In Ayurveda, we are looking to understand the health of the person in relationship to the whole body, the environment, the seasons, and the elements. The Fall Equinox marks our transition from Summer season (Pitta; fire and water) to Fall season (Vata; air and space), and reminds us to pay attention to the shift in elements as we bring balance to our minds and bodies.
Fall season, holding the qualities of air and space, is a time of change, letting go, and of finding your roots and sense of place. It’s a great time to ask yourself where your roots are; what you stand for, what you value, and where you feel most at home. If we don’t make time to ground ourselves and put our energy and attention into what matters most in our lives, we can easily be swept up by the airiness of this season and fall into anxiety, insomnia, or patterns of overthinking.
Making time to reflect, meditate, and/or journal about those topics can be incredibly grounding during this time. It can help you set a foundation for yourself this season; one where you know you priorities, your roots and your source of stability as the weather begins to turn from the outward sunny energy of Summer, to the introspective energies of Fall and then Winter.
Most of us have gotten somewhat acclimated to slowing down and finding our roots, as quarantine has left many of us spending the majority of our time at home. But because of the heaviness of the pandemic, wildfires, and upcoming elections, a lot of us might not be feeling the cozy nurturing qualities of staying at home, and instead, might be feeling stuck, overwhelmed, sluggish or disconnected due to lack of in-person social connection. The wild fires were also emotionally taxing and physically challenging for our lungs and nervous systems (read our previous article, “Respiratory Health” for information on lung care during this time), which means most of us will need even more self-care than usual to replenish during this time. To replenish your system, you can ground yourself and balance some of the Vata energies this season, by drawing upon the qualities of Kapha (earth and water) and using these Vata-pacifying techniques:
Root vegetables are incredibly grounding, because they are literally pulled from beneath the ground. Incorporating local, root vegetables can be very beneficial at this time—just make sure, if the vegetables from your garden have ash on them, then you wash it thoroughly (you can even rinse them in white vinegar to remove the ash). Vegetables like beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, parsnips, potatoes/sweet potatoes, daikon and rutabagas, are all examples of root vegetables.
Cooking the majority of your foods this season will be helpful; frozen foods and raw foods ought to be kept to a minimum if possible because the qualities of this season are already cold. We want to balance the Vata energies (cold, dry, rough, airy, spacious) by adding in a bit of their opposites. A little extra oil and healthy fats will help insulate the body and facilitate a positive mood. Adding extra protein and warming foods and spices can be helpful as they are grounding and require the agni (digestive fire) to turn on. Eggs, Legumes, Ghee, and Yogurt are great protein options for vegetarians; Turkey, Chicken, Buffalo, Shrimp and Lobster, are great sources of protein for meat-eaters.
Nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, basil, garlic, ginger, asafoetida, clove, rosemary, parsley, turmeric, and oregano can help soothe and warm your system, support proper digestion, and calm anxious energies.
Cooked apples and soaked raisins (rehydrated in warm water), warm lemon water, dates, avocadoes, grapefruits, mangoes, and pears are good options for balancing Vata, bringing in Kapha qualities, and adding a bit of sweetness to your diet! Grains like amaranth, basmati rice, oats, and brown rice; legumes like kidney beans, mung beans, adzuki beans and dal, are also helpful for bringing stability and strength to the system during this time. Soups, stews, porridges are all great cooking options, as they’ll bring our bodies the grounding, warmth, and hydration they need.
Nourishing your body with whole foods (as organic as possible because of all the chemicals used in conventional growing) is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself. According to Ayurveda, what we eat dictates a large portion of how we feel and how our organs function on a daily basis. Each time you sit down over a bowl of Kitchari or vegetable soup, thank yourself for making the time to nourish your body.
Abhayanga, body massage
Abhayanga is one of the self-care practices discussed in Ayurveda, and it basically translates to self-massage. Massaging your whole body on a regular basis, with organic sesame oil or coconut oil (sesame oil is recommended for the cooler months because it is warming), is regenerative for your tissues, muscles and organs. It helps to cleanse the lymphatic system and detox the body, as it calms the mind and alleviates tension. Here, at Santa Cruz Ayurveda, we offer Abhayanga Massages with herbal-infused oils and specialized techniques to nourish your entire system. Our massages can be a wonderful addition to your at home self-massage regimen, and are also offered as part of our Gut Healing Protocol and Panchakarma Cleansing Therapy.
This season is a time of letting go, and the better we take care of our bodies, the easier it will be for us to sit with any grief that comes up for us in the coming months. Oftentimes, because so much in our environment starts to die, we are subconsciously confronted with death. It might be subtle for some of us, or overt for others, but this season can unearth many heavy emotions related to the loss of loved ones in many forms—not just physical death. The ending of romantic relationships, friendships, and/or business partnerships, the loss of a job, the loss of a home or a big move, the loss of a pet or the loss of a family member or friend, or—in the category of subtle grief, the loss of some summer activities as we bounce back into the swing of the school year, cooler weather, or the holiday season up ahead—are some examples of possible loss. And, sometimes our grief from who or what we lost years ago can resurface, because healing from painful experiences takes time.
During this Fall season, we are invited to look to the ground for our healing; for the medicine of our garden harvests, for a safe space to rest and feel our feelings, and for our reconnection to our sense of place. If you feel a lack of belonging in this world, or an immense amount of grief, Ayurveda reminds us of the importance of seeking support and nourishment, on all levels.
See if you can make some time in the coming weeks to lay down, flat on the ground and feel your breath, your heartbeat, and any heavy emotions that are present within you. These emotions want to be felt and released. When you lay on the ground to feel your feelings, start by getting into a comfortable position — arms by your sides, legs apart. Feel yourself held and supported by the earth. Find your breath, allow each inhale to be slow and steady, filling the belly all the way up into the chest. Allow your exhales to be even slower, and visualize the tension in your body melting into the earth beneath you. Let it take that heaviness and recycle it, as it does so well this season.