Autumn, what a beautiful season and for many, it is a favorite season. The onset of fall makes trees wear all shades of orange, the fresh pumpkin into the food chain means pumpkin stews, desserts and coffees. Thanksgiving, Halloween and Diwali (and a hint of Christmas) are just around the corner.
Autumn is one of those double seasons when the hot arid summer weather is slowly leaving us, and the long cold dry winters are approaching. This amalgamation of arid, cold and dry makes autumn a peculiar season, and can completely throw our bodies off if we are not careful with our food and lifestyle habits.
Because of this, we see a spike in all kinds of infections, coughs, colds and cases of flu starting in September. From a scientific perspective, this double season creates an environment of warm days and cold nights, forcing us to follow lifestyles suited for the summer through the day and winters through the night. This duality completely confuses our body and our molecular systems.
How can we embrace the fall without burdening our bodies? The answer can be found in Ayurveda. As I discussed in my previous article, “Ayurvedic Tips to Handle Summer,” Ayurveda pays special attention to seasons and their impact on human health. Seasons are given extreme importance in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life and medicine. An ayurvedic practitioner would recommend changing one’s lifestyle, diet and medicine in accordance with the seasons. Ayurvedic doshas govern our bodies and in autumn, as the weather gets colder, arid and drier, the dosha that dominates our bodies is Vata, which is governed by the elements of air and sky. Air and sky tend toward being cold, dry, arid and gas-inducing in nature.
To stay healthy, active and happy all through the autumn, let’s explore some quick Ayurvedic tips to keep in mind to make the most out of this season.
1. Focus on a warm, rich, and nourishing diet: Autumn is the season to start to eat warming, nourishing food. In the summer, we switched to a diet that was light and cold in nature including salads, raw fruits, yogurt and smoothies to keep our bodies hydrated and cool. If you keep following the same practice of cold raw food, it will create a Vata imbalance. Switch to more nourishing, wholesome food rich in healthy fats like soups, stews, eggs, lentils, pulses, healthy fats, nuts, ghe and sesame seeds. Minimize intake of gas-inducing foods like potatoes, fried food, beans and caffeine. Foods that are cold inducing like soda pops, smoothies, artificial juices and fruits should also be avoided to keep the body warm and nourished.
2. Natural herbs to help you stay nourished and healthy: There are ample herbs, infusions and teas that provide essential vitamins, minerals and active ingredients that boost immunity. Herbs like green tea, ginger, honey, holy basil, ginseng, triphala, amla, nutmeg and Shatavari can be used in the form of powders, mixed with desserts, teas or milk to provide natural immunity and health boosters the body requires. My favorite drink in autumn is ginger, turmeric, and ashwagandha tea with a bit of honey providing me necessary vitamins required to keep me active during autumn.
3. Reduce stress and sleep well: Our bodies are already dealing with acclimatizing to the weather – days shortening and becoming greyer and more depressive (especially here in the Pacific Northwest where I am located). It is paramount to check in with ourselves and our mental states. Do not over-exhaust your body and keep your sleep cycle in check. Providing your body with enough sleep will help you function more healthily. Rest well, on time, do not stress your mind and body, meditate and try to stay calm.
4. Keep your body well-hydrated: Because the summer heat is fading away, during fall we generally forget to drink enough water. The season is already arid, but not hot, and although we do not feel thirsty, the body still requires water. In fact, not having enough water can have severe implications. Remember to hydrate, and if you’re not in the mood for water, drink plenty of herb-infused teas to supplement the body and skin with fluids to keep you hydrated. Do not indulge too much in sodas, artificial juices, and energy drinks, but supplement your body with water, teas, milk and smoothies.
5. Nourish your Skin and Hair: The cold weather also impacts our skin and hair. Usually, we start to notice how our skin and hair get dry, frizzy and chapped as fall intensifies its grip on us. Because of this, it’s important to provide the necessary nourishment to the skin and hair both internally and externally. Internally, I suggest keeping the body well-nourished through diet, water and rest; and externally we can use Ayurveda to keep skin and hair nourished. Use an Ayurvedic herbal mild cleanser to clean the skin, a good moisturizer with skin-nourishing herbs (like neem, ashwagandha and turmeric, and oils like almond oil and coconut oil) to keep the skin moisturized. Lastly, massage your hair and scalp once or twice a week with herbal hair oil (coconut is my favorite) and cleanse with a good mild herbal shampoo to keep hair healthy and moisturized.
As the fall approaches, it signifies change: the season is changing, the days are getting colder, nights are getting longer, the nature around us is changing. Animals are preparing for hibernation. Amidst all these changes, it is very important to maintain balance. Autumn is all about balance as we are dealing with its duality.
Maintaining a balanced healthy lifestyle all through the fall will keep ailments, the flu and infections away and give you more time to enjoy festivities, pumpkin spice and hot chocolate with your friends and family.