This season represents so much. For some, there is a sense of sadness. You see the days get shorter, the temperatures drop, the fun and freedom starts to slip away. School starts back up and we are drawn (or forced) back into a routine.
For others, it’s easy to glorify fall. Cozy sweaters, more down time, reading a book by the fire. Pumpkins! Foliage! Crisp mornings and evenings with glorious light during the day. And of course, cooler temperatures. (Can you tell which side of the fence I am on?)
Regardless of if you love fall or see it as a gateway to winter, we all experience certain shifts in our bodies and minds during this time of year.
In this post I will cover the basic symptoms of this transition, and how to recognize and alleviate them. I will focus on helping you from an Ayurvedic perspective and offer many tools to bring you back into balance so you don’t feel like you are being tossed through fall like a tumbleweed. Using the tools in this post will help you have fun as we move into a new phase of the year, and in life. Let’s go!
Ayurveda, the science of life, believes that we are all composed of three basic energies: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are called our Doshas. Each individual has a unique ratio that is right for us. Ayurveda also believes that everything is made up of these three doshas; from the chair you sit in, to the food you eat, the seasons, and different exercises and practices. As an individual, you can start to understand how you are out of balance (from your innate ratio) based on what you are feeling and experiencing in everyday life. To find out your dosha balance, you can take a quiz over at Banyan Botanicals.
Here is an overview of each Dosha - what it looks like in balance, out of balance and an example of how to regulate it.
In Balance: When in balance, someone who is ruled by Vata will be creative, social, whimsical, easy to talk to, alluring and fun. Vatas tend to be lean and can easily gain or lose weight.
Out of Balance: When there is too much Vata in your life, you will tend to feel restless, forgetful, unable to commit, flaky, confused, have dry skin, experience trouble sleeping, loose weight easily, and feel very cold.
Remember the ruling energy: air, space and change. If you feel like you have too much Vata and are out of balance, you need to balance these properties with opposites - warming/grounding practices and routines.
For example, if you are flying in a plane (air, space, change) and eating rice cakes (dry, air) and have the overhead fan on (air) and forgot your moisturizer (dry), you can see how you would start to feel out of balance very quickly! If you have to fly as a Vata, put oil on your feet, wear cozy socks, wear a scarf around your neck and head, drink hot chai tea with coconut milk and meditate on the plane.
In Balance: When in balance, someone who is ruled by Pitta is a great leader, can hold people’s attention, is action oriented, gets sh*t done, has a great digestive system, and a lot of confidence. They have strong bodies and create muscle easily.
Out of Balance: When there is too much Pitta energy in your life, you will tend to feel angry, aggressive, have a short temper, become controlling, experience indigestion, have skin issues and burn yourself out.
Remember the ruling energy: Fire and Earth. If you have too much Pitta you need more cooling and calming practices and energies to balance you out.
For example, you don’t want to go to a hot yoga class in the middle of the summer then go eat Mexican food with a jalapeño margarita (no matter how great that actually sounds to you). You must understand, that we tend to be attracted to MORE of what is pulling us out of balance.
As a Pitta in the summer, you want to stay away from too much sun, try a swimming class, then eat a cool salad with a cucumber-mint margarita in an air-conditioned room.
In Balance: When in balance, Kaphas are motherly. They are soothing and comforting and cushy. Kaphas are supportive, loving, kind and generous. They are very present, mindful and gentle. They are super committed and have lasting endurance - they love routine.
Out of Balance: When there is too much kapha energy in your life, you may feel depressed, lethargic, tired, stubborn and unmotivated. If you get sick, it may take you forever to recover. You slow way down and have trouble finding motivation to do anything. You may gain weight and feel overly attached and sentimental.
Remember the ruling energy: Earth and Water. Combined, these make MUD. So if you are feeling extra muddy and sticky, you need opposite elements to balance you out: Fire and Zest. Sping is kapha season.
For example, if you are home on a cool, drizzly spring morning, you may feel like staying in bed past your alarm, skipping the gym, making a hot chocolate and eating it with ice cream as you watch Netflix under a gravity blanket. Frankly, this sounds quite appealing! But for Kaphas it can lead to a cycle of this behavior and become very challenging to get out of.
