Get Grounded This Fall
As the leaves turn and the weather turns cooler, we find ourselves at the beginning of autumn, a season of transition and change. In Ayurveda, this period aligns with the Vata season, characterized by dryness, coldness, and lightness, with an increased need for sour, salty, and sweet tastes. Understanding the qualities of this season and its potential imbalances can empower us to create routines and foster well-being throughout the season.
What is the Vata season, and how does it affect us?
Vata season is marked by a shift from the active, fiery days of summer to the cooler, crisper days of autumn.
In Ayurveda, Vata is one of the three doshas that govern the body and mind. Vata is associated with the fall season because they share many of the same characteristics. Vata is composed of air and ether, also known as wind and space. Its gunas (qualities) are dry, cold, light, rough, subtle, mobile, and clear.
During the Vata season, imbalances can manifest physically and mentally. The weather shifts from the hot Pitta season to the windy, cooler, and dryer Vata season. Anxiety is the most prevalent this time of year because it shares many of the same gunas as Vata. Constipation from dryness is a common digestive complaint that sometimes changes to other things (like diarrhea or hemorrhoids).
Moving into Vata season can sometimes make people feel ungrounded, overwhelmed, or unfocused. Some may also feel a variety of digestive health symptoms (gas=wind). There is a shift of routines in fall, or perhaps even the creation of new routines after having fun all summer.
Autumn is a time of releasing what no longer serves you and implementing or re-calibrating your dinacharya, or daily routine. Doing this will support your immune and stress responses in the body as you work with Earth’s circadian rhythms. The days began getting shorter at the summer solstice, which becomes more observable this time of year. It’s important to understand the potential disturbances the time change can cause. Fall is the ideal time to find balance and create stable foundations and habits (not New Year's).
Triggers and easing Vata imbalances
Understanding what increases Vata and how to counteract it is key to maintaining balance. Factors like irregular routines, excessive travel, excessive mental stimulation, and an improper diet of drying, light, and rough foods (like popcorn) can heighten Vata imbalances.
Create balance with routines
Ayurveda has many recommendations to adjust your dinacharya to the seasons. Observing what symptoms we see the most in our body and mind will help us know which gunas need to be balanced in our own internal ecosystem so that we live in harmony without the environment.
Disruptions in your routines can have different impacts on how you feel. Consider how an airplane trip could affect your Vata dosha. The air is quite dry, usually too cold or hot, but never just right- it changes like the wind. It dries out your skin. It is also very dehydrating and likely to disturb your regular meal times. Long car rides can impact you in the same way. The body is moving at a faster rate than usual for a prolonged time. Plus, all of the regular schedule disturbances and highway food.
Synching your sleep schedule
Anything that is inconsistent will increase Vata, and more regular will balance it. Getting to sleep around the same time every night is a huge piece of our hygiene. Ayurveda recommends waking before sunrise and being in bed by 10 p.m. at the latest. Being consistent is the most crucial element to support the body's systems and promote healing.
Practicing Abhyanga and Self-Care
Abhyanga, or body oiling, becomes especially crucial during the Vata season. The oiling process not only counters dry skin but also creates a protective layer that enhances immunity. Oil has the opposite gunas of Vata, being heavy, smooth, and penetrating. The act of putting the oil is an act of self-love and connection to your body. It gives you pause and presence to just be with yourself.
Instead of just slathering something on, take a moment to apply it with care. The best time to oil is in the morning, before bathing. This will open your pores and enhance circulation, allowing for deeper penetration. No need to wash it off or re-apply.
Beyond the conventional oiling, there are a few other ways you can seriously balance Vata. Try putting a bit of oil on a Q-tip and rubbing it around the ear canal. This specific location is one of the easiest for Vata to affect the body. So next time you go outside on a blustery day, put a little oil in your ears, and maybe consider keeping them covered.
You can also put a little oil in your nose (please make sure it is one that is safe!). You could have a drop in your finger, tilting your head back and sniffing quickly. Drawing the oil into the sinus cavity, acting as a lubrication and barrier against dry heat in the house and wind outside. You could also place a dab of oil on your fingers and gently place it in your nostril, rubbing it around. If you have never done anything like this, this is likely a good place to start.
