Temperatures are down, wind is up, trees have changed colour and leaves are being shed and are blowing everywhere. Autumn has its own distinctive weather, colours and qualities. The air element and the vital force called Prana have become abundant in the atmosphere and the dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool, subtle, and clear Gunas or qualities now predominate. As these Gunas are shared by Vata Dosha (the principle of movement), autumn is considered the Vata season and taking a few simple steps to balance Vata is vital for maintaining optimal health.
Why seasonal diets and routine?
Nature is far more powerful than us tiny individuals and despite central heating and air-conditioning, our psycho-physiology is strongly affected by the changes that occur throughout the year.
Ayurveda helps us go with the flow of nature and adapt to seasonal changes. It suggests diets, seasonal routines, lifestyle choices and purification treatments such as Panchakarma, that keep us balanced and in tune with our local climate.
What is Vata season and how will I feel its influence?
Seasons, and the qualities they embody, may vary from one place to another. But in general, when the Vata Dosha’s dry, cold, light, mobile, rough, subtle, and clear qualities prevail, that is Vata season. Autumn and early winter tend to contain these attributes and is considered the season when the expansive and dry Vata qualities are most present.
During this time, you will find your feelings subtly change. Space is one of the Mahabhutas (elements of nature) that make up Vata, so a sense of clarity, expansiveness and all-possibilities may be present.
Air is Vata’s other Mahabhuta, so feelings of movement and readiness to change may be in your awareness. Air has cold and drying quality and you will feel this in your body, especially on your skin, which is considered a Vata organ.
You may find your mind more clear and agile at this time of year, though when Vata is not well balanced your mind can become erratic and lacking in decisiveness and certainty; you may also find good quality sleep becomes elusive.
Without being conscious of doing so, your habits naturally change with the seasons. In summer, you probably enjoyed cooling foods such as salads and melons. By October and November, warmer and more grounding foods such as baked root vegetables, breads, oils, dairy and thick soups may be more to your taste. These more substantial foods help balance the dry, light, and erratic nature of the Vata season.
By consciously making diet and lifestyle changes that balance the effects of each season, you can help maintain your internal sense of equilibrium throughout the year.
Navigating the ups and downs of Vata season
Ayurveda uses the principle of opposites to maintain balance in both mind and body. Since the Vata season has dry, cold, light, windy, unpredictable and changeable qualities, you should tend towards things that supply oiliness, heat, nourishment, stability, routine, warm relationships, and a sense of groundedness.
To help you address any problems that may arise, or prevent problems before they arise, see a Maharishi AyurVeda Practitioner for advice. You can also familiarise yourself with the signs of Vata imbalance.
If you have a Vata body-type you will need to take special care of yourself during Vata season. Yet all of us, no matter what our underlying body-type, will be affected by the elevated Vata influence during autumn and early winter and should adjust our diet and lifestyle to ensure Vata does not go out of balance.
The following recommendations are appropriate for most people, but if you know your body-type or constitution, you can adjust your seasonal routine accordingly.
Vata Season Diet
Whatever you eat becomes your body, so diet is the first consideration when it comes to balancing Vata. Nourishing, substantial, and unctuous foods that are high in protein, have sufficient fat, served hot, and that contain warming spices, will help maintain your reserves of moisture and keep your feet on the earth.
- Favour foods that have the sweet, sour, and salty tastes
- Reduce bitter, pungent and astringent foods
- Eat soft, mushy foods garnished with ghee or oil
- Breakfasts that include cooked grains – such as wheat, oats, rice or tapioca – are great at this time of year. You can cook them with water, milk, whey, coconut milk or almond milk. Add dried fruit as a sweetener. You can also add a little ghee or coconut oil, and nuts that have been soaked overnight
- Baked or boiled fresh fruits plus some soaked dried fruit with added nuts make a good breakfast
- Lunches can include green and root vegetables, grains, beans suitable for Vata (though less or no beans in the evening) and panir. Soups, and stews add moisture and are grounding
- Your digestive fire – called Agni in Ayurveda – is naturally high in Vata season, so this is the time when you will gain most benefit from high nutrition foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy and nuts.
- Suppers can include green and root vegetables, plus grains, such as oatcakes and toast with a little ghee. You can add an easy-to-digest and well-cooked bean such as red lentils or yellow split mung dhal
- Avoid raw vegetables as they have cold and rough Gunas that increase Vata
- Avoid all cold and frozen foods (unless they are cooked)
- Reduce cooling, light, and drying foods such as potatoes, most beans, corn, crackers, millet, and dried fruit (unless soaked). Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts and leafy greens also tend to be Vata increasing, so eat such foods in moderation and ensure they are moist, well-cooked, have Vata-reducing spices and herbs added to them, and are sautéed or served with ghee.
Agni increases to heat up your body when the weather is cold and during the Vata season you may notice you desire more food. Just be careful and follow what your stomach is telling you and don’t over-eat.
Vata needs adequate nourishment, so avoid fasting this time of year.
