Fall is the season of transition. Your finely tuned senses are usually the first to alert you that change is in the air. Nature is tuning in as well and in response knows it’s time to begin preparing for winter, and so must you.
Fall is a time to truly nourish yourself and practice self-care by slowing down, reflecting, and renewing energy. It’s also a time of simplicity and choosing ease over discomfort. Ayurveda offers some valuable self-care tips to help you stay healthy and balanced during this time of year, setting the tone for the colder months ahead.
The Ayurvedic Perspective
Ayurveda recognizes that seasonal rhythms have an influence on your biological cycle. Each season is associated with a dosha (Vata, Pitta, or Kapha). Fall and early winter are considered Vata time because it is usually cold, dry, and windy—typical qualities of the Vata dosha.
Externally, Vata can be observed in the erratic weather patterns and changeable temperatures typical of this time of year, especially in North America. Internally, it can be experienced as worry, anxiousness, or a sense of emptiness. Those who have a predominance of Vata in their constitution already will need to make sure to take time to nurture their well-being during this time of year. You can take the dosha quiz here if you are curious about your doshic constitution.
How Vata Influences Self-Care Tips
There are signs when Vata is out of balance and since “like increases like,” according to Ayurveda, these signs can become especially exacerbated during the fall season, as you can imagine. They appear as the following (but not limited to):
One of the key self-care strategies during the fall season is to favor activities that are the opposite qualities of Vata such as heavy, warm, moist, and grounding. Taking this into consideration, here are some of our favorite tips on self-care to help take full advantage of the fall season which holds the potential for positive change.
1. Do a Seasonal Cleanse
Fall is a time of shedding what no longer nourishes you. Notice the trees and how their leaves begin to turn brittle and eventually drop to the ground. This shedding is needed for the tree to continue growing. The same idea applies to your growth as well, making the seasonal cleanse a favorite among self-care ideas for the fall season.
This period of transition from summer into fall is the perfect time to do a cleanse to help recalibrate and restore equilibrium. Ayurveda recommends doing a seasonal cleanse to eliminate whatever physical and emotional ama or toxicities you may have accumulated over the past season. The cause could be from diet, stress, or the environment. When the toxic build-up has been removed there is more space for energy to flow in all aspects of your life, allowing for increased health and happiness.
For an Ayurvedic approach to cleansing, here are some resources:
Not all cleanses are alike and it can be hard to choose which one to try. The goal here isn’t to necessarily lose weight but to cleanse, purify, and renew for increased well-being. You aren’t depriving yourself but re-establishing good habits and giving your mind, body, and spirit a chance to pause and be restored to optimal functioning. This is the benefit of following an Ayurvedic approach to wellness.
2. Perform Grounding Yoga Poses
Take a hint from nature, be free of your thoughts, and begin to slow down. There is a sense of quietude as plants and animals settle in for the winter. Similarly, start to become aware of areas in your life where you need to ease off and find a healthy work-life balance. One of the quickest ways to restore a sense of balance and grounding is through yoga. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj” which means to connect, join, or unite. Yoga is more than exercise; it serves as a form of meditation to unite the mind, body, and spirit.
To help set a good routine for your day, the morning is an ideal time to do a few asanas or poses. If you already have a practice, continue with awareness around nourishing and restoring rather than pushing through the asanas. Listen to your body, take deep breaths, and favor what feels good. Use yoga props such as blocks and straps to help support your pose.
Here are the types of asanas that help you root down and connect to the spirit of who you are as you move through this season of change and mindfulness.
Yin Yoga is a more quiet and contemplative practice that you might benefit from as well this time of year. It is complementary to the more vigorous and dynamic yoga styles you see most often.
3. Warm Abhyanga Oil Massage
It is no coincidence that fall can be an emotional and vulnerable time, which is why the focus is on incorporating self-care strategies that are nourishing or soothing for your mood such as the Abhyanga (abee-yahn-gah), or oil massage. The Abhyanga is one of the most valued daily health practices in Ayurvedic medicine, which makes it a self-care must for fall. It is quite literally the fountain of youth because of its many benefits, which include the following:
- Relaxes and calms the nervous system
- Relieves dry skin
- Improves sleep
- Nourishes tissues
- Improves circulation
- Grounds your energy
It’s important to note that the Abhyanga is more than a massage, it is considered to be an expression of self-love. The practice includes applying warm oil to the body (oleation), which in Sanskrit is called Snehana. Snehana is interpreted even further to mean “tremendous love.” As you perform the Abhyanga it’s helpful to keep this in mind and you will notice the difference. It shifts from being something mechanical to a more reverential practice. We could all use a little more self-love.
While it’s nice to be able to spend time at a spa or Ayurvedic clinic to receive an Abhyanga, you can also easily do it at home. Upon completing the oil massage, take a warm, relaxing shower. Avoid slippage by putting a towel on the floor and a mat in the shower. Depending on your schedule this can be done in the morning or evening, 1-2 times a week or daily.
4. Follow a Fall-Friendly Diet
You are what you eat, making your diet a powerful way to navigate through fall. Nature is intelligent and in her wisdom, she provided seasonal foods to help balance the transition into the fall season. Make it a habit to take advantage of the harvest during this time of year which includes apples (cooked is better), peaches, melons, root vegetables (grown underground), figs, and much more. Use this guide to determine what is in season in your area.
In addition, you’ll want to focus on substantive and nourishing foods that are high in protein and served warm or hot. Spices are especially favorable this time of year as they help stimulate digestion. Warm cereals, soups, casseroles, and steamed vegetables all typify an ideal fall diet.
These tips on self-care are cornerstones in helping to move through this season with more ease, grace, and mindfulness. They encourage you to seek out ways to nourish yourself, something that is easily overlooked in the busyness of life. Reflect upon how you feel as you put these self-care tips into practice. Maybe there is some resistance; if so, ask yourself why without judgment. Your future self will thank you for taking this proactive approach to health and wellness, also known as preventative medicine.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
Want to learn how to stay energetic and balanced all year long? Learn Deepak Chopra’s simple practices to tune into the healing wisdom of nature and thrive, with our self-paced online course, Secrets to Vibrant Health. Learn More.