Autumn is an exciting time of year as the days cool down, the wind picks up, and plants and animals start to prepare to hibernate for the winter. In ayurveda, this season aligns with vata dosha, a functional energy that consists of cold, dry, rough, airy, moving qualities. Vata represents the last part of the circle of life, which begins in the spring with growth, wetness, and cold, and then progresses into summer which is dry and hot, and then finally ends up at the end of the cycle, when things break down, disappear, or rest until it's time for them to come back in the the spring. Autumn perfectly reflects these qualites…cold, dry, windy and dying, as nature gets ready for the dark winter.
Vata is the master dosha and is the easiest one of the three to go out of balance. We are all trying to do too much, move too fast and go too far. We travel, we work, we play. All of these things increase vata, especially if we don't maintain a routine or find time to ground and stabilize our energy. And during vata season, autumn, it increases more.
What to do? Ayurveda looks at 20 qualities to maintain or correct balance, such as hot and cold, or oily and dry. This upcoming season we want to reduce the qualities of: cold, movement, dry, and rough. Let's look at a few practices that can get us through this awesome season, reducing these qualities with their opposites.
The key to good digestion is eating soft, warm, cooked foods. This is a good time to let go of the smoothies, raw foods, raw salads, and ice creams. You may resume them again after winter. Vata is very subtle and moving, so we want to ground it with heavier, creamier foods.
Breakfast – Have whole grain pancakes, warm whole grain cereals (like oatmeal, buckwheat or rice), eggs, or a cooked apple dish. Be sure to add ghee, nuts, soaked dried fruits (raisins, figs, etc), and spices to your dishes.
Lunch – This is the best time for digestion, so have your biggest meal here. Perhaps pasta, rice, quinoa, amaranth or couscous and maybe even a homemade pizza. Serve with vegetables, a nice sauce, a little oil and spices.
Dinner – Soups and stews make great dinner entrees as they are easy to digest before bedtime. Have something a little lighter at this meal.
Great autumn foods include squashes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, beets, seeds, rice, oats, wheat, couscous, pancakes, whole grain pasta, eggs, ghee, tofu, fish, dark meat, unprocessed sugars, oils, avocados, sweet fruits – fresh or cooked, cottage cheese, whole milk, paneer and lentils. Most spices are great for vata as well and are an important part of good digestion.
One of the best ways to wrangle vata dosha is by keeping a solid routine when eating and sleeping. Try to eat and sleep at the same times each day, keeping in mind that this includes week days and weekends together. This will promote better digestion, deeper sleep and balanced vata dosha. In ayurveda we use increments of 45 minutes, so you don't have to be too exact with your scheduling, just keep it in the ballpark.
Sleeping – Depending on your dosha, you will need about 4-8 hours of sleep per night. Try to create a schedule that will give you the full amount of sleep needed. Don't rely on your current habits to determine how much is needed because you may be in a routine already, good or bad. Create a new ideal sleep schedule and try it out for a week, then see how you feel. You may need to add or reduce the hours based on this.
It's best to be in bed before 10pm, as that is when we leave sleepy kapha time for the active pitta time. Then choose your wake time based on the sleep that is needed. This could be 4am, 5am or 6am! Try to be out of bed before 6am, as that is when we go from very active and intuitive vata time into sleepy kapha time again. You'll notice that when you sleep in that you feel a little more lethargic on those days.
It's best to avoid sleeping during the day, but for vatas, a quick nap may be helpful here and there, although try not to completely fall asleep. If you like to rest after a meal, lie down for ten minutes on your left side.
Eating – Allow at least an hour after waking before eating breakfast. Use this hour to do yoga, exercise, meditate and shower. Have your first meal around 7:30 – 8:00am. Try to sit down to eat at home rather than in the car or at your desk.
Avoid having any mid-morning snacks, and definitely avoid having too much coffee. If you survive on coffee, perhaps have some an hour after breakfast. Try to get down to just one cup a day. If you're struggling with vata imbalance, cream, natural sugar or cardamom will help that coffee a lot! You can use pranayama first thing in the morning to jumpstart your nervous system instead of the coffee on an empty stomach.
