I can’t tell you how happy I am that we’re right on the cusp of my favorite time of year: Fall! Even though we’re still in the middle of the high heat of summer, I’ve already started to feel the shift in my bones and have started to adjust my diet and self-care practices accordingly.
In Ayurveda, fall is Vata season. Vata corresponds to the elements of Air and Space, so think of it like the wind: its qualities are dry, rough, light, cold, and mobile. Vata comes from the Sanskrit word vaayu, which means “that which moves things.” Vata governs all movement in the mind and body and is, therefore, responsible for all our biological processes, like respiration, digestion, circulation, elimination, speech, physical activity and regulation of the nervous system.
As Vata increases, in both our outer and inner worlds, we may start to notice aggravated symptoms of dryness, roughness, lightness, coldness and agitation in the body, such as dry skin, constipation, gassiness or bloating, stiffness in the joints, insomnia, anxiety, and trouble concentrating.
We balance Vata with its opposing qualities. Here are some examples:
Warm – Eat more warm, cooked foods (as opposed to the raw salads, fruit and juices that the body thrives on in the heat of summer). Make sure you stay warm as it starts to get cold outside.
Oily – Add a heathy dose of high quality fats to your food, like nuts, seeds, avocado and healthy oils like olive or coconut – this is especially important with foods or dishes that are drier in nature (like grains). Massage sesame, almond or coconut oil onto the body (I like to do this about 10 minutes before I shower so that the oil has time to soak into the body before I rinse it off, but you can also do this before bed) to combat dry skin.
Regularity – Since Vata has such a mobile, irregular nature, it’s really important to balance Vata with the rhythm of routine. Try to wake up, go to bed, and eat your meals at the same time each day.
Grounding – Since Vata is light and mobile and can cause hyperactivity in the mind and overstimulation of the nerves, it’s really easy to feel spacey, distracted, anxious, scattered, stressed out or disconnected from our bodies. On a physical level, it’s helpful to eat heavier, more grounding foods, such as root vegetables, grains, meat (if you eat it) and nuts, and to participate in more gentle, soothing physical activity like yoga or walks in nature (these kinds of activities calm the nervous system, instead of aggravating it). On a mental/spiritual level, it’s important to make time to ground yourself through meditation, breathing exercises, creative expression or other self-care rituals (I love a good Epsom salt bath and a warm herbal latte in the evening).
Just this morning, as I was heading to the coffee shop to write this newsletter, I was reminded of the importance of grounding Vata. I was so busy thinking about all the things I had to do today as I got in my car that I accidentally slammed by head into the doorframe--hard enough to need stitches. If I had been more present and aware of my surroundings—or if I had paused before I left my house this morning to take a few deep breaths and focus my energy and intention for the day—I might have avoided this extra hassle. So learn from my mistake! It’s when we’re most distracted and ungrounded that little mishaps and accidents happen.