Fall is upon us, with temperatures dropping, the wind gusting, and nature moving from it’s outward expression into a state of dormancy. Light is decreasing as darkness grows, with the days becoming shorter and nights longer. As nature around us is “dying,” traditionally fall is a time to celebrate and honor death, which is evident through the traditional holidays of this time of year: Halloween, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos, All Saints’ Day…even parts of the Hindu Festival of Lights, known as Diwali, celebrate death.
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian healing system that teaches us how to live in harmony with each season in order to support longevity…staving off our inevitable death as long as possible. According to Ayurveda, fall is the season of Vata dosha, the principle of movement that is associated with the elements of air and space. These are the elements that will eventually dry out our body’s tissues, leading to decay and death. As such, during this time of year we are much more prone to imbalances of these elements, such as gas and bloating, aches and pains, dry skin, and feeling stressed out. With the mobile, light, dry, rough, and cold qualities in the atmosphere, we can achieve and maintain balance through grounding, stable, moistening, nourishing, and warming foods and lifestyle practices.
This time of year, more than any other time, is the season where self-nourishment is especially important. Lately I’ve been enjoying my favorite fall comfort foods, such as butternut squash apple soup, apple crisp, pumpkin chai, and traditional chai. All of these foods are moistening, grounding, unctuous, and warming. During the fall, it’s best to favor well-cooked, seasonal vegetables, soups and stews, beneficial oils such as ghee and sesame oil, casseroles, and easy to digest one-pot meals. Crock-pot cooking is one of my favorite things about this time of year.
Additionally, I’m supporting my body’s tissues through more frequent oil self-massage, a practice called abhyanga, that keeps the nervous system calm and stress-free, the bodily tissues hydrated and nourished, and enhances good quality sleep.
Alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana, is my favorite breathing practice (pranayama) this time of year because it keeps the mind balanced and calm and helps me stay grounded and centered. For yoga postures, I’m focusing on standing poses, hip openers, and forward bends, which all help to pacify vata dosha.
These foods and practices enhance stability, groundedness, lubrication, and support, all of which encourage a relaxed nervous system and a strong immune system, and will be sure to keep you healthy and strong all winter long.