Instead, make sure to rise before the sun if possible. Get right out of bed and make a warm morning tonic with lemon, ginger and cayenne. This will help get you moving and awake. If you don’t go to the gym, at least try to take a brisk walk to get your heart pumping and your energy moving. Eat a light meal that has some spice - think a Thai coconut curry soup with fresh vegetables. Make time to socialize and laugh with friends (if your friends are Pitta or Vata, they will be craving your calm, grounding energy).
Now that you have an understanding of Ayurvedic principals for your Dosha, let’s talk about how you can recognize symptoms of Vata imbalance. Fall is Vata season, as it comes with lots of change, wind and dry air. Vata is the ruling dosh for all of us. If it goes out of balance, it can then pull your other doshas out of balance, so it’s always important to balance your Vata energy first.
Trouble sleeping / general restlessness
Distracted / trouble focusing
Anxious / nervous / jumpy / worried
Intolerance to wind or cold
Dry skin / itchy skin / cracked cuticles or heels
Overwhelmed / too much on your schedule
Trouble committing to… anything
Forgetful / confused / misplaced items
Yikes! I am definitely suffering from some of these symptoms right now. Note which ones are most prominent for you. If you are feeling most of these, you likely have Vata as your dominant dosha. If you aren’t Vata dominant, these symptoms may come in more subtle ways that you dismiss. Perhaps you are overly worried or anxious, easily scared or jumpy or find yourself craving chips, crackers and cold foods.
While your symptoms may be subtle at first, they will start to build on each other. You may look back from a week ago and think “what happened?” Instead of waiting to get to this point, you can preemptively start changing your routines and habits to help your body and mind during this time of year.
Many times we dismiss the symptoms or minimize them, but this can cause general anxiety and escalate to more serious symptoms, including dread of the Fall season. The truth is, we all go through this and making small shifts in your routine each day will help get you back on track.
Remember Vata is ruled by air, space and change. When you have too much of this energy, you will tip out of balance. To bring balance back, you must apply opposite properties inducing grounding practices, warming practices and routine.
As you read the recommended practices and food suggestions below, take note of which ones sound extra yummy to you. If you feel called to a certain practice, then try it out! You don’t have to do all of these, but think of them as guidelines that you can work within your current lifestyle.
OIL. Oil. oil… oil. If your Vata is out of balance, oil is the best and fastest way to get it back on track.
Oil on Feet. Apply oil to the soles of your feet (then put socks on) before bed or travel. I use a Vata Balancing herbal oil from Banyan Botanicals and love it. But you can also use un-toasted sesame oil.
Oil Massage: Before showering, massage Vata balancing oil (or sesame oil) all over your body, then hop in the shower. You don’t have to scrub or soap off the oil. Instead, let the steam open up your pores so the oil can absorb deep into your skin. Remember, always massage oil toward the heart.
Oil Pulling: Gently swish 1-2 tlb of sesame, coconut or Daily Swish oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes. Do this after you scrape your tongue and before you eat or drink anything.
Oil Cleansing: Switch to oil cleansing when you wash your face each night. I have a full video tutorial on this on IGTV.
Nose Oil. Rub some sesame or Nasya oil in your nose and gently sniff to lubricate your nasal canal.
Ear Oil. Put a drop of sesame or Vata balancing oil on your finger and swipe into your ear canal. This is especially helpful when flying.
Oil on Scalp. Add oil to the crown of your head or massage into your scalp. You can do this before bed for extra grounding and improved sleep.
Cook with Fat/Oil. Use ghee, coconut oil, butter and olive oil in all your food. Add extra oil to cooked foods.
Eat Healthy Fats. Make sure you get enough healthy fats. Add extra avocado, cheese (if you eat dairy), a drizzle of olive oil, a dollop of ghee, nuts, seeds and coconut products are all great to balance your Vata.
Slow Down: When overwhelmed by Vata energy, you may find yourself over committing to plans, then flaking out. You may feel scattered in your brain and forget to do things. Instead, try to slow down, don’t make too many social commitments and spend more time alone.
Meditate: Vata has very creative, spiritual energy. Harness that with an evening meditation. Light some candles, put oil on your feet, dim the lights and spend a few minutes quietly breathing in your meditation.
Nature Walks: You don’t want to trap the energy, but you want to slow it down. During this lovely time of year, take slow, mindful walks in nature. Extra bonus points if you walk near water.
Wear Layers: Your Vata energy creates a lot of change. One minute you may be warm, the next cold. Protect your temperature with cozy layers. Don’t be afraid to put on a flannel shirt, slippers and a scarf and sit under a blanket. This is a great way to contain your energy and settle anxiety.