Lunch can be taken around noon, when the pitta sun is high in the sky and ready to transform your food. If you're going to cheat on meals, now is the time. Have your heaviest meal at this time. Try to eat with awareness, though, so you know when you are getting full and can stop before you overdo it. Eating too much food makes it really hard to digest and you will face a sleepy afternoon. Invest in a crockpot to take homemade meals to work!
It can be a long time from lunch to dinner, so if you need an emergency snack, have something super easy to digest like fresh fruit, broth soup, rice cakes, avocado with a little salt/pepper/oil, fruit bread or a little spiced basmati rice with milk. The most important thing is to have at least two hours around the snack of no eating, which means no grazing. Bummer, I know.
At least three hours before bedtime have a light dinner, not a big meat and potatoes meal. I was raised in the midwest where we had a sandwich for lunch and a big piece of meat with potatoes for dinner. This is not so good for digestion, as that will sit in your stomach over night, not really getting processed. It will take more energy to get it out of your body than you could get from digesting it. Have the meat for lunch and consider more soups, stews or rice and vegetables here. And definitely avoid dessert and snacking after dinner time.
Can't go that long without eating? This tends to be more of a pitta problem as their digestion runs hot and cooks quickly. If there is hunger before bed or during the night, have some easy to digest snacks available. Try having a cup of warm milk spiced with cinnamon and cane sugar. Or have some fresh fruit. You can also have baked spiced apples. These are all easily digested and shouldn't cause any problems.
Oil – Oil is one of your best defenses against vata imbalance. Put a drop nasya oil in each nostril (purchase online). Put warm sesame oil in your ears (regular sesame oil, not toasted or you'll smell like stir-fry). Rinse your mouth with sesame oil after brushing in the morning. And abhyanga.
Abhyanga is using heated oil to massage the body before a shower in the morning. If you don't know your dosha, use sunflower oil. If you run hot, use coconut oil. If you feel cold, use sesame oil. If you feel heavy, use mustard, safflower or corn oil. Heat the jar of oil up (I put the jar of oil in a hotpot half filled with water and heat it up quickly), then massage some into your skin. You can put it on your scalp, but it may cause stickiness in your hair. A good shampoo will remove it, but if you don't have time, you can just do your face and ears. Try to leave the oil on for 15 minutes, but if you are in a morning rush, just jump in the shower right after applying the oil.
Be careful stepping into the shower and gently rinse the oil off. Don't use much soap or water that is so hot. This is very nourishing and very balancing for vata dosha. This can be done daily, but at least try to fit it in once a week.
Meditation – Meditation will purify and ground the mind. One of the best practices you can embark on is being able to sit on a meditation cushion or bench for about 20 minutes, letting everything go. The object is to do nothing…not to fight thoughts, not to experience a great spiritual awakening, but to be present and just be.
It may be hard to let go if the mind is really active, so a few techniques that I use are:
- focus the attention on the breath entering and exiting the nostrils
- focus the attention on sound, allowing all of the sounds to come in
- focus the attention on a word or prayer, repeating it in your head slowly
Try to meditate first thing in the morning and then again after work or at sunset. You may need to start with ten minutes, slowly building up to 20 or 30 minutes per session.
The above suggestions above are an impactful way to stay healthy this fall season. If you're not used to practicing ayurveda, perhaps just work on the routine and the abhyanga. Ayurveda is not meant to be rigid with rules, but instead offers us a guide on how to live healthy lives. As long as we are aware of how we feel, our habits and our environment, we can make choices to balance these things.
Ayurveda comes from the same philosophy as yoga and together they can work miracles. If you're curious about how to use more ayurveda in your life, I offer many workshops and classes around town. I am currently a second-year student at Kerala Academy in Milpitas, California. Check out www.mariyurveda.com for events and details.
By: Maria Radloff
Title: Using Ayurveda to Feel Vibrant During the Autumn Season
Sourced From: www.huggermugger.com/blog/2019/using-ayurveda-to-feel-vibrant-during-autumn-season/
Published Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2019 15:24:43 +0000