Fall is a time of transition as green leaves turn into beautiful hues of red and gold in preparation for winter. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief as the soothing cool breeze of fall dispels the stifling summer heat… well, not everyone! For some people, fall is that time of the year when we keep falling ill and spend weeks or even months feeling absolutely lousy. If you experience this year after year, it’s probably because you’re a vata individual.
According to Ayurveda, there are three basic biological energies (doshas) in all of us that govern our bodily constitutions. Vata is associated with coolness and dryness, which is why vata individuals are more affected by the weather changes in fall and are also more likely to suffer from common autumn ailments. Lifestyle changes that include the opposite qualities (hot and moist) can help to restore a vata imbalance and keep you healthy this fall.
Dosha Balancing Modifications for Fall
Balancing your doshas is not as complicated as you might imagine – all you need to do is make a few diet and lifestyle changes. These changes are aimed at lowering vata, which will help keep your doshas in balance.
According to Ayurveda, the best time to wake up is approximately one and a half hours before dawn; this is called brahma muhurtha. If this is not an option for you, decide on a specific time to wake up and keep it to within an hour of sunrise. Ayurveda stresses the importance of proper cleansing, so don’t rush through your morning ablutions.
Couple enjoying a healthy fruit snack
- Have a wash as soon as you wake up – rinse your face with warm water and then gently wash your eyes. Massage your eyelids using circular motions, then blink seven times and rotate your eyes clockwise and anti-clockwise and splash your face with water once again.
- Practice oil pulling (gundusha) – this ancient Ayurvedic technique improves oral health and extracts ama (toxins) from the body so that they can be easily expelled.
- Regularize bowel movements – Vata imbalances often manifest as bloating, constipation, and hard stools, especially in the fall. Regular evacuation can help to curb this problem so make it a daily habit.
- Keep warm – have a warm shower, as this will help to balance the coolness of vata. Follow this up with a light but warming breakfast before you leave for work. Drink a cup of freshly brewed cinnamon, cardamom or ginger tea after lunch as these are hot spices that balance vata.
Leave from work on time so that you can go for a run or hit the gym before heading home. Exercise on a daily basis as this will help to decrease excess vata and keep your doshas balanced. Have a warm shower when you get home, but make sure that you use a natural body lotion once you are done as this will prevent dry skin problems – a common complaint in vata individuals.
The type of food you eat plays a large role in your dosha balance. You may have noticed that you tend to feel more lethargic and listless after you’ve had a large meal of beans with mashed potatoes – this is because these foods aggravate vata. Don’t skip meals but instead include healthy oily foods like avocados in your diet.
|For lunch and especially for dinner, try to include a bowl of warm soup or broth. This will help counter both the cooling and drying influence of vata.||Salads may be healthy, but limit your intake of raw vegetable salads, especially chilled salads.|
|Consume more veggies like carrots, peas, beets, asparagus, and sweet potatoes, as they will help to pacify vata.||Avoid cucumbers, celery, zucchini and similar veggies than have a high water content because of their cooling effect.|
|Include foods with naturally sweet, sour, and salty tastes.||Avoid or limit your intake of foods with bitter and astringent tastes.|
|Use generous amounts of ghee (clarified butter) and healthy oils while cooking as this will help to prevent vata imbalances.||Restrict your consumption of dry foods like dried fruits, dry cereal, dry oats, corn, tapioca, most beans with the exception of mung and red beans, popcorn, and other drying foods.|
|Use vata pacifying herbs and spices like cloves, black pepper, cumin, fennel, ginger, garlic, paprika, oregano, and turmeric.||Restrict your use of vata aggravating spices and herbs like fenugreek, neem, horseradish, and cayenne pepper.|
Do not drink water with your lunch as this will dilute your stomach acids and impede digestion. However, sweet lassi is an excellent lunchtime beverage. After your lunch, you can treat yourself to a healthy dessert such as rice pudding or have a bowl of sweet and sour fruits such as oranges, grapes, cherries, peaches, plums, and mangoes. Do not eat fruit along with your meals as this can result in ama (the build-up of toxins) in the body. In addition to your dietary changes, drink warm water throughout your day to support your digestive fire (agni) and balance vata.
Yoga & Physical Activity
At the end of your workday, you feel physically tired as well as mentally exhausted, which is why you often skip your workouts. Mental fatigue is associated with an imbalance in vata, but daily exercise will help to mitigate vata and reduce mental stress. Moderate to high intensity workouts in the mornings and evenings will not only help to improve your physical and mental health, but also reduce sleep problems such as insomnia, which are common in vata individuals.
Man running outdoors
Vata qualities include cold, light, and rough, so pranayama techniques with opposing qualities help to prevent and treat this type of dosha imbalance. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate nostril breath) is rhythmic, soothing, and grounding and is one of the best techniques for balancing and harmonizing vata.
Some of the best yoga poses for vata imbalances include Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar), Thunderbolt pose (Vajrasana), Cat/Cow pose (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana), and the Warrior poses (Virabhadrasana 1 & 2). These yoga asanas are ideal for vata individuals as they focus on warmth and nourishment.
Quick Fixes for Vata Aggravation
In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, you can also use natural Ayurvedic herbs and formulations to prevent and treat vata imbalances. Ashwagandha, amalaki, and bhringaraj supplements will help to pacify vata, so you can take one of these on a regular basis to balance your doshas during the fall months.
Ayurvedic formulations such as triphala encourage dosha balance, as well as improve digestive and circulatory function. Keep in mind that Ayurvedic herbs and formulations can help to prevent and treat vata imbalances, but lifestyle and dietary changes are necessary to ensure that they have the desired effect.
- Lad, Vasant. Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing. Lotus Press, 1984.
- Tiwari, Maya. Love Your Body Type The Ayurveda Way. 1st ed., Mother Om Media, 2012.
- Cavanagh, Danny, and Carol Willis. Essential Ayurveda: A Practical Guide to Healthy Living. Ayurveda UK, 2004.
The information on this page has been contributed by Meghna Unhawane, B.Sc. Home Science & Nutrition and is intended for the sole use of Allayurveda. Information contained within this article may not be reproduced without the explicit permission of Allayurveda.