The days are getting chillier. Apples are falling off the trees. The trees in my back yard are starting to drop their leaves. The natural world is in transition and the Ayurveda tradition offers a wonderful lens from which to understand this season and practical guidance for healthy living.
In Ayurveda, autumn is considered a vata season dominated by the elements of air and space. The qualities of autumn according to Ayurveda are dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool, subtle, and clear. To see this in nature and in our own lives, think of dry leaves and skin, windy weather, erratic schedules, cool mornings and clear nights.
Because this season is dynamic, moving and changeable, there is a sense of excitement and possibility. At the same time, the qualities of dynamism and variability inherent to Autumn can leave us feeling overwhelmed or depleted, especially those of us who have busy schedules. Therefore Ayurveda recommends focusing on the qualities that balance vata.
To bring balance to the busyness of this season, focus on creating more predictable routines and boundaries to support them.
Ease happens in the body-mind when life is predictable. Not everything needs to be predictable, but enough of life should be predictable that there is a felt sense of rhythm to the day. Rising, moving, eating, working, hydrating, having fun and sleeping need to be pretty predictable, that is they should happen at similar times each day. This rhythm settles the nervous system and optimizes our metabolism and digestion.
I think of predictable morning and evening routines as bookends of sanity for my day. My days might be erratic and changing, but my mornings and evenings can be rhythmic and sane inducing.
A predictable morning routine for is to get up, meditate, move and, then eat breakfast. This sets me up for a productive and grounded day. Taking a break in the middle of the day to sit and eat a satisfying lunch gives me a well needed pause. My evening routine involves another round of some kind of movement and an earlier dinner followed by connection with family and relaxation. This sets me up for a good night sleep and a successful following day. When I stick to these daily routines, I stay grounded, calm and sane.
Of course none of this will happen if I don't plan it. My calendar is key for this. Of course I must enter into my calendar my appointments and meetings. and work commitments. I am also diligent about putting into my calendar my morning and evening routines as well as my lunch hour.
It's one thing to create my weekly schedule and health routines and put them into my calendar, but for my routines to happen, I must be diligent with boundaries. I have to hold myself accountable for what I put in the calendar which means I must get up when I said I would get up, take a break from work to eat my lunch, stop working in time to get some afternoon exercise, prepare and eat my dinner, and make time to relax. In the evening, I have to exercise boundaries to spend time with my people rather than with my screen, and to make sure I'm off all electronics early enough to read and wind down and get to bed by 10 PM. If I don't enforce these boundaries, I might sleep in and not do my morning meditation or yoga practice. I might keep working and not make time to eat a good lunch. I might stay on my screen too late which will wreak havoc with my sleep. Then, I'll go to bed late and not sleep as long or as deeply as I need. And, the next day, I won't be well rested or set up for a great day.
When I commit to my daily routines and make them predictable and adhere to healthy boundaries, my life is much more grounded and easeful I protect the time in my schedule set aside for movement, relaxation, friends and family. and I am therefore less likely to over commit myself to people or projects that sap my energy and downgrade my health.
How can you create a predictable routine for rising, moving, eating, working, hydrating and sleeping?
Where you can firm your boundaries in your life to make sure you are prioritizing wha't most important?
For more tips on healthy living this season, check out my tip sheet:
How to live Vibrantly in Autumn
Autumn is a time of transition. In Ayurveda, the autumn is the season is dominated by the elements of air and ether, which Ayurveda calls the Vata dosha (learn more about the Ayurvedic doshas here). Fall is a time of transition in the natural world. Plants and trees shed their leaves, the temperature begins to drop, and the wind begins to pick up. Depending on where you live, the temperature can be very changeable, warm one day, and cool the next. This is a season that is filled with possibility, and at the same time autumn can make us feel like we are up in a flurry!
The characteristics of autumn are dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool, subtle, and clear.
