Autumn is my favorite season and time of year. The glorious colors of the leaves changing, the wild movements of the skies, and the crispness in the air all have me so inspired and energized! Unfortunately, it’s also a time of getting run down, stressed out, and prone to disease. It’s a time of movement and change, a time to nourish our ancestors, as well as ourselves.
In Vedic wisdom, it’s said that if we want to be healthy and happy, we must honor our ancestors in order to free ourselves from our karmic pasts. We must nourish our ancestors through daily offerings so they may serve and support us. As the Great Ayurvedic Sage Maya Tiwari says: “At this significant time of year (Autumn) when ancestors are energetically open to receiving nourishment, we have an incredible chance to remember them, and in so doing, to free ourselves from ancestral karmas of grief, despair and disease.”
Creating an ancestral altar is a beautiful practice to reconnect to our roots and the universe, which connects us all. To start, place pictures of your ancestors or the country of their origin, along with your teachers, or anyone who has supported your growth. Make daily offerings of fruit, candles, incense or anything you know your ancestors loved! Offer their favorite food, drink or music and speak to them and ask for their guidance and strength. Another way to honor the ancestors, especially if you don’t know much about them, is to do service in homeless shelters, or senior homes, or serve in any way you can.
Autumn is also a time of self-nourishment, where if we forget to acknowledge and remember ourselves, we are most prone to dis-ease. In Ayurvedic Medicine, Yoga’s sister science of healing and living in harmony with nature, Fall is Vata season, ruled by the elements of air and ether. Vata is translated as “wind” or “that which moves,” and is characterized by the qualities of dryness, lightness, coldness, mobility and erratic energy. As we see these qualities manifesting outside with the drying leaves, cooler and fluctuating temperatures. and wind, we can see these qualities in ourselves too: dry lips, dry skin, dry nasal passages. We might also experience constipation, gas, bloating, weight loss, insomnia, disrupted sleep, cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold, feeling restless, depleted, weak, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, hyperactivity and excessive talking, nervousness, anxiety and fearfulness.
Here are a few Ayurvedic suggestions to balance the symptoms of Vata during fall, to enjoy the magic and richness the season has to offer, and to prepare for winter! Instead of thinking of them as a list of do’s and don’ts, think of them as making sacred offerings to honor and connect to yourself, just as you are also connecting to your ancestors.
1. Stress Less!
Ayurvedic medicine believes that stress can weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to dis-ease. One of the best ways to balance Vata in the fall is to reduce stress through self-care. Create a daily routine, eat regular meals and make them nourishing, warming and grounding foods. Don’t take on too many projects at once. Prioritize what is most important, make lists, and give your self plenty of time to finish projects. Spend quality time with friends and family.
2. Sleep Deep!
Make sure to get plenty of sleep during Vata season, which strengthens the immune and nervous systems. Rise with the sun, but also set with the sun. You don’t need to go to sleep at 5 during the shorter days of fall, but try turning in and tuning in as the sun sets. Vata’s positive qualities are heightened during dawn and dusk. Spend time reading, writing, meditating. Find quiet time, while limiting internet and television, and try to sleep for eight hours.
3. Balancing Breath!
To reduce excess Vata and its symptoms, practice a deep, balancing, gentle breathing practice called Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breath. Place your right thumb loosely on your right nostril, and your right ringer on your left nostril. Inhale and exhale through both nostrils a few times slowly and the gently close off your left nostril and exhale through your right, inhale right, switch fingers and exhale left, inhale left switch and exhale right. This is one round, practice 9 -18 rounds in the morning or evening or both!
4. Nasal Nourishment!
The neti wash and nasya are two therapies that are great for the Vata dosha. The neti wash flushes out dust, bacteria, viruses, and excess mucus. Mix ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt into one cup of filtered, distilled, or pre-boiled warm water into a neti pot. Bend over a sink and insert the tip into your top nostril to form a tight seal. Tilt your head slightly to one side and let the saline pass through your nasal passages and out the lower nostril. Repeat two to three times on each side, gently blowing your nose to release mucus from the nasal passages. Most sinus problems originate with dry and irritated sinuses, Nasya is a therapy aimed at lubricating the sinuses so they are less reactive to dryness and airborne irritants. To try it, lie down on a sofa or bed and tilt your head back as far as you can. Drop two to four drops of oil in each nostril and sniff the oil into the sinuses.
5. Slow Flow!
Make sure that your yoga practice is nourishing, instead of fast and depleting. This will reduce stress and strengthen immunity. Slow down the flow and include more Yin and Restorative Yoga, and spend more time Savasana.
6. More Massage!
An Ayurvedic practice called abhyanga is a full-body hot oil massage, which you can practice yourself to reduces anxiety, stiffness, stress, and excess Vata. Use warm organic sesame oil in the fall, as its warming qualities counteract the season’s cold, dry nature. Massage into your whole body, but especially your feet, and everything is nourished through the ROOTS!
Jasmine Tarkeshi is the Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF and is a renowned teacher and devoted student of Yoga’s ancient and transformative teachings and practices. She has been teaching for 19 years worldwide with the deepest faith in every being’s innate ability to awaken to their truest Selves and become true agents for change and healing our world. She teaches open classes weekly.