According to Indian lifestyle and medical science – Ayurveda – each season of the year has its own dominant elements, energies and qualities. Seasonal living is one of the cornerstones of Ayurveda and one of the foundations of health. Just as we switch wardrobes for each season, we are encouraged to switch daily routines, foods, herbs and supplements to support our health and well-being.
Ayurveda views seasonal junctions, Ritusandhi, as inherently vulnerable periods. During these times, usually lasting for 2-3 weeks, we are more prone to get out of balance as the weather shifts and qualities of the seasons change – and, once our immunity or resilience reservoirs get low, more prone to getting sick.
There are two key aspects to navigating any seasonal transitions with grace: mindfulness, and refilling the resilience reservoirs. Good news is that the seasonal transition is not coming up for several more weeks, so you have time to prepare!
Staying balanced during seasonal transitions requires a deeper connection with ourselves, the needs of our bodies and our changing environment. Are you starting to crave warmer and heavier, or colder and lighter, foods? Are you taking in raw foods well, or are they starting to overload your digestive system? Are you warm or cold? Is your skin getting drier or oiler? Do you have more or less energy? Are your sleep patterns shifting? Our ability to notice what is happening right now, today, vs. continuing what has worked for us through the previous season is key. You need to mindfully pay attention to what’s working for you and what’s not.
Seasonal shifts are rarely abrupt – and that’s what makes them tricky. We are phasing out foods and routines of the old season and gradually starting to incorporate the new ones, constantly testing, experimenting shifting and adapting. That is why mindfulness is key to navigating the transitions. Continuing with the seasonal wardrobe analogy: during the shift you might still keep the summer dresses out, but also pull out a light jacket and a scarf and start carrying your umbrella along with your sunglasses.
Meditation practice is training our “mindfulness muscle”. If you already have a meditation practice, it could be very supportive, especially for the early Fall. If you haven’t tried meditation, but have been curious – now is great time to start.
Our resilience/immunity are not just physical: viewing individual as a whole, Ayurveda stresses the importance of mental and emotional resilience (more on how to refill your emotional resilience reservoirs below).
To support your physical immunity Ayurveda recommends Chyawanprash: a traditional Ayurvedic herbal jam (yes, it does have sugar) of Indian gooseberry (Amalaki) and 45 other herbs and spices. I really love this one (https://www.tattvasherbs.com/wild-crafted-chyawanprash-12-oz-why-settle-for-less-than-the-best-45-herbs/), from a local Seattle company. I eat a teaspoon a day straight out of the jar. But you can use it on toast, in your oats, with yoghurt, basically, the same way you would use a jam.
Summer to Autumn Transition
If we are looking specifically at the Summer to Autumn transition, we are moving from the fiery, active Pitta (Fire + Water) season of doing and achieving to a more introspective season of Vata (Space + Air), a season of subtle, dry, rough, mobile qualities. Subtle quality of Vata is our source of creativity and connection to the world around us, but light and mobile qualities of this season could also make emotionally brittle: prone to nervousness, anxiety, feeling of being untethered and ungrounded (think of a dry autumn leaf in the wind). Our sleep can get disrupted: lighter sleep that can get interrupted in the early hours of the morning. Often we also become more sensitive to sounds and wake up at the slightest noise.
Here are some ways you can start laying the foundation for a healthy Autumn:
Start integrating more warm, cooked foods: soups, stews, curries, and other one pot meals. Add warming spices: ginger, turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg (there is folk wisdom to the pumpkin spice blend!). As we move further into the Fall, plan for these foods to become the majority of your meals, as you slowly transition the smoothies, cold and raw foods out. For more ideas, you can read my blog post on foods for fall & Vata season.
Schedule some time for creativity. If there was a class you wanted to take/skill you wanted to learn, schedule it for this Autumn! Pitta season is all about doing and planning, Vata season would be more conducive to creativity, but hectic Vatas tend to have a hard time following through, so use that organized Pitta energy to schedule everything in advance and get the supplies. Vata season could also bring up a lot of anxious energy – creative hobby or making something with your hands is a wonderful way to channel that energy into a slightly different direction.
Start a self-care list. Autumn can be exhausting and depleting (especially once we get closer to the holiday season), leaving you more brittle and less resilient. Refilling your cup becomes incredibly important. However, we often don’t know what actually refills us and fall back on the standard routine of bubble baths and massages. Wonderful as they are, they might not be what fills up and restores you. So start an actual, physical list in your journal or on your phone. If you notice that something has left you feeling rejuvenated, built up your emotional resiliency, write it down. Follow the smallest pings of joy and over time you’ll build up a larger picture, small piece by small piece. More importantly, make sure you do things from your self-care list regularly – better yet, schedule them. Don’t fall on them during hard times, make sure to refill your resilience reservoir regularly.
A warm oil massage; Abhyanga is the classical Ayurvedic treatment that could be performed by an Ayurvedic massage therapist or you can do it at home by yourself.
Warm the bottle with oil under running hot water and standing on a towel (to catch any spills) apply the oil with long strokes along the bones and circles around the joints. Allow the oil to sink in (if you are a multitasker, you can use this time to brush your teeth or put a face mask on). Take a shower in 10-15 minutes, but do not use soap, just rinse the oil off.
You can also do an express abhyanga – massage your feet with warm oil, put the socks on and go to sleep.
Traditional Ayurvedic practitioner will use oil infused with different herbs, but you can use whatever high quality oil you have at home. Sesame will be the best for Autumn, but sunflower or olive will also be good. You can add your favorite essential oils to the base oil, about 10 drops of essential oil for an oz. of carrier oil.
Traditionally Abhyanga is a part of the morning routine; however, I often recommend my clients, specially those who struggle with sleep, to do it before bed. Give it a try and see how you feel and sleep!
If this sounded like a fun dive into the lifestyle side of Ayurveda, these are exactly the subjects we discuss at an Ayurvedic Wellness Consultation. But we dive deeper into the details of how your individual constitution (combination of doshas) plays into the energy of the season and look closer at how recommendations could fit into your life, so that you actually implement the changes. E-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to enquire about an individual consultation (in-person or online) or book an Ayurvedic treatment with me at Embrace Ayurveda
Enjoy a happy and healthy Fall!
Valentina Komarova is a wellbeing practitioner based in Seattle, Washington. She helps her clients explore relations between their mind and their body through yoga, Ayurveda and Massage.