5 Ayurvedic Practices for a Healthy Fall
Stay cool, calm and collected with the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda.
The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda teaches that we should follow seasonal rhythms to keep ourselves in harmony with the cycles of nature. This means that the foods we eat and lifestyle choices we make throughout the year change every season, in accordance with where the earth's position relative to the sun.
Many people (some Ayurvedic experts included!) tend to say that fall is the season when vata dosha (the Ayurvedic bioforce of movement, made of the air and space elements) is out of balance because autumn is windy. But the ancient texts actually reveal that this is the time when pitta dosha is excited in the atmosphere. Pitta dosha is the Ayurvedic bioforce of transformation, comprised of the fire and water elements.
The heat of the summer months, from mid-May through mid-September, causes the heat in your body (connected with pitta dosha) to increase. This buildup of heat reaches a climax in your body and mind by mid-September. What has built up all summer gets expressed in autumn, when Ayurveda practitioners like myself see a higher number of people complaining of heat-related issues, like shingles, hyperacidity, hot flashes and so on. By mid-November, once the colder temperatures really settle in and take over, this heat naturally subsides.
To balance pitta dosha in the fall, you need to focus on staying cool — physically, mentally and emotionally. Here are five ways to do it.
Consume cooling foods
Fall is not the time for Sriracha or other types of hot chili sauces, or even pungent spices like garlic and ginger. This is the time to invite more coolness into your life. In Ayurveda, cooling foods include all types of squashes, spinach, plums, pomegranates, ghee (clarified butter, which is also an excellent source of immune support), spices like coriander and fennel and even flowers such as roses and marigolds.
One particularly helpful home remedy you can try in the fall is to brew fresh marigold flower petals into hot water. This makes a special Ayurvedic tea that is excellent for boosting your immunity, managing heat in the body and supporting your hair and skin.
Include sweet, bitter and astringent tastes in your diet
In Ayurveda, certain tastes are recommended in greater quantities than others during different seasons of the year, as they balance the dosha that is naturally excited in the atmosphere.
The sour, salty and pungent tastes all have the fire element in them, which, while stimulating to your taste buds, can cause you to overheat, especially in the fall season. The sweet, bitter and astringent tastes help balance pitta dosha, so this is the season to incorporate more of these tastes to stay cool and calm.
The best sources of the sweet taste are foods like white basmati and jasmine rice, sweet fruits, sweet potatoes, okra, spinach, raisins, carrots and pumpkins.
Great options for incorporating the bitter taste include green vegetables like asparagus, dandelion greens, kale, and collard greens.
The best source of the astringent taste is pomegranates, an incredible superfood that studies suggest provide anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Research even suggests that pomegranates have anti-carcinogenic components. In Ayurveda, pomegranates are strongly recommended as something to consume on a daily basis during the fall.
During the fall season, it's important to stay cool — literally. Due to the heat of the fire element contained in pitta dosha, this is not the season to spend time in the sauna, hot tubs or steam rooms, or to overdo your exercise routines. Even overwork can create heat and exhaustion in your body, so it’s necessary to avoid any extremes in terms of work, exercise or hot temperatures.
Stay cool with coconuts
Coconuts are full of good fats, vitamins and minerals. According to Ayurveda, coconuts are one of the most balancing foods for pitta dosha, as they're naturally sweet, unctuous and cooling. They can also help strengthen your immune system and have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
There are a few different ways you can benefit from coconuts this fall. Try oiling your head and body with it prior to showering (ideally in the morning or just before eating dinner) as a way to energize your body, hydrate and rejuvenate your skin, and even prevent headaches. You can also use coconut oil as a moisturizer for anytime your skin feels dry. Cooking with coconut oil is a great idea in the fall season, and you can also drink coconut water as a way to stay cool inside during pitta season.
Soak in the moonlight
In Ayurveda, we deeply acknowledge our interconnectedness with nature. The sun, moon and wind are like embodiments of the three doshas in the macrocosm, with the the sun as a manifestation of the fiery pitta dosha. To balance the intensity and heat of the sun, we need to bring in more of the cooling lunar energy. This is why soaking in moonlight by walking under the moon (where you feel safe to do so), sitting and even sleeping directly beneath the moon is considered therapeutic in Ayurveda.
Every fall, on the night of the fullest moon, a festival is celebrated, where you are encouraged to eat cooling, coconut-infused naturally sweet foods, wear white clothing and take in the blessings of moonlight as a way to fill yourself with abundant cooling energy for the entire year ahead.