There is often a sense of change in the air as Autumn starts. Even if we don’t acknowledge it, we can feel a shift in the energy around us and it’s more than just about the change in weather and the hours of darkness slowly increasing.
Staying healthy means adjusting to the change of seasons. We are part of nature. We share the same properties and are made up of the same elements.
Autumn is about slowing down and preparing an environment that we feel safe, warm and comfortable ready for the colder months.
Having a bit of a clear out at this time of year, not only creates space in our surroundings but also helps provide some mental clarity. It can help us to feel lighter and creates space for new ideas and inspirations to start to manifest.
Autumn from an Ayurvedic Perspective
In Ayurveda, Autumn is seen as a Vata season, which is a combination of the elements air and space. Properties of Vata include:
We can see these properties manifest in Autumn; the temperature drops, there is movement as leaves come swirling down from the trees and many people may notice their skin feeling drier, particularly on exposed areas such as hands and face.
Some people may notice further changes such as their thoughts feeling scattered or maybe an existing condition getting worse, such as Insomnia or Arthritis.
It is important to appreciate all the seasons and what they bring us. Autumn may well be my favourite - although I definitely prefer the clear, sunny, crisp Autumn days to the cold, damp, cloudy ones! But it is also important to adapt to the seasons and keep balance within ourselves. Autumn may trigger a Vata imbalance or worsen an existing one such as bone-related illnesses or anxiety. If you have Vata Prakriti (your base constitution) you may also be affected more.
So if Vata causes cold, dryness and movement, then to balance this, we need to increase warmth, moisture and quiet time. Here are a few suggestions of ways you can do this.
Many of you have probably heard the saying “You are what you eat” but unless we are trying to change our weight, many of us don’t consider the effect of what we eat and drink. However, whatever we eat affects our make up; the tissues in the physical body, our mind and our senses.
At this time of year, it is a good idea to eat warm, moist food such as soups, stews and daals. Have plenty of warm drinks such as herbal teas. Maybe enjoy a mug of warm milk in the evening - it’s not just for kids! It can be a dairy alternative such as almond or oat milk. You could add a sprinkle of cinnamon to liven it up.
It is best to avoid cold foods such as salads and enjoy some steamed or roasted veg instead. Also avoid cold drinks - in Ayurveda there is never a good time to have drinks straight from the fridge.
It is also a good time for a detox or cleanse but this isn’t suitable for everyone so it is a good idea to speak to a qualified Ayurveda Consultant to find out if an Ayurvedic cleanse is suitable for you before starting one.
Massaging oil into the skin can help alleviate dryness as well as calm the nervous system. You might want to treat yourself by going for a massage or alternatively, you can do a self massage at home.
Sesame Oil is a good oil to use if you haven’t been recommended a specific one for you by an Ayurveda Practitioner. Just by massaging the joints on the fingers in circular motions (anti-clockwise, then clockwise) as well as the palms of the hands can help to reduce excess Vata from the body.
Massaging the feet is associated with reducing Pitta, but by connecting to our feet it can help us feel more grounded and stable which helps to counteract the effects of Vata in Autumn so you an also incorporate a foot massage into your routine - massaging joints first in circular motions and then the soles of the feet.
Keeping yourself warm is important at this time of year so as the days get chillier, dig out those jumpers, coats, hats and gloves and stay nice and snug when you head out.
Autumn and winter make up the Yin part of the year so Autumn is the time for slowing down and trying to incorporate a slow yoga practice, such as Yin or Restorative yoga into your schedule. These styles can help to calm our busy minds.
The slower practices don’t appeal to everyone and these styles are floor-based poses so may not be accessible for those who are unable to come down to the floor. If that is the case, practicing Yoga Nidra at the end of a physical practice or as an alternative to one can be a great way to give our busy minds a well needed rest.
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) is also something that can be practiced on it’s own or included at the start or end of a physical yoga practice. This pranayama balances the masculine and feminine energies in the body leaving us feeling more centred and grounded. This practice can be used in the morning to set you up for the day and it can also be practiced before bedtime to calm the mind at the end of a busy day.
And Most Importantly…
Get outdoors and use all of your senses to truly see how amazing nature is at this time of year. It’s great for the soul!