An increasing amount of western yogis are embracing the ancient teachings of Ayurveda, an ancient system of natural healing developed in India. Ayurveda believes that everything in the world—the Earth and all things on it—can be characterized by physical traits, and can therefore be brought into balance according to that physicality.
In climates that experience seasons, Ayurveda defines the seasons according to their elemental characteristics—whether they are founded in earth, fire, water, air and/or space.
“Autumn is what we call ‘Vata season,’ in Ayurveda, which in five-element theory means that the fire of summer has subsided, and the earth and water elements that characterize spring are freezing and drying, so we are left with a predominance of air and space elements in nature and our bodies,” explains Julia Clarke, a certified Ayurveda wellness consultant and yoga instructor based in Vail, Colorado.
Define Your Balance
Clarke says Vata season is distinguished by excess movement, dryness, lightness and cold (air and space), which come out in ways of cold, drying winds and unstable weather patterns.
“Since the human physiology reflects what’s happening in nature, we also experience restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, constipation and dry skin,” she shares.
What Ayurveda recommends is the concept of “Vishesha,” which Clarke explains means that we can balance disorder in the body and mind by simply applying foods and behaviors with the opposite qualities.
So, for Autumn, Ayurveda recommends staying warm with warm, spiced foods, hot herbal teas and saunas, while promoting moisture and heaviness by using extra healthy oils in cooking and on your skin. Clarke also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a very regular schedule of sleeping and eating.
For Clarke, balancing the effects of Autumn in the already dry and sporadic mountain climate she lives in means daily full-body sesame oil massages (self-administered before a shower) to improve circulation. She says it keeps her skin moist and her body warm all day.
“I also use my crockpot daily so that regardless of how much Vata-aggravating running around I’m doing, I can have warm, spiced, cooked meals like vegetable sops, chilies and stews,” Clarke shares. “I put my Nalgene away and start using my thermos to sip hot ginger tea throughout the day. And perhaps most importantly, I maintain my regular meditation schedule and indulge myself with restorative and Yin Yoga.
Kim Fuller grew up in the Colorado mountains and has always found beauty and inspiration through nature and movement. She is currently a freelance journalist and yoga teacher based in Vail. Her writing and photo work has focused on health, wellness, recreation, food, and travel since 2007, and Kim began her yoga practice in Boulder, followed by her first teacher training with Real Evolution Yoga at Peace Retreat Costa Rica in November of 2012.1