Autumn Transitions an Ayurvedic Approach to Seasonal Change

October 1, 2010

Ah yes, the change of seasons. While the cooler, crisper air feels refreshing, the shift from summer into fall leaves many with a vague, unsettled feeling.

For years, I would feel “off” every time September rolled around. My best, and wisest, friend Mary always reassured me that it would pass and every year it would, eventually. Autumn Transitions an Ayurvedic Approach to Seasonal Change are seasonal mood swings were a mystery to me, until I began to understand the principles of Ayurveda and how they relate to the seasons.

According to Ayurveda, the ancient healing art of India, everything in nature is composed of five elements: fire, water, earth, air and ether.

We experience the shift from one season to another just as a tree or a squirrel does. With our super-busy lives, we humans don’t always take note of this shift. In cool climates, September through February is Vata season. Vata is the dosha ruled by air and ether. As the weather turns cool, windy and dry, our bodies follow suit. We need to prepare for this change like a squirrel does – not by hoarding nuts, of course, but by readying our bodies for a smooth transition.

People who are Vata dominant (as I am!) need to pay special attention to these changes.

They are incredibly active, both physically and mentally-often to the point of exhaustion. When a Vata is out of balance, anxiety prevails. If you find yourself having panic attacks in the fall, chances are you have a Vata imbalance. The upside to this season is that it brings new ideas, motivation, and inspiration, but balance is the key here. The downside is that Vata energy spinning out of balance can quickly send a person headlong into an illness.

There are several simple things that you can do to stay in balance this fall.

  1. Instead of cold raw foods, stick to eating warm, gently cooked ones. Be sure to incorporate plenty of seasonal root vegetables because they are particularly grounding.

  2. Avoid cold liquids as well, opting instead for warm beverages like spiced herbal teas or lemon water with honey.

  3. Instead of running, try some yoga, qigong or tai chi.

  4. Because of the cold and wind, dress warmly and always wear a scarf around your neck.

  5. Consider a regular daily meditation practice along with breathing exercises. Take advantage of the beautiful fall foliage by spending quiet time in nature.  Remember, Vata’s are all about air and movement so we tend to want to fly away and we need grounding to bring us back down to earth.

Ayurvedic practitioners also recommend that Vata’s keep to a regular routine.

  • An early bedtime is vital, as is taking time each day to nurture the mind and body.

  • Massage with warm sesame oil, or my favorite Vata body oil, once or twice a day will do wonders for your nerves. If you want to splurge, have a professional Abhyanga Massage.

  • Try to stay away from loud, noisy environments and when you can’t avoid them, take a moment to breathe deeply and find your inner calm.

Knowing is half the battle. After my years of mysterious ups and downs, I now understand and anticipate my changing needs. Fall is no longer a time for anxiety, but rather a time to give myself a little extra TLC. Autumn is a beautiful season, and with this new knowledge, I hope we can all enjoy it that much more.


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  1. Very interesting, Barbara! Maybe you could explain some of the changes affecting Pitta? Love,Your Pitta Friend

  2. Hello my pitta friend!We are all affected by each of the doshas because they pertain to certain principles in the body. For example, vata (air and ether) relates to everything in our body that has to do with movement – i.e. physical movement, respiration, excretion, etc. Pitta (fire and water) is the energy of transformation – i.e. digestion, metabolism, etc. Kapha (water and earth elements) is about structure in the body – i.e. bones, muscle, fat, etc. Where it gets really interesting is that the doshas all relate to certain seasons as well as times of the day. So for instance, summer is pitta season (think fire – heat of summer) and a pitta needs to pay special attention to stay balanced during the summer months, a vata during fall/early winter and kapha during late winter/spring.I know it sounds complicated, but if it interests you, check out some of the resources I listed. 🙂

  3. Thanks, Barbara! It makes sense that summer is a unbalanced month for pitta s and that we enjoy the cooler months so much more. It's all that fire!

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