The days are getting chillier. Apples are falling off the trees. The maple trees in my back yard are dropping their leaves. The natural world is in transition. Ayurveda 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 new possibility and potential. At the same time, these same qualities of dynamism and variability can leave one feeling overwhelmed or depleted. Ayurveda recommends focusing on the qualities that balance vata.
To bring balance to your life this season, focus on staying grounded, nourished and warm, and create predictability and boundaries in your life.
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 is settling for 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.
To create predictability in our modern life, I have to use a calendar. In my calendar, I enter all of the work time, school schedules and appointments as well as everything else that I want to happen in order to feel easeful. I enter in my ideal meal times, my meditation, my yoga, and walking time into the calendar.
How can you make your routines for rising, moving, eating, working, hydrating and sleeping more predictable?
It's great to have a calendar, but for predictability to happen, I have to set boundaries. I have to hold myself accountable for what's on the calendar: getting up when my alarm says to get up, taking a break from work when I say I will, eating on a regular schedule and getting off my devices at night and winding down and getting to bed at the time I say I will (10 PM at the latest!). If I don't enforce these boundaries, I'll sleep in. I won't do my morning meditation or yoga practice. I might forget to eat a good lunch. I'll probably do screen time too late. And, then, I'll go to bed late and not sleep as long or as deeply as I need. And, the next day, I'll sleep in again and not exercise again.
So, this season, I'm learning to do what my calendar says I will do. And, when that doesn't happen (because it won't always happen!) I have to reflect on why it didn't happen. Maybe there was a spontaneous invitation to go to a music performance and I stayed up later than usual and then I didn't get up at my usual time. That's great and fine once in a while. Or, maybe I just chose to not honor my fatigue and I stayed up too late working on my computer rather than winding down and going to sleep. Reflecting means that I own the situation and I can then make better choices next time.
When I adhere to healthy boundaries, my life feels more grounded and easeful because I am less likely to over commit myself to people or projects, and I will protect the time in my schedule set aside for movement, relaxation, friends and family.
Where you can firm your boundaries in your life to create more sanity and ease?
For more tips on healthy living this season, check out my tip sheet:
How to live Vibrantly in Autumn
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach yoga instructor.