Self-care for Autumn – Keeping Vata Balanced
Crunchy leaves, morning mists and shorter days, familiar signs that tell us Autumn is here. This change of season is not just a calendar change, or a change in the weather. It’s also an energetic transition too. As the trees shed their leaves it signifies the time to let go of what no longer serves us. A time to withdraw inwards, to pause and reflect.
Just as the animals and plants adjust to the season so should we. In fact, Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science expresses that nature is always changing. So, to maintain your balance in life, your daily self-care practices and choices should always reflect this change.
The season of Vata.
In Ayurveda, autumn and early winter is the season of Vata. It is the dosha that is associated with the elements of air and space. This is the season when the air becomes cool and dry. It’s these dry and cool qualities that can aggravate Vata.
When there is an imbalance of Vata, it is an indication that there’s an excess of air and space in your body and mind, your nervous system is overactive. This imbalance can impact you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Signs of Vata imbalance
As we transition into the cooler months, I’m beginning to see the impact on my wellbeing. Vata regulates moisture in the body, I’ve noticed how my skin is becoming dry, I’m reaching for the hand cream to keep my hands soft. In the morning, my ankle joints crack during my yoga asana practice. They do this more so now, then at any other time of the year.
These small changes are ok. But I start to struggle and lose my balance when my digestive system becomes compromised. You see, Vata regulates how you digest food, so when there is excessive Vata, you’re likely to experience symptoms of bloating or constipation.
You may also notice that you’re more restless and find it hard to relax. Staying asleep and getting to sleep can be challenging when Vata is unbalanced. It’s not uncommon to be a little flighty, your mind is racing, and you feel more anxious. Your mind can get quite airy!
An imbalance of Vata can happen at any time of the year. These little signs around digestion and an overactive nervous system are something to watch out for.
Keeping Vata balanced
How do you maintain balance when the season changes? With Ayurveda the answer is always through diet and lifestyle.
The beautiful thing is it’s simplicity in working with opposites to bring about balance. When there is coolness, you need to bring warmth to generate more heat in the body, wear warm clothes, eat warming foods and stay away from iced drinks.
Replace dryness with moisture. Switch fast pace for slowing down.
When you think about it. A lot of what Ayurveda recommends is our natural instincts if we choose to listen.
Here are some ways to adjust your lifestyle to maintain a balanced Vata Dosha.
Slow down and embrace the season
Whilst I love the openness of summer. It is a natural biological rhythm to slow down during these cooler, darker months of the year. There’s a part of me that gets excited for the comfort that Autumn and then winter brings.
I’m not a fan of the shorter days, nor the cooler weather! But it’s grounding and nourishing to feel cosy in the warmth. There’s something quite calming about the nesting and withdrawal that occurs. Warmer blankets are on the bed. I’ve switched from cold drinks to warm herbal teas. And it won’t be long before I’m craving the heavy, warming comforting foods that I love.
Vata season is the perfect time to prioritise slowing down, nourishing yourself on all layers will help to balance excess Vata. It’s time to give yourself permission to prioritise relaxation! Introduce softer lighting in the evenings and read that book you’ve been meaning to get to all year!
Abhyanga is one of the most nourishing self-care rituals you can do for yourself, to nourish and balancing your nervous system. It is particularly beneficial before bed to help you sleep. It helps to stimulate the digestive and the lymphatic systems to remove toxins from your body. Your skin will feel amazing too. Warm up a good quality oil like coconut oil or an unrefined sunflower oil and spend 10-15 minutes self-massaging your body before your bath or shower.
Establish a stabilising routine
Vata needs a stable routine and regularity. Routine brings with it a sense of security and consistency. In this modern world where we are always rushing around, filling every minute of the day. This is the season to slow down. Avoid packing your schedule full, running from place to place.
Establishing a routine will help to keep your mind healthy, remain balanced to stay grounded. Instability and no structure in the day, along with too many late nights and unhealthy sleep patterns will only aggravate Vata, any time of the year!
How does routine look? Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Establish a routine which allows time for unwinding in the evening before bed. Avoid stimulants like coffee in the evening, replace with calming herbal teas that pacify Vata.
This also includes regularity of mealtimes and exercise.
Soothe your mind and ground
Regardless of the season, Ayurveda recommends yoga and meditation to maintain a balanced mind and to revitalise the body.
Vata has a very quick and sharp nature, so favour movement that’s slow and intentional, with awareness. Practicing yoga asana, or any movement-based exercise in this way will focus your mind.
In your yoga routine incorporate grounding postures that generate heat in your body and keep your digestive fire burning. But also, spinal twists and internalising forward bends to calm your mind.
It’s important to keep the prana energy flowing through the body to avoid decease. Simple movement like ankle and wrist rotations will keep the joints lubricated and stop them from becoming stiff.
Practice breathing techniques like abdominal breathing, that slow your breath down. Keep grounded and balanced with Nadi Shodhana (Alternate nostril breathing). We’ve included a links below
How to practice Abdominal breathing and Nadi Shodhana
All exercise is good!
With so much time spent indoors there’s a danger that your energy or prana (as we call it in Yoga) stagnates, that lethargy sets in. The mind and body become tamasic. When a person is tamasic it can indicate a depressive mindset. Unwillingness to move, a feeling of inertia. So even on the cooler days it’s important to include exercise to keep the energy flowing. It’s the perfect excuse to wrap up and go outside for a walk-in nature.
When in balance, Vata brings mental alertness and creativity. But when it’s out of balance the mind gets busy and restless. This can lead to anxiety, worry and sleepless nights. As the mind can be ‘airy’ and drift. Using one pointed awareness meditation techniques, like focusing on the breath or using mantra will help to keep your awareness engaged.
We’ve included a link to a meditation practice which you can access here…
You may like to try Yoga Nidra. It is the ultimate practice in providing deep relaxation and healing on a deeper level. Helping to alleviate the symptoms of stress, anxiety and overwhelm. And is perfect for anyone suffering from insomnia and other sleep issues or struggling with fatigue.
Here’s a link to access a 20 minute yoga nidra practice.
Prepare warming foods and drinks.
This is the best time of year to give your body a hug from the inside. There’s a reason they call it comfort foods! It’s the ultimate act of self-love!
I talked about opposites earlier. This is the time of year where we switch the cold icy drinks for warm water or nourishing teas. And as much as I love my crisps, these dry snacks are not good for Vata. Try to avoid or eat in moderation anything that is dry. Replace these with heavier and oily foods to ground and heat and optimise your digestive system.
You may like to read Ayurveda seasonal foods for Autumn, where we go into depth about the diet and food choices for this Vata season.