The only consistency in our lives as humans is change. In Ayurvedic tradition, the autumn symbolizes the pinnacle of transition in the course of the year. We witness change and transition in the landscape and in the later rise and earlier descent of the sun, and we certainly can feel it in the air and in our bodies.
Contrary to Western tradition, there are three seasons that align with the three doshas, or energies, according to Ayurveda: vata, pitta, and kapha. As the hot summer (pitta) season cools into the cold winter (kapha) season, the autumn (vata) season prompts a shift in our pace, our mood, and our diet. School or work picks back up for some in September, and we snuggle in for cooler nights. We may mourn the heat of the summer sun or shiver as the trees shake off their foliage. Undeniably, our bodies seek to stoke from within, through our agni – internal fire – that warmth of summer associated with the pitta dosha.
The vata season generally begins in October, when trees begin to change color, and ends just before the coldest part of the winter. It is characterized as cold, windy, dry, rough, and inconsistent, and so we aim to balance these external characteristics by shifting our diet towards a routine of warm, soothing, wholesome and non-acidic foods. Moving toward a more consistent diet of foods that ignite the agni will also help to mitigate vata imbalances including stress, restlessness, dry skin, indigestion or constipation, or muscle soreness.
Some dietary habits that will support a balanced vata include:
- Eating warm or roasted foods such as root vegetables – NOT raw/cold foods such as salads, dry cereals, and dried fruits
- Favoring stews, soups, pastas, warm morning cereals, or cooked fruits
- Cooking and spicing foods with a combination of sweet, sour and salty flavors
- Selecting foods that are easily digestible, such as rice, and rather than beans
- Drinking warm herbal teas [before bed] with ginger, honey, ghee, warm milk
- Avoiding coffee and other caffeinated drinks
- Keeping a routine: not skipping breakfast, morning meditation, evening tea, etc.
You may find that you already tend towards these types of foods as the seasons change, and, naturally, more of these types of foods become available and present. Likewise, after eating a vata-balancing meal, nothing feels better than a gentle yoga session, meditation with energizing essential oils, or a warm bath to complement.