How do we manage our health during autumn? This beautiful season arrives with its dazzling colours of flaming red, shiny gold, burnt orange and burnished copper. The spectacular sun dances through the trees. It illuminates the leaves that still remain, their stunning hues lifting the spirits and increasing wellbeing. However, the sharp chill in the air is a reminder that winter is waiting in the wings.
Autumn is Vata season, when Prana, the vital breath and life essence, is abundant in the atmosphere. This time of year is typically dry, rough, windy, cold, clear and erratic- just like Vata. During this season, it is important to be aware that balancing the nature of the climate with lifestyle and nutritional adjustments is key. This is to ensure we do not succumb to any seasonal health imbalances.
When it comes to nourishment, we should favour warming, grounding foods. These introduce the opposite qualities of Vata to the body. A great choice is high protein meals, heating spices, sweet, sour and salty tastes. Mushy, soft stews and soups, and healthy oils and fats, will all ensure that Vata is kept in check.
During autumn it is not advisable to attempt any kind of fasting or dieting. It is also best to avoid raw, cold or frozen food and to keep bitter, pungent and astringent tastes to the minimum. These tastes all have the qualities of Vata. Like increases like, and these foods could easily cause the Vata principle to increase, and potentially affect our health, especially if we are already Vata dominant.
Keep chaos at bay
When it comes to lifestyle, it is important to create routine during this time of year. We should try to avoid anything erratic and chaotic (that includes chaotic people!). It is crucial to go to bed around the same time each day (the occasional variation is fine), and similarly, wake at the same time. We should take our meals in a timely manner too, thus creating a calming effect on our nervous system. Rushing around, skipping meals, and being constantly pushed for time will all vitiate the Vata principle. Our relationships and our conversations should be kind, compassionate and grounding, because when Vata is out of balance in our minds, we can become distracted, confused, nervous and irritable.
A five to ten minute self-massage with some warmed, cured organic sesame oil prior to showering is an excellent way to start the day during this season. It helps to ground us and it is also great for preventing dry and rough skin which can be common during cold weather. We should aim to nurture ourselves any time of year of course, but particularly when the climate is Vata predominant.
It is best to opt for gentle exercise during autumn; perhaps some yoga or pilates or a walk in the park. Avoiding anything too rigorous will again help to keep Vata in balance.
Sesame oil (tila taila) is the Queen of oils in Ayurveda and has been reportedly used for thousands of years. It is the oil of choice for body massage due to its amazing properties and its Vata-pacifying nature. Sesame oil is rich in linoleic acid (omega 6), anti- bacterial, anti -inflammatory and antioxidant. This healing oil reduces nervous tension and improves blood circulation. Sesame oil seeps deep into the tissues, offering soft, unctuous goodness to our whole being, whilst opening the heart chakra, which is responsible for self love and compassion for others. Try to do a self -massage as often as possible during the cold months.
Heat a small bottle of sesame oil by half immersing it in a bowl of recently boiled water for a couple of minutes.
Stand comfortably in your shower room and take a couple of teaspoons of oil. Rub it in the palms of your hands. Begin massaging your neck, shoulders and upper chest area, then your arms. Next, concentrate on the abdomen, as much of your back as possible, the upper legs and buttocks, before slowly working your way down your body. Take more oil as needed. Don’t forget the front of your feet and in between and around the toes. However, do not massage the soles of your feet during this ritual, as you might slip in the shower. Relax and breathe deeply and slowly for a couple of minutes before showering. Try and use only a little shower gel to wash, so you don’t wash away the lovely benefits of the oil.
Your skin will be smooth, warm and supple afterwards, but more importantly, you will feel invigorated, yet calm.
We are so fortunate in the UK to be able to experience the seasons. Although we all have a preferred season, we should nevertheless appreciate that there is beauty in all of them, whilst being mindful of how their qualities can affect our health and wellbeing.