Autumn Ayurvedic Routine for the Doshas
Balancing Your Constitution with a Autumn Ayurvedic Routine to Stay Healthy, by Jim Montrose
The Ayurvedic science of living recognizes that the change of seasons affects the health of all living beings. Certain changes in diet, behaviour and medicines are prescribed as a “seasonal ayurvedic routine” to counter the bad effects of the season and capitalize on the good effects so we stay healthy. As summer ends we move from a period of hot, bright and light that tends to dry us out and leads to ripening in plants. Fall starts the cycle of completion of the hot growing season and the harvest. This is the season of Vata and the dosha most affected by the fall. It is the season of dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, windy and clear attributes. So our diet and lifestyle should incorporate the opposite qualities of moist, heavy, hot, smooth, gross, static (grounding), cloudy to avoid illness and disease in food, lifestyle and routines. Fall often brings colds and sniffles if we don’t counter the cooling weather and avoid the winds which aggravate Vata. Autumn aggravates Vata and un-grounds us (especially if we are primarily Vata). Read on to understand how to balance your constitution to stay healthy with an Autumn ayurvedic routine.
Fall and Balancing your Constitution
Each year, summer yields to fall with subtle hints, the air smells different, the winds are stronger, and there’s a slight crispness to the atmosphere. Fall is a time when the crops dry and ripen and the body leaves its Pitta predominant summer characteristics (heated, oily and intense) for the lighter dryer and airier Vata characteristics (light, cool, dry, restless). The Vata characteristics start to predominate and the Vata dosha becomes aggravated. You may notice the cold (hands and feet) or the dryness in skin or constipation or dry stools. Mentally, you may feel nervous or anxious, have lack of focus, and have trouble sleeping. These symptoms may become exaggerated during Vata season and they affect everyone regardless of constitution to some extent.
With so much change occurring around this time of year, it’s best to incorporate lifestyle choices that encourage a sense of grounding and warmth, especially when it comes to food. You can benefit from adding qualities of Kapha (heavy and oily) as well as Pitta (warm and moist) through the foods and beverages you consume during this season in order to maintain a balance within the body in your autumn ayurvedic routine. Favour foods that are sweet, salty, and sour in the fall (especially if you are a Vata). Make sure your food is well cooked and easy to digest, accompanied by plenty of warm liquids. Reduce or avoid dry and uncooked foods (like salads, raw fruits and vegetables). Don’t worry if your appetite increases—this is a natural tendency in winter and helps pacify the Vata dosha as long as we don’t eat more than we can digest. Heating exercises like aerobics, running, and aerobic exercises are useful when done according to your doshas capacity (Vata light, Pitta medium and Kapha the most).
In the Fall season we take more moistening foods, oil massages and tonic foods, unless you experience fall rains where you would need to adopt more of a spring routine. All doshas can benefit by add more heavy, warming, oily foods to help calm Vata qualities of lightness, cold and spaciness in the fall.
Eating more cooked foods and favouring heavier foods like nuts, root vegetables, bean soups, rich fulfilling dishes helps prepare you for winter hibernation. Some general autumn ayurvedic routine guidelines (especially for Vata) to create stability, strength, and gratitude are:
- Favour warm cooked food and drinks
- Include more heavy and oily foods in your diet
- Keep hydrated
- Start the day with warm lemon water
- Experiment with various herbs and spices
- Favour sweet, sour, and salty tastes (for Vata; Pitta’s and Kapha’s may enjoy these taste at this time of year)
- Limit intake of raw vegetables and cold or frozen foods
- Follow regular meal times and a regular schedule in your day.
- Make your plate colourful and enticing
- Sit at a dinner table and savour your meal
- If you have fall rains add some drying foods and even saunas.
- Try warming teas of ginger; cardamom; cumin, coriander and fennel.
- Oil body with sesame oil daily
- Avoid cold wind, dampness, excess travel, stimulation (entertainment) and talking
- Practice calming vital energy generating exercise (yoga, tai chi).
- Use bulk laxatives (flax seed and psyllium) to cleanse old energies and summer Pitta.
Pitta and Kapha’s can benefit from some of these suggestions at this time of the year and might try incorporating the ones that appeal to you and especially correct a concern.
Staying Healthy with a Autumn Ayurvedic Routine
Ayurveda tells us we are most likely to develop a disease at the transitions between seasons. A healthy well-balanced person can usually make adjustments in food and activity to control Vata during late autumn and early winter. A strongly Vata, Pitta or Kapha person often needs to control their predominant dosha all year long. Vata-Pitta or Pitta-Vata individuals must control Vata in late autumn-early winter and control Pitta in late spring-early summer.
