Autumn is a season of deficiency and change. When the temperature begins to drop, the body scatters to protect itself from heat loss.
According to Ayurveda the period of fall to early winter is governed by the elements of Air and Ether (known as Vata), which indicates that the qualities of dryness, subtlety, movement and spaciousness prevail.
By living in harmony with the natural laws of the season, we can preserve a sense of balance, and develop a stronger natural immunity against sickness, low energy, stagnancy, and a disturbed mind.
Externally warming the body increases the circulation to our tissues, mobilizes toxins, and opens our channels of circulation to enable movement of toxicity away from the tissues, to streamline their elimination.
Our physiology and psychology can easily become disharmonious. This can manifest in several forms: dry skin and hair, brittle nails, constipation, stress, and adrenal fatigue. Typical imbalances at this time of year are colds and flus, achy joints, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, irregular menstrual cycle, indigestion, and unintentional weight gain.
The arrival of dry and cold days requires balance through diet and lifestyle that is warming, calming and nourishing.
Here are some tips to support you with this:
- Skipping meals, staying up late, and erratic mealtimes produce tension and deficit.
- Aspire to sleep by 10pm and rise by 6am. Extra rest is required right now to support the balance of the doshas. Much of our body’s capacity to heal takes place when we sleep.
- Tongue scraping at wake up using a tongue scraper (or the back of a spoon) clears away toxins that accumulate overnight. They are best scraped away gently several times before brushing teeth.
- Staying well hydrated is key. Following the tongue scraping, sip on lemon tea. This clears away congestion, supports digestion, and reduces cravings. Adopt this as your drink of choice throughout the day. If lemon is not your thing, choose another detox tea (ginger, cardamom, fennel, etc.).
- Practice some breath work or meditative practice when you wake up. Even five minutes a day can change your life.
- Practice light yoga and walk a half hour daily. Hiking, light jogging and/or biking are also excellent alternatives.
- Maintain a regular daily routine: with meals, sleep, exercise and meditation at the same time every day.
- Your digestion will work best if you space your meals five to six hours apart. Lunch should be your largest meal of the day, and dinner your lightest (ie: soup and salad).
- Avoid eating at least three hours before bed. The aim is to rest, not digest.
- Avoid red meat, aged cheeses and fried and dry foods.
- Eating leftovers, raw foods, microwaved, processed, cold and canned foods will disturb the Vata in your body.
- Integrate lots of warming healthy oils, such as ghee, olive oil, walnut oil, sesame or flax seed oil, raw butter, and/or coconut oil. Warm, oily and heavy foods encourage ojas (vital energy force) and prepare the body’s reserves for winter.
- Eat lots of warm, freshly cooked foods: hot soups, baked or roasted root vegetables, good protein such as wild caught fish or freshly made paneer cheese, or mildly spiced dahl, bean casserole, warm stewed apples, and oatmeal.
- Eat roasted root vegetables like carrots and beets and hard “winter” squash like pumpkins and butternut, with walnut oil or olive oil and fresh herbs like basil, rosemary or sage.
- Before going to bed massage your body with warm moisturizing and rich body oils such as almond or sesame oil for a minimum of ten minutes (more is great!). At minimum rub at least your feet with sesame or almond oil and you will sleep deeply. These oils tone the skin, build muscles, nurture the body tissues, and soothe the emotions.
- Post-massage take a hot bath infused with lavender essential oil.
- Each day, take some time for yourself to sit and rest in a peaceful place (like nature!). Consider disconnecting from watching the news, or spending unnecessary time on the computer or phone. Reducing stress and mental over-activity is perhaps the most important element of harmonious living.
This article was originally published for Salt Spring Malas.