Fall is experienced as the most sensitive season of all. It is the period of transition from a fast paced summer, with intense outward energy into a slow, energy preserving, introspective winter. Trees and shrubs are slowly undressing their bountiful and colorful decorations, slowing down all the physiological processes, and contracting their juices into the core. Winds play the most beautiful leaf dance camouflaging the landscape into a breath taking scenery of red, brown, yellow and orange colors. Crispy mornings bring first breaths of winter.
But beside being the most resplendent season, fall also brings certain emptiness, lightness, making us feel ungrounded, detached and vulnerable. The overwhelming feelings of anxiety, fear and insecurity are a reflection of the intense changes in the environment.
Fall is also the season of new beginnings, the time when we can too, stripe off our old coverings, retreat into the quietude of our essence, gather our strengths and creative juices, savour the simplicity of life.
The Five Elements
Based on Ayurvedic teachings of the five elements that create all the organic and inorganic substances, the seasonal experiences can be easily understood. These 5 elements, namely Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, normally support life and maintain harmony in the universe. However, when out of balance, they can cause discomfort, health disturbances and even life threatening conditions if not timely addressed and corrected. Environmental changes are understood by the predominance of certain elements, altering the temperature, humidity, time and season. These changes affect our inner dynamic equilibrium of these same 5 elements we have been made of. By striving to accommodate to these changes we can ripe all the benefits each season brings.
With the increase of the elements of air and space, fall is experienced as dry, light, cold, clear and erratic. These are all qualities shared by Vata dosha, and because like increases like, fall is considered a Vata season. Think of dry skin, cracked, lustreless hair, cracking joints, stiffness, cold hands and feet, constipation, scattered thoughts, insomnia, day dreaming, loss of focus and feeling ungrounded. These are the signals our body is sending to us in its attempt to accommodate to the increase of air and space elements in the environment. If your inherent constitution is Vata dominant, you might find it even more challenging in making this transition.
From my personal experience I know how intense these changes can be. Turning into a talkative, fast moving, over committed person, fall wasn’t my favorite season. But as I learned to adjust my daily flow with the arrival of breezy days, I have discovered so much beauty in it.
So how to fall in love with fall?
By adjusting the diet and adopting certain daily self-care rituals, fall will turn into an enjoyable and lovable season.
Ayurveda teaches that like increases like, so including the opposite qualities that calm and kindle the ever changing nature of Vata – steady, consistent, regular, slow, heavy, warming, oily – you will be able to overcome all the potential imbalances experienced during this period of year.
When you bring awareness into your daily life and embrace seasonal daily rituals, you will flow with ease through this transitional season. This is something we have been to some extend already practicing without paying much attention to. Think about pumpkin pie with warming spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger; apple crumble; warm, mushy soups and cozy evenings, enjoyed wrapped in a blanket with a cup of hot tea. It is our intuitive approach to tolerate intense changes in the environment.
Making a simple shift in your daily flow can create stability and groundedness, so much needed in the Vata season. It is the most important season to create your personal daily rituals. Take time in the morning and start your day with awareness and a calm mind. Embracing the art of daily self massage, known as Abhyanga, using warming oils, followed by a hot bath or shower, will make your skin soft and protected from harsh winds and cold temperatures. Journaling, or any other creative act of expressing your emotional adventures is a great tool to bring awareness into your life. Short evening meditation can be of a tremendous help to calm your racing mind, scattered thinking and worrying about the future.
Vata season lifestyle:
- Wake up early to start your day peacefully.
- Create your own morning ritual to bring awareness and stability into your life. Journaling, reading, meditation, yoga, a short walk, whatever rings with you.
- Before you bath or take a shower apply warm sesame, almond or herb infused massage oil all over your body and gently massage.
- Avoid fasting and skipping meals. Practice a monodiet with kitchari for the purposes of cleansing and restoring balance.
- Keep yourself warm. Dress properly to easily accommodate to the indoor and outdoor temperatures. Cover you head, ears and hands if needed.
- Create your evening ritual to help you wind down. Apply some sesame oil on your feet and forehead, meditate, and/or journal.
- Go to bed early, preferably by 10pm and get plenty of sleep.
Vata season diet:
- Food to enjoy:
- oily, mushy, nourishing, warm foods
- meals prepared with warming, stimulating spices
- hearty soups and stews, served with a generous dollop of olive oil or ghee
- favour sweet, sour and salty tastes
- if consuming, enjoy dairy products: butter, cheese, ghee, warm milk with spices, yogurt, sour cream, kefir
- fruits: apples, pears, prunes, raisins, oranges, lemons, limes, dates, figs, preferably soaked, cooked or baked
- vegetables: onions, carrots, parsnips, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, beets, garlic, winter squash
- grains: brown rice, wheat, quinoa, oats, amaranth, basmati rice
- legumes: mung beans, kidney beans, miso
- nuts and seeds: all are good and calming for the vata season
- oils: ghee (how to make your own ghee at home), olive oil, almond oil, sesame, oil, safflower oil
- sweeteners: rice syrup, maple syrup, raw sugar, jaggery, honey
- spices: all spices are good. Use them to your liking.
- Food to limit or avoid:
- raw vegetables and fruits
- cold, frozen, canned food, leftovers
- bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes
- light, cooling, and drying foods: raw salads, cabbage, sprouts, leafy greens, white potatoes, crackers, dried fruit, popcorn, coffee, black tea