Because in Ayurveda, we say “like increases like,” autumn is considered a Vata season because these qualities are similar to air and ether. This is a great time of the year to tap into possibility, but at the same time, this season can be aggravating to individuals, especially to individuals who have a lot of Vata in their constitution. However, we can bring balance into this season.
We can balance the Vata by inviting warmth, oiliness, deep nourishment, pleasant and loving relationships, and a sense of stability, routine, and groundedness.
The critical questions to ask ourselves are: How can we be grounded? How can we be nourished? How can we stay warm? How can we invite routine?
The fall season is dynamic, moving, changeable. The more you can stick to a routine for rising, eating, and sleeping, the more grounded you will feel. So there's also an invitation here to bring more routine into your life.
Sip hot water
Switch from cool or room temperature water that you may be may have been drinking in the summer to sipping warm or hot water or herbal tea throughout the day. You'll notice your body will begin to tell you when it's time to move away from room temperature water to warmer water, and this is going to help you stay warm for one, and it's going to help improve your digestion, which gets more challenging in the season of autumn.
Move your body
This is a tip for actually getting in your body because the Vata elements of this season, air and ether, will make it easy for you to not be as grounded. So the more you can actually be in your body by moving your body, the more grounded you'll be. Start the day and end the day with some kind of movement: yoga, walking, some kind of mild aerobic exercise. This is what you're going to want for optimal health, physical and mental, in this season.
Ground the body and cultivate calm with deep rhythmic breathing. In particular, focus on the outbreath. This season when you feel out of breath, you need to exhale completely and even let the exhalation be longer than the inhale, as this will invite you to be more settled and invite your nervous system to calm down.
Cook your food
In the summer, it was awesome to enjoy lots of raw food food right off the vine, picking things and eating raw salads. You'll find as the season cools off that your body is going to want more cooked foods, so you're just going to begin to reduce salads and cold raw foods and start to have more warm foods. If you really love salads like I do, you can enjoy wilted salads or braised salads like Braised Romaine Salad. If you eat raw salads, eat them at room temp, not cold, and have them accompanied by something warm like a soup.
Get grounding nourishment
The kind of nourishment that you do want to have now is grounding nourishment. Think of what foods are grown in the ground or what parts of foods are in contact with the ground, such as root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, turnips, squash, beets, and potatoes. All of these are really great to have in the autumn. Enjoy them roasted, sauteed, or steamed.
Favor your dark leafy greens
We know that our immune system gets challenged in the autumn as the cold and flu season picks up, so you want to really give your body lots of immune-building foods such as kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, all of those greens, If you still have dandelion greens in your yard, enjoy them. Saute them, steam them, and enjoy them with a good amount of oil this time of year, which is the next step.
Nourish yourself with healthy fats
You want to give your body satisfying nourishment. Fats help your body feel grounded and settle the nervous system. Enjoy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and ghee.
Spice it up
Maybe in the summer you weren't thinking so much about spices like cinnamon and ginger, but once the fall season hits, those pumpkin pie spices are delicious and they actually help your body optimize digestion. Cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, cumin, cloves, garlic, tumeric - when you add them to your meal, it will help warm your body and optimize digestion.
This is really a tip for any time of the year, but fall is such a beautiful season and we know that being in nature improves your health in so many ways, including helping regulate hormonal balance and the sleep hormones. Specifically, being in nature can help optimize the production of melatonin, serotonin, and cortisol.
Love, laugh and have fun
As fall gets busy, make sure that you're prioritizing nurturing your relationships with friends and loved ones, as this also helps your immunity and helps you feel cozy.
Dress in layers
Start to dress in layers as the weather cools off. You want to keep your body warm with layers, especially your neck and head. This will help you avoid getting colds.
Eat an earlier, lighter dinner
This is a year-round habit, but in the fall especially, this is going to improve your digestion and help you get good sleep. Eating earlier gives your body a better chance to digest and detox.
