According to Ayurveda and yoga, nature pulsates in rhythms and cycles – the word for this pulsation is spanda. There are cycles of the day, the month, the year and even cycles of our lives. By coming into greater alignment with these changing cycles and adapting our diet and lifestyle accordingly, we can experience the gifts that each one offers.
In order to be sensitive to the shifts inside and all around us, we have to practice deep listening. We have to attune our awareness to the subtleties of our experience, the qualities of nature, or gunas that show up in our bodies, minds and environment.
In Ayurveda, fall is the Vata time of year which is the dosha, or energy made up of the elements of air and ether. The characteristics of the fall season are cold, light, dry, rough, mobile, and subtle. Here's a few examples to anchor this in real life:
Cold – the heat of summer begins to fade and the temperature starts to drop
Light – with colder temperatures, the air feels lighter, and plants become lighter as the fullness of summer shrivels up and dies off
Dry and rough – wind moving through the leaves creates dryness and the crunchiness of the leaves is rough
Mobile – things are in motion – kids are back to school and life is moving faster than the lazy lackadaisical days of summer.
Subtle – space element abounds and brings an increased sensitivity, heightened intuition and greater access to ideas and insights. The lack of boundaries of space open us up to endless possibilities.
Using the gunas, or the descriptors of your experience, provides you with a clue on how to restore and maintain balance in your inner and outer environment. Using the simple principle in Ayurveda that like increases like and opposites balance, we can use food and practices with the opposing qualities to avoid common imbalances such as insomnia, anxiety, overwhelm, colds and flus, constipation, dry skin, stiff joints and low energy that occur in this time of year. Therefore, to stay balanced in fall, we should warm up, ground down, moisten and soften, slow down and create boundaries with steady routines.
Below are some examples of how to bring in the opposing qualities of hot, heavy, oily, static and gross into your everyday life and put the elegant principles of Ayurveda into practice.
Hot – as the weather turns cool, the internal digestive fire cools down as well. This means that digestion can be variable and imbalances such as bloating, gas and constipation can occur. Bring in the element of fire with spices! Adapt your morning smoothie by adding ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and vanilla. Trade your summer salads for well-spiced soups and stews. Spices improve digestion, assimilation and absorption so don't be afraid to pass the pepper! Ignite your digestive fire and relieve gas and bloating with "CCF" tea - ¼ t each cumin, coriander, and fennel boiled in 1.5 cups of water for 15 minutes, strain and sip.
Heavy – the light quality can make us feel ungrounded and unsupported. Root down with root veggies, winter squash and healthy fats. These deeply nourishing foods will satisfy the body, stabilize the mind and calm the nervous system. Here are some of my favorite fall salad recipes.
Oily – lube up! Moisturize your insides and your outsides with oleation. Daily oil-massage before or after bathing with insulate you from the dryness of the season and boost your immune system. Dip your pinkies is sesame oil and circle the insides of your nostrils to humidify your nasal passages and prevent colds and flus. Eat a diet richer in healthy fats with avocado, soaked chia cereal, and coconut oil to keep your insides greased up and prevent constipation.
Static – slow down. Take time for stillness every. Single. Day. Even for just 5 minutes. Stop, drop and sit. Balance your business with more being and less doing.
Gross – this one can be hard to grasp. Basically, subtle, as in the realm of ideas – more crown chakra. Gross is more root chakra – in the realm of the physical, tangible, and manifest. It's all well and good to have great ideas and visualize your dreams and goals – but are you taking real life action to make them a reality? Manifesting your dreams requires setting boundaries and creating habits around what you want. This is the time of year to clarify your intentions. The variable quality of this season makes it the easiest one to make changes and to transform. You are most adaptable in the fall so it's the best time to step forward into who you want to become. Take some time to journal the following questions:
What is it that nourishes you deeply? What three things can you do for yourself this Fall season to stay balanced physically, mentally and emotionally?
What do you value most – what 3-5 things are most important to you?
Where would you like to direct your attention this season? How will you do that?
What is no longer serving you and are ready to let go of?
If we do these practices we can lessen our tendency towards imbalances that can uproot us in the Fall season.