By Dr. Anju Sodhi (Bams, ND)
For many of us, fall is a time of transition. The leaves begin to change colors. Children head back to school. And as the weather changes, so do our daily rhythms and routines. In the Northern hemisphere, as we transition from the summer season into autumn, we enter into the season of Vata.
Vata is represented by the elements of air and ether (space). Much like the autumn air, the qualities of Vata are cold, light, dry, subtle, windy, mobile, sharp, flowing, hard, rough, and clear. A balanced Vata constitution feels happy, enthusiastic, joyful, and energetic. Signs of Vata imbalance are an overactive mind, worry, feeling cold and dry, fatigue, insomnia, gas, bloating, and constipation.
The body functions differently in each season. In Ayurveda, a seasonal routine is essential to maintaining health and avoiding any potential seasonally-induced imbalances. During the transition between hot and cold seasons, the Agni, or digestive fire, can start to fluctuate dramatically. If your nutrition and lifestyle are not in harmony with your body type during the seasonal changes, the body fills up with Ama, metabolic toxic buildup. At the same time, your Ojas (the immune supporting sap) are lowered. This places the body in a vulnerable position creating the potential for illness.
Vata is the most mobile of the doshas, and although it is easy to fall out of balance, it is also easy to restore. One of the most effective ways to support Vata is by establishing a daily routine. The concept of a routine goes hand in hand with the body’s physiologic clock and the day’s natural cycle. By promoting a routine, we enable our bodies to live in sync at all times.
- Begin by waking up at the same time each morning. If possible, use a light alarm clock. The sounds of alarm clocks can jar the nervous system. If one uses gentle light cues with soft sounds, the nervous system is calmly filled with awareness. After awakening, bring the knees to the chest and gently rock back and forth.
- Once your feet hit the floor, go to the bathroom to relieve bodily urges. Then, brush your teeth and scrape your tongue.
- The morning is the best time to meditate, do yoga, or exercise. Remember that this practice does not need to be a workout if time does not allow it.
- After this practice, take herbs with room temperature water, then bathe. Eat breakfast after bathing.
- Remember to eat lunch at the same time every day. Lunch should be consumed during midday (12:00pm-2:00pm) and should be the largest meal of the day.
- Dinner should be consumed at least two hours before bedtime (6:00-8:00pm). This ensures the body is not forced to break down food during sleep.
- Light stretching before bed can communicate to the body that the nervous system is calming down.
- Before lying down to rest, take a warm shower or bath. Apply oils to the body and wear sleeping clothes that will keep you comfortable during the night.
The diet is a powerful way to soothe Vata during the fall. For example, a warm whole-grain cereal with high-quality proteins and fats, such as oatmeal with almonds and ground sunflower seeds, helps keep Vata dosha calm and grounded when starting your day (see recipe below). Foods that tend to have oily, heavy, or hot elements will decrease Vata. All nuts and most seeds are pacifying to Vata as they are filled with protein and healthy fats. In general, mushy, soft foods seasoned with spices and prepared with sesame oil, almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee are among the best choices. Root vegetables are quite grounding and stabilizing for Vata. Fruits that pacify Vata will generally be sweet and nourishing and may be cooked or stewed to ease digestion and offer additional warmth and sweetness.
Ayurvedic herbs are also valuable to keep Vata in balance. Amla Plex™ is a blend of 35 select herbs and spices, including the antioxidant-rich amla fruit, used widely for immune support and as an adaptogen to promote resilience, longevity, and health. Ayush Ashwagandha acts as an adaptogen and is an excellent herb to balance Vata by stabilizing the mind and nervous system, fortifying the body’s resilience and energy, maintaining healthy levels of immune function, and encouraging sound sleep.
Similarly, herbal teas made from ginger, licorice, ajwain, or a combination of fennel, nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon provide a warming sweetness to improve Vata balance and promote proper digestion.
By emphasizing an appropriate routine and working with the day’s natural cycle, we can promote health. When we follow a daily rhythm, eat nourishing foods, and choose to take care of our mind and body, we provide an environment that fosters a calm and smooth fall into Vata.
Warming Autumn Oatmeal
- ½ cup steel-cut oats
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp ground sunflower seeds
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ½ cup Coconut Milk
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- 1 ½ cup Water
- ½ cup Soaked Almonds, Walnuts, or Pecans
- 1 tbsp of soaked raisins or dates
Add water, coconut milk, ground sunflower seeds, and spices to steel-cut oats in a saucepan. Simmer on the stove top for 30-40 minutes or until oats become soft. Add soaked nuts and sweetener as desired.