DISCOVER YOUR MIND-BODY TYPE!
Receive some practical tips & advice on which foods, Yoga poses and lifestyle habits that are best for your specific mind-body type (your Ayurvedic Dosha)
How to Stay Grounded and Nourished in Autumn
– Ayurveda’s Guideline to Autumn
In Ayurveda, autumn (fall) is associated with the qualities of Vata – dry, light, cold, windy rough and empty. Therefore in Ayurveda we consider autumn as Vata season.
If you are Vata or if you’re experiencing Vata imbalances, pay extra attention as we transition into autumn.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing tips and tools that will help you stay grounded and nourished through autumn to winter.
The Vata Dosha
Vata is comprised of Air & Ether (or sometimes referred to as ‘space’) element. Vata means ‘wind’ and is the energy that controls movement in the body.
Vata’s primary physical site of accumulation in the body is in the colon as gas.
Vata is the primary Dosha and it’s the motivating power behind the other 2 Doshas – Pitta and Kapha, as these 2 Doshas are not capable of moving without Vata.
So when Vata Dosha is imbalanced, it can quickly push Pitta and Kapha Dosha out of balance as well. Because of that, when you get an Ayurvedic health consultation by a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner, the first step they often take is to care for Vata and maintain good balance regardless of your Prakriti, your natural constitution.
And interestrestingly, sometimes by starting to take care of Vata is enough to make symptoms caused by other Doshas imbalances go away.
So even your primary Dosha is not Vata, it’s good to understand Vata Dosha and how you can balance Vata.
Let’s go through the list of Vata imbalances:
- Strong intolerance to cold
- Restless, inability to sit still
- Muscular tension, spasms, tics, tremors
- Dry, cracking, still joints, nerve pain
- Dry, hard, rough stools, constipation, excessive gas and bloating
- Dryness in the skin, lips and hair
- Susceptible to illness, cold, UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)
Mentally, you might feel anxious, fearful, nervous or insecure. You might also have a scattered mind, inability to slow down or feeling restless. You might also find it difficult to sleep, be sensitive towards loud noise or feel exhausted all the time.
If you are experiencing any of these things, you might be experiencing imbalances of Vata Dosha.
Ayurveda encourages us to live in harmony with nature and adjust our diet and lifestyle according to the season we are in.
So how can we adjust our diet and lifestyle in autumn?
Here are the general guidelines for diet & lifestyle during autumn:
The best type of food to balance Vata are fresh cooked food that is warming and grounding and that is easy to digest.
Grains such as rice (brown and white), oats, bulgar, wheat and barley are great for balancing Vata.
Example of Vata pacifying vegetables are sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, beetroot (beets), asparagus, carrots, green beans, courgettes (zucchini).
Ghee is also great for Vata as it has all the qualities Vata needs. Ghee is a clarified butter which is made with cow’s milk. Ghee is also used in many Ayurvedic medical treatment.
Ghee has a higher smoking point than olive oil and coconut oil and activates many healing qualities in spices which is why many Ayurvedic recipes tend to saute spices with ghee first.
Leafy greens might have the same qualities of Vata – dry, light and rough but cooking with ghee and spices will balance Vata.
Add 2 tablespoons of ghee and spices such as fresh ginger, ground coriander and cumin with sea salt and cook until greens are soft and tender.
If you eat apples or pears, make sure to cook them and avoid eating raw.
In terms of drinks, Vata needs to stay warm so sipping warm water throughout the day would be good and avoid drinking iced cold water or beverages.
And in the morning after brushing your teeth and scraping your tongue (if this is part of your daily morning routine), have a glass of warm water with a squeeze of half lemon.
Vata Pacifying Tastes (Rasa)
It’s also advisable to include more sweet, sour and salty tastes in your food and avoid pungent, bitter and astringent tastes.
Examples of food that have a sweet taste are sugar, honey, rice, milk, cream, butter, bread and grains.
Examples of food that have a sour taste are lemons, limes, cheese, fresh yogurt, tomatoes, plums, acidic fruits and vinegar.
