Fall is such an exciting time of year in New England. Unlike many parts of the world, we get to experience a transitional season, accompanied with explosions of color in Maple and Oak trees. September 23rd marks the Autumnal Equinox where the sun crosses the equator moving southward and summer releases its grip on heat and humidity. The air becomes crisp, cool, and dry. Fruits like strawberries and blueberries are gently phased out by Mother Nature as she replaces them with squashes and apples. The sun begins to set earlier and a new biorhythm is established.
According to Ayurveda, India’s natural holistic medical system, this is the time of year where the elements of Ether (space) and Air are dominant, expressing their qualities of lightness and mobility inspiring a breath of insight and discovery. Known as the mind-body principle called “Vata”, this energy expresses Sattvic qualities such as creativity, truthfulness, purity, and joy. Yet when unbalanced, Vata can deliver a whirlwind of change and instability in our lives leaving us feeling distracted, anxious, or fearful. In our physical bodies, the excess Air element begins to dry us out bringing about constipation, bloating, or gas. Painful or stiff joints, tooth sensitivity, ringing of the ears, and vertigo are another signs of excess Vata.
So when New England experiences a two-month period of transition in season, it can sometimes be a wild ride. We dress in layers prepared for a wide variety of temperatures and “Yes, one of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it.You are only certain there is going to be plenty of it” (Mark Twain, 1873). Lucky for us, Ayurveda provides guidelines for how to stay in synch with Nature’s biorhythms, and in doing so, we are better equipped to keep Vata from accumulating in excess.
Below are some of those guidelines to prepare for Autumn and strengthen your immunity as we head into the new season. Consider them a starting point, from which to experiment with. I recommend picking what’s easiest to integrate into your daily life right now, and sticking to it as a routine. Your routine. Your ritual.
Tips for Staying Balanced
- Revise and Restock Your Pantry. Replace dry, light foods like tortilla chips or rice cakes for heavier grains like rice, quinoa or wheat.
- Phase our raw fruits and veggies, leaning more towards warm, cooked, and moist foods. Think “steamed & stewed” instead of “roast & toast.” If you’re going to roast, add some extra cooking oil like clarified butter or olive oil. Favor sweet, salty, and sour tastes and muscle up your dishes with warming seasonings like ginger and garlic.
- Consider a 7-day mono-diet of kitchari to reset the digestive system and prepare it for processing heavier foods by seeking fat (vs. sugar) to burn for fuel.
- Add chywanaprash to your pantry and take a teaspoon of it each morning (you can get chywanaprash here). This sweet jam is made from several fruits high in antioxidants and Ayurvedic herbs that boost the immune system and strengthen vitality. *Diabetics, use care. There is a high sugar content.
- Create a daily routine and stick to it, especially around mealtimes and bedtimes. Routine is a grounding and establishing one provides a solid anchor for the airy and light Vata. Compliance is the most important part of any new practice.
- Replace your minty toothpaste by making your own using bitter or astringent herbs. Dr. Vasant Lad recommends mixing equal parts neem powder with either kushta, bilva, or lohdra (an ancient bark known to strengthen the gums and fight gingivitis) and brushing your teeth as usual. Commercial toothpastes containing these Ayurvedic herbs are also available in most natural food stores or Ayurvedic suppliers.
Kris Quinones is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Yoga Instructor specializing in pain and stress management, and Ayurvedic treatments. She is a member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, and founder of Rasayana, LLC, an Ayurvedic treatment and education practice in Davis Square, Somerville. For more Ayurvedic tips and tools for healthy living, sign up for her monthly eNewsletter on her website, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.