The seasons continually flow from one to the next. The natural world has a profound effect on our bodies and minds. Ayurveda’s seasonal routines, known as ritucharya, are designed to promote health and counteract any imbalances that may be caused by seasonal changes.
Summer’s energy is upward and outward. There is so much to do as we take advantage of the warm weather and longer periods of light. However, that momentum is often not sustainable as we transition into autumn. Autumn invites us to slow our pace, to be more gentle with ourselves, and return to a more regular routine.
In Ayurvedic terms, the energetic force most prevalent at this time is Vata, which is governed by ether and air. In the body, Vata regulates the nervous system, the level of moisture in the body, how relaxed we may feel, and how well we digest our food. Imbalances that may arise when Vata is in excess are coldness of limbs, dry skin, constipation, gas, bloating, anxiety, fear, or insomnia.
Ayurveda is often coined as the art of living with awareness. The qualities of cold, rough, dry, light, erratic, and mobile increase during this time. We see this in how the plants are becoming brown and dry as they return to the earth. The erratic and mobile quality shows itself in the brisk morning and evening winds, and the whirl of falling leaves.
In living with awareness, we recognize that opposites balance. To stay balanced and healthy, pacify Vata through the autumn season by cultivating that which is warm, soft, moist, stable, and regular.
- Rise early in the morning with gratitude while the world is yet still and calm. Brush your teeth, scrape your tongue, and drink a cup of warm water.
- Enjoy abhyanga, Ayurveda’s warm oil massage with an herbalized oil or sesame oil. Long strokes over long bones and circles over the joints. Spend some time relaxing to let the oil soak in, then take a warm shower.
- Apply or diffuse grounding and relaxing essential oils such as clary sage, lavender, frankincense, geranium, jatamansi, myrrh, neroli, sandalwood, or vetiver.
- Practice yoga that is grounding and relaxing, alternate nostril breathing to balance the nervous system and morning meditation to orient to the timeless stillness within.
- Eat a warm breakfast.
- Allow lunch to be your largest meal of the day.
- Avoid foods that are dry such as crackers and popcorn, raw vegetables such as salads, iced drinks, smoothies, and fermented or processed foods.
- Cook with warming spices such as black pepper, black mustard seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, curry, ginger, and turmeric.
- At the end of the day make an ojas boosting drink to calm and settle.
- Avoid screens two hours before bed.
- For the most restorative sleep, settle into bed with lights turned out by 10 pm.
- The best you can, maintain a regular schedule of waking/sleeping, mealtimes, and work.