As I look out of my window, I see beautiful yellow, orange and red leaves strewn over the lawns and roads. I know what it means - fall is here and winter is slowly arriving. The trees are wiry and gray, and a gray, cloudy sky shines behind them. This was not the scenario a few weeks ago, when the trees were radiant with fiery, early-autumn colors and the sky was blue. The season is changing and as it does, we too must adapt our diet and lifestyle. This article discusses how to stay healthy, energetic, calm and strong using Ayurvedic principles during the change of seasons, a vulnerable time for all of our health.Ayurveda has two main principles that it focuses on.
Svasthasya svāsthya rakśaṇam: Maintaining the health of already healthy individuals
Turasya vikāra praśamanam: Treating the diseases of imbalanced individuals
These are both often-quoted verses from Suśruta Samhitā, one of the main classical texts of Ayurveda. It is important to note that maintaining good health and preventing disease is the first goal. This is probably the first written reference to preventative medicine discovered, and it comes from Ayurveda.
The texts mention many ways to both maintain good health and treat sicknesses, from diet and lifestyle recommendations to specific herbal and herbo-mineral medicines remedies to body therapies and instructions on moral conduct.
This article will focus specifically on a seasonal lifestyle routine for the fall that can keep you healthy. Before delving into the topic at hand, a brief explanation of Ayurvedic principles is required.
- The universe is composed of 5 elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. These elements combine to form 3 physiological principles, called doshas: vāta, pitta, and kapha.
- Vāta is composed of ether and air and is responsible for respiration, movement, sensation, elimination and enthusiasm. Pitta, composed of fire and water, governs digestion, assimilation, body temperature, luster, intelligence and vision. Kapha is made up of water and earth, and is responsible for stability, strength, immunity, fertility and growth.
- Each individual has a unique combination of these three doshas, which is called prakṛti. Once you learn your individual prakṛti, you will be in a better position to modify your diet and lifestyle based on the fluctuations of your dośas.
As the environment cools down during autumn, vāta and kapha are the two doshas the most easily aggravated. In the early stages of fall, the cool and dry qualities of the environment increase vāta. Later in the fall, the wet, cold precipitation increases kapha.
So if your prakṛti is vāta or kapha dominant, you should take a little extra care during this season. Below are some practical tips to stay healthy:
Food during this time should be warm, moist and cooked. Soups, stews and dal are good examples. Avoid cold food and leftovers, especially directly from the fridge.
Eat at regular intervals, and in between meals sip warm water to strengthen digestion and regulate your elimination. Use spices liberally in your cooking, especially cumin, black pepper, ginger and cloves.
Foods to Favor
Wheat, oats, brown rice, red rice, moong, masoor, urad, toor (should be seasoned with spices), squashes (all kinds), plantains, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, eggplant, beets, apples, papayas, dates, figs, almonds, cashews, walnuts, milk, buttermilk, ghee, cheese, jaggery and honey.
Foods to Minimize
Garbanzos, kidney beans, leafy vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, corn, broccoli, peas, bananas, citrus, pomegranate, cherries, curd, cold salads, sandwiches and dry food like popcorn, beaten rice and chips.
Vata and Kapha Balancing Lifestyle & Herbs
The beginning of autumn is an ideal time for a seasonal detoxification through purgation. It will keep the digestive system strong throughout the fall and winter.
Triphala Churnam, made up of the herbs haritaki, vibhitaki and amla, is both effective and mild. Take 1 - 2 teaspoons at night with warm water for one week. It will improve sluggish digestion and eliminate stagnant toxins from the bowels.
The practice of abhyanga is the best remedy for balancing an aggravated vāta dosha. Make a habit of massaging yourself with warm herbal oil and then taking a warm shower. Do not forget to massage your head and feet!
Keep a regular schedule. Wake up and sleep at similar times every day. Irregular timings aggravate vāta dosha. Light activity such as walking, Yoga and meditation are ideal. Don’t expose yourself to the elements for extended periods of time. Keep warm and dry as much as possible!
The above mentioned tips are general recommendations for the autumn seasonal regime. Depending on one’s prakṛti, other modifications may be made. It's best to book a consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner to get personal recommendations. Let’s enjoy what is left of the fall colors and get ready to welcome the winter with good health!
Jyothi Bhatt, BAMS, PA-C is the founder of Svastha Wellness. She is an Ayurvedic physician, physician assistant, yoga therapist and licensed massage therapist. She received a Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery degree (B.A.M.S.) from S.D.M. College of Ayurveda, where she managed hundreds of patients with varied Ayurvedic protocols, including Panchakarma, herbal formulations, and diet and lifestyle counseling. Jyothi received a Post Graduate Diploma in Yoga Therapy (D.Y.T.) from the only yoga university in the world, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (SVYASA). She is also a certified yoga teacher in the Sivananda and Bihar School of Yoga traditions and is registered with Yoga Alliance as a RYT-500 teacher. After returning to the United States in 2010, she became a licensed massage therapist in the state of New York. She currently also works as a Physician Assistant at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York. She gracefully weaves all of these modalities together in her clinical practice and educational workshops. Jyothi sees clients in Westchester County, NY. She is also a faculty member of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda and travels extensively giving workshops. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website.