The general guidelines presented above will serve the Vata well during the Fall transition and adopting the relevant ones for Pitta and Kapha that make sense for the season like adopting to the cooler and windier weather and eating fresh, local, in-season produce will keeps us feeling tip top. Create your own autumn ayurvedic routine using your common sense, starting with a few choices and adding, or schedule a consultation if your get stuck.
As the transition to fall Vata becomes predominant a purification therapy such as an unctuous (oily) enema is often recommended for Vata. A simpler home procedure may be to do a seasonal cleanse like the kitchiri mini ayurvedic reboot cleanse or a juice fast. As we know, seasonal cleansing rids our bodies of all sorts of toxins, pollutants, harsh chemicals, pesticides, and any other Ama (toxic residue) that our physical body has accumulated over the summer. Cleanses or laxatives will help to purify and tone the internal organs, cells, and tissues of the body, flushing out impurities that aren’t serving us. Seasonal purification routines help prevent disease by removing body wastes that clog the body channels. An ayurvedic counsellor can assist you with purification procedures and panchakarma when the dosha imbalance is large. It’s a good time, especially for Vata, to do a mini-reboot cleanse for a day or two with a kitchiri mono-die.
Some additional ideas that you might consider for the Fall transition and your autumn ayurvedic routine:
Cook Moist, Heavy and Oily Food
Soups, stews, gravies feel good. Nuts like almonds (soaked in water and peeled preferably) and seeds like sesame, sunflower, etc. that are heavy and oily are good. Butter, ghee and cheeses are also good in moderate amounts. Avoid salads, raw vegetables and under-ripe fruit as these are Vata aggravating.
One of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves during seasonal changes is to set aside quiet time that involves no agenda. This ‘down time’ allows us to turn inward, to “BE,” to connect with stillness, to experience silence, and to acquaint ourselves with the ever-present witness that is our essential nature. It is through the non-active participation of honouring quiet time at some point each day that we are able to integrate activity and rest producing a state of balance. New to meditation try our introduction to meditation.
· Ground and use Earth Energy
The elements of space and air make up Vata and keep them moving. When out of balance Vata’s never stop until they crash and burn. Fall is a good time to slow down and use the earth’s healing energy to ground. Take frequent breaks throughout the day and try to get outside into nature to level out your energy. Even better is to walk barefoot and take a nap or meditate in the park. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Ideally go to bed before 10:00 p.m. and awakening by 6:00 a.m.
· Oil your body and insides to avoid dryness
Counter Vata dryness with oil on the body and in your food. Learn how to do an Ayurvedic self-massage called Abhyanga, or do a mini massage before bed. To prepare for sleep put a little sesame oil (Vata), sunflower (Pitta) or olive (Kapha) and massage the soles of your feet, the back of your neck, your ears, and your belly in a clockwise motion. The mini-routine takes about one minute and helps to induce sleep.
Eat food that has healthy fats, adding a little olive oil when appropriate, and perhaps taking a tablespoon of fresh flaxseed oil during the fall days. Flaxseed oil will help keep you regular and is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower Vata anxiety or nervousness.
· Stay Warm
Keep yourself warm: dress in layers. Drink warm liquids always. Eat predominately warm or hot food. Oatmeal, hearty cream-based soups, and lightly sautéed vegetables with hot buttery rice work well to keep a Vata balanced.
· Use Warm Spices
Spices such as nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon are ideal for Vata types. Think of hot apple pie with cinnamon or apple cobbler or pumpkin pie as Vata-pacifying desserts. Vata types respond best to cooked apples, which are easier to digest. These spices also make good Vata-pacifying teas.
Get a good night’s sleep, fall is a time for more sleep and the brain actually cleans out physical debris at night, probably the most important kind of detox. Sleep also reduces inflammation, which is connected to a host of lifestyle disorders from heart disease and hypertension to obesity and diabetes.
Reduce inflammatory foods
Low-level chronic inflammation is prevalent in a stressed-out society addicted to sugar, junk food, and demanding schedules that induce tension and stress. Construct your own anti-inflammation lifestyle, and benefit in how you age, whether you get sick or not, and almost every other aspect of your well-being. Consider these simple lifestyle choices:
- Reduce or eliminate fat and sugar in your diet.
- Eat organic natural foods.
- Avoid toxins present in stale cooking oil and leftovers.
- Don’t use tobacco or alcohol.
- Avoid or cut out entirely packaged food, junk food, and fast food.
- Take active steps to reduce everyday stress.
- Practice yoga and begin to meditate.
- Stay out of situations that trigger toxic emotions like anger and anxiety.
Naturally, you can’t adopt all of these things at once, Whatever you choose, make sure it makes you more relaxed and less tense.
