September marks the transition from hot summer days to the cooler temperatures of fall. Some days can be very hot and some days are dry and cold. We can begin to see the shifts in nature changing from the color of the trees, the crispness in the air, to a certain subtle quietness of life turning inwards. The abundant harvest of late summer and fall invites us to enjoy local and seasonal produce. As we are in a point of transition, it is vital to ease into the new seasons with preparation.
Fall marks a time to come together and draw inwards. Fall brings in the element of air and prana (life force). This time can bring coolness, clarity, and change. However, fall can also create imbalances of feeling anxious and scattered.
Ayurveda uses the doshas to understand the shifting of seasons. The doshas are three categories that govern your individual mind and body constitution and the seasons. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. From late fall to winter is Vata season. It is marked by qualities such as dry, windy, cool, and rough. In the Vata season change is predominant.
Due to the cooling temperatures, the body can react to the change and can create deficiencies. If we do not take the proper care of the shift in our environment, we can aggravate dry skin, mental disorders such as anxiety, digestive issues such as constipation, and other illnesses. Some symptoms that often occur from fall to winter are: irregular digestion, dry skin, lack of luster, and irregular emotions that can leave you feeling depleted, stressed, or facing depression. Just as you externally begin to bundle up in sweaters and scarves, it is important to shift internally to maintain your health. This means more warming foods and more nourishment.
Transitions are important between the seasons! At the end of summer we need to get rid of accumulated heat and Pitta from hot summer days by having cooling foods and fiber. Fiber will help clear out any ama (toxins) in the body and left over heat. Especially since some places are the hottest in September and October while continuing to dry out. After this we can transition to Vata-Pacifying foods that are warm and cooked. This means we need moment-to-moment awareness of each day in order to stay in balance. If it is a really hot day you can eat more raw foods like salad, but slowly transition to moist and warm foods as it becomes more dry and cold.
As it gets colder, it is important to shift from cooling foods, such as fruit and coconut oil, to warming and cooked foods that can help insulate the body, such as sesame oil, soups, and broths.
In the fall harvests, nature provides us with the right foods to do so as there is an abundance of warming root vegetables such as beets, carrots, and potatoes to help ground us and reduce Vata. Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds are also harvested during this time and bring us the qualities we need to thrive during this season. For fruits particularly focus onapples and pears, which will help transition your body to the cooler temperatures by supplying fiber. The fiber will help clean out the intestinal tract. This is also why it is important to eat lots of cooked bitter greens. On dry and cold days stay away from crackers, chips, and popcorn as these will dry out your body more.
Another great shift you can also make is to focus on externally applying more oils to your skin to keep it hydrated and protected from dry skin.
As we transition to Vata Season we will delve more deeply into the seasonal diet for fall and winter. In general, be aware of what the weather looks like and any imbalances you might be experiencing as the seasons change! Drink more water and tea, eat more warming foods, and take the time to turn inwards!
Frawley, David, and Vasant Lad. The Yoga of Herbs. Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin; 2001. 28-31
Douillard, John. The 3-Season Diet: eat the way nature intended to lose weight, beat food cravings, and get fit. Three Rivers Press, New York: 2000. 86-88