How to stay grounded during vata season13 October 2019
Autumn is here: the season of falling leaves, grey skies and pumpkin spice. The autumn season is, like spring, a time of transition. As the days get colder and the leaves are slowly turning all kinds of yellow, red and brown, we are officially saying goodbye to the warm and bright days of summer, and start preparing ourselves for the darkness of winter. All around us, we can notice how the air gets a bit more crisp and colder every day, and we can feel how the weather becomes more erratic, with strong winds that move the dry, fallen leaves through the air, creating tiny whirlwinds. According to the ancient science of ayurveda, we can observe these same cold, dry, rough, and windy qualities of autumn in ourselves in the manifestation of the vata dosha.
Vata is one of the three doshas (biological energies) in ayurveda. It is made up of the elements ether and air, governing all movement in the mind and the body. Given that the other two doshas (pitta and kapha) cannot move without it, vata is often understood to be the most important dosha. The qualities of vata are dry, rough, light, cold, subtle, and mobile. In a balanced individual, vata manifests itself in the form of creativity, activity, exuberance, and quickness of the mind. But when there is too much vata present in the body and mind, it can lead to all kinds of imbalances, including dry skin, cracking joints, constipation, insomnia and anxiety.
In late autumn and early winter, the vata energy is abundant in the atmosphere. This means that not only vata types, but every body type is more prone to vata imbalances. In order to stay healthy and balanced, ayurveda suggest to live according to a seasonal routine, called ritucharya. By making diet and lifestyle choices that fit with the current season, you will be more in tune with the natural cycles and prevent imbalances and illness. Many of these seasonal guidelines will probably make sense to you as our bodies always know what best for us. Instead of watermelon and iced tea, we will probably gravitate towards hot drinks and warm socks. Support yourself and your body with these self-care guidelines to stay grounded during vata season:
Keep yourself warm
As the weather gets colder and vata gets increasingly dominant in the atmosphere, one of the most important things is to keep yourself warm. People with a vata constitution or imbalance tend to get cold extremities or feel cold overall. The easiest way to tackle this is to invest in warm clothes and wear lots of layers. But also keep yourself warm in other ways: cover yourself in blankets, drink lots and lots of warm water or herbal tea, take warm (foot) baths, and keep your belly warm with a hot water bottle.
Eat warm and easily digesteable foods
When vata is high, there is too much “wind” in our bodies, making our digestive fire low. This dry and wind-like character of vata can manifest itself as gas, bloating, low appetite, and, worst of all, constipation. In ayurveda, a daily bowel movement is crucial for maintaining good health. In order to keep things moving, make sure to eat foods that are easy to digest. Favour foods that are warm, oily, and well-cooked, such as soups, warm oatmeal, curries, and stews. You can never go wrong with root vegetables such as pumpkin, beets, (sweet) potato, and carrot, and make sure to use a lot of warming spices, like cinnamon, cardamom, clove, cumin, and ginger. Try to minimise light, cooling, and drying foods such as salads, cabbage, raw apples, beans, popcorn, and dried fruit.
Oil it up
Ayurveda recommends massaging your body with warm oil to counterbalance the cold and dry qualities of vata. This practice of oil massage, called abhyanga, is an important part of the ayurvedic daily routine in every season, but especially so in vata season, when the body tends to get most dry. There is a whole world of ayurvedic massage oils out there, but you can start with (organic) sesame or almond oil if you want to keep it simple. You can heat the sesame oil au bain marie and then apply it generously all over the body, using long strokes. Leave it on for about 10 minutes before washing it off in the shower.
If self-massage isn’t really your thing, you can also balance out the dryness of vata by adding extra oil on top of your food. Here too, favour sesame oil instead of coconut oil. If you’re not vegan, top off your food with a teaspoon of ghee.
The vata mind is always moving: thinking about what to do, where to go, who to call, when to eat. It’s tempting to feed the monkey mind by doing a thousand things at once, but it’s important to slow down and focus on one thing at the time during vata season. If you’re a busy bee, try scheduling some rest days to consciously unwind. If you’re a notorious multitasker, see if you can be more mindful with the things that you do. By taking some time out and slowing down, you will not only be able to tame the monkey mind, but probably also feel less anxious and have better sleep.
Stick to a routine
Due to it’s windy and erratic qualities, vata tends to be all over the place. This doesn’t just express itself in the form of a monkey mind, but also in the overall lifestyle of a vata individual. For that reason, one of the most important things for someone with a vata constitution is to stick to a routine. Even though someone with a lot of vata may want to stay up late, skip meals, and go with the flow, having a regular schedule for eating and sleeping is extremely beneficial and helps to calm down the nervous system as well as improve digestion.
Practice yin yoga
As we are slowly moving to the darkest and most yin time of the year, we should also adapt our workouts to the natural cycles. Slow, gentle, and mindful types of exercises are best for the body during vata season, so it’s a great time to establish a hatha or yin practice! Gentle types of yoga such as hatha and yin help you ground and relax, and work out the body without too much strain. Yin yoga in particular can be very beneficial as it works on the joints, which need extra care during vata season.
How do you like to take care of yourself during vata season? Let me know in the comments below!