Mental toxins consist of old memories, traumas, and conditioning that has thrown you into undesirable attitudes and habits and is even more important than physical detoxification. These states all produce constricted awareness and the result is the mind contracts to find a safe zone that isn’t toxic. In this constricted awareness we waste our time and energy in fear, resentment, depression, victimization, and self-defense. Healing happens when you can expand your awareness—Meditation is a great way to do this and can truly renew your life. Turn your gaze inward often this fall and enjoy a mini-mental retreat and reap the benefits of mental detoxification. .
Your Autumn Ayurvedic Routine for your Dosha
Early fall to Mid-winters transition, occurring from mid-April to late July, can be easily navigated with the autumn ayurvedic routine. During this time, focus on local, fresh and in-season produce, like fresh apples and pears. Fresh apples, green or tart are the best, and pears are abundant and they help to “dry out” excess Pitta arising during summer. The fruit fibre will move waste out of the gut and prepare it to digest the heavier foods of winter. Eggplant, corn, melons, figs, and Okra are good picks for early fall. Once the air becomes dry, crisp, and cool, and the fruit has fallen from the trees, add steamed or stewed fruits and more root vegetables. Vata spices like: basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, turmeric and vanilla are useful at this time of year. Apple pie is a nice fall treat that uses some of these spices and helps reduce mucous build-up from excess summer Pitta. Excessive mucous can lead to the common cold or flu. This calls for a seasonal detox or a cleanse as mentioned above to remove excess mucous.
In late fall and early winter, the Vata dosha becomes the most pronounced. Vata is dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile (windy), clear. So our diet and lifestyle should incorporate the opposite qualities of moist, heavy, hot, smooth, gross, static (grounding), cloudy. During this time, it is important to balance Vata with foods and fluids that promote warmth, moisture, and grounding. Recommended foods include fruits like banana and avocado, cooked or stewed apples, pears and pumpkin. Vegetables are best cooked (avoid raw) and fall vegetables in season are best: squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and yams. Beans like lentils and mung beans and tofu are good. Grains like wheat, rice and oats and nuts, nut butters help prepare for the winter. Oils like ghee, almond and sesame are useful. Warm fluids, such as ginger, lemongrass, or mint tea while avoiding cold foods and fluids.
Lifestyle choices augment the autumn ayurvedic routine and include: Massaging the body with sesame oil followed by a warm shower. Avoid exercising too much, loud noises and music. Yoga practices like alternate nostril breathing, forward bends, vajrasana, spinal twists, pavan muktasana and corpse (shavasana) are all good. Adopt a routine and stick to it as irregularities in the routine upset Vata in the body. Dress in warm clothing in red, orange, yellow hues to pacify Vata.
Pitta’s will find some of the recommendations work well but can take higher intensities of exercise, enjoy the oil massage with coconut or sunflower oil to counter their natural heat and drying from the summer and enjoy the heavier food but may need to stick to the Pitta tastes of bitter, astringent and sweet. Pitta’s do well at all times to remember to seek joy and fun. Kapha’s also will find many useful practices but need to watch the heavy food and continue to exercise hard in order to avoid weight gain. Waking before sunrise is important for the Kapha to avoid tamasic tendencies and hibernation. The Kapha does well to stay alert and avoid attachment during the Fall. Kapha’s should favour Kapha tastes of bitter, astringent and pungent.
Adopt a Autumn Ayurvedic Routine to stay Healthy this Fall!
Put this information to the test immediately by choosing the foods and activities you wish to add to your life this autumn. No matter what dosha you are stay with fresh, local and in-season foods which naturally provide the nutrients your body needs for the season you are in. If you are a Pitta or Kapha consider the general guidelines and add a few of the Vata balancing spices to your cooking and reduce or eliminate Vata producing foods like popcorn, cabbage and other light cooling foods. Consider heavier, warming and oily foods to strengthen your body for autumn and winter and stay warm.
If you are a Vata follow the guidelines for a Vata and counter the drying affects of the season. Increase the warm spicy tastes, wake before sunrise, and nap in the afternoon if you feel like it and do activities that rest and ground you. Stay warm and avoid the winds to reduce the excess Vata of the season.
Until next time, turn this information into true knowledge and wisdom to ensure health, immunity, and happiness by experiencing the autumn ayurvedic routine for yourself. Balanced living for the fall and prepare well for the winter season for your and your loved ones,
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P.S. Make an appointment for your individualized Fall Detox Plan Now or an overall assessment and Ayurvedic balancing with Jim to learn your detailed individual recommendations – email “fall plan/assesement” to organize an appointment or call 071 959 0786 now).
Copyright April 2018