Like the breeze, fall surprises us with its presence. The trees change color, we pull out a heavier wardrobe, and snuggle up in warmer blankets. Just as we change the outer garments, we must give equal attention to our internal environment. With fall, the dry, cold, and mobile qualities associated with vata come stumbling forward.
Dis-ease often manifests from the inside out. A systemic imbalance creates outward symptoms and conditions. By preparing our bodies for the seasonal transition, we can create a smoother and calmer physical environment. This preparation involves keeping vata in check before we fall into unhealthy patterns.
There’s the old adage, “It’s not that people plan to fail, but they fail to plan.” We can modify this saying for our health: “It’s not that people plan for their health to fail, but that they fail to plan for their health.” Ayurveda is a system that is both preventative as well as curative. By utilizing ancient Ayurvedic principles, we can prepare for an all around healthier season.
Here are some Ayurvedic tips to avoid fall fails:
- Start the morning off right. As we have slept, ama (or toxins) has accumulated on our tongues. After brushing, use a tongue cleaner to remove these toxins and prevent them from entering the digestive tract. This helps maintain intestinal health.
- During autumn, as vata seeks out empty spaces to inhabit, it’s common to get a dry throat. Keep the throat healthy by swishing with Daily Swish Oil. This routine also helps maintain healthy teeth and gums. Another wonderful way to keep the throat soothed, and not over-tax vata, is to practice silence for at least an hour a day during waking hours. Vata is the energy of movement, which often makes us speak more than necessary. This can be due to anxiety or nervousness. As we go inwards, we can put our energy towards maintaining a balanced inner state rather than depleting our energy.
- Another empty space that vata may inhabit is the nasal passages. They can become dry as the cool air penetrates the nasal cavity and then constricts the capillaries there. Use Nasya Oil each morning and night to keep the nose and sinuses well lubricated. (Note: nasya oil is not advised for women who are menstruating or pregnant). Nasya has a calming effect on the mind and can pacify vata-induced anxiety.
- Another method of keeping our nasal passages healthy and our lungs fully empowered to handle the cooler weather is to engage in breathing exercises, or pranayama. Pranayama is an ancient practice of breath control. Harnessing the breath moves it properly throughout the body and aids with circulation and respiration. As we control the breath, we also rein in our senses. Then, our senses do not rush towards the sensory stimulation which vata so craves. You may choose to begin with twelve rounds of Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) in the morning.
- The place where we often feel dryness the most is on our skin. The cool weather can chafe the skin. Lotion in itself is not the solution, as the dryness is manifesting from the inside. Try warm sesame oil or Vata Massage Oil to nurture your skin. Do a self-massage, or abhyanga, using slow, gentle strokes. Avoid the vata tendency to rush through this process. Leave the oil on for half an hour and then take a warm shower. The warm water will help the oil penetrate into the skin and relieve the internal dryness. Additionally, this assists with keeping the joints well-lubricated. Vata tends to accumulate in the joints and then restrict mobility.
- Fight off any potential health challenges with a warm cup of turmeric tea. Add one spoon of turmeric powder in one cup of hot (non-microwaved) water. Turmeric bolsters the immune system and can support robust health. Turmeric is also a wonderful spice to add to rice, soups, and vegetable dishes. You can also use it to flavor warm oatmeal or rice cereal.
- Look at your food qualitatively. Ayurveda operates on the axiom of “like increases like.” Before you eat, examine your cuisine to determine if any items can be classified as old (leftover), cold, raw, dry, light, and/or rough. If so, these foods will likely imbalance your vata. Prefer foods that are cooked, unctuous, grounding, and make you feel as if you are nourished and comforted. Also favor foods that will make the intestines feel nurtured rather than put through a difficult digestive battle. Pay attention to your body and modify your diet accordingly.
- Keep your ears, neck, and head covered. These are sensitive areas where vata can enter into the system. The mobile quality of vata forces the cold air to circulate throughout the body and create pain, stiffness, or tingling.
- Vata pushes us, like the wind. The more that we are swept away by the push of vata, the greater our urge to act upon an impulse. One impulse leads to another, and we get caught up in the endless cycle of multi-tasking. As we divide our attention, it is scattered like the fall leaves. The mind becomes unfocused and tense, wanting to simultaneously please all the sense organs demanding its attention. To avoid this cacophony, make lists, prioritize tasks, create reasonable timelines, and write down reminders for yourself. Do not make electronics your constant companion. Focus on doing one thing at a time, including doing nothing else while eating your meals. Eat slowly and chew your food properly. Otherwise at night, you will feel that the day has passed you by with nothing accomplished—again.
- If you tend to experience constipation caused by the dry, rough qualities of vata, then your digestive tract may require some assistance. Take one-half teaspoon of triphala powder directly on the tongue before bedtime. Then swallow with warm water. Triphala is a natural, non habit-forming colon cleaner. It also helps to balance the doshas and maintain health. Because triphala is made from three fruits, it should not be combined with milk or other dairy, as that creates incompatible Ayurvedic food combining. (Women who are pregnant, nursing, or menstruating are advised not to use triphala.) Consult with your Ayurvedic practitioner about other options to help with your digestive health.