At this time of year we can see the qualities of Vata very clearly in the natural environment. The green leaves, full of plump Kapha moisture in the spring, are now dry, rough and light as they fall to the ground.
These qualities are reflected in our bodies and minds and it’s very common to experience rough and/or dry skin, constipation, anxiety and restlessness at this time of year.
If you’ve taken steps to remove any residual heat from the summer (see An Ayurvedic Autumn – Part 1), now is the time to introduce some Vata pacifying approaches.
Vata pacifying foods
Aim to increase sweet, sour and salty tastes in your meals (nb: natural sweets not chocolate, cake and biscuits!). Great foods for this time of year are root vegetables, white rice, sweet fruits, oats and warming digestive spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Adding extra healthy fats (ghee, extra virgin olive oil) to your food is highly recommended during Autumn.
At the same time, it’s a not good idea to have too much of the bitter and astringent tastes which can increase Vata dosha. Examples of such foods include cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflower and broccoli), cranberries, pomegranates and green beans.
Most importantly, now is the time to focus on heavier, warm and more liquid foods such as soups, dahls, stews and curries to counteract the increasing cold, dry and light qualities in the environment. Warm, milky drinks (dairy or plant-based) spiced with cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg particularly comforting now. Cold, raw foods are not recommend at this time of year as they are much more difficult to digest.
Vata pacifying herbs
Ashwaganda is the go-to herb for many people during this time of year. It’s taken from the root of the plant so has the grounding, heavy qualities necessary for this season. It nourishes both the body and mind so is particularly good for stabilising mobile Vata dosha. Another herb to include is Triphala if you are experiencing any constipation or digestive discomfort. Be sure to check with an qualified practitioner before taking any Ayurvedic herbs in medicinal doses to ensure they are suitable for you.
Vata pacifying body treatments
Ayurveda places great importance on body treatments and massage and this is particularly important during the dry Vata season. Self-massage each morning with Mahanarayan oil is a great way to lubricate the body from the outside in as, not only does the oil address dry skin issues, but the Vata-pacifying herbs in the oil penetrate the skin and are absorbed into the bloodstream. To maximise the benefits, try a full body oil massage at home or, alternatively, give yourself a relaxing head massage with Brahmi Amla or Mahanarayan oil.
It’s important to use only warm to hot oil for massage (never cold) and to apply oil before showering not afterwards (apply the oil for around ten minutes and then rinse off the excess oil in the shower).
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 Vata pacifying treatments such as Kati Basti which is great for any musculoskeletal issues or an abdominal massage to relieve digestive discomfort and constipation.
Vata Pacifying Yoga
Starting the day with some sun salutations is a great way to warm the body and fire up the digestive system. Make sure your practice is smooth, slow and grounding; check your foundation in the poses and make sure you are have a strong and stable connection to the floor. When it comes to breathing practices, Nadi Shodhana (alternative nostril breathing) is excellent for pacifying Vata dosha and can be used not only during yoga practice but throughout the day if you find yourself becoming anxious or restless.
Vata Pacifying Lifestyle
During the autumn Vata season, it is more important than ever to adopt a regular routines. Try to keep to the same bedtime, waking time and mealtimes even at the weekend. The stability of regular routine helps to ground the body and mind during times of Vata mobility and turbulence.
Prioritise rest and quiet time wherever possible.
Of course it’s important to get daily fresh air and time in nature whatever the season but if you’re venturing outside to enjoy the colourful spectacle of autumn, be sure to wrap up warm and wear a hat and scarf to protect the sensory functions of head region from the cold, dry winds.
These are just a few tips to make most of the beautiful autumn season without falling prey to the imbalances it can cause. If you need more personalised advice, you may be interested my personalised Ayurvedic coaching programmes. See www.janeeastwood.com/coaching