Dear readers, I’m excited to share with you today our very first guest post from the lovely and multi-talented, Sharyn Greenberg! To find out more about Ayurveda, living with the seasons and how your personal dosha impacts your health, come to Sharyn’s workshop, The Basics of Ayurveda: The Elements and Your Dosha, this Sunday (11/18) from 4-6pm. You can read more and register here.
If you’ve ever felt frazzled and blown about during these autumn months, then you already know that seasonal changes have a profound effect on the body, mind and spirit! Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, advocates living in tune with the seasons: eating seasonal food, engaging in appropriate exercise and reflecting on the energies that are most abundant during a specific time of year. With this wisdom, we are able to take a profound and active role in staying healthy and happy despite the winds of change.
Autumn is ruled by the air and space elements, a combination Ayurveda refers to as vata, which has cold, light, dry, rough, and moving qualities. Vata is responsible for all the mobility within the body such as elimination, respiration, nerve impulses, thoughts and even speech. Vata is one of three doshas (your physical and mental constitution) and it’s the one that goes out of balance the easiest, leaving you vulnerable to discomfort, scattered thoughts and at a greater risk of getting sick.
Consider the following scenario:
You wake up feeling sore and achy, as though you tossed and turned all night. Before your eyes even open, a laundry list of things to do floods your mind. You think about going to a morning yoga class, but instead go to make coffee and do some light cleaning and before you know it, you’ve missed the class. Sit down for breakfast? Who has time for that?! You contemplate the quickly approaching holiday season… the mind jumps nervously from one idea to the next. Eventually, you make your way outside, feel the cool air against your skin as brown and orange leaves swirl around your feet. Your skin feels dry and you wish you’d remembered to throw the hand lotion in your bag. Good thing you brought a jacket, it’s chilly!
If this sounds like your typical morning, it’s time to reign in your aggravated vata dosha! Below are a few tips to help pacify the seasonal uproar:
1. Eat warm, nourishing meals. Good breakfast ideas are warm grain cereals (oats or quinoa) cooked with an apple and cinnamon and topped with ghee. Soups are great for later in the day, as well as lightly steamed seasonal vegetables. Autumn brings all sorts of delicious produce: leafy greens, squash, persimmons and leeks, to name a few. Visit your local farmer’s market and explore new ways of cooking. If you like raw food, try adding spices to warm you up and activate digestion. Avoid foods and beverages that are ice cold. Some herbs to keep on hand and use throughout the season include: pepper, ginger, nutmeg, chili pepper, cinnamon and clove.
2. Take time to rest. As mentioned earlier, vata controls movement and too much movement (physical or mental) can aggravate the dosha, causing you to feel worn out and depleted. Set aside a few minutes every day to sit in stillness and take deep, full breaths. Get enough sleep at night so you wake up feeling rested. Remember, rest is key to avoiding sickness.
3. Practice self-massage. In India, the practice of abhiyanga (self-massage) is performed daily or even twice a day. It’s a great way to nourish the skin and protect it from dryness while allowing toxins to slide off rather than penetrate the body. Massage also stimulates the lymphatic system which boosts immunity. Use sesame oil (not toasted!) Apply generously over the entire body, even the head, scalp, and especially the feet. Let the oils settle into the skin for a few minutes before taking a warm shower or bath.
4. Move! Vata is calmed by heat. Engage in physical activity to create internal heat. Take a brisk walk around your neighborhood, choose the stairs over the elevator, head to the studio for a yoga class. Just be careful not to over-do it! In your yoga practice, flowing through vinyasas is great but also try holding poses longer as a way to ground the body and mind.