In this time of autumn when things began to change, even just five to 10 minutes of sitting quietly and allowing the body-mind to digest the experiences that it has taken in is helpful. Meditation is supremely beneficial for building immunity, warding off stress, and cultivating a positive state of mind.
Unplug an hour before bed
Again, this is for any time of the year, but in the fall when things get crazy and there's lots of schedule changes and work to do, we tend to push it and want to work longer hours. This is going to compromise our health. So you want to get off your computer and electronic devices a good 90 minutes, at a minimum, before you sleep to give your nervous system a chance to settle for deep rest.
Go to bed earlier
Make sure you go to bed earlier. Aim for lights off by 10:00 PM so that you can rest deeply and build your energy stores and immunity for winter months.
Why Do a Seasonal Detox?
I hope you had a fun summer. I hope you enjoyed celebrations, travel, vacation, BBQ, ice-cream, and exciting late nights with people you enjoy. know I did. Getting back into the swing of work and family life after a busy summer can be tough. If you played hard in the summer, it's possible that you put on a few extra pounds, let your healthy diet slip a little, and tended to stay up later than usual. When September comes around, you may feel exhausted rather than rested. If this is the case, then you may be starting the busy fall season from a place of health depletion rather than health abundance.
This is exactly why Ayurveda. the health tradition from India and the sister science of Yoga recommends doing a detox each spring and fall.
Even though I eat a healthy diet, get lots of exercise, and have good self-care practices, I'm not perfect. and I don’t live in a perfect world. I sometimes cut corners, especially in the summer months when I'm on vacation having fun. I don't want to be a perfect human, but I do want to be healthy. Because this is the case, I’m a great fan of doing a seasonal detox. I do a detox every fall and spring to reset my course toward higher health and get into a place of better integrity with my body and mind.
A seasonal detox in the fall is an opportunity to reset your body and your mind for health and well-being for greater health and immunity for the upcoming season.
Doing a seasonal detox will help you:
Rid your body and mind of Toxins Ama is a term from the Ayurvedic wellness tradition that is defined as the undigested gunk that accumulates in the body and mind. These include physical and environmental toxins that might accumulate in our body from processed foods, poor quality foods, pesticides, environmental pollutants, and chemicals as well as mental and emotional toxins that might accumulate in our body and mind from over-busy schedules, stress, challenging relationships, too much media. It's pretty hard to lead a toxin-free life in this day and age, and that's why Ayurveda recommends detoxing twice a year.
Ama or toxins show up in a variety of ways.
Did you accumulate some ama over the summer? Modern life is full of toxins, and that's why a seasonal detox is recommended in the early fall and again in the spring.
When we take the time to slow down, clean out, rejuvenate, and re-set, we can come back to ourselves and tune into who we are, where we are, and where we want to be. Taking time twice a year to reset and renew ourselves clears the ama from our systems and keeps us from living on automatic pilot, being over-busy, and perpetuating patterns and habits that aren’t in our best interest.
Hit the pause button and reset your course. A seasonal detox is a time to
When you detox, you simplify your calendar so that you put yourself first for a few weeks. During this time, you hone in on your diet, self-care, sleep and movement. You commit to eating simple, healthy, whole foods. You add in more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and reduce or eliminate foods that can cause problems for your body such as processed foods, refined carbs, sugars, red meat, alcohol and caffeine. You commit to strengthening your Circadian rhythm by getting regular exercise, spending time outdoors, prioritizing sleep, avoiding late night device use, and generally becoming more mindful of your daily habits.
A detox not rocket science. A detox at its core is a return to healthy living. That sounds simple enough. And, conceptually it is simple. You could go it alone and be successful. But, humans are social creatures and we evolve faster in a group than we do on our own which is why detoxing with a guide and a community could make one's detox more successful.
If you are interested in joining my Fall Detox, I'd be happy to be your guide and invite you into a community of folks seeking higher health. Find the details here.
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach, educator and yoga instructor.