It’s fall – a gorgeous fall – and it’s a sad, sweet season. Things are slowing down, dying, preparing to fold into themselves and hunker down for winter. People (like me) are mirroring nature – we’re going to bed earlier and sleeping later. Waiting until the last possible moment to slip sideways out of bed, hoping the sun has gotten up, too.
In Ayurveda, a system of traditional Hindu medicine – often cited as the sister science to the philosophy of yoga – the dry, windy, cool and somewhat erratic nature of fall is easily reflected and amplified in the body. And if we’re not paying attention, we can get knocked off balance by this subtle season.
Taking a step sideways, the Ayurvedic view is that all systems of nature are bound and balanced by three primal energies, or doshas – vata, pitta and kapha.
Vata contains ether and air, pita is fire, and kapha is dominated by earth and water. Everyone has a mixture of these energies, or biological types. Vata types are typically thin and airy, with cold hands and feet. They can be creative and carefree, but also restless and emotional. Pita types are energetic and muscular, with an aversion to heat and a propensity for high intelligence, competition and aggression. Kapha types are typically heavier and stable. They tend to be serene and thoughtful, and may not seek excitement or activity.
(I’m summarizing fairly complex concepts, but if you’re interested in finding out what dosha may be most prominent in you, here is one of many online dosha quizes.)
Fall is the vata season. Dry leaves become dry skin, short days become short spans of energy, windy days become upset stomachs, etc. Instead of swinging too far into the vata energy of fall and becoming increasingly anxious and scattered (especially if your constitution is already primarily vata), you can cultivate the opposite energy to create stability and balance.
So if you’re like me, and are feeling a little too swept up the season, here are some tips:
- Drink warm beverages with lemon and fresh ginger.
- Use warming herbs when cooking, like ginger, cardamom, basil, cinnamon, rosemary, nutmeg, vanilla and oregano.
- Wear soft and warm clothing, and cover your ears when the wind is cool.
- Exercise consistently, at a slow and steady pace, as opposed to in quick bursts.
- Spend time in silence, and breathe deeply while you’re there.
- Eat oily, nourishing foods – like cooked vegetables, grains, soups and stews.
- Avoid cold foods and iced drinks.
- Wear reds, yellows, oranges and whites.
- Regulate your cycles – go to bed and wake up at consistent times.
- Focus on grounding down and rooting, particularly with yoga.
- Be gentle to yourself and with others.
- Quietly pay attention. Notice things. It’s hard to come down when you’re already too far up in the air.
Fall leaves, from my walk to work yesterday.