Autumn is a time of transition. It becomes evident all around us, especially in the trees. The colours of their leaves change from lush green to browns and hues of orange as they quietly undress in preparation for the winter that is to come. Temperatures begin to hint at the tell-tale crispness of Autumn. The wind begins to pick up, slowly gathering its strength, carrying the promise of winter on its breath. The autumn carries with it a certain emptiness that can leave us a little exposed, tender and raw but it also leaves us with the possibility of stripping off the old, a time for change, a time for simplifying and quietening down in order to receive the new. Autumn is the season when the air and space elements dominate. Autumn is indicative of an increase in Vata in the atmosphere and it reminds us of a few things we need to do in order to receive the most benefit from this season.
Ayurveda tells us that our bodies don’t exist in isolation to the external world. They are, instead, a part of it, integrated with it, and depend on it for our health and well-being. In this age, however, we live in such a separate state from nature that we’ve forgotten the natural and instinctual ways in which to nourish ourselves. The seasons play a big part on how life is governed on earth and they serve to inform us on what changes need to be made in our diets and lifestyle. Different seasons bring about an increase in different elements. They also bring about different crops from the earth; these crops are meant to be consumed as per the season in order to nourish us and also to safeguard us against the harsher aspects of the season. The guidelines and observances for seasons are known as Rithucharya (Rithu – seasons, Charya – disciplines) or seasonal disciplines. In south Africa the seasons take on more or less the following dates:
Summer – 1 December to 29th February
Autumn – 1 March to 31 May
Winter – 1 June to 31 August
Spring – 1 September to 30th November
Considering the Ayurvedic principle that opposite values are complimentary, Vata season (Autumn – cool, dry, clear, light, mobile, constantly moving, unpredictable) can be balanced nicely if we follow practices and routines that are filled with depth, nourishment, warmth, oiliness, loving relationships, routine, grounding and a sense of stability.
Autumn and Diet
Unctuous, warming, soothing foods that are rich in protein and fats will really help us navigate through this drying season. Foods likes:
- Warming spices
- Hot meals
- Coconut oil
- Cooked Grains
- Cream of Wheat
- Hearty Soups
Are all good for this season. We should generally try to keep away or limit the consumption of:
- Raw foods
- Raw juices
- Cold Foods
- Dry foods (Crisps etc)
- Frozen foods
- White Potatoes
- Dried fruit
One of the easiest ways to support Vata during this season is in sticking to a daily routine (Dinacharya) Four simple practices that I follow are:
- Waking up at a set time every morning (usually around 5am)
- Nasya (placing two drops of sesame oil in each nostril)
- Oil Pulling
- Abhyanga (applying sesame oil on the body – 5 mins) before taking a hot shower
Waking up early: If you set time for your day by waking up early you can really calm down the nervous system and keep it in rest and digest mode. Waking up later gives you less time to prepare for the day and activates the sympathetic nervous system (getup and go /fight or flight) and depletes the adrenals before the day is through leaving you tired, needing a pick-me-up before the day ends.
Nasya: Putting two drops of sesame oil in the nostrils each day, dilates, nourishes and oleates the channels responsible for communication to and from the sinuses and the brain. It lubricates the nasal passages, preventing allergies. Repeated use relieves tension from the neck, head and shoulder area. It gives more mental clarity and calms down the nervous system, preventing ailments like migraines in the long run and keeps the nervous system functioning at optimal levels.
Oil Pulling: Helps to reduce inflammation and reduce gum disease. Removes bad breath. Prevents cavities from forming and lubricates the channels responsible for communication in the head region.
Abhyanga: You can calm your nervous system, awaken your tissues, and ground your energy by massaging your skin with warm, organic Sesame Oil. Because of its highly penetrative properties, sesame oil is the oil of choice when applying on the body. It nourishes the tissues and helps to expel toxins from deep within the body, on a cellular level, over time.
The best times of day to exercise are in the early morning and evening hours (6–10 a.m. and 6–10 p.m.). Vata is very easily aggravated by fast, mobile activities, so consider slow, gentle, strengthening forms of exercise instead. Walking, hiking, swimming, biking, yoga, and tai chi are good choices, provided they are done at an appropriate level of intensity. Ideally, exercise at about fifty to seventy percent of your capacity, breathing through your nose the entire time. And remember to balance your activity with adequate relaxation and sleep so that your tissues can rejuvenate properly.
Remember, a seasonal routine is an investment in your own health. And while the specifics may vary from one person to the next, we all stand to benefit from aligning ourselves with the rhythms of nature throughout the year.