As the fall season approaches, harsh winds begin to blow, the weather becomes cold and dry, and in many places, the earth will soon be frozen. As our bodies reflect the seasonal changes of nature, vata dosha, the bodily humor governed by the elements of air and space, can become aggravated.
The qualities of vata dosha—cold, dry, rough, clear, and mobile—are characteristic in the disorders associated with this time of year. Many people experience restless nights with racing thoughts, increased anxiety, dry skin and lips, constipation, indigestion, bloating, and gas.
In Ayurveda, we can create balance during this season by cultivating the opposite qualities of vata dosha. The qualities to emphasize within our lifestyles and food choices are warm, soft, oily, moist, smooth, heavy, and stable. For example, if you are grabbing a granola bar on the way out the door to eat in the car on the way to work, then you will exacerbate vata dosha. Based on the law of similars, by choosing a food that is dry, crunchy, and rough and eating it in a changeable, on-the-go manner, you are increasing these same qualities throughout the body, stressing the digestive system. Instead, promote balance by making the time to eat a leisurely breakfast at home. Choose a hot cereal, such as cooked rolled or steel-cut oats spiced with cinnamon. The oats have a mucilaginous quality that lubricates the gastrointestinal tract while the cinnamon is heating, helping to balance vata's cold nature. Coffee and other stimulants will increase vata, aggravating the nervous system. Instead, try substituting an herbal grain coffee or spiced chai with lots of warm milk.
It is always best to look to nature for food recommendations that are seasonal and balancing. Now is the season for root vegetables and winter squash. Try carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, acorn, butternut, delicata, and buttercup squashes. These have the qualities of sweet, heavy, smooth, dense, and moist and are most balancing for vata. Favor the tastes of sweet, sour, and salty in your diet to help pacify vata dosha. Some sweet grains to include this season are basmati rice, wheat berries, brown rice, and sushi rice. Also, whole wheat pasta and udon noodles can be especially grounding for vata. Include ghee and other healthful oils such as almond, sesame, or sunflower for internal oleation, enkindling agni (digestive fire), and increasing absorption.
Herbs can offer great support to vata's delicate digestive system. Try herbal teas of peppermint, ginger, fennel, or licorice. Simply chewing a few fennel seeds after a meal can help promote proper digestion. Vata Digest herbal tablets are specially formulated for alleviating indigestion due to high vata conditions. Containing a synergistic blend of herbs that are heating and grounding, it is based on a traditional Ayurvedic formula for promoting proper digestion and stimulating a healthy appetite.
When we are feeling swept up in the fast pace of life, when we can not devote the time and consideration necessary to make healthful food choices, and when vata dosha is in excess, one of the best things to do is slow down. Take a few deep belly breaths. Relax your jaw and smooth your worry lines from your forehead. Establish some regularity in your life, particularly within your sleep schedule and when you take your meals. Now is the time to drop unhealthy habits and replace them with good ones. How you care for yourself during the autumn will determine your body's ability to maintain health through the winter. Ground yourself! It is time to keep warm, nourish yourself, and protect your vitality in preparation for the months ahead.