It’s been such a wonderful summer, with lingering evening twilights in which to enjoy time with family and friends. It is a time when Auckland earns its reputation as one of the world’s most liveable cities. But as we all know this sunshine will not last forever and that is why we need to start preparing for autumn.
This is where Ayurveda, the ancient health science of India, can provide some valuable insights in managing this seasonal transition. It helps us understand that each season brings different qualities to the environment and it is these qualities that have a direct impact on our bodies. Ayurveda’s unique message is that it is important to live our lives in harmony with the seasons by making changes to our diet and lifestyle to keep the body in balance as it is balance that is the key to health and happiness.
Ayurveda recognises that each season has unique characteristics and qualities. In autumn, the environment is dominated by cold, rough, dry and erratic qualities. Because we are exposed to these qualities every day, it is natural that they will have an impact so our bodies start feeling cold, dry and rough. These qualities start manifesting in the body with problems like dry and rough skin, chaffed lips, thin, dry hair, stiff and tight muscles, feelings of anxiety, fatigue and tiredness, particularly in the afternoon and disturbed sleep.
In our bodies, these qualities are also the principle characteristics of Vata, one of the three intelligences that govern all bodily functions. Vata is the energy of movement in the body. It operates like a benevolent director of transportation causing everything in the body to move in a smooth and orderly fashion so that it arrives in the right place at the right time.
However, when these qualities start accumulating in the body, it can aggravate the Vata Dosha. When Vata becomes aggravated, it can become hyper-active, manifesting in a restlessness in the body and a mind that won’t slow down. It can also, due to its erratic nature, become hypo-active, resulting in sluggishness in the body and mind. This is further compounded by our busy, stressful and erratic lifestyles that further aggravate Vata so unless we are able to bring this intelligence back in to balance we will start to suffer serious health problems.
When we start experiencing these problems we wonder how they have come about and naturally look for a remedy. Some of us will reach for a multi-vitamin or herbal supplement. Others will increase their workout time in the gym or increase their water intake to try and address these health concerns. Unfortunately, many of these remedies only have a short term benefit because they only treat the symptoms. Ayurveda, on the other hand, can explain why these problems develop in autumn and provide us with some simple, yet effective routines to address these health concerns.
All Ayurvedic treatments are based on the simple principle of introducing lifestyle and diet changes with opposing qualities to bring the body back into balance while avoiding things that can cause further aggravation. Therefore in autumn, Ayurveda recommends the following routines to keep the body in balance:
· Prepare an autumn de-tox drink. Each morning drink a glass on warm water in which you add, ½ teaspoon of grated ginger,1/2 teaspoon of honey, ½ teaspoon of lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon of Ajwain powder. This will help to flush out toxins from the body and counter any sluggishness in the stomach in the gut.
· Take 10 long, deep slow breaths at least 3 times a day. When Vata becomes aggravated our breathing can become shallow. Regular deep breathing will help balance this.
· If your digestion is feeling sluggish or constipated (which is common during autumn), soak 5 prunes overnight. Around morning tea time the next day, mash and drink them in a cup of warm water.
· At least three times a week, massage yourself with warm, cold pressed black sesame oil or Planet Ayurveda’s Vata Oil. This will sooth dry, rough skin and counter stiff and tight muscles. It will also help to improve circulation.
· Eat only warm cooked foods and easily digestible proteins and steamed or stir fried green vegetables.
· Avoid cold, dry, rough foods like salads, corn chips
· The two principle organs that are governed by the Vata Dosha are the nose and ears so it is particularly important to give them special attention during autumn. Each morning, lightly apply warm sesame oil to both ears and nasal passages with a cotton bud.
· During the day, snack on a handful of soaked and peeled almonds and raisins.
· At night, warm a glass of non-homogenised milk and add ¼ teaspoon each of cardamom and cinnamon powder. Drink about an hour before bed. This will help relax the nervous system and give you a good night’s sleep.
If you are able to incorporate some of these routines into your daily life, you will find that you will remain unaffected by the seasonal changes and keep you body in balance during this time of transition.
Dr. S. Ajit (BAMS)