What Happens When Fall Comes? As the air begins to cool and the wind picks up, there is no denying that the days are getting shorter and fall is well on its way.

The qualities of cool, dry, mobile and rough are starting to creep in to the world all around us. Autumn is the season governed by the energy of Vata dosha. As summer stretches into its last days, it is a good idea to prepare for the transition to fall.

pittaicon2As the days shorten and become more cool, agni is driven deeper into the body. Our circulation becomes more sluggish and less heat travels outwards from the core to heat the extremities. As a result, the central digestive fire actually becomes stronger.

 

In autumn and especially in winter, our body needs a healthy layer of insulating fat. Agni msut become better at transforming our food into this specialized tissue, called meda in sanskrit. It’s good for our edges to become a bit rounder at this time of year.

 

If we start now, before the fall is “officially” here to make some changes in our daily routine and diet, we might be able to prevent the dry, rough and irregular qualities of the season from seeping into our bodies and minds. Some preparation and foresight now can help us to avoid common Vata complaints such as dry skin, constipation, insomnia and anxiety.

What Can We Do?

The most-effective tool for soothing Vata is regularity. For most of us, this begins with developing a regular schedule of resting, sleeping and eating. “Smoothing-out” the rough edges of an irregular schedule helps to counteract the dry, rough, irregular qualities of excess Vata.

In fact, finding a schedule that works and sticking to it can be one of the most relaxing things we can do. This will lead to better sleep, more regular digestion and elimination and more balanced emotions.

Abhyanga, or self-massage with oil, is a wonderful practice at this time of year. In the morning before breakfast or in the evening before dinner, massage the entire body from head to toe with organic oil. At this time of year, sesame oil or olive oil are both good choices. After applying the oil, take a warm shower or bucket bath, using soap very sparingly. Pat the skin dry and allow the excess oil to soak into the skin before dressing. If you would like to add some essential oil to your base oil, frankincense, myrrh, eucalyptus, sandalwood and palo santo are all wonderful choices. They each have excellent anti-microbial effects and may help prevent winter illnesses from spreading. Add a few drops in your hand as you apply the oil to your skin.

Nasya, a preparation of oil and herbs, will keep the sinus membranes lubricated and protected. Nasya clears dullness in the mind and helps settle a frazzled nervous system. This practice should be done in the morning between 7 and 9 am. It is best to avoid getting the head wet within one hour before or after using nasya oil.

To do nasya: lay on your back with your head hanging slightly lower than your shoulders. Drip 3-5 drops of nasya oil into one nostril and snort it as deep back into the sinuses as possible while blocking the other nostril. Spit out anything that comes into your throat or mouth. Then repeat on the other side.

Yoga Practice in the Fall

If you have a yoga practice, it is especially important to emphasize poses which make you feel grounded. This should be balanced with poses which strengthen digestion by working and bringing awareness to the “core” and which create warmth and fluidity in the body. It is a good idea to hold postures for a long time to allow warmth to build and for breath to permeate the body.

Standing postures and seated postures that emphasize hip opening will make us feel more grounded and nourished. Forward bends open the earth channel and help us to start to move our energy more inward as we settle into the colder weather.

It’s important not to overdo in the fall. Everything around us starts to move a little faster, and it is a good idea not to get too caught up in it. Also, since the weather may be unpredictable day-to-day, it is important to check in with your energy level each day and respect the desire to relax when it comes up. One day a more vigorous practice may be appropriate, while the next it may not.

What Can We Eat?

It’s a good idea to cut back on dry, cold, raw foods like crackers, salads and frozen foods at this point in the year. These foods all increase Vata in our system.

Start each morning with a large glass of warm water. Ideally the water should be boiled for 10 minutes and then cooled slightly before drinking. If your digestion is slow, boil the water with a pinch each of fennel, coriander and cumin seeds or fennel and ajwain seeds (you can find ajwain at an indian grocery) or a large pinch of ginger powder. This habit will help your bowels move more smoothly and regularly. Warm, spiced water is also a great anxiety reducer and helps to re-set your natural appetite.

This is a great time of year to start using bone stock in your meals. As we move into the colder and drier days, soups and stews can make up more and more of your diet. This will keep you warm, lubricated and nourished.

For meat-eaters, this is the time of year to start re-introducing the heavier meats, like pork and beef, into the diet once a week or so. The portions don’t have to be huge—in fact 2 ounces or so may be plenty—but some of us may need a little bit almost every day.

For autumn and winter, sweet, sour and salty are the tastes that will nourish and protect our bodies and minds. Particularly sweet flavor should be emphasized. Here sweet taste indicates a predominance of earth and water element, not necessarily a predominance of sugar.

The use of pickles and recently fermented wines can also be used to support digestion when it is cold, dry and windy. Pickles that have been naturally fermented can aid in grain digestion and add a pleasant sweet, sour and salty taste to your plate. The type of wines used should be sweet in taste, indicating that the fermentation process hasn’t entirely digested the sugars. A young honey wine or a Beaujolais Nouveau would be good examples of this.

There are many foods which will help protect us against the dry wind of autumn:

  • Pears are emphasized in Chinese medicine in the fall. The texture of them helps to moisten the lungs without making them too damp. As we move towards winter, it is a nice idea to cook them with herbs.
  • Persimmons are a wonderful fall fruit. They are mild and light, help to dissolve phlegm, and reinforce the digestive energy. Persimmons are especially good when there is a heat condition in the lungs with cough.
  • Almonds reinforce the strength of the lungs. They balance all the doshas and create harmony. It is a good idea to soak them and remove the skin, as it is irritating to the mucosa of the digestive tract.
  • Turnips strengthen the lungs.
  • Astragalus and Reishii mushroom. This combination strengthens the lungs and improves immune response and the ability to fight external attack.  It also strengthens the transformation of dampness and fluids which tend to collect in the lungs.
  • Celery is a good kidney, blood, and intestinal cleanser. This is important in the autumn so that our systems are functioning well and are un-burdened as we enter into the winter.
  • Shitake mushrooms are rich in amino acids and are anti-viral and anti-tumor. They are protective of the liver and therefore, helpful in situations where the liver has been under stress (after illness, use of prescription or recreational drugs, etc.).

Reishi, astragalus and shitake mushrooms are a great addition to the stockpot for autumn and winter.

Some useful spices include:

  • Cardamom seed is wonderful in milk, stewed fruit, fruit pastries or milled wine.
  • Cumin seed lightly toasted is a great addition to grains (particularly rice) and root vegetable dishes.
  • Fennel seed is nice digestive aid which is not overly-heating. It can be used in sweet or savory dishes. It helps to reduce gas.
  • Hing (Asafoetida) is very strong smelling. It is used to reduce gas in dishes with pulses and legumes. A very small amount of it is needed. It’s strong smell dissipates with cooking. Once cooked, it has a pleasant, caramelized onion flavor.
  • Ginger can be used dried or fresh in just about anything.
  • Turmeric is a wonderful medicine. It is warming and very healing as well as anti-inflammatory and anti-depressive.
  • Garlic may be used in moderation in the winter. Roasted garlic is less pitta-provoking than sautéed or raw.
  • Sage is a digestive aid that is a great addition to dishes with root vegetables.
  • Saffron is a wonderful blood/circulation medicine. It is great in savory or sweet dishes.

 

 

 

 

 

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