According to Ayurvedic wisdom, every season has a doshic quality and right now we are fully engaged in the Vata season. It’s the season of dry, cold, windy weather. It’s the season of cracked lips and chapstick. It’s the season of bundling up in warm socks and sweaters. When we are practicing Ayurveda and living an Ayurvedic lifestyle, it’s important to take the season and the qualities of the season into account so that we can begin to balance and harmonize ourselves by making the necessary diet and lifestyle changes. Even if our normal constitution is not a Vata type, our Vata can become imbalanced during this season. Now is not the time for the raw salads and cold drinks we may enjoy in the summer.
A Vata imbalance can manifest itself both physically and emotionally and can be brought on by the changes in the weather. It’s important to always listen to the inner wisdom of your higher self and honor the body appropriately. On a physical level, Vata can be easily identified by dry cracked lips and skin and dry hair. Noisy, crackly, achy joints are also a sign of elevated Vata as well as difficult digestion including constipation and bloating. Vata is wind, and that wind can get caught in your intestines. Elevated Vata that is left unbalanced for a long time can lead to unwanted weight loss and even neck and back deformations. Emotionally speaking, high Vata can feel like a strong sense of being ungrounded and feelings of anxiety and nervousness. There can be a general sense of being “spaced out.” Again, think air and wind on an emotional level.
So what can we do to nurture ourselves during this season? I think in the cold autumn and winter weather we naturally gravitate toward warming soups and drinks, which are wonderful ways to reduce Vata and balance ourselves physically and emotionally. Warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and turmeric can be added to our foods and drinks. A wonderful warming and grounding drink for someone with a Vata imbalance, or for anyone during the Vata season, is warm, sweet spiced milk. Heat some milk (ideally raw milk if you have access to it) in a pan and add some cinnamon, clove and cardamom. Throw in a little maple sugar, raw honey or your favorite natural sweetener. Sip slowly and enjoy the warmth spreading through your body all the way out to your fingers and toes! Another great warming and grounding drink that has the added benefit of helping to lubricate the dry cracking joints of a Vata person, is hot milk with a dash of turmeric, a dash of sweetener and a teaspoon of sesame oil. Sesame oil is the preferred oil for Vata people.
Speaking of sesame oil, it is a good idea to do Abhyanga or daily self massage especially during this season. Different oils are recommended for the different doshic imbalances. Olive oil is good for a Pitta type because of its cooling nature, sesame oil, as I have already mentioned is good for Vata types for its warmth and sunflower oil is appropriate for the Kapha type who needs invigoration and energy. During the Vata season, whatever your constitution, the skin can become dry and cracked. Use the oil that is best for you and rub it into your skin every morning. If you like scents, essential oils can be added to the massage oil as well for a full experience. Scents that are recommended for Vata are patchouli and cinnamon. Pitta types will benefit from cool smells like lavender and sweet basil and a Kapha would appreciate the energizing smells of eucalyptus or orange. These oils can also be added to a warming bath that will help to ground and soothe during the Vata season.
Also during the Vata season, and especially if you have a Vata imbalance, try sticking to a routine and a good sleep schedule, this can help keep reduce anxieties. Get plenty of sleep and find a yoga practice that is grounding. Generally speaking, Vata types benefit from slow movements and resting postures. Establishing a daily meditation practice, even if it’s only for five minutes a day, can help with the grounding process as well.
Whatever the season is, the body has a way of expressing its needs. When you practice honoring the body and the self while applying Ayurvedic principles, you will naturally become more tuned in and more adept at understanding and identifying those needs so that you can nurture and care for yourself. Ayurveda gives us the tools necessary to come back into balance and support the natural healing processes. Ayurveda is very much about empowering the individual and teaching him self reliance so that he may take his health into his own hands.