An Ayurvedic Autumn

The junction between seasons is an important transition time in Ayurveda.  It is a favoured time for cleansing and marking a shift from the dominance of one dosha to another in the natural world.

A key principle of Ayurveda is how our natural environment reflects what happens to our own bodies and minds. At this time of year, we hear a lot about “Vata Season” and the importance of nourishing our bodies with Vata pacifying approaches as the weather turners cooler and harsher.  While this is undoubtedly true, it’s important to look at the bigger picture.

Many people enter Vata season with a build-up of Pitta heat after the summer.  Several months of very warm, even hot, weather can wreck havoc leaving us with heat-based digestive issues (acidity and reflux), inflamed skin conditions (psoriasis and eczema flare-up), joint inflammation and stress or irritability.

If we launch into autumn with Vata pacifying approaches, we risk making these issues worse.  This is because, in order to pacify Vata, we need to routinely increase warmth in the body to counteract the increase coolness of the autumn days.  If we do this without first removing any residual heat from the summer season, we further increase the heat in the body.  Physics tells us that intense heat dries things out and intense heat in the body results in excess dryness.  This in turn leads to dry heat issues in the body – itchy skin, stomach acidity combined with constipation, stress and anxiety to name a few.

To avoid this, it is important to pacify any aggravated Pitta dosha before embarking on your seasonal Vata balancing routine.  If you have been experiencing any symptoms of excess heat in the body, this is a good time to spend a couple of weeks working on this.

Pitta pacifying foods
Try to increase sweet, bitter and astringent tastes in your meals (nb: natural sweets not chocolate, cake and biscuits!).  To help achieve this, add extra sweet fruits, leafy greens, sweet potato, cucumber, fresh coriander, coconut in all forms and white rice to your food.

At the same time, it’s a good idea to minimise spicy, salty and sour tastes which can increase Pitta dosha.  Examples of such foods include sour fruits (including lemon) and sour fruit juices, chilli, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar and hard cheeses.  Try to minimise caffeine, alcohol and red meat.

Pitta pacifying herbs
Aloe Vera is an excellent herb to take to help reduce Pitta dosha in the body.  It can conveniently be taken as Aloe Vera Juice two or three times a day before food.  Coriander, cardamom, mint and fennel are great culinary herbs which can be used liberally. Other Pitta reducing herbs include Shatavari, Triphala, Brahmi, Neem and Guduchi.  Be sure to check with an qualified practitioner before taking any Ayurvedic herbs in medicinal doses to ensure they are suitable for you.

Pitta pacifying body treatments
Ayurveda places great importance on body treatments and massage.  To help with excess Pitta, foot massages with Kumari Oil and/or ghee are easy to do at home and are very effective.  An in-clinic full body massage with warm herbal oils is a wonderful treatment for this time of year and an Ayurvedic practitioner will also be able to offer more specific Pitta pacifying treatments such as Hridya Basti which is great for any Pitta emotional issues.

Pitta Pacifying Yoga
Incorporating some Moon Salutations into your yoga practice is a great idea for removing excess Pitta heat.  Any spinal twists – standing, seated or lying – are great for removing heat from the spinal column and massages the live.  When it comes to breathing practices, Shitali Pranayama which draws cooling breath over the length tongue is highly recommended.

Pitta Pacifying Lifestyle
One of my favourite cooling practices is to walk barefoot on the dew-soaked grass in the early morning.  Similarly, any activity in water will help balance that excess heat.  Try to keep to a regular routine and avoid rushing as this can increase heat-based stress.  Avoid too much competitive exercise and, when working out, don’t push yourself to your absolute limits – go for around 80%.

These are just a few tips which willhelp balance any accumulated Pitta dosha before the dryness of Vata really kicks in later in the autumn.  If you need more personalised or specific advice, you may be interested my personalised Ayurvedic coaching programmes.  See www.janeeastwood.com/coaching

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