During this time of year, the effects of fewer hours of sunlight begin to affect our mind and body. This can be a positive experience. The darker months create conditions for much-needed restorative time, and our circadian rhythm adapts to prepare us for winding down earlier in the evening. When we align our lifestyle with the pace of the world around us, each season shows us its gifts, and we feel nourished and balanced.
The dominant dosha for autumn is Vata, characterized by airy qualities including movement and dryness. Achieve balance this month by creating routine, connecting with nature to feel grounded, and staying hydrated with warm drinks.
Here are five joyful practices for autumn that naturally keep Vata in check.
Create Ritual with Friends and Family
Many people have rituals they share year after year with friends and family. Ritual and routine are a perfect balance for Vata energy. Each year, dressing warm to roam outside in pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and corn mazes gives everyone something to anticipate. Not only are these activities fun, they also support others in the community, teach children about where food comes from, and provide a grounding way to be outside during these shorter days.
Gatherings as rituals also provide support for those who have lost someone meaningful in their lives, have lost their job, or are having other challenges. The approaching holidays can make a person feel lonely and disconnected when overcome with feelings of loss, worry, or grief. Fall gatherings like roasting marshmallows over a fire pit, carving pumpkins, and playing in the leaves offer chances for connection with others outdoors.
In anthropologist Wade Davis’s Ted Talk “The Worldwide Web of Belief and Ritual,” which has more than two million views, he shares examples of rituals that cultures throughout the world have been practicing for thousands of years. He explains that our industrial society is only about three hundred years old, and in places such as Polynesia, Nepal, and the High Arctic the benefits of their time-honored rituals create community, transform the heart, and foster valuable answers to our greatest question: what does it mean to be human and alive? The importance of their rituals, as well as our own, create the foundation for a meaningful life.
Take Colorful Breaks
Autumn is bespeckled with colorful leaves drifting down from branches to earth. If you live in an area of the world where this is possible, bring the color inside to enjoy after sunset. Indoors, the leaves can be inspiration for painting, displayed as table decoration, and pressed into books.
The colors of the season are also reflected in warming spices such as pepper, cardamon, cloves, and ginger, according to Ayurveda. Use spices in teas and other recipes to counteract the effects of Vata and enjoy delicious libations and meals.
Moon and Star Gazing
Getting outside for several breaths of fresh air at night is a great way to acclimate to the season. Step outside and take time to meditate on the senses. The trees that appear green during the day appear as shades of gray at night. You will begin to notice that each night feels unique, which helps you stay present. Some nights might be cloudy, other nights you might hear an owl, and on occasion, you might see a shooting star.
It’s no wonder that we feel inspired by Carl Sagan who famously said, “The cosmos is also within us. We're made of star stuff. We are a way that the cosmos can know itself.” We share atoms with the very stars that bring us to a place of awe each night.
Because it gets darker earlier, sky gazing can be a wonderful way to spend time with family. The holiday season can bring up challenges when families get together. Having some ideas for how to spend the time could help ease tensions. After dinner, you can invite people outside for warm cups of herbal tea to help digestion, invite people to gaze upward, and notice a shared space of quiet that comes over the group. A wonderful tea to help digestion is made of cumin, coriander, and fennel.
Cumin Coriander Fennel Tea
- Place ½ tablespoon of each spice into a teapot.
- Pour 1.5 cups boiling water into the pot.
- Let it steep at least five minutes.
- Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy.
Even if not everyone participates in your invitation to spend time outside after dinner, this kind of break can support your own well-being and act as a sign of self-care and self-love.
Because nights are longer, a nighttime routine in autumn can include more than your usual routine in summer. You might find yourself looking at the clock and realizing, “Oh it’s only 8pm. It feels like 11pm.” Rather than force yourself to stay up later, which is easy to do with streaming services online, this is the perfect time to support your mind and body with calming practices.
You can lengthen your meditation practice using the Chopra App, practice pranayama, chant, or lengthen the time you spend with abhyanga. In addition, find other ways to stay warm: use a hot water bottle, get out your favorite blanket, and cover your feet with slippers or warm socks.
Now is the season to revel in quiet hours. Don’t let this beautiful opportunity pass you by–autumn gives us precious time to appreciate, not resist, the night.
Allow more time to move from feeling drowsy to awake in the morning. Choose a spot where you can wrap yourself up in a blanket for meditation with a table next to you for warm water. Sip the warm water, gaze out the window, meditate, and journal to enjoy a longer morning practice that supports a transition into the day. Journaling can be especially effective while your energy is fresh before you head into your day.
In an article for Inc.com, “Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change your Life,” Benjamin Hardy, PhD, suggests, “As part of your morning creative burst, use your journal to review and hone your daily to-do list. Review and hone your life vision and big picture goals.”
Because airy Vata characterizes this time of year, allowing yourself this extra time in the morning gives you time to warm up and prepare to head into the day feeling more centered, nourished, and intentional.
From longer morning routines to inclusive gathering rituals to new nighttime routines, autumn is a perfect time to draw inward and lean into the darker hours. It’s a time to practice self-love with routine, stay connected to nature day and night, and strengthen the bonds of community with ritual.