Some years ago, during my work in a community rehabilitation centre, I began to notice the direct impact that a change of season had on someone’s mood and general wellbeing. Now, through my work as a yoga teacher (and having always been an 'empath'), I now firmly believe that late September through to early winter can be a challenging time. Unsurprisingly, I have been told by more than a few people in recent weeks that they have been feeling out of sorts.
Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, teaches that the whole universe is an interplay of 5 universal elements - earth, water, fire, air, and ether. How these elements are combined gives us qualities e.g. hot to cold, light to heavy, hard to soft as well as tendencies such as grounding or floating, a feeling of spaciness or focus. How these elements interact leads to 3 basic functioning principles, known as the 3 Doshas.
The 3 Doshas (“Tridoshic”), Vata, Pitta and Kapha, are a blend of physical, emotional and mental characteristics which can give greater insight into how we can balance mind, body & environment in order to make appropriate lifestyle choices (e.g. diet) to protect our wellbeing and offset seasonally induced imbalances.
People are usually dominant in one particular Dosha and a Vata type person tends to be energetic, creative, intuitive, compassionate and sensitive but they can also be thrown off balance easily. Slight in frame and with a lean body, Vata type people tend to have quite dry, brittle hair & nails.
As the season changes from the intense heat of the summer (especially true with the amazing summer of this year) and the winds bring forward the chill in temperature, we begin to notice the dry crispness of the Autumnal leaves. Autumn also has many characteristics of Vata e.g. dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool and clear and with the excessive Vata a lot of us can feel exposed, sensitive, ungrounded and raw at this time of year.
Anxiety, being prone to insomnia and difficulty concentrating may be also more noticeable and Vata also governs breathing, bloodflow, the digestive system, muscle and tissue movement. We may also feel our joints and muscles stiffen slightly and a dryness in our skin and hair.
The upside of all of this is that (there needed to be one really didn't there!) is that with Vata being dominant in Autumn, the element of air is in control & prana (the vital breath; the force of life) is everywhere; thus possibility is everywhere. We are presented with a chance to reevaluate our daily routine and appreciate simplicity, going back to basics, and as a result, counterbalancing the effects of Vata. The implementation of more routine, stability and grounding are all helpful in maintaining a feeling of wellbeing and you may even already adopt seasonal habits without being conscious.
We may be replacing the light foods and salads of the summer with hearty & grounding soups, warm breads and food that naturally balance the dry, erratic nature of Autumn. Making a choice to avoid bitter, pungent and astringent foods and instead favouring oily, nourishing, warming foods that are high in protein, high in fat along with warming spices will help to maintain your internal reserves of moisture and keep you grounded. Enjoying teas, warming liquids, sweet foods, avocados, mangos, beetroots, chilli & garlic along with maple syrup, basmati rice and spices such as ginger, paprika and saffron are among the excellent dietary choices you can make during Vata.
Establishing a daily routine and keeping to the same times each day for meals, going to bed & meditating etc. is one of the most effective ways to support Vata. Calming your nervous system by using warm oils for the body before a bath will help calm your nervous system and preserve internal moisture; not to mention providing a boost for your skin and joints.
Our Yoga practice can also slow our body down to counterbalance the erratic nature of Vata and lingering more in our asanas as well as focusing on the grounding and balancing elements of our practice will deepen our sense of stability and wellness. Practicing with intention and cultivating a more enhanced meditation practice along with Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) and Viprati Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall) are excellent introductions to make to a regular practice.
Make sure you get enough sleep and restful awareness. This is vital for Vata type personalities, who tend to push themselves to physical and mental exhaustion. It is important to recognise that good quality rest & sleep is also vital to overall health, balance and wellbeing and to remember the importance of self-care. As the old saying goes “you can’t pour from an empty cup”, so please look after yourself!
Keep an eye out for our monthly Restorative Yoga Practice & Yoga Nidra Sessions or The Good-Sleep Workshop to help rebalance and realign.