch for this to address it and rest at the onset of low energy, to avoid getting sick.
I often notice the change in my little ones and my pets. They are so pure with their existence that it helps me check in with myself, and they are good mirrors to my current state. I see all of them go from the focused and motivated heat of summer to being busier in their bodies, more easily excited, restless in their sleep, and pickier about eating as the drier and cooler fall air comes in. It’s very "vata" of them. As for me I am noticing that my skin and nasals start to feel dry, this too is a sign of vata becoming more predominant this time of year and in the body.
Oil treatment internally and externally helps tremendously. Ayurveda's nutritive jam called Chyvanprash, or warmed milk at night with a 1/8-1/4 tsp ghee and a touch of cardamom and ginger spices.
But about that oil....oil the nasals morning and night.
Apply oil topically to the entire body preferably before you bathe (since it brings toxins to the surface), or before bed which can calm the nervous system and ready the body and mind for sleep. At the least, apply oil to the bottoms of your feet before bed. It can help you sleep more soundly and can mellow out your dreams. Having excess vata can show up in the state of our dreams too, so if you have vivid, colorful, active, and maybe anxiety dreams, look to soothe vata, especially before bed (have calming tea, stretch, meditate, breathe, oil the bottoms of the feet or the whole body).
Oil helps remedy the dryness of fall and winter: try oils like ghee, or sunflower oil both internally and externally. Sesame oil externally in the fall is particularly helpful to moisturize the skin and intestines, and calm and quiet a more busy or restless mind and nervous system. If you feel achy or cold, or restless at night, rub some sesame oil on the bottoms of your feet before bed.
Kitcharee: a healing, nourishing and delicious dish of mung (moong dal) and rice, enjoy it at least twice a week.
Since Fall/Autumn is the Vata season, we can be more prone to dry and aggravated sinuses which sets the stage for vulnerability to mucus buildup, pathogens getting into system, colds and flu, and the dryness of the season can bring up arthritis and stiffness, constipation, gas and bloating, fatigue, anxiety, dry skin, dandruff, vivid dreaming or restless sleep. These are some traits of excess vata dosha, excess air in the channels of the body. The home or origin of vata is usually the colon but when there is excess air element in the body, it has overflowed from the colon and shows up elsewhere in the body.
Whether these symptoms are going on for you or not, it is good to keep vata at a balanced level within and boost your immune system both directly and indirectly through boosting your digestive health.
- Look at food sadhana for helping digestion
- take time to take extra vitamin C, amalaki is in chyvanprash and is one of the highest vitamin c content plants.
- get some sunshine vitamin D
- eat your fall apples
- if you have cracked corners of your lips or get canker sores easy, boost your intake of B vitamins. If you supplement with vitamins, try to get food based supplements!
- Favor warm and moist foods and avoid cold and dry foods and activities
- Have your biggest meal at lunch. Lunch is the easiest meal to digest when eaten between 11 and 2. Metabolism and energy are increased by eating your largest meal at lunch; eat a smaller dinner, aka supper, that is supplemental meal. If you’re starving at night for dinner, you didn’t have enough for lunch. Take a break in your day to rekindle your energy and rest for 5-10 minutes after lunch, not sleeping but resting before going about the rest of your day, preferably lie down on your left side and then if you can take a short walk. You’ll find sustained energy after a few days or maybe even right away when beginning this practice and your biorhythms will begin to balance out allowing for easier waking in the morning, better sleep at night, and you’ll help your metabolism and weight management.
- Get up early in the morning, to explain in detail: rise with the sun, this will help reset your inner clock, will help tune up your natural self-healing abilities. Your immune system can get challenged or tired when the seasons change, and you may find that you are ready to go to sleep earlier. Listen to your body.
Taking it a step further:
- Eat at least one meal a day at the same time each day.
- Find something that’s a routine for you each day and stick to it: waking and mealtime is a good place to start.
