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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Autumn changes



Well here we are at the beginning of another season. The weather has started to cool down, the winds are blowing and we need to make adjustments to combat these changes so that we don't get out of balance and sick.

As you can imagine an increase in coolness and wind will increase the vata in all of us, and if you have vata as your dominant dosha you need to even more careful. But don't worry, it's all very easy and it's what we naturally do anyway.

Ayurveda works on the principle that "like attracts like" and the best way to stop an imbalance is to increase the opposite qualities. Vata is ether and air and the qualities of these two elements are light, dry, variable, and cold. (If your not sure what vata is, it's all there in my page on the doshas.) Vata retains its balance by living a life that is full of warmth, regularity, moisture and  goundedness. So lets have a look at how we can add these qualities to our lives over the coming months.

Warmth
Lets start with food. Pretty much all spices and lots of herbs are warming, with some being downright heating. Garlic, ginger, chilli and pepper will all work well to keep you warm from the inside. And the great thing about herbs and spices is that they are so easy to add to your life. You can put them in boiling water and have them as a tea or put them in just about anything you cook. We also need heavy, grounding foods at this time of year it's easy to make a soup or stew and throw in some herbs to add spice, flavour and medicinal properties to your meal. Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian are all great examples of world cuisines that know how to use spices. Get some recipes, experiment and enjoy learning how to cook foods that promote health and balance. One of favourite and very simple things to make in the colder months is roast veggies with spices. One of my earliest posts tells you all about them, read, cook, enjoy.
If you would like a printable copy of what foods are good and not so good for vata/autumn follow this link.

Essential oils can create warmth in the home. Cardamon, cedarwood, cinnamon, cloves,dill, eucalyptus, juniperberry, marjoram, nutmeg, orange, patchouli, pettigrain, rosewood, Valerian, vanilla, vetiver are all warming/heating  without being drying. Pop them in an oil burner and breath in the warmth.

Regularity
Air is mobile, it constantly moves and changes so to reduce and balance this element we need stability. The best way to bring about stability is through regularity and routine.  All throughout the year vatas in particular should be sticking to a routine and this is even more important during Autumn. If you do not already have one then start small and build on it. Change is one of the hardest things to do and maintain as our habitual patterns will continue to keep creeping in but if you stick to it you will do it. I have a whole post on the daily routine have a look and pick something to start with.

Moisture
Food again is used to add moisture; soups, stews, herbal teas and oils, can be used throughout Autumn to balance the drying qualities of the season. Salads might be great for Summer and for people watching their weight but they are not the best choice for Autumn.

Moisture does not only happen from the inside, oil massages and baths are just as effective. Our skin is the largest organ in our body and it adsorbs moisture. Massages as essential during Autumn to help maintain beautiful moist skin but the benefits go beyond that. Herbs are medicinal so if you have a massage with sesame (also highly medicinal) and add some essential oils your skin will thank you of course, but all your organs, your emotions and your stress levels will also be relieved. Do not underestimate the power of massage! You should be aiming to include a massage as part of your daily routine. I do not mean you need to go see a therapist every day you can give yourself a massage before you go to bed or after you wake up. Even if you just do your feet and head you will be doing wonders for harmonising your system.

Oils to add to your bath and/or massage with are;  Cardamon, cedarwood (avoid if there is an acute kidney infection, during pregnancy), cinnamon (Do not use in bath, if pitta is high or you have a bleeding disorder), cloves (do not use if pitta is high, there is inflammation or hypertension), dill (do not use in bath), eucalyptus (do not use in bath) , juniperberry (avoid if there is an acute kidney infection, during pregnancy), marjoram, nutmeg (do not use in bath, when pregnantor with hight pitta), orange (may irritate sensitive skin in the sun), patcholi, pettigrain (do not use in bath), rosewood , valerian (do not use in bath, avoid large doses) , vanilla (do  not use in bath), vetiver

Groundedness
Heavy, moist foods, regularity and routine, massages and baths all will help to ground you. Asanas such as forward bends, standing poses, pranayama (focused breathing) and meditation are also ways to keep our minds and emotions from flying away.

And of course food, you can always use food to balance the characteristics of the elements. Heavy, warm foods, as mentioned above, and  root vegetables - they are from the ground after all! Porridge for breakfast, stews for lunch and soups for dinner.