Last year at this time, many of us were excited about the upcoming holidays—corn mazes, get-togethers, and pumpkin lattes! This fall, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and quarantine fatigue may have set in. The economy is re-opening slowly; we are grappling with concerns around safety, a second wave, economic security, jobs, politics, schools, and more. To add to that, Fall is also flu and allergy season which compounds our worry. The 5,000-year-old science of Ayurveda gives us the steps we need to take to stay healthy, safe, and sated this season.
Seasonal Guidelines for Fall
In Ayurveda, we take our cues from nature. Autumn is a time of transition, a time to leave behind the heat and productivity of summer, slow down, fall back and “learn from the falling leaves how to let go.” As per the Ayurvedic seasonal regimen, or Ritucharya, fall and early winter are vata season (the energy principle of air and ether). Vata is dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, and mobile, and an imbalance in this dosha (energy principle) can lead to similar qualities in the individual. The two simple concepts in restoring balance are like increases like and opposites balance each other. For instance, the dry quality of vata can be balanced by internal and external oleation, hydrating enough, and unctuous food like soups and massages. A rejuvenating cleanse is highly recommended to enhance our immunity in Fall.
Ritucharya is a prime principal of preventive management in Ayurveda (Swasthyashya Swasthya Rakshanam—preserving the health of the healthy) and preventing susceptibility to seasonal ailments like colds and allergies, but be mindful of personalized imbalances (Vikratis). For instance, for disease management (or ‘Aturashya Vikara Prashmanancha’) of say, Kaphaja Prameha, (a kapha-vitiated metabolic condition or Diabetes Insipidus; Ayurvedic classifies 20 types of Prameha) attend primarily to the imbalance, with awareness of the impact of seasonal changes.
The symptoms of a vata imbalance are
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Dry skin
- Bloating and cramping
- Appetite and weight fluctuations
- Trouble sleeping
- Earache and tinnitus
- Depletion and fatigue
- Summer Pitta (fire and water dosha) residual inflammation is likely at this time
- Vata-Pitta imbalance together cause a forest-fire effect of rapid burnout both physically and mentally.
Six+ Tips to Restore Balance this Fall
1. Dietary Suggestions—Warm, Unctuous Soups and Stews
- Favor the sweet, sour, and salty tastes and minimize pungent, bitter and astringent tastes as per the Ayurvedic Shadrasa.
- Avoid cold, processed, dry, rough, light food and beverages and reduce caffeine. Avoid white sugar and white flour.
- Eat warm, cooked nourishing, unctuous food like soups, stews, oatmeal and casseroles. Try these delicious Fall recipes from our faculty.
- Oils and dairy products are good; favor ghee, sesame, avocado and safflower oil. Nourish yourself daily with a cup of anti-inflammatory turmeric milk, or golden milk as it is called.
- Add warming spices like turmeric with a pinch of black pepper, fresh ginger, tulsi, fennel, cumin, coriander, carom, asafetida, nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and mustard seeds.
- Sweet fruits, soaked raisins, dates, peaches, pears, plums, avocados, ripe bananas, citrus and all seasonal fruits, nuts (preferably soaked) and seeds in moderation are good.
- Cooked veggies like carrots, okra, all squashes, sweet potatoes and leafy green vegetables are great. Cruciferous veggies and greens can be cooked with digestive spices like cumin, asafetida and coriander.
- Favor whole grains like basmati rice, whole wheat, oats and smaller legumes like mung beans, sprouted beans and red lentils.
- Have warm water (2 glasses of water with lemon in the morning and sip warm water through the day) or herbal teas (CCF, ginger or tulsi tea).
More delicious recipes from our faculty: Roasted Acorn Squash, Vegetable Pot Pie and Butternut Squash Soup.
2. Sleep and Lifestyle Tips—Stick to a Routine and Incorporate Daily Self-Massage
- A regular daily routine is the key to grounding vata.
- Eat at regular meal times and don’t skip meals.
- Vata requires adequate sleep to restore balance.
- Avoid daytime sleep unless you’re depleted.
- Don’t multitask or overdo anything (including sexual activity); vata gets easily depleted.
- Don’t control natural urges like sneezing, hiccuping, bowel movement etc. (Vegadharana).
