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Ayurveda & the Autumnal Equinox

Finding Balance with Ayurveda

Have you been walking under a daze of the beautiful orange hues that surround us in nature this time of the year? The gorgeous yellow, red, and orange foliage means the autumn equinox—that time of the year when day and night are equal—is here. Here are some tips to help you stay happy, healthy, and balanced during this seasonal transition.

Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go…

The equinox signals farewell to summer for the year and welcome to fall and winter. The nights now begin to get longer, the sun goes down sooner, and you find yourself craving more daytime and some warmth! In Ayurveda-speak, the equinox also signals the onset of the breezy, cool, and dry vata season that calls for stepping up to find a balance in our daily routine.

In our part of the world, the autumnal equinox falls on September 22, when the sun is right above the equator—the imaginary geographic line that divides the Earth into two halves.  This is a good time to begin preparing your body and mind for the seasonal transition—the drop in temperature and increased roughness and sharpness in nature—and bolster immunity against the inflammations and viral diseases that start making rounds this time of the year.

The science of Ayurveda offers many ways to take care of your mind-body complex during this time.

An Ayurvedic Understanding of the Autumnal Equinox

Ayurveda describes the equinox as Ritusandhi, the junction of two seasons. These transitional days are critical—a time to prepare the body and mind for the new season by making the proper adjustments to stay healthy, energized, and rejuvenated and not fall victim to the vagaries of the season, such as illness and inflammation.

The autumnal equinox is the beginning of vata season, when the air and space elements begin to dominate in nature, along with the qualities that they carry—cold, dry, rough, brittle, in motion, fast-changing, and transformative.

When vata is in balance in nature, there is lightness, clarity, vitality, enthusiasm, and activity. An important Ayurvedic principle is like increases like. For example, if vata is high in nature, having foods or engaging in cold, fast, or dry practices will only lead to an increased vata imbalance. Instead, high vata can be countered with more warming foods and teas, moisturizing the skin more often, and more oil-based massages.

Aggravated vata in nature can reflect as insomnia, constipation, anxiety, lack of focus, forgetfulness, hyperactivity, and

  • Thinner blood
  • Dry and rough skin
  • Drying mucus
  • Chapped lips
  • More frequent urination
  • Imbalanced electrolytes in the body
  • Earaches
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Inflammation.

While activity is important, too much of it can be a problem. Similarly, though we need the contrast of cooler temperatures after the long summer, too much of it can trigger its own set of problems and diseases. So we need a healthy addition of the earth and water elements (kapha dosha) into our daily routine to tackle the vata qualities.

The autumn equinox is a call for meditation and reflection, as animals hibernate and leaves fall off for renewal. It is a time to reset your balance and your lifestyle choices. Begin slowing down and going inwards physically and spiritually. 

The Seasonal Routine

Ritucharya is a broad set of guidelines found in ancient ayurvedic texts. They prepare us physically and spiritually for each season and include helpful advice on the types of herbs, spices, practices, cleanses, oils, foods, and drinks that can help bring vata in balance. The ingredients can be oily, sweet, spiced, salty, or heavy in moderation. This is also when pitta dosha—the fire element— accumulates in the body. It is an excellent time to have all the healthy fats and oleate the body copiously with heavier oils.

Here’s a quick lowdown on what an autumn day routine should look like:

  • Scrape the tongue since low pitta can lead to more ama accumulation.
  • Follow tongue scraping with brushing your teeth.
  • Give yourself a long abhyanga massage to deal with the dryness that collects in the blood, bones, and muscles, preferably with soothing and sweet vata-pacifying oils like rosewood, sandalwood, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sesame, almond, lemon, or orange.

    Daily practice of abhyanga is an act of self-love. It nourishes your body, provides warmth, gets the body rid of toxins, promotes longevity, and balances the five elements.
  • Follow up with some yoga. Make sure the poses are gentle, as many fast-moving asanas or aggressive workouts can further vitiate vata dosha.

Vata-Grounding Yoga Sequence

  • Practice calming and grounding pranayamas or breathing techniques like ujjayi or victory breath and alternate nostril breathing.
  • Take a warm shower before heading out for work or settling down for your day.
  • Follow a strict routine when it comes to your sleep cycle to keep vata in balance. It is important to go to sleep at the same time every night.
  • Limit the use of stimulants like caffeine.
  • Engage in re-focusing rituals like journaling, breath work, yoga, or specific types of meditations as the mind tends to be restless and a bit all-over-the-place at this time of the year.


The basic Ayurvedic principle says to eat seasonally. To keep vata in check, have fruits and veggies that are sweet, nourishing, and dense such as root vegetables, sweet potatoes, squash, peaches, and tomatoes. The foods need to be warm, moist, and grounding. This is also a good time to have slightly heavier carbs, so baked potatoes are in! You can also have bananas, avocadoes, and apples in pies, and sauces. Some additional tips include

  • Avoid eating raw vegetables at this time of the year. Instead, steam, sauté, or bake them.
  • Use clarified butter in cooking during these months. It is a good fat that nourishes and oleates the internal organs. You can use it to sauté the veggies and spices or to add to the soups.
  • Avoid drying, cold, airy, and frozen foods like cold cereals, crackers, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mushrooms, cauliflower, and kohlrabi.
  • Foods should be sweet, sour, or salty. Avoid foods that taste bitter, pungent or astringent this time of the year.
  • Nuts like almonds, pecan, and hazelnuts, pacify vata, especially if soaked. You can also have pine nuts, cashew, pistachios, coconut, and Brazil nuts, among others.
  • Vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, okra, pumpkin, bottle gourd, and leeks can help balance vata.
  • Grains like rice, wheat, and oats can be had, too.
  • Rice and lentils can be boiled to make a very vata-pacifying and light-on-the-stomach meal. Boil rice and add some salt and ghee. Eat with cooked mung beans and lentils.
  • Warming spices like turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, mint, cumin, ginger, bay leaf, marjoram, nutmeg, and saffron are ideal for pacifying vata. Even condiments like scallions, broths, and mustard are good to have in this season.
  • For teas, stick to fenugreek, ginger root, licorice,  peppermint, juniper berry, or lemongrass.
  • Herbs like ashwagandha, shatavari, triphala, and vidari are sweet, de-stressing.

You’ll benefit from your seasonal routine and aligning yourself with the rhythms of nature throughout the year. Enjoy the gifts of autumn!

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