Autumn is such a gorgeous season. In Ayurvedic terms it is characterised with degeneration, endings and the beginning of turning a new leaf (see what I did there?)
Although we hold onto the heat of summer, by October its fair to say that we are in the cold, dry and light days alternating with damp, cold and heavy days, especially here in the UK. The ayurvedic qualities of autumn are generally Vata. Vata is a dosha (combination of qualities) comprised of the qualities of coldness, dryness, lightness, irregularity, roughness and constantly changing.
So it is not surprise that we naturally gravitate to warmth, pumpkin spiced everything and crave the comforting, nurturing, grounding foods like oatmeal, stews, soups. Ayurveda is folk medicine, because it literally can be practiced in the home, anytime by anyone. All it takes is some small steps of awareness into your body and connecting with it daily to really meet its needs. When the body, mind & spirit are in balance, health is an inevitable result.
Want some autumnal revitalisation? Read on, baby!
- Get Outside – Those of you who follow me on instagram know I have a massive thing about getting into nature. It is so important that we wrap up warm and get into the outdoors so that we can let the autumn dryness and coldness into the body. As we let this air in, we balance the qualities left from summer, the oily and the hot. You may hear the term of ‘catching a cold’; well, if you don’t keep warm, then yes, opportunist rhinovirus will jump into your system. If you keep focused on helping the body through autumn, you will avoid this completely and sail through autumn without a cough or sneeze.
- Take Extra Rest – As the body tries to conserve heat, by directing blood away from the skin and deeper to the organs, we may find our skin paler, greyer and less lush and vibrant as the summer. This is why wearing hats and extra jumpers will help keep you warm so your feet and hands don’t turn purple and your face doesn’t look like one of the Adams family… unless thats the look your going for, of course! So your muscles may feel more tired, due to this lack of circulation and blood. You can really use this to your advantage by resting more and keeping the internal organs nourished and regenerating, think of turning a new leave within the body.
- Get aware of how season affects you – For Pitta individuals (hot, oily) the autumn is a huge relief from the overheating of summer. For Kapha (cold, slow, oily) the autumn is revitalising but we have to be super careful not to get too cold or too slow or we will really drop the metabolism and even gain weight. For Vata people (qualities mentioned above) we must really work hard not to become too dry, cold as this can cause illness. For vata people especially, the autumnal wellness is absolutely key to health. Don’t know your dosha? Try Joyful Belly’s Dosha Quiz.
- Watch out for Overeating – Whilst it’s true that we produce more amylase (starch digesting enzyme) in the winter, it’s not an excuse to go awol on the pumpkin spiced bread on porridge on carb combo. Blood is rushing away from the skin and into the core and yes, we need to eat some sweeter foods to balance that vata autumn climate and bring more fat onto the body. However, kaphas especially, you have to be super careful with those sweet cravings or the weight can pile on! Pitta people will be super ravenous, but actually, you can get away with it with your high metabolism, so eat well. Vata people will find their digestion still week, BUT their appetite stronger so a good step to take is to try drinking warm water with a pinch of salt, some ginger and lime before a meal as a digestif.
- Skin – Autumn cold, dry wind can dry up the skin and it can become rougher and dryer. Even the digestion can become rough, dry and constipation can come alongside skin conditions such as eczema. Perform abhyanga (oil massage) with an organic oil such as coconut for pitta, sesame for vata or jojoba for kapha. Use organic because nothing put on the skin is detoxified by the liver. If you are unsure of your dosha, use jojoba oil, this is great for everyone. Avoid caffeine and swap for warming herbal teas such as vanilla chai, lemon & ginger or turmeric teas.
- Sleep – Vata individuals or those with pathological lightness, may really find that they have greater levels of insomnia. Something that helps with this is to increase good quality oils in the diet, such as organic ghee, coconut oil or sesame. Add to evening meal a good quantity of oil if you’re vata or pitta. Kaphas, be careful as oil can be very anabolic (add mass).
- Routine – To aid sleep and to balance the changeable, light nature of Autumn, routine is key. The nervous system is more likely to get frazzled, so routine helps the natural cycles of the body to settle. The subconscious LOVES routine and patterns, and this goes to when you wake each day, to when you sleep each day, to when you exercise and when you eat. If you don’t have a good routine yet, then my advise, add one thing a week, as it really is key for your health.
- Exercise – Since the nervous system is prone to becoming frazzled and overstimulated, try to be gentle with yourself, trading overstimulating exercise for grounding and nourishing practices. Think slow, strong weight lifting, slower yoga, yin yoga, dance or walking.
- Create time for affection and connection with friends – Do your best to do things with friends such as craft nights, pumpkin carving nights, walks with friends, bonfires, coffees with friends that make you feel lovely and warm. This way you are going to feel soothed in your nervous system and also some warm familiarity in the cold, changeable autumn climate.
- Food for Autumn – Warm, nourishing, oily, heavy foods bring comfort and help the ojas (immunity) build, whilst also soothing autumnal anxieties and providing comfort and nurturing the mind.
Sour tastes – a squeeze of lemon on your cooked food help keep digestion strong.
Warm Foods – Bone broths, stews, soups, warm roasted root veg. Add warm nourishing oils like organic ghee or coconut oil to meals. Try Joyful Belly’s Almond Date Shake for a morning warmer, so good.
Avoid Spicy foods – Although you may think spicy is good, actually it can dilate the blood vessels, taking heat away from the body and bringing more coldness. Gravitate to soothing gentle spices like turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cloves, cardamom, cumin, asafoetida & cinnamon.
Herbs – anything that soothes and grounds such as ashwaganda, dashamoola (amazing!) & cinnamon. Cinnamon is especially awesome as it boosts circulation, liquifies and moves congestion from the lungs and its demulcent nature soothes the throat.
I hope you have found this useful! Let me know your pumpkin-spiced tips for autumn. I totally cannot wait to hear them!!!
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