Autumn officially starts this year (in the Northern Hemisphere) on September 22, the day of the Autumn Equinox. On the Autumn Equinox the Sun crosses south of the Celestial Equator, heralding the return of shorter days and cooler weather.
As the daylight wanes and the weather gets brisk (and the skies become bluer and the leaves change color!), let’s reflect on a few Ayurvedic seasonal self-care tips (ṛtucaryā) to keep us healthy and well as we manage the autumnal transition into winter.
According to Ayurveda, the subtle elements of Air (vāyu) and Ether (ākāśa) predominate in the autumn season, and the vāta dosha gains exceptional prominence in the body.
Though your local climate may vary, autumn is a transitional season generally characterized by erratic, cooler and drier weather and wind, all vāta qualities, which is why vāta is vitiated and gains strength during the autumn. Seasonal self-care in this time is largely about stabilizing and pacifying the excess vāta dosha in the body.
Autumn corresponds to the traditional Indian seasons of śarad and hemanta, and though much of the traditional Ayurvedic wisdom for these seasons remains the same, seasonal self-care tips here are more adapted to the autumn climate conditions in much of North America, which differ slightly from that of India.
Eat more nourishing foods
During summer, the body’s digestive fire (agni) is low and it is considered beneficial to eat light and cooling foods, marked by sweet, bitter or astringent tastes. Raw vegetables and salads are also encouraged and heavier foods like dairy are discouraged.
But as the autumn season begins and the transition to colder weather starts, the body’s digestive fire starts to increase, and it is recommended to adjust one’s diet accordingly as the season progresses, eating less and less of lighter and uncooked foods, and including more cooked, substantive & nourishing foods. One may increase the quantity of foods like eggs, dairy, meat, nuts & seeds and cereal grains, and dishes with seasonal vegetables like pumpkin and squash may be cooked with healthy oils or ghee along with warming spices and roots like garlic and ginger. Warm beverages or hot teas are also perfect for the autumn season!
Slow down and enjoy the season
The autumn season corresponds to shorter days and a waning of natural daylight. As the weather also gets cooler, there is an intuitive impulse in the natural world to slow down from the frenetic energy of summer and even a reflective mood seems to settle over nature.
Ayurvedic wisdom consists of aligning oneself in harmony with this passage of nature, and thus we should take our cue and invitation from the environment to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy the season’s changes!
While one’s activity outdoors may be reduced due to cooler weather, consider the opportunity of taking walks in nature to enjoy the season: its deep blue skies, crisp, fresh air and the beautiful many-colored leaves of deciduous trees as their foliage prepares to drop for the winter season.
While it’s important to keep up one’s daily exercise routine or āsana practice throughout the year, this may be modified in autumn by gently reducing one’s workout load & intensity and giving more time to conscious rest and recovery.
As the erratic nature of vāta tends to increase in autumn with the change of weather, it becomes more important than ever to ground one’s mind and body in a stable daily routine. Ayurvedic tips for your autumn routine include:
- Wind down consciously and get to bed early at the same time everyday, avoiding “screen time” too close to bedtime. Avoid open windows or drafty sleeping areas.
- Incorporate more warm baths and abhyanga (self-massage with oil) into your daily routine. Warm Sesame oil is ideal for self-massage in autumn. Medicated herbal massage oils may be used for any increase in joint stiffness.
- Dress warmly and in layers so you can keep the body at the same temperature as the weather changes throughout the day.
- Keep your skin (and lips!) moisturized and protected from dry weather. Ayurvedic body care products like Auromere Hand & Body Lotion or Neem Balm may be used to good effect.
- Support your health with tonic herbs suited for the season such as Amla, Ashwagandha and Tulsi (Tulsi makes a great-tasting herbal tea!).
So, slow down and embrace the changes this Autumn, and with these Ayurvedic seasonal self-care tips, enjoy the unique gifts and delights that the season brings.