Ayurveda is the ancient science of India that teaches we are all a part of Nature. As Nature, we are in a living relationship with everything around us. Each moment, we are being affected by everything in our environment. By recognizing environmental influences and adjusting our lifestyle accordingly, we can create a healthy balance within our being.
Nature remains in balance through opposites. Light roots take hold in the heavy Earth. An active day must be followed by deep sleep. Ayurveda teaches that there are 20 universal qualities composed of pairs of opposites: heavy-light, dull-sharp, cold-hot, oily-dry, smooth-rough, liquid-dense, soft-hard, stable-active, subtle-gross and clear-cloudy.
As Nature, we are subject to the same universal laws that like qualities increase like and opposite qualities balance. In the midday heat of a summer day, for example, the hot quality of the blazing sun increases our own temperature – like increases like. If we are frantically running around town doing errands, eating a drive-by burrito in the car will not calm our anxiety like a quiet, sit-down meal at home – opposites balance.
FALL SEASON AND VATA
Fall season, especially in the New Mexico mountains where we live, is the perfect expression of what is called Vata in Ayurveda. Vata is the energy of movement composed of the air and space elements. It expresses the qualities dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, active and clear. These qualities are apparent in the Fall as the temperature start to drop, the earth and air become drier, plants freeze and dry up, the winds blow and animals either migrate or move underground. Nature begins Her inhalation of life from summer into winter.
These environmental changes can affect our physical and mental bodies. As the wind blows, we may experience anxiety and disturbed sleep. Our skin may become as dry and rough as the cracked earth. We can get cold hands and feet as the cold enters our circulation. Fall is a time when many Vata aggravations occur such as cracking joints, sciatica, spasms, anxiety, arthritic pain, constipation and insomnia. The current state of our health is usually an accurate indication of how balanced we are with Nature.
WHAT TO DO?
By following Natural law, we can maintain balance within ourselves by applying opposite qualities to those present at this time. Keeping a regular routine is the best way to stabilize Vata’s constant mobility. Fall is the time to slow down with warm tea, meditation, gentle yoga, hot baths and plenty of sleep. It is important to stay warm and protect oneself from the wind. Like Mother said, dress warm, cover your ears and neck and do not go out in the cold with a wet head. According to Ayurveda, warm sesame oil is the perfect remedy for Vata. Self-oil-massage before a hot bath or shower can balance out the dry and cold qualities and shield us from the elements.
Drinking a large amount of warm water upon waking in the morning will re-hydrate the body and get the bowels moving. Ginger tea is a great beverage choice to stay warm and to keep the blood circulating all the way down to the toes. Hot milk before bed can help calm the nerves and overcome insomnia. Incorporating a good dose of healthy oils into the diet helps lubricate dryness from the inside. Warm, mushy, well-cooked foods will balance the cold, dry, rough qualities of the season. Lightness in the body and mind can be balanced with eating heavier foods like organic dairy products, grounding root vegetables, nut butters, heavy grains and fresh-harvested winter squash. To encourage proper digestion and warmth, cook with spices like ginger, garlic, pepper, fennel, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and salt.
And chai? Well, the change of season, upcoming holidays and cold winds are likely to take their toll on the nervous system, so cutting down on excessive caffeine intake can help promote calm. But sitting down and slowly sipping an extra-warming cup of milky, gingery masala chai with some cardamom and cinnamon (and a little less tea) can be the best medicine to keep our internal fires burning warm and bright through the cold seasons. By practicing awareness of the external influences in our life, we can attune our diet and lifestyle to reflect a balance with the One.