The autumn has really started now on the British Isles with windy storms, short but heavy rains, and cold nights. What I immediately noticed in myself (and heard my friends and relations complain) is disturbed sleep, unexplained anxiety, overall dryness, and decreased appetite.
Ayurveda has a clear explanation of why all these symptoms started taking place: it is the beginning of the Vata season in Northwestern Europe which will hit its peak by the beginning of December (Fig. 1). Vata then slowly goes down and is superseded by Kapha in February, which, in turn, peaks in mid-March and then slowly decreases and clears the space for Pitta by the end of May. Then Pitta increases and reaches its peak in mid-July and then slowly goes down until it is completely gone by the end of September, making space for Vata. And the cycle goes on and on.
Fig.1 The seasonal rhythms in Northwestern Europe. Vata is blue, Pitta is orange and Kapha is green.
So, autumn and early winter are dominated by Vata Dosha (functional force), which has the following qualities: dry, rough, cold, mobile, transparent, subtle, clear.
Therefore, in this season, people who suffer from Vata-related disorders may notice their symptoms flare up. These include general and specific aches and pain, bloating, constipation, indigestion, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, depression, eczema, skin rashes (especially dry types) and so forth.
What can you do to support yourself during the Vata season?
Vata is a mobile Dosha, which means that it can easily get out of balance. It is especially important to provide your body and mind some support during this period in order to minimise the potentially deleterious effects of Vata aggravation.
As we know, like increases like and opposite decreases opposite. So, in order to counteract the increase of Vata Dosha that inevitably happens at this time of the year, the following steps are advised:
- Eat warm food, reduce or eliminate raw food. The best foods for Vata season are thick nourishing soups and stews.
- Whenever possible, consume local-seasonal-organic products.
- When cooking, use small amounts of warming spices like cinnamon, ginger (fresh), cloves, turmeric, pepper, asafoetida, rosemary, thyme etc.
- Avoid cold drinks, take warm or hot water during and between meals.
- Minimise stimulants like coffee and strong tea.
- Work towards establishing a daily routine: try to go to bed, wake up and have meals at more or less the same times. Regularity decreases Vata.
- Oil treatments efficiently counteract the dry quality of Vata Dosha. Perform regular abhyanga (oil application all over the body followed by a hot shower or bath). You can also try our professional Ayurvedic massage if you are in the area.
- Keep your extremities warm (feet, hands, ears, etc). Protect yourself from cold winds and draughts.
- Go for walks, even if the weather is not pleasant. This allows the body to more quickly adjust to the new season. Don’t forget the warm clothes!
Autumn is also the season of apples, and there is quite a variety of those over here. There is one annoying thing about apples: when eaten raw, they can seriously aggravate Vata and cause bloating, abdominal pain, or indigestion, especially if eaten in the evening. Or, sometimes, they can be irritating to the gums because they are too sour. Some people can also be allergic to raw apples. The good news is that cooked apples pacify Vata very well. They can be used for baking apple pies, crumbles, cooked with sugar, salt, spices and ghee (or butter) and then pureed, or simply baked. One of my favourites is kompot – a very easy to make tasty nutritious drink that is popular in Eastern Europe (it is different from what is known here as compote). More on my favourite apple recipes in one of the next posts!