Ayurveda-Changing with the Seasons+Weight Loss
Autumn is a natural season of endings. The leaves fall from the trees as they dry and wither, cool mornings and nights begin and end each day. These elements of vata--cold, dry, light--begin to dominate the earth.
October is an excellent time for all dosha types to cleanse, releasing the heat and excess of the summer and to prepare the digestion for the upcoming winter months. As the heat of the summer wanes, the body begins to draw blood from the limbs and into the core. We might notice fatigue in the muscles and coolness in the extremities. The increased blood in the organs can sharpen hunger for everyone as we prepare our bodies for winter cold and this increased hunger can add pounds.
Awareness of these seasonal changes and shifting to foods that support and calm make it easier to stabilize our weight. Daily rituals of self-care can provide grounding, warmth and strength.
Vata often has weakened digestion and will benefit from herbs that build digestive fire. Pitta individuals--those with lots of inherent heat in the body--often welcome this cool change as it balances their warm, oily nature. Kapha types, with their plentitude of earth and water, find the dry air balancing but the increased coolness can make them feel lethargic, heavy and congested.
Vata individuals already have an abundance of the qualities that accompany air and ether--light, dry, rough, fast--and the increase in these elements can easily push those with strong Vata to imbalance. It is most important for Vata types to take extra care in order to avoid illness.
We are supported in cleansing our bodies in the fall and the spring. During the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, our immune system is working overtime to keep us healthy. The seasons of the equinox (fall and spring) are less extreme and make it easier to gently release our body of the toxins and built up cellular waste.
Traditionally, kitchari, a simple dish of lentils and rice combined with digestive spices, is consumed during a cleanse.
There are advantages to this approach:
• Simple to prepare in advance
• Easy to digest and provides strength
• Excellent for detoxification and de-aging of the cells
• Basmati rice and mung dal together create a balanced food that is a good protein combination and is tridoshic.
And some disadvantages:
• Low in fiber and can cause constipation after several days
• Lack of variety in taste might make it more difficult to cleanse over time
A whole-food cleanse can also be helpful. Eating foods that are organic, unprocessed and seasonal support the natural rhythm of the body to balance. You might begin with a whole food cleanse and then add 2-5 days of a mono-diet to see how your body reacts.
Ayurvedic Massage (Abhyanga)
One of the best ways to combat autumn dryness is with daily Ayurvedic massage or abhyanga. All doshas benefit from this self-massage but it’s especially important for those with vata dosha or imbalances. If you have cold hands and cold feet and can’t seem to get warm in the cooler mornings and evenings, this is a great way to balance and calm the nervous system.
The skin is the most important covering of the body. Abhyanga (massage) makes the skin strong and supple, and as the oils reach all the tissues it help strengthen each layer of our body. This is especially true when coupled with svedana (heat). It is recommended to leave the oil on the body at least for 10- 15 minutes before washing the oil off in a shower. Don’t soap the skin, use soap only on essential areas and let the oil stay on the skin to be absorbed.
Ayurvedic Massage Oil
Whatever you put on your skin, be sure you could eat it
Our nervous system is formed right before the skin in utero; thus what you put on your skin goes directly to the nervous system. Raw sesame or almond oils are warming and good for vatas in the cooling autumn. Pittas can use coconut or sunflower. Kaphas need light, warming oils like almond or olive oil.
Place a teaspoon or so of oil in the palm, rub the hands together and begin to massage the limbs towards the heart and in a circular motion on the torso. Massaging the head calms the mind, prevents headache, strengthens hair follicles, hair and skull, sharpens sense organs, increases memory, and promotes sound sleep. Massaging the soles of the feet lubricates foot tissues, improves vision, lowers vata, and strengthens the nervous system
The weather is fickle and changes quickly this time of year. On cooler or cold days, turn to warm, cooked foods with moderate spices like ginger, cardamom and cloves that help warm without creating too much internal heat. Oatmeal with spices, dates, raisins and almond milk can be a delicious and balancing autumn breakfast.
On warm or hot days, salads that include cooked vegetables of the season like beets or squash and heavier foods like cheese and nuts ease the body into the season.
Foods that are grounding and nourishing help build immunity and prepare the body for the cold of winter. Strong, spicy foods that make you sweat can dilate the blood vessels on the skin and make you more likely to catch colds.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Fall
Trikatu (three peppers), an Ayurvedic preparation taken before meals, is a good way to ignite digestion, especially for vatas.
Other Ayurvedic herbs that can be especially helpful in the fall are licorice root and Ashwaghanda. Both are strengthening and help moisten internally. Cinnamon is also a useful autumn herb as it stimulates circulation and helps reduce lung inflammation.
Turmeric is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral. It is a potent herb for combating germs and bacteria that spread this time of year.
Weight Loss and Wellness
Just as trees shed their leaves, we can shed internal and external heaviness with mindful self-care. Slowing down to chew our food and making time for reflection This is a powerful time for changing, taking stock and supporting our bodies and minds as we move with the pattern of our world. Easing into the season supports our health, our heart and our life.