Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Staying Grounded in the Season of Change

Oct. 23, 2013

According to Ayurveda, the autumn season (roughly, September 15 - November 15) is dominated by vata dosha, which represents the cold, dry, subtle elements of Air and Space. This is a time of change, as summer transitions to winter and life begins the process of settling into a state of hibernation; the sun's light becomes weaker, the air grows colder, and days get shorter. Vata has a propensity toward instability and mobility too, as felt in the winds that rattle the tree-branches, and the leaves that change color then literally "fall", drifting and flitting down to the ground.

In fact, we can mirror the action of these leaves by embracing our own change-ability this season, and also find warmth and comfort by grounding ourselves and connecting with the Earth before winter's deep chill arrives. Ayurveda recommends that when Vata dominates, we take actions that help us stay in tune with Nature and its rhythms: a stable daily routine, for example, can help us avoid distraction and confusion, or feeling tossed to-and-fro in the airy winds of autumn. It's also important to turn inward (i.e., begin the process of digging a space to hibernate), to connect with our own inner flame and firmly establish our change-less "inner" Self  in our changing "outer" self: by connecting with that inner source of light and clarity, we feel less compelled by external sensations and less sensitive to erratic thoughts (which are tendencies of excess vata).

This two-month fall season, as stated by Bri. Maya Tiwari  in her book The Path of Practice, is a time when we "surrender" and "simplify"; as farmers harvest their crops, we too should be reaping what we've sowed in the past year. Autumn is an opportunity to slow down, reflect on our progress, take stock of our achievements and leave behind the habits or things which do not serve us. Gather the nuts and seeds that will sustain you, and stop wasting time on activities that don't support your survival or growth.  By getting a better handle on what is working in our life and what may not be, and by feeling more certain on our own two feet, we are better able to face the cold, sometimes depressing or at least insulating, darkness of the winter that lies ahead.

To balance the cold and dry aspects of the autumn season, we can add more warm, moist, well-cooked foods to our diet, and avoid excess cold, dry, astringent, and bitter foods. Fall is the time to indulge in more frequent (yet small) meals, and also heavier, sweeter, and saltier foods -- especially whole grains (such as basmati or brown rice; couscous, whole oats and wheat if no wheat/gluten allergies exist; and quinoa) cooked with spices and oils (sesame oil and ghee are highly recommended), as well as most nuts and seeds (taken lightly roasted with salt) -- to help us retain strength and nourishment through the even colder winter months that follow. Taking in plenty of fluids helps combat vata's dryness, though water alone may not be sufficient (try taking water with lemon or lime instead!); spicy herbal teas, tonics, and sour fruit juices are helpful in bringing more lubrication to dry vata.  If not following a vegan diet, one experiencing excess Vata can also indulge in certain dairy products (which are heavy, nourishing, and moistening), especially fermented ones, and dairy-based beverages, ideally taken warm or with spices to aid potentially erratic digestion. In addition, meat - in particular chicken, fish, and eggs - is said to help reduce high Vata. Please consult your primary physician before making any changes to your diet.

Finding time for calming activities - and stillness in general - is also recommended during Vata season, especially if you are a Vata type, or prone to stress or nervousness in anticipation of the winter-holiday season. Excessive vata can induce high stress and anxiety, even fear and depression as we lose touch with the stability of the earth element. To help prevent this, try incorporating a few minutes of pranayama (breath control exercises) such as anuloma viloma (alternate nostril breathing), and meditation practice (for example, focusing on a single, positive image or phrase in an attempt to establish one-pointedness in your thoughts) into both your morning and evening routines.  Making time to enhance your breath and calm your mind is of utmost importance when we are feeling sensitive, anxious, or ungrounded (i.e., distracted, fearful, or insecure).

Focus for Autumn
Your to-do list for the next month or so ~ 
  • Concentrate on bringing more warmth, moisture, comfort, and stability into your daily life. 
  • Check in with yourself about your mood, the quality of your thoughts and your energy levels throughout the day; notice what actions or food you're taking as these things shift. 
  • Create opportunities to "harvest" greater sustenance and stillness in the coming weeks, which can help you feel more calm and grounded in the face of change and transition.

For further guidance on the foods and activities that Ayurveda recommends for the autumn season or for balancing high vata dosha, please feel free to contact me.

You can also visit my web site, to learn more about how Ayurveda's system of healing works. Be sure to consult your physician before beginning any new diet or other routine.

Thanks for reading. Leave a comment below about how you intend to balance your Vata this season, and Be Well!

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