As temperatures lower and days shorten, we become aware that Autumn is upon us.
This golden season with its dry leaves and cool refreshing winds can be ideal to start new projects or set up renewed objectives for our lives and yoga practice.
However, sometimes we might find that our good intentions don’t last long in the Autumn. Perhaps our concentration is a bit scattered and we start many things without bringing them to conclusion. According to Ayurveda, you can, in part, blame it on the weather! Autumn is a Vata season.
In Ayurveda the world – and within it our bodies, minds, emotions, and interactions; is understood as made up of a combination of five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth.
We all have all five elements in our bodies, but each one of us has a unique combination of them. There will be some elements that are more prevalent in us, and that will influence our likes and dislikes as well as the way our bodies and minds behave.
The elements combine into three Doshas: Vata (space and air), Pitta (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth). The elements will influence the characteristics of these doshas. So for instance the winter and early Spring, being wet and some times making us feel heavy and lethargic is a Kapha season; the summer with its fire and heat is Pitta and the autumn, as we are discovering, is Vata.
So, what can you expect and how can you make the most of it?
In the autumn the elements of air and space are heightened in our external environment (in the form of wind, dryness, crackling leaves). As a result these elements will manifest in our minds and bodies too.
A balanced Vata mind and body will be creative, agile and capable of great enthusiasm. But an excess of air and space in our minds might cause anxiety, lack of concentration, inability to finish a task… in our bodies it’d cause dryness of skin and hair cracking of joints, nervous movements and even constipation.
But do not despair. Through Ayuerveda we can learn vata-pacifying yoga practices and nice, heart warming foods that will balance our Doshas.
What can we do?
1 – Autumn friendly diet
Think warm and nourishing. This is not the time of year for a raw cleanse. Look at what’s in season in your area and cook those foods with plenty of high-quality oils (sesame (not roasted), sunflower, grapeseed, olive and very important, ghee).
Make root vegetables soups ad stews. Roasted or steam veggies are also great. Season them well with curry powders or other warming seasoning, add a bit of oil and you will be sorted! Cook enough for one meal, food that is older than two days looses all its energetic nourishing power. Avoid ready made meals.
Drink lots of warm water and herbal teas, such as lemon and ginger tea, thorough out the day. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which will aggravate Vata.
2 – Generate some heat in your body
As Vata is composed of space and air, it lack heat and moisture, Sso generating some warmth will pacify Vata. By using Yoga’s Ujjayi breath (pranayama)and mindful yoga practice we will create some internal heat that will help us to ground our selves.
However, avoid frantic movement, loud music or anything that will, in a way, generate more air and space within you. In yoga, focus on your warriors poses, and on going deeper into the working of your body, rather than jumping to your down dog or into your handstand.
3- Some TLC
Ayurveda can helps us to get some much needed TLC, which is this context means Therapeutic, Lifestyle Changes.
Our Western culture is, unfortunately vata-aggravated. Constant attention and interaction in our mobile devices; driving or air travel; computer work… all increase air and space. Of course, we still need to do our jobs! But some adjustment and pacing can work wonders on our general wellbeing.
Here are some ideas:
a- If you work on a computer most of the day schedule in 5-10 minute breaks respites hour or two to do some chair yoga, get up and walk outside or even subtly notice your breath.
b- Make sure you follow a routine, a chaotic schedule will aggravate Vata. Try to focus on developing a routine that includes time to restore your resilience and immune system. For instance: a short walk outdoors, making tea, eating a home-cooked meal, reading, etc.
The right amount of Vata
Balanced air and space are essential to allow us to tap into our creativity, spontaneity and lightness. It also connects us with our spiritual. Do the objective is not to eradicate them, but get the right balance!
Yoga Teacher and Ayurveda Consultant