Fall is vata season and a season of transition from the hot, bright and extroverted summer months to the cooler and more internalizing autumn months. The qualities of fall are similar to the qualities of vata dosha, which makes this an important time to care for and balance vata dosha which may easily go out of balance during this season, or during the transition to fall (rtu-sandhi). It is also a time when pitta dosha may be accumulated in the body due to the hot summer months prior. Therefore, the general recommendation according to Ayurveda is to continue with a pitta pacifying diet and lifestyle (mainly cooling and calming, avoiding very spicy foods) until the weather cools down and gradually incorporate vata pacifying diet and lifestyle which will be discussed further.
Those of vata constitution and in the vata stage of life (60+) need to take extra care to counter the qualities of vata in the seasonal routine, diet and lifestyle. Those of pitta and kapha prakriti can take care to balance the gunas which may intensify in their constitution due to seasonal changes.
The main qualities of vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle, and mobile. We see these qualities mirrored in the fall with cool dry winds, clear blue skies (if we are fortunate to live away from sources of pollution) and dry crunchy leaves.
The main qualities to counter vata during this time are warming (ushna), unctuous (sgnidha) and slightly heavy (guru), stable (sthira) gunas.
Diet and Tastes During Fall Season:
Sweet, sour and salty balance vata. Sweet, bitter and astringent tastes balance pitta. During the fall it is best to focus on a diet that is warm, moist and nourishing. Warming spices such as ginger, cumin, fenugreek and turmeric can be added to cooking. There are many seasonal fruits and vegetables available in the fall season such as squashes, gourds, carrots, leafy green vegetables, figs, sweet apples, pears, and avocados. Milk or nut milks, whole wheat, almonds, walnuts are good additions to the diet. Ghee may be used for cooking or added in small quantities to food to increase the unctuous quality of the food. Kitchadi is a great staple for this season.
Warming teas such as ginger, licorice, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper and clove are good.
Seasonal Daily Routine – Dinararchya and Rtucharya
As the days get shorter it is good to go to bed a bit earlier than summer season, and wake up a bit earlier as well, before sunrise if possible. Following a regular routine is the best way to stabilize the mobile nature of vata. Avoiding caffeine, late nights, loud music, fast driving, and long distance travel also help to stabilize vata.
If the fall is dry in your location, it is good to practice daily or weekly abhyanga (self oil massage in the direction of the hair follicles) with sesame oil, before taking a shower. This prevents dryness of the skin and hair and reduces vata. For those prone to constipation, taking adequate hydration, fruits and vegetables, natural oils, and soaked raisins can help. Taking triphala in the morning and evening can help with digestion and elimination.
Yoga and exercise should be practiced daily, but mildly and not in excess as physical exertion and exhaustion are a main causes of vata aggravation. Yoga asanas should be done in a way that does not cause the air and ether elements to be in excess (such as excessive jumping or asanas done in quick succession), or causes body to become exhausted. Savasana should be always done after asana. Calming and soothing pranayama such as ujjai and nadi shodhana may be helpful.
The daily practice of meditation is central for maintaining health and balance and also cultivating the mind. Since fall is a time when nature begins to slow down and prepare for winter hibernation, humans also can make changes to align with this internalizing process. Finding time to be quiet and reflective, to gaze up at the sky, or to be alone in nature are ways to connect with the spacious, still and peaceful quality that fall brings. Reflecting on impermanence, cultivating creativity, writing poetry, playing and listening music can help to connect us with the larger rhythms of the cosmos of which were are a part.
The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs. Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa & Michael Tierra. 2008. Lotus Press, Twin Lakes WI.