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Autumn Ayurvedic advice to stay balanced

September 14, 2009

As the seasons changes, our bodies require different types of food and lifestyle factors to stay balanced. Nature won’t adapt to us so we must adapt to nature!

Autumn is predominantly a cool season when Vata dosha dominates inside and outside our bodies. Vata is predominant in the elements air and space, giving it  cold, light, dry, rough, and moving qualities. This quality of movement makes Vata the most powerful dosha, capable of aggravating Pitta and Kapha when unbalanced.

Vata is responsible for all movement in the body, nerve impulses, elimination of wastes, speech, respiration and other functions relating to movement. It’s main site is the colon, hence bloating and gas are often early signs of aggravation. Other signs include dry skin, constipation, irregular appetite, lack of sleep, stress and tiredness. As Autumn is a time when we are especially vulnerable to Vata aggravation we must take more care.

To balance Vata, focus on a diet and lifestyle that predominant in qualities opposite. Three key words are grounding, warming and routine. For example warming, nourishing, and moisturising factors offset its coldness and dryness; routine and stillness offsets its quality of movement. Its important to balance Vata all year round, especially if it is your dominant dosha. However, we all need to pay attention to Vata in Autumn.

Here are some more tips to stay balanced during Autumn and early Winter:

  1. Focus on a warming, nourishing diet, rich in oils and ghee, with spices such as ginger and cumin. Have a warm breakfast (porridge, stewed apple, quinoa pancakes), followed by soups, stews, chapattis, kitchadi (one pot rice and dhal meal- see Recipes) and lots of warm herbal teas.  End the day with warm milk with ginger, nutmeg and a little honey to help you drift off. Vata is increased by astringent, bitter and pungent flavours so avoid excess of these tastes such as raw food, dry muesli, chick peas, peas, pop corn, caffeine and sandwiches. Minimise all dry, rough, cold food. Iced food and drinks are never great but be especially careful to avoid them during Autumn.
  2. Take extra care of your skin due to Vata’s drying nature. Ground yourself with a daily self-massage with a warm sesame oil self-massage. Start with the soles of the feet and work up the body to the head in sweeping strokes along muscles, and circular movements around joints. Always massage the belly in a clockwise direction- up the right side and down the left side. Leave the oil on for 10 minutes then shower/ bathe.  A daily massage also helps dilate the skin surface, clear toxins and aid movement of lymph. Try the nourishing Autumn face mask recipes too!
  3. Keep to regular meal times with lunch as your main meal, and a smaller dinner eaten as early as possible. Try to get up and go to sleep at regular times as well. Also, this is a good time to introduce regularity at your work place by having regular breaks, sipping herbal teas throughout the day and not working yourself too hard.
  4. Increase stillness in your day and time to connect with yourself.  Vata is aggravated by feelings of fear and insecurity so take time to look after yourself.  It is also aggravted by excess movement. Anything which reduces the amount of rushing, travelling and business that is part of most of our lives is good eg: go for a walk, practice calming yoga, meditate, write…

Ayurvedic Beauty Care – Autumn Face Mask Recipes

Autumn weather (dry, windy) tends to increase Vata dosha and make our skin feel equally dry, flaky and tight. If you work in an air conditioned office, the effect is doubled! As well as a soothing, warm oil massage for the body each morning, its a good idea to nourish our faces which are always exposed to the elements. Ayurvedic wisdom sees the skin as being a very receptive organ, so ideally don’t put anything on it you would not be happy to eat! Try these delicious moisturising and nourishing Autumn face masks for a quick and easy boost this Autumn. Apply to cleansed face and neck on a weekly basis. Relax and rub off with fingertips/ face cloth after 20 minutes in circular motion. These masks will keep in the fridge or 1-2 days, but best to use immediately. Remember- healthy skin comes from feeding the body and skin with high quality nutrients, and keeping toxin levels in the body as low as possible. Using organic ingredients helps ensure this.

  1. Avocado & Banana mask: Mash ¼ avocado, ½ banana, an egg yolk and enough clay or oatmeal to bind (green or white clay available from Neal’s Yard Remedies).
  2. Avocado, honey & yoghurt mask: Mash ½ avocado, 2tsp honey and 1 tbsp natural yoghurt until creamy. Can also add a little almond oil for extra nourishing effect.
  3. Avocado/ Orange mask: Mix ½ avocado, 2 tbsp orange juice, 1 tsp honey, 3 drops chamomile essential oil.

Autumn Recipe (serve 4): Stewed Applea

The trees are groaning with fruit so enjoy some free, local food if you have an apple tree- or ask a neighbour as there is always spare. This comforting, old fashioned recipe is idea for balancing Vata in Autumn, as it involves eating seasonal, organic food. Ayurveda considers cooked food as easier to digest than raw and this recipe is no exception.

Add the following ingredients to saucepan, bring to boil and simmer until apples are soft (10-15 minutes). Allow to cool a little and ready to serve if you like it chunky, or else bland to a puree. Serve warm for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.

4 cooking or eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
5 organic figs or dried apricots (soaked in water overnight)
5 organic dates (dates are intensively sprayed with pesticides so especially important to buy organic!), pitted and chopped OR two handfuls of raisins
2 tbsps of Agave syrup (a naturally low GI sweetener) maple syrup, jaggery OR brown sugar, Do not use honey as Ayurveda considers it to ferment when heated with detrimental effects when eaten!
1/2 tsp each of ground cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg or a teaspoon or mixed spice
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
4 cups of water