As Fall starts to settle-in, the warmer weather, longer days, and time spent outdoors becomes minimized, and the start of school (or work) signify the end of summer. Saying goodbye to summer isn’t easy (especially for us Calgarians), but the last few weeks before fall can be an important and rewarding time if given the proper attention. It’s a time to reset, take stock, set new goals, and get organized for the upcoming season.
To help you transition more smoothly from the summer season, we’ve got some yogic insights and tips for supporting your whole system in this seasonal transition.
In Ayurveda (the sister-science to Yoga), Fall is the season of Vata (one of the three Doshas, or constitutions present in all of us), which represents the air and space, within and around us. This dosha, and the Fall & Winter season that it dominates, show qualities of quick movement, changeability, lightness, dryness, and coolness. The external environment that demonstrates these qualities, is also representative of the increasing vata within us & potential to create an imbalance within.
If you regularly have a Vata predominance, or even if vata is usually lower or balanced with the other two doshas (pitta and Kapha), then there’s a good chance that as the season shifts into Fall, the vata qualities in you will be amplified, and leave you feeling a bit out of whack. Common vata-excess symptoms are:
- irregular digestion, gas, constipation, intestinal cramps, bloating
- nervousness, anxiety, panic, fear
- twitches, tics, tremors, spasms
- dry or chapped skin
- low body weight
- dislike of cold and wind
- difficulty tolerating loud noises
- light, interrupted sleep
- spacey, scattered feeling
- excess thinking or worrying
But no matter how off-balance you may be feeling, there’s a few simple lifestyle and diet adjustments you can make to reduce or pacify vata, and bring yourself back to balance. A few key guidelines to minimizing the effects of this high-vata season, and help you feel more normal again are: Warmth, Routine, Serenity, and Nourishment. Being mindful of the following 6 tips will help to support your system in finding balance and comfort this season:
1. Stay Warm
Keeping your body warm and comfortable as much as possible, and try not to let yourself get too cool is so important (and makes sense) through-out this season. So pile on the warm sweaters, scarves, blankets, and all the cozy things!
2. Clear out the clutter, and make space for new.
Any seasonal change is a good opportunity to go through your closet and remove the clothes that you’ll no longer need, and bring out the ones you will. In the Fall, with the increase in Vata-induced busyness, it’s extra important to remove whatever is no longer needed. And this goes far beyond just your closet. You can apply this concept to your kitchen, your desk, your whole household even, but more than that – your mind! See below for more …
3. Stay calm, and Meditate!
With excess Vata, we tend to be more spacey, scattered, and busy-brained. This can make it challenging to stay on task, to complete tasks, or keep focus on anything. When things feel a little out-of-order, being frustrated, frazzled, or upset only makes it worse, so stay calm and you’ll regain control more quickly. Meditation, and quite observation of the mind and it’s thoughts, are a powerful practice to help reduce the mental-clutter, and clear out some space to help you focus on what’s really important. Meditation is the practice of keeping focus in the mind, and like all practices, develops a strength and consistence over time – meaning you’ll experience less monkey-mind, and more quiet space, the more you do it. And one of the greatest reassurances that I ever had when practicing meditation, was a study that showed that even if you’re experiencing scattered-thinking while practicing meditation, the practice is still working! So don’t give up just because it seems like ‘it’s not working’ – keep at it, and trust me, you’ll feel more clear-headed and focused after even just a few weeks!
4. Get back into Routine
Setting a routine for your daily activities, is important in balancing our inner-environment including our doshas. Try to make a schedule for yourself for each day, and plan to wake, eat, work, at the same time. Creating routine in our schedules and outer environment helps to build regularity and routine in our inner environment as well. Your bodily systems will start to regulate around your daily routine, and you’ll feel more at ease and in the flow with each day.
5. Gentle daily activity, with a focus on stretching
Yoga is a perfect activity for this time of year – and anytime really (you didn’t think I wouldn’t slip that in there did you?! :P). The mindful movements of a yoga class help your system to intelligently remove what is not needed (like mental-clutter, stress, tension, toxins, blockages, emotions, and even stale energy), making space and again helping your whole system to focus on, and use energy for what is important. The breath-work and movements in yoga can also help build your internal agni (fire), which works to keep you warm, supports digestion, and promotes better circulation throughout your whole body. PLUS, the soothing music we share in a yoga class, works on your system to help you feel more at ease, relaxed, and sooth your system. Other gentle activities are also great this time of year, and taking a walk in nature is another one of my favorite ways to get some activity and observe the shift in the environment around us.
6. Choose foods that are Vata-Pacifying
Our food, of course, has a huge impact on our internal environment, including the doshas. So making diet choices that will calm the vata dosha, will help you to rebalance and feel more you, as we settle into the season of Fall. In addition, keeping regular times for meals, letting lunch be your heaviest meal of the day, and not rushing, or multi-tasking while eating, will also help to balance the vata dosha. Ayurveda looks at the foods we eat in terms of amplifying or pacifying our different doshas, so for the coming season, we want to ingest fewer of the vata-promoting foods, and more of the vata-pacifying foods. The lists below are not necessarily suitable to everyone, or necessary for everyone either. If you have specific dietary issues or preferences, that can be prioritized, but you might consider making small adjustments by limiting, or including more of the below.
Foods to Enjoy
- Foods that are naturally sweet, sour, and salty in taste.
- Warm foods, both energetically and in temperature. Whole, freshly cooked foods.
- A limited selection of legumes, including mung dahl, tofu or tempeh that is well-cooked and warm soy milk spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Warming spices like ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and cumin, but not extremely hot spices like cayenne pepper.
- Plenty of room temperature or warm drinks.
- Dairy, as long as it is not very cold. Avoid drinking milk with your meals. It is best to have it warm and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, at least an hour before or after other food.
- A generous amount of high-quality oils or ghee in your daily diet.
Foods to Reduce
- Foods that are bitter, astringent, and pungent.
- Foods that are cooling, both energetically and in temperature.
- Dry and light foods (e.g. popcorn and crackers).
- Too much raw food, especially in the mornings and evenings (salads, carrot sticks, raw fruit, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, etc.)
- Most beans, including cold soy products.
- Highly processed foods (like canned or frozen foods, "TV" dinners or pastries).
- Cold or carbonated drinks.
- Caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants.
- Overeating or eating very heavy meals.
- Eating fresh fruit or drinking fruit juice within ½ hour of any other food.
- Foods or drinks that contain refined sugar or corn syrup.
- Deep fried foods.
- Hard alcohol.
If you find this interesting and would like to learn more about Ayurveda, check back on our Yoga Mix page for upcoming workshops on Yoga & Ayurveda! And in the mean-time, you might find it interesting to try this simple online test to learn more about your own unique dosha balance: https://theholistichighway.com/quiz/