- Keep warm, keep calm, stay rested, rest and don’t overdo, favor yoga and walking
- Meditate (at least 15 minutes) in the morning
- Massage the whole body with sesame, sunflower, or almond oil at least two-three times a week. Prior to your bath or shower, oil your body with sesame oil, which can feel heavy for some, or for a lighter but still warm oil, almond oil. For those with any skin rashes or sensitive skin try sunflower oil which is good for both Vata and Pitta doshas and helps to relieve skin irritations. This is a practice that protects your skin from winter’s dryness and coldness. It’ll help warm your body and create health and ease in your tissues, and in turn helps to relax the mind.
- Help reduce ama, waste matter, in your body by scraping your tongue a few times with a stainless steel tongue scrapper in the AM, also follow the 5 simple guidelines from eating (listed below), and listen to what your body is telling you you need, keep in mind if we are out of balance we don’t necessarily crave or communicate clearly to ourselves what we need….Ama occurs from undigested food and emotions that result because of not eating our foods in a healthy way, improper digesting functions, undigested or unexpressed emotions; we also accumulate ama by not following our natural needs like going to the bathroom when we need to go, having a drink of water when we’re thirsty, resting when we’re tired, breathing more deeply when we feel tired or stressed or anytime during the day, or not letting things go when we have gas, keeping in mind to be considerate to those around you of course, crying when you want to cry, laughing when you want to laugh, etc along those lines…
The above list is full of tips, however it may feel overwhelming to read and you may think you need to implement them all. BUT don't try that, just begin with ONE new practice to your day a week. If that was successful, add another the next week. If it wasn't successful, then figure out what would work best for you to have success with your new daily practice and modify as needed.
While always look to have a balanced yoga practice, in fall it’s helpful to favor:
- Forward folds, both seated and standing
- Lie on your back, hold onto your knees, inhale knees away from you, exhale knees into your chest
- Circle knees around to massage the lower back
- Vata's origin is the large intestine, the colon, so poses that help massage and open and heal the colon are healing to the air element within.
- Favor poses that compress and massage the colon, flex the hips, practice standing poses emphasizing grounding into the earth, take slow and steady breathes. It's when vata builds up in us that it will seep out of the colon and show up in other places in the body and as other vata symptoms.
Guidelines for Healthy Eating and Digestion
See "Food Sadhana"...
Add CCF to your fall foods! (Again check out my fall food example list on my facebook Ayurvedic Wellness page.)
CCF: cumin, coriander, and fennel are herbs that are considered sattvic or peaceful. There are many benefits but primarily they aid in digestion (assimilation and elimination). Cumin helps to eliminate excess air in foods and alleviates gas and bloating; coriander moistens the intestines and also is a carminative (eliminates gas and air); fennel is moistening also, tones the digestive organs, and is a digestive stimulant. Sprinkle this on cooked rice, steamed vegetables, toast with ghee, or any other items you’d like.
Another helpful kitchen spice mix I like to use daily, for digestive strength and for keeping the respiratory system strong as we move into winter is the powders of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. I call it CCG.
I keep a mixed powder of this in my spice cabinet. Equal parts of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger powder. You may want to do half as much cinnamon if you run hot, or half as much ginger if your are sensitive to it's taste, mix together, sprinkle on oatmeal or any other dish.
Most important, remember to find ways to relax.
Ask yourself, what brings me joy?
Make a few minutes a day your priority to favor joy...schedule it in. Encouraging those moments of joy will encourage the discovery of your bliss. Take some deep breaths…. with all the news and media, the dramas and injustices, we are bombarded with extreme sensory input and demands daily in our modern lives. It can be easy to have inner worry, stress, anger, frustration, general overwhelm and a busy mind. Taking care of ourselves builds our inner reservoir allowing us to be our best self.
Sit quiet at least once a day, breathe mindfully.
When we focus on our breathing, we can be more present; when we are present we can have peace in this moment. There is a quiet peace within you, tap that reservoir of strength within, there's an inner light shining bright, steady and strong amid this busy world and busy life. There is peace in this present moment, breathe deeply now, and just be.