Food tips for Vata season
Fruits for Vata season
|Oranges||Peaches||Pears (soaked)||Prunes (soaked)||Raisins (soaked)|
Vegetables for Vata season
|Ladies Finger (Okra)||Parsnips||Pumpkins||Squash||Spinach (cooked)|
Grains for Vata season
|Amaranth||Basmati Rice||Brown Rice||Oats (cooked)||Quinoa|
Beans for Vata season
|Kidney Beans||Mung Dal and Beans||Red Lentils||Toor Dal||Urid Dal|
Nuts and Seeds for Vata seasonAll nuts and seeds help reduce of Vata – best if first soaked
Dairy for Vata season
|Kefir||Milk (not cold)||Sour Cream||Yogurt|
Animal Products for Vata season
Oils for Vata season
|Almond Oil||Coconut Oil||Ghee||Olive Oil||Sesame Oil|
Sweeteners for Vata season
|Coconut Sugar||Date Sugar or Syrup||Honey||Jaggary||Maple Syrup||Molasses||Rice Syrup||Stevia||Sugar (Raw)|
Spices for Vata season
|All Spices Are Good for Vata Season, particularly:|
|Allspice||Anise||Asafoetida (Hing)||Basil||Bay Leaf|
Lifestyle tips for Vata season
- Establish a steady routine for getting to bed, waking up, exercise, eating meals etc
- Get to bed by 10pm to ensure plenty of rest before dawn, and rise early to take advantage of the stillness and silence intrinsic in the early morning hours
- In the morning, ground your energy, calm your nervous system and wake up your tissues by massaging your skin with warm, organic Sesame Oil
- Follow oil massage with a warm shower, but leave a little oil on the skin to absorb throughout the day
- If the atmosphere is dry, steam baths and humidifiers can help maintain your internal moisture
- Gentle yoga exercises, pranayama breathing and Transcendental Meditation are powerful ways of balancing Vata Dosha and calm, yet energise the whole nervous system
- Vetiver, geranium, citrus and Vata Balance Aroma Oil are suitable essential oils this time of year
- Reds, oranges, yellows, and whites are balancing colour to wear during Vata season
- Wear enough clothing to stay warm throughout the day
- When out for walks, take particular care to protect your head, ears and neck from the wind and cold
- Reduce your exposure to loud noise, aggressive music, drafts, fast driving, and excessive sex
Exercise tips for Vata season
- The early morning (6-10am) and evening hours (6-8pm) are the best times for exercise. Exercise should be lighter in the evening – say a 15-20 minute walk after supper
- Vata is aggravated by fast, mobile activities, so adopt slow, gentle, strengthening forms of exercise
- None-strenuous swimming, walking, hiking, biking, yoga, pilates and tai chi are good choices
- Exercise at about 50% to 60% of your capacity and never strain
- Breath through your nose while exercising
- Balance your activity with adequate rest and sleep to allow your tissues to fully relax and rejuvenate.
Herbal supplements for autumn
The over-accumulation of Vata can result in poor sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, if your sleep is light and restless, or if you wake during the night with anxious thoughts, Vata is out of balance in your body. To restore balanced Vata and gain better sleep, we recommend taking Blissful Sleep Vata, along with its companion preparation Blissful Sleep Basic. Working in combination, these remedies help sleep come more easily when you are feeling on edge.
The colon is the main seat of Vata in your body. Due to its drying Guna (quality) the heightened influence of Vata during autumn can have a drying effect on your colon, which can lead to constipation. Triphala Rose, which consists of Amalaki, Bibataki, Harataki and Cabbage Rose, work synergistically to detoxify, regenerate and re-hydrate your entire digestive tract and keep you regular.
Cold Season Defence enlivens ones natural resistance to airborne infection by strengthening digestion, clearing the Shrotas (the channels through which toxins and infective agents are removed) and keeping moisture levels in balance.
For those with an excess of Vata Dosha, Ayurveda considers massage with sesame oil the best treatment. So massage in the autumn season is especially beneficial. Vata Massage Oil from Maharishi AyurVeda Products consists of sesame oil, ripened for deep penetration and infused with a balance of herbs, and is designed to soothe Vata. This calming, warming herbalised oil grounds, relaxes, and strengthen the whole system.
Maharishi AyurVeda Inhalation Oil, consists of a blend of seven essential oils that help keep the sinuses, nasal passages and lungs clear. You can either rub the essential oil mix on your chest or inhale it in steam. This blend can also be used on joints and muscles. It has a soothing effect on joints and a relaxing effect on muscles, including those of the forehead and temples.
This syrup has a soothing effect on the throat and helps keep the chest and throat free of congestion. Throat Soothe Syrup strengthens resistance in the respiratory tract to infection and allergic reaction. This syrup has no addictive quality, even when taken over long periods.
Maharishi Amrit Kalash Ambrosia is one of Ayurveda’s most powerful Rasayanas (revitalisers). 13 whole rare herbs and fruits are combined in precise proportions to create a synergistic effect that is greater than the sum of its parts. Designed to promote the optimum functioning of mind, brain and nerves, it also promotes vitality and strength in both mind and body.
Using an age-old formula, Maharishi Amrit Kalash Nectar Paste contains numerous herbal ingredients combined synergistically in hundreds of meticulous steps, to create an authentic product of unparalleled quality. The result is a herbal masterpiece that protects and brings vitality and strength to mind and body.
Nurture your skin
Vata is drying and can quickly create wrinkles and signs of age on the skin. So it really pays to nurture your skin during the Vata season.
From the perspective of Ayurveda it is more important to nourish your skin internally rather than just externally with moisturising creams. Radiant Skin tablets contain a blend of 14 rare herbs that work together to detoxify your liver and blood. The concentrated, cold-pressed herbal extracts it contains, support your body’s ability to absorb food nutrients and this in turn helps improve the entire skin-building process.
This liquid emulsion has a regenerative action and is formulated to remove impurities from the skin without removing the skin’s natural hydrolipid mantle. This refined and delicate Cleansing Milk Anti-Age formula helps to revive tired skin that is suffering from the effects of time. It contains oils that are friendly to the skin, and its Ayurvedic extracts help tone and increase your skin’s elasticity.
Facial Cream Anti-Age is a natural liquid crystal emulsion that gives a complete daily skin care treatment against wrinkles. It can counteract oxidative stress and free radical damage to the skin’s macrostructure, and is formulated to combat the signs of ageing. This cream is recommended for mature skin, but can also be used on younger skin as a preventative treatment against wrinkles and signs of ageing.
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