Mind-Body Health

Natural Ways to Boost Immunity, Balance Vata, and Lean into the Joys of Autumn

Person wearing cardigan holding a mug

Welcome autumn when school begins, the number of evening hours increase, and vata dosha characterizes the new season. September marks the perfect time to reinstate routine into our lives, as we walk in autumn air that cools our cheeks. For some, the idea of routine might sound restrictive. In reality, routines help balance vata dosha, leading to a sense of being grounded, nourished, and supported. Cherishing the differences of each season and altering our self-care routines accordingly paves the way for smooth and joyful transitions allowing us to appreciate all that nature offers.

Instead of fighting against longer evenings, we can use this time to restore energy that we expended during the summer pitta season, reflect on the year that has passed, and take our time preparing for winter. There are special ways to enjoy long evenings, and on special occasions various traditions around the world have autumn festivals that celebrate light, such as Diwali, Hanukkah, and Mooncake Festival. The candles, fireworks, and lanterns glow bright against a dark sky.

Here are practices that just might turn this into your new favorite season.

Hygge: Always in Style

Imagine walking into a cozy living room with a fire burning in the fireplace and fluffy blankets draped over comfortably cushioned loveseats. The feeling this image evokes is hygge, a term from Danish culture. Best-selling author of The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Living Well and CEO of The Happiness Research Institute based in Copenhagen, Meik Wiking believes the art of creating hygge contributes to why Denmark is known to be the happiest country in the world.

Wiking explains that creating hygge in the home doesn’t require a lot of money. It’s primarily about lighting (especially candlelight), having friends and family around, and enjoying a sweet treat while experiencing that feeling we all know so well and want more of in our life.

As nights become longer in fall and winter, it’s the perfect time for intentionally lounging around surrounded by amber hues of soft light. Wiking says that Danes are “obsessed with lighting,” and in an interview about hygge and happiness he says “describing an evening as ‘hyggelige’ is the greatest possible compliment you can give a Danish host.”

How to achieve hygge at home:

  • Stop work by 5:30pm
  • Change into comfortable clothes
  • Light a candle (or two or three) and turn off bright lights
  • Relax and enjoy a sweet treat with loved ones
  • Do not feel pressure to talk, instead enjoy music or silence as you sink into the cozy feeling together.

If you aren’t used to creating this atmosphere at home, think about small changes you could make. Even in a small living space, if you clear away the paperwork and light a candle you’d be amazed at the difference. Think about other places where you’ve experienced hygge — a spa, a meditation retreat, a ski lodge — and come up with simple ways to recreate that atmosphere each night. This kind of coziness is one of the many comforting ways to balance vata.

Sipping warm drinks also induces relaxation and pacifies vata. Try a warm cup of golden milk or ginger tea any time of day and especially at night as you wind down.

For many, it will help to stay off screens at night. Listen to the sounds of nature, notice the stars and the moon, and experience how longer nights invite deeper relaxation. Or, some might find using screens helpful as a way to relax. Especially for children it might be the best way to help them deal with stress during the pandemic, as Chopra Global's CEO Mallika Chopra mentions on Good Day New York. She also suggests meditating, dancing together, and playing games during these particularly challenging times, while noticing that different children will have different needs. When it comes time for bed, though, turning screens off one or two hours before bedtime has been known to help with sleep.

Bedtime in Autumn

Bedtime can be an auspicious time, letting go of the day and envisioning our true desires for our future that become clear once the daily distractions are behind us. By enjoying warm drinks like golden milk, practicing self-massage with oil, and sitting still for meditation, our awareness can sink into this fertile time to plant seeds of ideas that can blossom in the spring.

A practice that is known both for deep relaxation and for planting seeds for the future is yoga nidra, or yogic sleep. Said to be one of the most deeply restorative practices, yoga nidra is best experienced as a guided practice. You will be guided to set an intention at the start of the practice, then once you are deeply relaxed you will be guided to bring that intention back to mind. In that special state between sleep and wakefulness, your intentions plant themselves deeper than the level of the waking conscious mind. To practice yoga nidra, search for it on meditation apps and try this this sleep meditation guided by Deepak Chopra.

If taking time for ourselves during the evening might feel selfish, let us consider what example that sets for others who live with us or know us well. Tracee Stanley, author of Radiant Rest: Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation & Awakened Clarity, poses this question, “If part of your legacy were to change the relationship to rest and self-care for your family lineage, how would you begin?” We naturally are influenced by those in our innermost circle. With burnout so prevalent in our culture, we have an opportunity to do something different and think of the impact it has on future generations.

Considering hygge for our home and following Ayurvedic and yogic practices at night not only will feel nourishing, but also these practices can balance vata, reduce the effects of stress, boost immunity, and allow us to fall in line with the rhythm of nature. Befriending longer nights opens us up to the joy of the season and evening practices help set the stage for better sleep and therefore a better start to the next day.

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only 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.

Nourish yourself in this new season with the ultimate well-being experience at the Chopra Health Retreat at CIVANA.