When you think of fall, the first image to pop up may be colorful leaves, a school bus, or the beloved pumpkin spice latte. As summer’s heat dissipates into a cooler setting, we settle in and prepare for a new phase. Just as Doshas govern our bodies, they also direct the ebb and flow of seasons. Whereas summer is ruled by Pitta’s sharp, hot, and oily qualities, Vata lends itself to cold, dry, subtle, and mobile tendencies. Allowing yourself to transition with the shifting qualities of the seasons helps reduce your risk of illness and feelings of sluggishness, fatigue, and poor digestion.
One of the guiding principles of Ayurveda is “like increases like.” Since Vata season is ruled by dry, cold, and wind elements, if you are of Vata constitution or have a Vata imbalance, it is essential to balance those qualities with opposite forces - warm, grounding, heavy, and moist - through food and lifestyle. Listed are Ayurvedic protocols to keep you stable, nourished, and balanced this Vata season.
Choose Vata Balancing Foods
Tastes (rasas) that pacify Vata are sweet, salty, and sour. Tastes that provoke or increase Vata are bitter, pungent, and astringent and should be consumed in moderation or with proper digestive spices and cooked instead of raw. Examples of healthy Vata pacifying foods are:
- Whole Grains: wheat, oats, basmati rice, quinoa
- Dairy: organic milk; ghee; whole fat yogurt (or milk alternative)
- Vegetables: root vegetables - cooked (sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots, beets)
- Meat: poultry; fatty fish; lean beef
- Oils: olive oil; almond oil; ghee; avocado oil
- Natural sweeteners: maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, molasses
- Fruit: avocado, banana, figs, dates; stewed apples, pears, prunes
- Spices: cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel, pepper, ajwain, hing, mustard seed, basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, onion, sea salt
Since heavy foods can be harder to digest, make sure they are cooked and have plenty of digestive spices added (listed above) to help support Agni (your digestive fire/strength).
Good Eating Habits
- Eat at the same time everyday
- Eat your last meal of the day in the late afternoon
- Fill your stomach with ⅓ food, ⅓ liquid, and leave ⅓ empty for space to digest
- Be mindful when eating and avoid standing, watching TV, and reading. Enjoy what you’ve prepared!
- Eat with the season.
- Whenever possible, choose organic.
- Wait until the previous meal is digested before eating again.
The autumn and winter months usher in harsh conditions, drying out the air and our skin with it. The mucosal lining of our nasal passages acts as a barrier to dust, bacteria, and viruses. When dried and cracked, those crevices offer an entryway for pathogens to enter our bloodstream and cause illness. Doing regular Nasya works in a couple ways:
- It keeps the lining of the moist and supple, resistant to drying out and cracking
- If the oil is medicated, certain herbs provide antimicrobial and antiinflammatory benefits - sometimes even help for reducing stress and promoting sleep - thereby further reducing your risk of illness during cold and flu season.
- Improved sleep and reduced stress improve overall health and a sense of wellbeing
If you don’t have access to a medicated Nasya oil, organic olive or almond oil or ghee work perfectly well!
Abhyanga is one of the most nurturing indulgences you can do for yourself. Whether it’s done by a skilled practitioner or by yourself, the act of anointing one’s self with oil is a ritual like no other. Loosely translated as “loving hands”, Abhyanga is an art of massage that has existed for centuries in many cultures under different names. Taking the time for Abhyanga is a way to respect your mind, body and spirit and keep yourself in optimal health by way of the skin, the body’s largest organ. The skin is both a protective barrier from the outside world and also a gateway to deliver micronutrients from external sources to our deeper tissues and eventually circulation. Read more about the many benefits of Abhyanga.
Abhyanga Frequency & Type of Oil
- Sesame oil, olive oil, or sweet almond oil
- 3-4 times/week
- Coconut oil, jojoba oil, or sunflower oil
- 1-2 times/week
- Sesame oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil
Ayurveda allows us to instill balance within by way of our senses. Abhyanga uses the sense of touch along with the energetics of the oils and herbs. Food brings balance via taste and the rasas, or energetics of food within the body (warming, cooling, drying, etc). Aromatherapy has an extremely powerful effect on our limbic system, the part of the nervous system that controls emotions, memory, behavior, and mood, through the sense of smell. Vatas benefit from warm, spicy, sweet, and grounding fragrances. Examples are: cinnamon, vanilla, neroli, nutmeg, bergamot, frankincense, and clary sage.
Just because the wind outside is blowing doesn’t mean you need to take off with it. Create stability with grounding and nourishing foods. Increase self care activities like Nasya and Abhyanga which promote well being and remind us self care is the best form of self respect. And use your senses; they are the pathway to the brain and consciousness. Listen and honor what your mind and body need today and follow your intuition, it is rarely wrong.
Your self-love is a medicine for the earth. ~ Yung Pueblo