This fall season, 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 is 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.
1. Consume cooling foods
Fall is not the time for hot chili sauces (think: Sriracha) or even pungent spices, such as 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.
2. Get creative with coconut
Another way to stay cool is by incorporating coconuts into your daily routine. The tropical fruits are full of good fats, vitamins and minerals. And according to Ayurveda, they're one of the most balancing foods for pitta dosha, as they're naturally sweet, unctuous and, yup, cooling. Coconuts can also help strengthen your immune system and have antibacterial and antiviral properties, per research.
There are a few different ways you can benefit from coconuts this fall — all of which involve the fruit's oil. Try covering your head and body with coconut oil 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 when your skin is feeling especially dry. Beyond topical application, cooking with coconut oil and drinking coconut water are also great ideas for staying cool during pitta season.
3. 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. The sweet, bitter and astringent tastes of foods such as leafy green veggies, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, beets, okra and more, help balance pitta dosha. So this is the season to incorporate more of these tastes to stay cool and calm.
4. Avoid overheating
During autumn, 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 saunas, hot tubs or steam rooms or to overdo your exercise routines. Even overwork — e.g. working too many hours per day or week, constantly thinking about your work, burning the midnight oil, etc. — can create heat and exhaustion in your body. So, it’s necessary to avoid any extremes in terms of work, exercise or hot temperatures.
5. 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, there's a harvest festival known as Sharad Purnima. During this celebration, you're encouraged to eat cooling, coconut-infused, naturally sweet foods, wear white clothing (vs. darker colors, which absorb more heat) and take in the blessings of moonlight as a way to fill yourself with abundant cooling energy for the entire year ahead. Check out this site to find out when Sharad Purnima is in your particular location.