Drink Warm Liquids: You may love your cold brew coffee, iced tea and margaritas. But when you are trying to bring balance back to yourself, cool off the cold beverages and opt for something warm hearty. Sightly sweet Bulletproof coffee/matcha/tea, chai with coconut milk, Golden Milk, bone broth with ghee and even a hot toddy are great choices. You can also have red wine, as it’s room temperature.
Eat Warm, Nourishing Foods: Soup, stew, chowder, kitchari, oh my! Opt for cooked foods, slow cooked meat, and extra calories. Your energy is vibrating, and there’s nothing like a warm, nourishing meal to calm your nerves.
Take a Bath: A bath is particularly helpful for Vata. Immerse yourself in warm water with grounding essential oils and a few drops of sesame oil.
Sweat it Out: Go to the steam room, sauna, hot tub or hot springs to warm up! Then put on some cozy clothing and get in bed with a book.
Vatas often resist routine, but creating one when you are out of whack will help you. Here are some ideas.
Get up at the same time each morning
Choose a few practices from this list to follow each morning and evening and create a mini routine
Eat your meals at similar times
Create a short bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to rest. For example, turn off devices 1 hour before bed, make a cup of golden milk with honey, light a candle, oil cleanse your face, meditate for 10 minutes, add oil to the soles of your feed, and read before going to sleep. Yum!
Commit to a weekly (or daily) movement practice.
Now that you have an idea of practices to start incorporating, here are some things to limit or avoid while trying to balance Vata. Understand that this is not a forever change. While you are trying to balance your Vata, you want to support this as much as possible. It may only take a few days or a week before you feel settled again. You may add back some of these activities/foods but you may feel so good you want to keep it up.
Busy Schedule: take a break from your busy social schedule. Give yourself permission to say “No” and build some more quiet time into your day.
Fast Paced Exercises: I know you love to move! Give your body some other workouts that are not fast flow vinyasa yoga. Try weight lifting, restorative yoga, swimming or long walks. See what happens when you slow your energy down.
Excess Technology: Use this time to read a new book, take a digital detox and leave your phone in the kitchen before bed. Technology is very stimulating and destabilizes Vata energy. Do what you can to limit it while you try to find more balance.
Shallow Breathing: Try to build awareness around your breath. Slow it down and mindfully take deeper breath breaks during the day.
Dry Brushing: While dry brushing is a great practice, I recommend taking a break from it if you feel Vata imbalance. It creates more air and can hurt sensitive Vata skin. Stick to oil massage for now.
Fans and Blowing Air: This season can be particularly tough for Vata because it’s often windy. EEEK!! Do what you can to protect yourself from the wind (oil massage, scarves and layers). At night, turn the fan off or cover yourself with a sheet to protect from the dry blowing air.
Talk Less: You heard me, Vata! We tend to spin out and crave more chatter, more activity and more high energy activities. Just stop and shush. Give your voice a break, give your brain a break and give your partner/friends/family a break from your chatter. It may feel odd a first, but there is a sense of relief hidden in there.
Plane Travel: Flying is especially hard for Vata. If you do fly, be sure to follow practices listed in this guide including: oil massage before flight, oil on feet, essential oils, scarf, warm beverages, warm/fatty foods, reading a book.
As mentioned throughout this post, food and drink are a GREAT way to balance Vata. It can also destabilize Vata and cause more troubles.
Cold/Carbonated Beverages: Just avoid them for now. Allow refrigerated drinks to come to room temp before consuming. Prioritize warm, hot and fat-fueled beverages.
Processed Sugars: As you can imagine, sugar sends Vata even higher. Choose fat over sugar. If you need sweet, use honey, maple syrup or dates.
Salad: I know salad sounds healthy, but the cold, dry properties of fresh vegetables do not help Vata. Instead, choose cooked vegetables, veggie stew or stir fry to get your veggie hit.
Dry Foods/Crackers: If you must have that crunch factor, at least add fat - cheese, almond butter, butter, etc. Ideally, you will forego chips, crackers, rice cakes etc, to find more balance.
Excess Caffeine: If you can, switch to green tea, chai or Matcha to reduce caffeine.
There you go! Let’s take care of ourselves so we feel better! These simple practices will make a massive difference in how you feel. You can transition into fall with ease, comfort and good health. Choose the practices that resonate with you and let me know how you feel.