In the previous blog post, we talked about how our diets need to be tweaked to adapt to the fall season. Fall is a transition season – when the hot summer is slowly transitioning to the cold winter!
Dryness, windiness, mobility and lightness, coolness, roughness, and erratic weather are characteristic features or properties that fall brings – the very same properties of vata dosha.
When vata is out of balance, it manifests itself in the mental sphere as increased anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, excessive speech, lack of focus. It manifests in the body as pain of any sort, constipation, excessive dryness, stiffness, joint pain, excessive weight loss, weakness, variable appetite.
Opposing qualities bring about balance in Ayurveda. So, the qualities that we should increase in fall, via diet and lifestyle, to counter the effects of vata increase are oiliness or lubrication to counter dryness and roughness, heaviness or grounding to counter the light and mobile qualities of fall, and warmth to offset the coolness.
Before we discuss these qualities, we need to remember that the main strategy to keep vata from going out of whack in our bodies and minds is to have a daily routine (dinacharya). The increasing vata in the environment, body and mind will tempt you to be irregular with your diet and lifestyle habits – resist the temptation and adopt a daily routine and stick by it.
Oiliness or Lubrication
Having a daily or at least weekly oil self-massage (abhyanga) is a great way to counter the drying, rough aspects of vata that will increase in our bodies. You might notice that your skin starts drying more in fall, lips might get more chapped, flaking of skin and eczema might start to flare up during this season.
An oil massage is calming and at the same time sharpens the senses, lubricates the body, promotes good vision and good sleep, and helps improve skin health and shine.We have already talked about increasing the amount of good quality fats to bring about internal lubrication during the dry fall season. If you can’t do a full oil massage daily, try oiling at least the ears, palms and feet and crown of the head since these are the vital vata spots that will benefit most from the oil and massage.
The best oil for vata is warm sesame oil or warm almond oil, but you need to see what suits you best based on your body/mind constitution (prakriti) and current imbalance (vikriti). Other oils are coconut oil (cooling and usually good for pittas), mustard oil (warming and good for kaphas). There are medicated and other herbal oils available as well with more specific purposes and qualities due to the addition of various herbs.
Heaviness or Grounding
To offset the light and mobile qualities of vata, we need to increase heaviness and grounding in our lifestyles. We have already talked about how we need to add more grounding food like quality fats and nuts, and root vegetables during fall.
Our lifestyles also need increased grounding by way of grounding and relaxing yoga sessions, and calming meditation sessions rather than very intense and high-energy cardio exercises. You still need some cardiovascular exercise, but it should be moderate. Avoid overexercising in general since it can tend to increase vata dosha and rajas guna, which are already naturally on an increase during this season. Even the nature of yoga needs to be more of the restorative and grounding kind – not the stimulating, acrobatic type of yoga practice that most people prefer these days. Holding the pose, rather than just quickly transitioning from one pose to the other will help.
In the same light, overworking and staying up late at night are not recommended. Going to bed early is also very important in general, and specifically so during this season.
When choosing perfumes and aromas, choose heavy, calming, rejuvenating ones like citrus, vanilla, lavender, cinnamon, sage, such, rather than stimulating ones.
Avoid becoming over stimulated – so avoid loud sounds and music (opt for soothing and grounding tunes), and avoid crowds.
Overall, the focus should be on increasing grounding and relaxing thoughts and actions versus lightening and stimulating ones.
Warmth is another aspect to focus on this season to counter the increasing coolness of fall. We already talked about eating and drinking warm foods and liquids. It is important to sip on warm fluids, teas and water through the day to keep coldness and dryness at bay.
Likewise, it is also essential to wear the appropriate clothing to stay warm during fall. Cover your ears and head during early morning hours if you are going to step out when it is still very cold. Wear warm clothing and protective jackets. Warm colors like yellows, oranges, and reds, instead of cooling colors like blues and greens are also recommended by Ayurveda during fall.
3 Point Take-Away:
Consider the following 3 lifestyle suggestions this fall to help you keep your vata in check.
1. Self-Massage or Abhyanga:
- Warm the oil of your choice slightly to a temperature that is warm, but not too hot to the touch.
- First apply oil to all parts of the body, starting from the scalp and moving down to each body part, ending with the feet. Then, start massaging the oil in each part. Use circular movements at the joints and straight, lengthening, gentle movements along the direction of hair growth for the other parts. Don’t use vigorous strokes or too much force while massaging.
- Let the oil remain for at least 10-15 minutes or at most 45 minutes before washing away
- Do this daily or as often as you can.
2. Grounding Yoga Poses:
These poses help in reducing excessive motion of the mind and body. In general, restorative yoga should be practiced in a relaxed and calming manner, rather than in a stimulating, rajasic manner to keep vata in check.
- Vrikshashana (Tree Pose)
- Ardhamatsyendrasana (Fish Pose)
- Halasana (Plow Pose)
- Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)
- Balasana (Child Pose)
- Sethubandhasana (Bridge Pose)
- Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
3. Considering buying a warm pair of indoor shoes to stay warm and prevent the feet from becoming dry and flaky through over exposure this fall. Also, try to rearrange your wardrobe to take out any summer clothing that you consider unsuitable for fall and winter and bring out the warm, fall day wear, jackets, night wear and shoes!
Using the diet and lifestyle tips for fall, I do hope you are able to enjoy your time to the fullest this fall!
Choose wisely and live well.