Shop all natural therapeutic grade Bath & Body products from Elevate.
Pranayama (breathing techniques) and Meditations for grounding, balancing, and anxiety relief
Pranayama techniques can be used effectively on an as-needed basis, and they work quickly. However, using the techniques as part of your daily routine is beneficial. The breath is the wind of the body, and different techniques have different effects, such as hyperventilation and panic attacks.
The breath and the nervous system have an intricate relationship. Every time you inhale, it is a sympathetic response, and every time you exhale, it's a parasympathetic response. Each of these things is vital to homeostasis, but usually, too much time is spent in the fight/flight/freeze (sympathetic) response. Here are two techniques you might want to try.
This breath is so right for many reasons! First, you're taking a moment to tune in (immediate stress buster). Second, the exhale is longer than the inhale, which works with the parasympathetic response (rest & digest). Third, sound is introduced, which adds another layer of concentration and has a soothing effect. Then, you decrease your other senses (pratyahara) and increase awareness to your internal environment.
Laying down and being still is the opposite of movement, therefore making it balancing for Vata energy. Returning to our central energy channel makes this body scan more balancing, nourishing, and grounding.
To combat any anxiety that comes with the changing season, meditation and Pranayama breath control techniques are essential tools. Incorporating practices like Bramari (bee buzzing breath), Alternate Nostril Breathing, and Ujjayi breath can help soothe the nervous system and reduce anxiety on multiple levels.
Most Vata Appropriate Yoga
Practicing yoga consistently can also help you ground yourself during the season. Emphasize grounding postures like standing poses with a focus on the legs and feet, as well as floor postures that connect you directly with the Earth. Forward folds are especially calming for the nervous system, as are longer-held postures.
Be sure to check out our event calendar for live and virtual events that correspond to the season.
Add Crystals to your Routines
Crystals are the essence of earth energy, which is naturally Vata balancing. Adding them into your daily life or self-care routines can Elevate these practices. Crystals, just like people, each have their own vibe. Here are a few specific ones for Fall:
Routine Meal Times
Eating in harmony with the season is another way to find balance amongst all the transitions of fall. Since Vata is the air energy, it can have the characteristics of wind, changing in an instant. Too much wind energy can cause you to feel scattered and all over the place, which can make homeostasis more challenging.
So, it’s crucial to maintain regular meal times during the Vata season. Skipping meals or eating haphazardly can worsen Vata imbalances. As the days get shorter, consider having dinner earlier to align with the earth’s natural rhythms during the fall months and pay close attention to your appetite. Those who have Vata dosha may often delay meals and then feel ravenous later, then won’t be hungry for a long time because they ate more than the digestive fire can handle, perpetuating the whole cycle. Eating at the same time every day will greatly assist your digestion. It will also help to regulate appetite and blood sugar.
Most Suitable Mindful Eating Techniques for Vata
The most supportive mindful eating habit for Vata imbalance is minimizing distractions.
Eating while driving will increase the wind element, not to mention that multitasking means you’re not giving any of these tasks your full attention. If you have to eat in the car, stop and turn off the radio. Try not to eat while walking around; this has the same principles as driving, but now we are engaging muscles, which takes blood away from digestion (how we get our nutrients).
Paying attention to your hunger level and what your body wants to feel more nourished and satiated, being thankful for your food, noticing when you get full, and how you feel after the meal are all ways of incorporating mindfulness into your meal. It’s about slowing down and developing a relationship with yourself. being a better listener and honoring your needs.
Feel like you need a way to see where you are? Keeping track of your routines, digestion, and mindful habits can provide valuable information, and efficient solutions. Download and print out a copy of our custom tracker.
Kickstart your mindful eating journey by listening to thi 3 minute gratitude visualization before the next time you eat.
Consuming Vata-friendly foods and spices
Understanding Vata digestion is important for finding balance during the season. Favor foods that help balance Vata’s qualities, such as warm, moist, and well-cooked dishes. This is a season for hearty soups, stews, and even crock-pot meals, as they are easier to digest and help counteract the dryness of the weather and digestion. Dry digestion is when your poop has cracks, pellets, or constipation.
