I look outside at the first tell-tales signs of Virginia fall. What was once a juicy water-plumped green leaf has now turned vibrant orange. The breeze, once unnoticeable amidst summer’s sultriness now comes with a colder message – the times are changing.
During fall, the Ayurvedic elements of space and air dominate. We call this vata season. Vata, like the wind, cannot be seen directly. Its expression is more subtle. We experience vata by the way it colors our physical, mental and emotional experience. Imagine a windy autumn day. The air is dry, cool and moving. This is the nature of vata, and the dominate qualities of fall.
As these natural qualities increase during the fall season, they can be felt in our own bodies as well. Fall and her soon-to-follow sister, winter, remind us of impermanence, surrender, forgiveness of the past, and death. The season is windy, emptying, rough and dry. If we are listening, we may even feel our mind and body undergoing a shift toward a more inward focus. Like a turtle drawing its head into its protective shell, fall invites us to prepare for more stillness.
Fall season is a time where we may feel a little more vulnerable, health-wise. With the change in temperatures, vata imbalances may includes things like flu, exhaustion, chills, constipation, fear, cracking joints, arthritic pain, anxiety, insomnia, and seasonal sadness due to the lack of sunlight.
How you care for yourself during the autumn will determine your body’s ability to maintain health through the fall and into winter. Here are my favorite ways to warm fall’s cooler side:
Stoke your digestive fire. If you have any symptoms of mild digestive imbalance, try drinking a tea made from equal parts of cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds. Sip the warm tea throughout the day.
Give yourself an oil massage every morning before your shower. The heat of the shower will open the pores, helping the skin to absorb the oil. This will not only help the skin but will also help to ground the air energy in the body and mind that is making you feel anxious and interfering with sleep. Sesame oil is an excellent fall oil as it is both nourishing and warming. Mahanarayan oil is another great warming oil, and is particularly good for aching joints and pain.
Do a super-simple short fall-friendly cleanse. Try a mono-diet of spiced mug dal soup and rice for three days while at the same time eliminating dairy, meat, refined flour products, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Take a hot bath with ginger to facilitate the cleansing.
Go to bed between 9:30 and 10pm. Get sufficient rest. Adequate rest is the number one remedy for increasing the immune power of the body.
Emphasize forms of exercise that help ground, stabilize and strengthen you. This will help pacify the cool, drying qualities of fall. Emphasize gentle sun salutations, mild forward bends and twists to increase the heart rate and squeeze out stagnancy in the pelvis.
Let yourself sleep as much as you need. In fact, our not-so-distant ancestors used to enjoy an amazing amount of snoozing during the colder months. Because there was no heat and electricity, it was not uncommon for people to sleep 14 or 15 hours a night.
Wear layers. It may seem like common sense, but make sure to keep yourself warm as we transition from summer to fall. Avoid wearing too much black and dark blue during fall. I know, we all love fashionable and slimming “black,” but keep in mind that this color absorbs light. Too much black leaves us with a feeling of vastness and emptiness, and these moods are already heightened during this season.
Avoid raw and cold foods. Save salad, ice water and smoothies for summer.
This article was originally published in the Yoga Journal Blog on September 19, 2012.
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