Ayurveda – Wisdom of Life
Ayurveda, a holistic system for wellness rooted in India, translates to the Wisdom of Life. I love this definition because it highlights the truth that our health and well-being cannot be separated from the larger whole; we are intrinsically connected to the environment we live in and what is outside of us is also within us. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, there are three Doshas or constitutions/body types. They are Vata (made up of air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (earth and water). By the month of October, here on the east coast of the U.S., Vata (air and space elements) season is in full swing.
During the fall season, as the weather becomes cooler and dryer, the elements of the Vata dosha dominate. The qualities of Vata are: cool, light, dry, mobile, subtle, erratic, and changeable. During the transition from Summer to Autumn, “change is in the air” as people shift their routines and schedules and get back on track so to speak, preparing for the months ahead. People who have the qualities of Vata dominant in their body makeup (e.g., you get cold easily, your skin tends to be dry, and you are drawn to movement) may feel ungrounded and, even, anxious now due to the feeling of change (note: if you are a healthy Vata person you will be less affected, however if you have a Vata imbalance you will likely feel ‘thrown off’ during this time). For others, with Pitta and/or Kapha dominant constitutions, the change of weather and routines may be welcome and refreshing.
According to Ayurvedic teachings, opposite elements and qualities create balance while the same ones can send us further out of balance. For example, if you have a predominance of Vata in your constitution you will, as I noted above, be more likely to feel thrown off balance now and, therefore, it is wise to focus on bringing into your daily life the opposing qualities of Vata, such as steadiness, a slower pace, routines/structure, warmth, and moisture. You can do this through food choices (e.g., increase warm and wholesome food, such as stews and grains and cooked veggies, and take it easy on salads and raw/cold foods), daily yoga (or exercise) and breathing practices (but nothing too intense; slow and steady wins the race right now). Some signs that you have a Vata imbalance are: light-headedness (you may feel space-y or dizzy), inability to focus (i.e., mind is scattered and jump-y), low energy/tired/drained, a feeling that you can’t warm up easily (e.g., cold feet and hands), erratic appetite (i.e., you may forget to eat or not feel hungry), bloating and gas, constipation, interrupted sleep/insomnia.
Solutions for Vata Overload
For those who are experiencing Vata overload, it’s crucial to bring more structure into your life. You can do this by creating a consistent daily schedule, such as going to sleep and waking at the same time each day, eating your meals at about the same time each day, etc. Eating a bigger/more substantial lunch and a smaller/lighter dinner is a wise idea for everyone and, especially, if you have indigestion and/or trouble sleeping. Meditation and yoga connect the body, mind and spirit, metaphysically speaking, and create a feeling of harmony and well-being (note: even if you mediate for just 4 minutes each morning you are doing something significant–consistency is the key with Vata imbalances).
Autumn can be Balancing for Kapha and Pitta
If, on the other hand, you are Kapha (earth and water) or Pitta (fire and water) dominant, you may, as my mother says, be “feeling your oats” during the Fall season and relish in the lively feel of change. Pitta people run hot by nature, so the cooler temperatures are balancing for them. Pitta, similar to Vata, likes to be “on the go” and so a steady, slower-paced routine, as we transition into Fall, is balancing for both Pitta and Vata. Kapha dominant people are steady, grounded and slower moving by nature, and when out of balance they feel lethargic, so the Fall may feel invigorating for Kapha folks, putting some pep in their step.
The way you handle the change of season depends on your natural constitution (i.e., the dosha(s) you were born with; most people are born with one or two dominant) and any imbalances you are currently experiencing (this is your current state of being and may or may not conflict with your dosha). In general, it is beneficial for everyone to slow down a bit now in order to take stock and reflect on what you would like to create and shift going forward.
Nicole Alexander is a Yoga Teacher, Ayurveda Wellness Counselor, Astrologer, and Writer. She lives and teaches in Westchester County, NY. Visit her website to learn more about her services and offerings: NicoleAthena.com.