November has brought with it vata season. Vata in Ayurveda is all things energy and movement and is composed of ether and air. The qualities of vata are light, dry, cold, rough, and mobile. It is important during this time of year we transition our diets, lifestyle and daily routine to respond to this abundance of vata in our environment. As we gradually shift from pitta season to vata season, we must incorporate warm, moist foods to offset the dry, cold climate we’re experiencing. Sweet, bitter, and astringent foods should be eaten more in the fall; followed by sweet, sour, and salty in early winter.
Sweet foods have an important role in our body. They promote growth and strengthen body tissues. They give the body a luster and glow. Sweets contribute to healthy skin, hair and nails. Sweet foods include grains, sugar, honey, maple syrup, milk, dates, and most root vegetables. Not only do sweets have a physical effect on our bodies, but according to Ayurveda, sweets effect the mind by encouraging compassion and love.
Bitters have a special place in our diet because they eliminate toxins. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, laxative, and support digestion. Good examples in our diet include dandelion greens, coffee, bitter melon, aloe vera, and most leafy vegetables. Bitters are believed to enhance self-awareness on the mind.
Astringent foods improve absorption of foods, constrict blood vessels, stop bleeding, promote healing and are anti-bacterial. Examples of astringent foods are most beans, green beans, turmeric, persimmons, pomegranate, acorns and cranberries. These astringent foods are meant to cause quiet on the mind.
In the fall we must also change our daily habits of moisturizing our bodies with warming oils externally and internally to avoid dehydrating, dryness and irritation. Many people don’t realize the importance of hydrating and lubricating the body properly. It’s important to hydrate the body with appropriate water and liquids, but equally important to incorporate fats that moisturize the body from the inside. Avocado, olive oil, fish oil, and ghee are incredibly important in keeping the insides of our bodies lubricated and functioning well. Think of it as continually washing your hands – they get really dry and irritated if you’re not adding lotion from time to time. We need to do this internally as well as externally.
The outside of the body should be moisturized daily to keep the skin, our largest organ, healthy. The skin bends, protects, and recovers best when massaged with lotions and oils. It is recommended in Ayurveda that the body receive a daily abhyanga with medicated oils upon awakening. Part of the ayurvedic daily routine includes massaging the entire body with oil – in winter a warming oil like sesame or mustard is best. This morning massage prevents aging, improves circulation, reduces excess vata in the body, and calms the mind.
Lastly is exercise! During fall and winter it’s the best time for moderate exercise. The body needs the stimulation to warm itself and move sluggish energy, but keep exercise to 50-70% of your effort. Hiking, jogging, and biking are good ways to stimulate the body. And always incorporate grounding yoga and meditation. Pranayama, which is yogic breathing exercises, is excellent for grounding excess vata. Nasi Shodana, alternate nostril breathing, is very balancing this time of year.
If you would like an Ayurvedic consult or more information on treatments, please visit www.laayurveda.com. I will continue to offer an introductory package for $99. This includes an initial consult and one treatment. For more information please call 310-614-3669. Hours in Brownsville at 620 Oak Street are Tuesdays 11am to 4pm, Thursdays in Albany at 430 SW Washington Street from 12pm to 6pm and in Eugene at 1725 Pearl Street from 3pm to 8pm Wednesdays and Fridays.