Seasonal Wellness Guide: Autumn

Ooooh yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. My favorite season of all: autumn.

I think there are a few reasons why. I’m definitely a cool weather girl (if my moon white skin and Nordic nature didn’t already give that away.) I really struggle in the summers – it’s hot, humid, blazing, overactive…yeah, nah. I love walking outside in the dark, crisp mornings in a cozy sweater and pants to feed my chickens and ducks. I love taking afternoon walks to see all of the leaves shimmering in their brilliant reds, golds, and browns. I have adored Halloween since I was very young, and am already busting out most of my autumn decor. And, in the Ayurvedic sense, I find my personal energy to be mostly vata, which I’ll explain below.

Autumn is the season of vata, the energy of air. Vata is dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool, subtle, and clear (which I suppose makes more sense now that I’m a Gemini too. RIP.) When the seasons change, we encounter these new energies, which is why some people really vibe with certain seasons and others don’t. Pitta, the energy of heat, represents summer. Kapha is slow, heavy, and wet, represents both winter and spring. So if your primary energy matches that of the season, you may be able to handle it better than others, or you may need to keep an eye on yourself and be more consistent in making sure you feel balanced and supported.

It will make sense, then, that we nurture ourselves during these seasons by providing ourselves with the opposite energies – for autumn, since it’s cold, windy, and dry…we keep ourselves warm with cozy sweaters, put on a hat and gloves to keep the wind off, and consistently make sure we’re hydrated with plenty of (room-temperature) water and oily foods. The vata season will be less aggravating if you fill it with warmth, oiliness, deep nourishment, loving relationships, and a sense of stability, routine, and groundedness.

Seasonal routines are incredibly important for our health, and many of us have fallen away from these routines because we are no longer connected to what is going on outside of our homes or workspaces. We can feel a lot better and more balanced if we watch Mother Nature and mimic her seasonal routines. It takes a very, very long time for our physical bodies to evolve. We may be living in a technological era advancing at breakneck speed…but our bodies are not evolving as quickly as this. No, we are still physically much closer to our ancestors of the last 1-2,000 years. In order to take care of our bodies in the way that they’re still used to, we need to be connected to the outside world and aware of our routines.

Information adapted and expanded upon from Banyan Botanicals, a great source for Ayurvedic products. I am not affiliated with them in any way – I just really enjoy their products and the information they have.

Autumn (Vata) Imbalance Signs and Symptoms

Mind

  • Nervousness, anxiety, fear, panic attacks
  • Spacy, scattered feeling
  • Overthinking and worrying
  • Difficulty tolerating loud noises or sensory overload

Body

  • Twitches, tics, spasms, tremors
  • Dry or chapped skin
  • Constipation, gas, bloating, or dry, hard stools
  • Low body weight
  • Unable to keep warm
  • Light, interrupted sleep

Autumn Season Diet

In general, during the autumn you’ll want to favor foods that are high in protein, high in fat, brought to life with warming, stimulating spices, and served hot, will go a long way toward maintaining your internal reserves of moisture and keeping you grounded through the vata season.

  • You’ll also want to favor the sweet, sour, and salty tastes. In general, eat mushy, soft foods and garnish them generously with ghee or oil.
  • Breakfasts of cooked grains—like oatmeal, tapioca, cream of rice, and cream of wheat—are perfect at this time of year.
  • Lunches and dinners that include steamed vegetables, hearty grains, soups, and stews are grounding and moisturizing.
  • If you eat meat and eggs, this is one of the best times of year to enjoy them.
  • Dairy products and all nuts and seeds are also beneficial.

Fruits TO FAVOR

Apples (cooked), Avocados, Bananas, Dates, Figs, Grapefruit, Grapes, LemonsLimes, Mangoes, Oranges, Papayas, Prunes (soaked), Raisins (soaked), Tangerines

Vegetables TO FAVOR

Beets, Carrots, Chilies, Garlic, OkraOnions, Pumpkins Squash, Winter Sweet Potatoes

Grains to favor

Amaranth, Basmati Rice, Brown Rice,Oats, Quinoa, Wheat

Legumes to favor

Kidney Beans, Miso, Mung Beans,Toor Dal, Urad Dal

Dairy to favor

Butter, Buttermilk, Cream Cheese, GheeKefir Milk (not cold), Sour Cream, Yogurt

Animal Products (If You Eat Them)

Beef, Buffalo, Chicken, Crab, Duck EggsFish, Lobster, Oysters, Shrimp, Turkey, Venison

Oils TO FAVOR

Almond Oil, Ghee, Olive OilPeanut Oil, Safflower Oil, Sesame Oil

Sweeteners to favor

Honey, Jaggary, Maple SyrupMolasses, Rice Syrup, Sugar (Raw)

Spices (Most Are Recommended)

Allspice, Anise, Asafoetida (Hing), Basil, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, Cumin, Dill
 
Garlic, Ginger, Mustard Seeds, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Turmeric

AUTUMN SEASON LIFESTYLE CHOICES

  • Practice a daily routine. One of the most effective ways to support vata is by establishing a daily routine. Try to do the same things (wake up, exercise, eat meals, go to bed, etc.) at roughly the same times each day. Set the tone for your day by rising early, taking full advantage of the silence, stillness, and peace that are intrinsic to the early morning hours.
  • Massage yourself. Then, you can calm your nervous system, awaken your tissues, and ground your energy by massaging your skin with warm, organic Sesame Oil or with an herbal oil. Follow this practice with a warm, relaxing shower, leaving a coat of oil on the skin to absorb throughout the day. Steam baths and humidifiers can help preserve internal moisture as well.
  • Try yoga and meditation. Some gentle yoga, and 10–15 minutes of meditation will further your sense of stability and wellness. (Psst. I know a great place. I work there! Come visit me if you’re local! www.onevalpo.com)
  • Use warming aromas. If you enjoy a little fragrance, vetiver, geranium, and citrus essential oils are very appropriate this time of year.
  • Dress for the season. Wear autumn colors when appropriate—reds, yellows, oranges, and whites—and wear enough clothes that you stay warm throughout the day. When you step out into the elements, cover your head and ears to protect them from the biting wind and cold.

EXERCISING DURING AUTUMN

Vata is very easily aggravated by fast, mobile activities, so consider slow, gentle, strengthening forms of exercise.

  • Walking, hiking, swimming, biking, yoga, and tai chi are good choices, provided they are done at an appropriate level of intensity.
  • The best times of day to exercise are in the early morning and evening hours (6–10 a.m. and 6–10 p.m.).
  • Ideally, exercise at about 50–70 percent of your capacity, breathing through your nose the entire time.
  • And remember to balance your activity with adequate relaxation and sleep so that your tissues can rejuvenate properly.

AUTUMN YOGA

Incorporating a sense of warmth, grounding, stability, and focus into your yoga practice has a profoundly calming effect on vata and can work wonders during vata season. Your breath should be deep and fluid.

If you practice pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) is very balancing this time of year.

In your asana practice, favor vata-pacifying yoga. Warm up slowly and include some joint rotations. Move with intention and fluidity—grounding the hands and the feet on the mat whenever possible—and avoid jumping between postures.

And there we have it. Are you as pumped for autumn as I am? I am SO ready to get comfy and cozy and watch the world start to turn inward.

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