During the fall season, you see vata dosha’s presence all around you in the form of cool air, erratic winds, and the drying and falling of leaves. There’s a major shift happening in nature, which means that a major shift is happening in the body, too. Vata begins to accumulate internally. Its cool, erratic, dry qualities can bring with it dry skin, constipation, anxiety, and the feeling of being unsettled.
For this Ayurveda gives you ritucharya, or seasonal routine. By adjusting your food and daily habits according to the season, you can harmonize your body with nature’s seasonal ebbs and flows and prevent imbalances and illness.
Come fall, you intuitively adopt many of these shifts. you no longer crave summer’s cooling watermelon and iced drinks. Instead, you naturally gravitate toward foods and practices that warm us up: wooly sweaters, hot soups and heated yoga. Your body knows what it needs to stay in balance—the challenging part is to listen and comply.
To keep vata in check this season, tune in to those bodily cues: the urge to put on warm socks, to have a cozy cup of tea, or to slow down a workout routine. Support yourself too with Ayurveda’s seasonal self care, starting with these 10 tips to stay calm and balanced.
Vata is erratic by nature. And since like increases like, erratic behavior such as multitasking can aggravate vata. When the mind jumps from one point of focus to another over and over again, vata becomes unstable.
This vata-aggravating behavior should be tamed, especially during vata season. Rather than multitasking, you should try to focus on one thing at a time.
Dry skin is a common complaint during vata season. Ayurveda recommends daily abhyanga (Ayurvedic oil massage) to help lubricate the body from the outside in. Warm oil is the most balancing substance for vata, as it pacifies vata’s cold and dry qualities. When its rhythmically massaged into the skin, it balances vata’s erratic quality, too. The practice of abhyanga calms the mind, improves circulation, strengthens the body, and boosts immunity.
Begin by warming sesame oil in a pot of hot water. Apply it generously all over the body, then rhythmically massage it into the skin. Use long strokes on the long bones and circular strokes around the joints to help vata flow in its normal direction. Allow the oil to soak in for 10 minutes or so before washing it off with soap.
While many of us hate the idea of routine, the body craves it. You don’t need to restrict yourself to the same exact pattern day in and day out, but you should do your best to eat meals around the same time every day and to follow a rhythmic sleep schedule—somewhere along the lines of 10 p.m. - 6 a.m. This kind of regularity tames vata so that your nervous system is relaxed, your digestion is strong, and your energy is stable.
While seasonally-appropriate exercise isn’t really a concept in the US, Ayurveda recommends that you adjust your workouts according to nature. In fall, your strength is a little low and our capacity to exercise is less. This all changes come winter, when you should engage in more physical activity. But during fall, slower and more gentle exercise is best for the body. Fast and intense workouts or any kind of erratic physical movement should be scaled back. The best workout in this season is yoga, especially a grounding yin or hatha style.
While high vata can drive us to want to do more, fall is the season to do less. Too much activity or stimulation can derange your vata. Saying no can be a wonderful vata-balancing practice!
If it’s not possible to scale back our activity, taking five minutes of quiet time in the early morning or mid afternoon to bask in the sun, meditate, practice pranayama, or take a short walk outside can keep your vata in check.
Eating seasonally is one of the most powerful ways to keep any of the doshas balanced. In fall, foods which are warm and unctuous are the perfect antidote to the coldness and dryness of vata. Soups, stews, and kitchari are all fall favorites. Sweet and juicy fruits and vegetables are great too, such as zucchini, okra, pomegranate, and sweet oranges. You also need a good amount of oil to keep the body lubricated and the digestive fire burning brightly: a teaspoon of ghee, sesame or olive oil should be part of each meal.
Foods which are very dry or cold should be avoided. These include salads, raw food, iced drinks, and very airy food like popcorn and chips. Peas, white potatoes and chickpeas are major vata aggravators too and best avoided in fall.
Your digestive strength is a little weak in fall, often felt as a low appetite, bloat, or gas. Your food should be vata-calming and nourishing, but it should also be easy to digest. A good rule of thumb is to eat foods that are cooked and gently spiced.
How and when you eat is also very important. You can help your body by eating around the same time every day, making lunch your main meal, and having a light dinner at least two hours before bed. This simple shift is a powerful way to support the process of digestion.
Constipation is common in fall and shows an imbalance in vata dosha. The colon is one of vata’s main hubs, so it’s important to keep the colon clear in fall (and always!) in the form of a daily bowel movement. If the stools are dry and pebbly, a warm cup of flax milk with a teaspoon of ghee before bed will lubricate the gut. Raisins are another great home remedy: a handful soaked in a cup of water and blended can get things moving again.
As mentioned, vata is cold by nature. Staying warm is a simple way to help keep vata in balance. This is especially important if your constitution is vata and you have a tendency to feel cold. Snuggle up in layers, rock your wool sweaters, and wear socks or slippers at home. And always dry your hair after bathing—a cold head is a great way to get sick in cold weather.
Pranayama is an incredible tool for balancing vata. Even simple belly breathing helps to tame vata and calm the mind. This is because all pranayama works on prana vayu, a subdosha of vata. By making the breath rhythmic and fluid, prana becomes more stable. You have a clearer and steadier mind and more energy. You feel a deep sense of peace and calm.
There are many types of pranayama, or yogic breathing exercises, but anuloma viloma pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) is one of the best for calming vata. 2-10 minutes a day can do wonders for our mind and body.
When we make seasonal changes to your food and lifestyle, your whole being rejoices—it feels so supported! Living in harmony with the rhythms of nature is an Ayurvedic secret to balancing the effects of the seasons. It’s simple, and it works.