The long summer days are now behind us as we move into autumn – a cooler, quieter time with its changing colours and shorter days. It’s a time for shedding, cleansing and turning our attention inward as we slow down and prepare for winter.
It’s important to recognise that, like nature, we also change with the seasons. Yoga and Ayurveda (the sister science of Yoga) help us to work with the shifting seasons, rather than against them. By reviewing our daily rituals – what we eat, our yoga practice and lifestyle choices – we can incorporate simple ways to support our physical, emotional and mental health as we transition into winter.
According to Ayurveda there are three doshas or body-mind constitutions – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – and almost every person has one dominant dosha. Each season is also governed by one of these three doshas, with late autumn and winter known as ‘Vata season’ (due to their qualities being characterised by Vata). Vata relates to the elements of air and space and its qualities are cold, dry, light, clear, irregular and changing – think cool autumn winds, dryness and crackling leaves!
Do you notice any of these ‘Vata’ qualities are more present within your body at this time of year? Dryer skin, or stiff joints, an increase in aches and pains and more scattered or distracted feelings in the mind? All of us are vulnerable to Vata imbalances during this time, however those who are predominantly Vata types can find autumn particularly aggravating – if you let it!
To maintain our balance during autumn Ayurveda recommends that we incorporate the opposite qualities to Vata into our daily lives – this means more warmth, moisture and heaviness. Here are some practices I follow to help you stay grounded, healthy and balanced during these cooler ‘Vata’ months;
WHAT TO EAT: Raw is out, cooked is in. Raw and cold food aggravates Vata so choose foods that are warm, cooked. Soups are ideal. Hydrate lots with water (not cold!) and teas (herbal, fresh lemon, honey, ginger). Favour root vegetables, the sweeter the better.
YOGA: Grounding, warming and slower moving. Ideally at the same time and duration each day to help induce calm. Include twists to cleanse the body and forward bends/inversions to help flush lymph/waste from the body, prepping us for winter.
BREATH: Breath work is also key for an autumn yoga practice. I choose to start my day with 5 minutes of nadi shodhana (alternative nostril breathing) which helps to purify/cleanse the body of toxins, however it’s good do anytime of day as it’s very balancing at this time of year.
LIFESTYLE: Routine’s another word for rhythm and having one will guide you through autumn with ease. Early to bed and early to rise. Get enough sleep (vital for balance). Exercise consistently, moderately. Stay warm, get your sunshine dose of Vitamin D to boost immunity. Keep skin from drying out with healthy warm oils. Take time out – a few hours of quiet during the week. Switch off. Be silent. Savour it.
And no need to do all these things at once. Try picking just a few to begin with.