- Avoid loud music and speeding.
- Give a break to the senses (the practice of Pratyahara; nutrition in Ayurveda includes sensory inputs and breath).
- Schedule a media break.
- Do a daily (or frequent) Abhyanga or self-massage; favor warming oils like sesame oil or a therapeutic anti-inflammatory oil like Mahanarayan Oil.
- Take warm showers.
- Try aromatherapy with soothing essential oils like lavender and rosemary.
- Dress warmly and in warm colors like orange, red, and yellow!
3. Tips on Yoga, Exercise, Breathwork and Meditation—Slow and Grounding Yoga and Nature Walks
- Do slow, grounding and meditative yoga; Tai Chi is another great practice.
- In your practice, incorporate asanas that are balancing, gentle, restorative or on the ground (literally grounding!); try Mountain Pose, Warrior Pose, Tree Pose, Vajrasana, slow Sun Salutations, Pawanmuktasana, Padmasadhana, Shavasana, and yoga nidra.
- Try breathwork like full yogic breathing, abdominal breathing, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, Ujjayi breathing, and Brahmari.
- Scale back on exercise and limit it to about 20 minutes, spend time in nature which is grounding (if air quality is ok). Reflect on our connection with nature and commitment to sustainability.
- Meditation helps ground vata, alleviate stress and boost immunity. Meditate regularly.
4. Fall is the ideal time to Cleanse and Rejuvenate
- Fall and Spring are ideal transitions to cleanse.
- Ayurveda accords the highest importance to cleansing or Shodhana Karma which helps manage current imbalances and prevent their recurrence in the future.
- Cleansing enhances immunity.
- Ayurvedic cleanses involve a preparation phase, the actual cleanse, and post cleanse rejuvenation.
- For Fall, Rasayana or rejuvenation is vital because cleansing is inherently vata aggravating and depleting. Avoid raw or juice cleanses.
- Schedule a supervised Ayurvedic cleanse. This will be individualized, therapeutic, and take care of the aspect of Rasayana or rejuvenation.
5. Other Immunity-Boosting Tips—Jal Neti, Nasya, and the Immunity Kit
- Daily herbs for immunity—Shakti drops, amruth, tulsi, and turmeric can be part of your daily immune boosting kit from Sri Sri Tattva this Fall. Chyawanprash with warm milk can be a daily rejuvenating, immunity enhancing tonic.
- Vata-pacifying herbs include haritaki, amalaki, shatavari, brahmi, yashtimadhu, dashamoola, and ashwagandha, but consult an Ayurvedic professional before taking them since Ayurvedic management is personalized. You could schedule an online consultation with our experienced Ayurvedic practitioners.
- For local prophylaxis, try jal neti and pratimarsa or daily nasya (with sesame oil, ghee or Anu Taila) with application of one to two drops of oil in the nostrils.
- If your khavaigunya or weak organ system is the respiratory system consider steaming with turmeric, tulsi, and Himalayan salt and gargling with turmeric and Himalayan salt.
- Focus on reducing stress and self-care—and breathe!
6. Fall Rituals and Safety!
- Fall Festivals. While we may experience fatigue and a sense of loss as we go into Fall with its festivals and rituals, tap into the creative vata energy to find ways to celebrate and have fun, while being cautious and mindful about safety guidelines!
- Stay connected while socially distanced! Ayurveda is a holistic science that accords a great deal of importance to mental health, relationships and interconnectedness with family and community!
Mental Health Epidemic
Let’s acknowledge the parallel epidemic that is raging along with Covid-19; the mental health issues which the world at large faces. More than 1/3 of Americans have displayed clinical signs of anxiety, depression, or both, since the pandemic started. Ayurveda is holistic and honors the mind-body connection. Fear, grief, worries, and anxiety trigger predominantly vata (and other doshas as well). Do follow a preventative protocol to increase Sattva (the Guna or principle of truth or clarity) and restore balance but don’t hesitate to seek professional help if required.
Continue to follow guidelines on social distancing, wearing masks, hygiene practices, and stay safe and seek medical help if you feel unwell. To quote musician and author Chad Sugg, “Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.” As we amble into fall, hang in there and stay hopeful—we will weather this together!