As a physician, one thing I hear often from patients is the question “This has been working fine for me, so why isn’t it now?” They are usually referring to a diet, exercise program, or lifestyle that had been keeping them balanced previously, but doesn’t seem to be anymore. The simple answer, according to Ayurveda, is that nature is constantly changing, so therefore our daily practices and choices must change to accommodate for that. We are not the same year to year, month to month, or even day to day. When we understand that our body, thoughts, emotions, and nature itself is constantly changing, we understand that our routines need to change in order to stay healthy.
One important shift in routine comes during change of seasons. Many people notice the subtle, or not so subtle, changes in their mind and body as the Earth makes its journey around the Sun. There are times during the year where we acknowledge the end of one season and the beginning of another. This is a time where we need to shift our routine and practices in order to stay balanced and healthy. Just as plants and other animals adjust to changes in the environment throughout the year, we also do better when we align with nature’s changes.
In a previous article I discussed how the doshas relate to the seasons. Each season, just like each person, has its dominant dosha and dosha qualities therefore we can prepare for the shift in our environment by adjusting our lifestyle and daily practices. During the Fall season there is an increase in the qualities of the Vata dosha — lightness in the air, more wind, dryness, and, in most cases, cooling of temperatures. The exact changes that are occurring will depend on the location on the planet and the microclimates that exist, and it can also vary year to year even in the same location. Therefore, although there are general guidelines on how to stay balanced with each season, the best approach is to take a look outside and ask yourself “What are the dominant qualities outside and how can I bring in the opposite to my daily routine to stay balanced?”
Let’s take a look at the general qualities of Fall and discover practices to help keep us balanced:
Is the Air Dry?
If so, the best practice to keep the body from getting too dry is daily self-massage with a good quality body oil. By lubricating the body with healthy oils, you balance the tendency to dry out as the air around you becomes more dry. Adding healthy oils to your food, as well as drinking more water, can also keep the body moist and healthy during dry seasons, as our cells need both water and oil to stay hydrated. With these simple practices, you will balance any dryness inside and out.
Is it Cold Outside?
If so, be sure to stay warm when going outside, use blankets and warm clothing indoors, and take more warm baths or showers. You can also stay warm on the inside by shifting to more warm, cooked foods and warm drinks. If you have spent the summer drinking cool drinks and eating cool salads, now is the time to begin cooking and warming your food. You can also drink warm ginger tea in the morning and add healthy spices to your food and drinks that warm you from the inside. Spices such as black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cumin can increase circulation to warm the whole body. Feel free to experiment with other spices that you enjoy and see how they make you feel.
Are You Feeling Ungrounded with the Changes in the Environment?
Often when things change, including the qualities around us, the body feels a little ‘off’ or ‘ungrounded’. We can even feel a little anxious or have trouble sleeping. Our cells sense a change is happening and need practices that create stability. One way to stay grounded and stable during the Fall is to establish a regular routine. Often after a summer of activity, travel, and being off our routine, Fall brings an opportunity to create a routine again. This means waking up and going to bed at consistent times, which regulates the body’s functions. One routine that can help stabilize the mind during times of change is slow, rhythmic breathing. Try a regular, twice daily practice of slow rhythmic breathing, five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. By taking time to slow down the breath and breathe in a regular pattern, the mind and body become regular as well. You can also use your food to get grounded by eating more root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squashes, carrots, beets, and turnips, among others. Look around and see what vegetables and foods are being harvested locally and incorporate them into your meals.
Are You Feeling Scattered?
When the wind kicks up, you may feel like it’s harder to focus or notice you have trouble finishing projects. This is normal when the Vata dosha accumulates in the Fall. One way to calm and focus the mind is to meditate daily. Upon awakening and at the end of the day try a short meditation practice. Meditation is one of the best ways to create and maintain balance all year.
Is Your Digestion a Little Irregular?
During the change in season, the weather can be unpredictable and change day to day. This can reflect in our digestion as well, as it can be good one day, and not good the next. In addition, after a summer of vacationing and perhaps getting off a healthy diet, we can accumulate some irregularities in our bowel functioning that can lead to the buildup of toxicity in the system. According to Ayurveda, change of season is the perfect time to do a gentle detox, or cleanse, to reset and balance the gut, and support the body to eliminate any toxicity that has built up during the previous season. The best way to reset your digestive fire and eliminate toxins is doing an Ayurvedic cleanse. During a cleanse, you have an opportunity to establish the daily practices mentioned above and start the new season in optimal health.
Be aware of the changes around you through the Fall season and try these Vata-balancing tips to stay balanced and healthy.
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