Example of food that have salty taste are sea salt, sea vegetables and celery.
Spices to Balance Vata
Warming spices are great for autumn and balancing Vata. So add cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamon, fennel, cumin, mustard seeds and hing (assafetida) to your food. This will also prevent any digestion issues that Vata types tend to get, as well as anxiety, dry skin, or insomnia.
Food to avoid
Avoid food that have the same qualities with Vata – dry, light, cold and rough.
In general, Vata types should avoid or have less raw, cold dry foods like salads, raw vegetables, smoothies, juices, crackers and any drying snacks even when you are not seeing any symptoms of Vata imbalances, especially in Vata season.
If you are seeing any of the signs and symptoms of Vata imbalance I mentioned earlier, I recommend avoiding all the raw, cold and dry foods completely for a few weeks and see how difference that make you feel.
Example of dry foods are chickpeas (black chickpeas are fine), lentils and kidney beans and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
Now, this can be difficult for Vata at the beginning as Vata types tend to love eating raw foods, chickpeas and cauliflower and drink smoothies everyday since they are more health conscious. But raw foods are too difficult for Vata to digest and dry beans and cruciferous vegetables are too drying for Vata.
If you love chickpeas, have black chickpeas or mung beans instead.
I also recommend avoiding coffee as it’s drying, but if you do have a cup of coffee, don’t have it first thing in the morning and have it mid morning, and add ground cardamom to your coffee as cardamom reduces the acidity in the coffee.
The major need for Vata is regularity.
Maintaining a regular routine, for example eating 3 meals a day at a regular time is very important for Vata.
Remember to sit down without any distraction (no sitting in front of your computer or TV, scrolling your phone, or reading!) and make sure to chew your food well (at least 20 times or until it is liquid in your mouth!).
Also going to bed at the same time every night (ideally by 10pm) and waking up at the same time every morning (ideally between 5 to 6am) is very important for Vata.
If you have trouble sleeping, take a warm bath, listening to calming music or do a short meditation or Yoga Nidra before bed.
Make sure you avoid any intense exercises and any activities that cause sensory overload in the evening. Also switch your phone to flight mode an hour before bed!
To quieten a busy Vata mind, it is important for Vata to take time for grounding, self-nurturing and quiet reflection. A regular massage by a loved one or therapist or self-massage with warm organic sesame oil is very nourishing for Vata.
A daily walk in nature is great for Vata as well, especially after a meal to aid digestion.
Exercise intensity should be moderate. Avoid strenuous and frantic activities such as the dynamic styles of Yoga and opt for more meditative and slower paced yoga, Tai chi and walking.
And finally, make sure to wrap up warm when it’s cold and windy outside!
Practicing Yoga during autumn
The natural tendency for Vata types is to focus on air and space qualities and love movement and flowing poses, such as Vinyasa Yoga. But what Vata needs the most is slow, grounding and calming practice, where you hold the poses for as long as 20 to 25 breaths, and moving mindfully through sequences such as slow paced sun salutation.
Vata also needs strengthening so long holding in the poses will help develop strength and stability.
Recommended Yoga Poses for Vata
- Grounding & Stability: standing postures
- Heating internal organs and lower back: forward bends and gentle backbends on the belly. Forward bends are also great for calming the nervous system
- Digestive & Circulatory system: Inversions
- Digestive system & nervous system: spinal twists
- Quieting mind: balancing postures
- Focus on pelvis, hip & thigh areas to release tension
Pranayama (Breathing Exercise) to balance Vata
Vata types already have lots of air in their body so dynamic breathing could make them dizzy, so calming and warming pranayama is best for Vata.
The best pranayama you can practice daily is Slow Anuloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing) as it’s calming and cleanses the mind.
Bhramari, bumble bee breathing and slow kapalabhati is also good for Vata.
Meditation to balance Vata
Meditation for Vata should be grounded and involving something to look at or touch. So meditations on nature is really great for Vata. You can also meditate on an object for example rose quartz crystal or a plant. If you are new to meditation, it’s best to start with a 3 – 5 minute short meditation!