This is the time of year to eat more grains to align with the harvest. Oats have a demulcent (moisturizing) effect and are a fall favorite. They are warm, heavy, sweet (in a good way) and nourishing. Also, adding warm spices can help you stay balanced even in the colder months of fall. Incorporate spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom to aid digestion and add warmth to your meals. Pumpkin spice is very beneficial for Vata! Certain oats, like granola, however, can make Vata worse because they require more moisture to digest, like popcorn.
The Five Tastes
Sour tastes increase fluids in the body and digestion. Like a lemon makes your mouth pucker and increases salvation, a sour taste does the same for the entire digestive system and the body. Sour is made of fire + earth and is warming. Seasonal eating in the fall might come in the form of sunriped berries or the tartness of an apple.
But have you ever noticed the feeling an apple leaves on your tongue? Rough and dry. This is the astringent effect. The easiest food to identify as astringent is beans, the musical fruit. They are Vata through and through, which is why almost every bean dish, from re-fried to hummus, contains a substantial amount of fat and spices to balance the dry, rough, lightness of beans.
Bitter is a combination of air and either (like Vata) and is commonly found in greens. Raw kale salads could aggravate Vata, but a sauteed, oiled, and spiced green would be more appropriate this time of year. Bitter is also found in coffee, and many people need it to balance out too much sweetness (earth) in their diets. However, coffee can definitely make Vata increase as a diuretic that speeds everything up. Pay attention to what you're adding to it. Avoid sweeteners that aren’t natural, and consider adding in fat and spices to make it more balanced for Vata.
Pungent can be beneficial because it’s warming and stimulates the digestive fire, but too much can make Vata too zippy. It is made of air and fire. To learn more, listen to ‘The Power of Pepper.’ A few nice pungents might be root vegetables like turnips, carrots, or onions that are cooked.
Salt retains water by nature and is amazing for Vata- it is not amazing for Pitta or Kapha dosha. So be sensible before loading up your meal just bc it’s Vata season. A good example of ways to incorporate the salty flavor is with seaweed, scallops, oysters, and saltwater fish, or perhaps a bowl of miso soup. Miso is also fermented- and all ferments and pickles are salty and can be used as a digestive. They are also pungent and sour because of their processing. Having a few olives as a snack or appetizer would be a nice treat for Vata.
Why Spice is Nice
Milk from nuts or animals is very soothing and nurturing. However, that can be too cooling when ingested straight from the refrigerator. Heating them up and adding spices make for the perfect fall beverage. The very act of warming a drink makes its properties warmer, like freshly juiced apple versus hot apple cider.
Pumpkin Spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger) and chai spice (cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and pepper) are warming and help to ignite the digestive fire. A Vata fire can burn strongly but also become extinguished easily. These spices will help lighten the density of heavy milk or baked goods (both sweet in taste) and make them easier to digest. Sometimes, these drinks come with black tea, caffeine, or sugar. These things are imbalanced and should be reduced or avoided if there is a Vata imbalance.
If you crave dessert, this is a season for sweet treats like apple pies and crisps, especially those infused with warming spices. However, stay mindful of the amount of sweets you are eating, especially around the fall holidays. Too many sweets can exacerbate a Vata imbalance and have negative impacts on your overall health- and potentially turn into a Kapha imbalance.
Alcohol aggravates all of the doshas. But you can make it more seasonally appropriate. Time to switch from the cooling mojitos and strawberry daiquiris of summer to ciders and mulled wines. All ferments are considered to have a sour flavor and are hot in temperature.
The same goes for alcohol. Compounding this effect is that it has a ‘penetrating’ effect, making the gunas even more exacerbated. This is why alcohol was used as a carrier for medicines.
By embracing the wisdom of Ayurveda and aligning our routines with the change of seasons, we can not only find balance during the Vata season but also reduce anxiety and foster a sense of wholeness. This fall, let nature’s rhythms guide you toward a more harmonious life.
Interesting in reading more about the season, AIf you're worried you might be showing signs of a Pitta imbalance (fire/water), read the summer blog post on ‘How to Stay Cool.’