It’s Autumn: How to Optimise Your Health

Autumn is considered the season of Vata. The air element and Prana, the subtle essence of life, the vital breath, is everywhere. The characteristics of autumn, such as rough, dry, cool, erratic, clear, subtle etc. are the characteristics shared by Vata Dosha, therefore autumn is known as a Vata season. In Ayurveda we believe it’s extremely beneficial to one’s good health and well-being to balance Vata in autumn.

What’s to Be Gained by a Seasonal Routine?

Whatever time of the year most resembles the attributes characterising Vata Dosha is Vata season. These characteristics are cold, dry, rough, light, clear and mobile. However, it depends on where you live. The qualities of Vata could well be prevalent in summer, with autumn followed by a cold, drying, windy winter.

In April and May, we love making hearty soups and warm casseroles. When we make lifestyle and diet choices to counter the effects of the seasons we’re able to maintain our internal balance throughout the year.

How to Get Through the Vata Season

The Ayurvedic principal is that opposites balance, so when we consider this, the Vata season which is dry, cool, windy, and light, will be less problematic if you complement it with deep nourishment, warmth, loving relationships, oiliness, and stability. Ensure that you’re familiar with the symptoms and signs of Vata imbalances, so that you’re aware of how to respond if a situation arises.

The following are just recommendations and will be suitable for most people. However, if you understand your own constitution, you can create your own routine for each season, determined by your Ayurvedic body type.

Your Diet for Vata Season

Your diet is so important, and is a very effective method of calming Vata in autumn. Through the Vata season enjoy foods high in fat, high in protein, with warm and stimulating spices; these foods will be very effective in maintaining your reserves of moisture and in keeping you grounded. Sweet, salty and sour tastes are perfect. Soft foods garnished with butter or oil, oatmeal, cream of rice, tapioca and cream of wheat are ideal foods for this time of the year.  Meals should include hearty grains, steamed vegetables, stews and soups. They’re grounding and moisturising, which is what you’re trying to achieve. Meat, eggs, nuts, seeds and dairy products are also very beneficial.

Basically, at this time of the year, we should be reducing our consumption of cold and frozen foods, raw vegetables, vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, white potatoes, leafy greens, popcorn, millet, crackers and dried fruits. Use these foods in moderation and ensure that all vegetables are well cooked and preferably served with butter.

Of course, during autumn we often increase our intake of food so we should be very aware of our appetite and digestion. Don’t fast in autumn, however, it would be a good time to do a mono-diet type of cleanse.

Lifestyle Choices in Vata Season

The best and most effective method of supporting Vata is to establish a daily routine.With a good routine you’ll wake up, eat meals, exercise and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Bedtime should be no later than 10pm. Try to rise early, have an early morning massage with warm organic sesame oil, then enjoy a relaxing and warm shower. Time allowing, some gentle exercise followed by fifteen minutes of meditation will promote balance and well-being.  Your perfume and clothing should reflect the Vata season; clothing in orange, red, yellow and whites; with perfume such as geranium, vetiver and citrus essential oils. Protect yourself from the elements by wearing warm clothing and cover your ears and head in protection from the cold and wind. Endeavour as much as possible to reduce your exposure to loud noise, cold drafts, fast driving and aggressive music.

Exercise for the Vata Season

Exercise should be completed in the early morning, between 6 and 10am and in the evenings between 6 and 10pm. Your exercises in autumn should be more strengthening, gentle and slow forms, because fast exercising can very easily aggravate Vata. Some exercise suggestions are swimming, walking biking, hiking, tai chi and yoga. These can still be formed with a degree of intensity, exercising at approximately 50-70% of your own personal capacity. This exercise regime should always be balanced with sufficient sleep and relaxation to allow the successful rejuvenation of body tissues.

Yoga for Vata Balancing

During the Vata season, Yoga has a very calming effect on Vata by providing warmth, stability, focus and grounding. At this time of the year alternate nostril breathing is very balancing.  Remember to always warm up slowly, and do some joint rotations. Ground your feet and hands on the mat whenever possible, and don’t jump in-between postures. Standing and balancing poses such as Warrior I, Warrior II, Mountain and Tree pose will increase your strength and stability; while poses such as cat, thunderbolt, cobra and child’s pose will help you connect with the earth beneath. The intense westward stretch forward bend will quiet the mind, and poses such as legs-up-the-wall are great for Vata. Finish your routine with a long Shavasana, and protect yourself with a covering to prevent getting cold.

See an Ayurvedic Doctor

It is always good to get advice from an Ayurvedic doctor. Come in and find out your body type as well as your current state. Accordingly, the doctor can help you fine tune your diet and lifestyle etc for autumn.

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