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.
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach, educator and yoga instructor.