Brisk air and a jewel-toned carpet of leaves underfoot. Fall is here, the perfect time, according to Ayurveda, to prepare our bodies inside and out for the cold of winter that is just around the corner.
Ayurveda views all life as an intricate web, with five elemental building blocks: earth, water, fire, air and ether. As we move from summer to fall, it’s the fire element that downshifts. This is why we crave warm soups and stews, versus cold salads. Warm foods are easier for our bodies to digest, rather than raw salads, when the external “fire” or sunlight diminishes. Plus, their dense and moist nature also helps us to alleviate the lightness and dryness of this season in which the air and ether elements prevail.
When we tune in to our innate body-mind wisdom we hit upon two fundamental Ayurvedic principles. The first is that “like increases like” and the second is that “opposites balance.” To stay healthy, we must adapt our whole body and mind regimen to the season. Here are five Ayurvedic practices to bring you vitality, warmth and ease this fall.
1. Stick to a daily routine
Awaken early and sleep early. We need more sleep in the fall and winter. We can stay focused and plan our days better when we get up early and are not rushed. Eat at regular times and make lunch your main meal. Skipping meals impairs our digestive fire.
2. Get Oily!
Give yourself an oil massage. Use about 2 tbsp of warm sesame oil if you run cold, otherwise almond oil is fine. Apply over your entire body from extremities toward the centre in short light strokes. Shower 15 to 20 minutes later. The oil calms the nervous system and will leave your skin soft all day.
3. Eat seasonally and locally
When we eat seasonal foods that grow in our locality, they are full of healing benefits. Pumpkins, squashes and many root vegetables are naturally sweet and dense. Roast them with easily digestible fats such as ghee or coconut oil to create a nourishing meal and add warming spices such as thyme, rosemary, sage, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, ginger and cumin. Mung beans, red lentils and adzuki beans, well-spiced tofu and split peas are also excellent. If you eat meat, include it in your diet, preferably in stews. Steamed and braised dark, leafy greens will gently cleanse the body, while a side of raw grated beets with lemon and ginger is a warming condiment to meals. Lastly, favour cooked grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice and wheat berries. Avoid yeasted breads, dry crackers and chips. Relish the bounty of seasonal fruit such as apples, pears, persimmons and cranberries.
4. Minimize Coffee
Coffee is cumulatively drying on the gut and we like to keep the gut nicely lubricated so that our digestion flows easily. If you must drink coffee, drink it after you’ve eaten a bowl of warm grains or make it a treat beverage. Drink warm water during the day or ginger tea to keep the digestive fires stoked.
5. Yoga + Meditation + Breathing
Practice yoga postures more slowly. Include sun salutations and strong, grounding warrior poses, twists, seated poses and inversions to calm the body and the mind. Commit to a daily meditation practice for even 5 minutes to still the “quick” tendency of the season.
Above all relax. When we make a few shifts towards more harmony with our environment, it’s amazing what transpires.
Writer, global yoga teacher, mama and Ayurvedic educator, Insiya is a wellspring of wisdom on living with more presence, grace, simplicity and bliss.
Share in the honest and quirky insights of her journey on this worldly yet spiritual yoga life. You can find Insiya online at www.yogue.ca and facebook.com/yogue8.