The ancient science of Ayurveda focuses on creating overall health by aligning our current state of being to the constitution we were born with, and then optimizing wellbeing on an ongoing basis. At its foundation Ayurveda considers three different facets of our being. These three energies, called doshas, exist in varying degrees in each of us, although most of us have one or two that are dominant. This unique mix of energies is considered our natural state of being, our constitution. It contributes to our personality, the way we think and react, our likes and dislikes, and the way our bodies function.
When our constitution (the dosha mix we’re born with) is aligned with our current state of being, our health is good and we experience the positive aspects of our dosha. However, when any one of the doshas becomes too dominant our physical, emotional and mental health is affected. For example: creative, fun vata people can become scattered, tense and anxious when they are experiencing too much of their vata energy. Pitta people can move from their natural state of confidence and quick thinking to become aggressive and demanding when they are out of balance. People born with dominant kapha energy are typically easy going and relaxed, but too much kapha and they become depressed, sluggish and clingy. When a dosha increases beyond our unique, original, natural proportion, disease can flourish.
Our diet and lifestyle are major factors in keeping our constitution balanced. However, the three doshas also exist as different energies in the world around us and they can take our dosha mix out of its natural proportions. Therefore, maintaining a healthy state requires: understanding the natural mix we were born with; an awareness of our current state; and recognizing when the external world is pulling us into an imbalanced state. The changing seasons are strong external circumstances that impact our ability to stay balanced.
As autumn transitions into its colder months and moves toward winter, vata energy in our environment increases. The Vata season has the same qualities that a person with a primarily Vata constitution would have: fast-paced, filled with vitality, lively and changeable. Like each of the three doshas, vata energy can become too much of a good thing leaving us feeling anxious, insecure, nervous, excitable, disjointed and disorganized. At a physical level our skin, hair and nails often become dry and brittle, we might feel more sensitive to cold, and we might have bouts of insomnia.
The food we eat and our lifestyle choices are considered the most important Ayurvedic medicine. You are more likely to leave an appointment with an Ayurvedic doctor holding a recipe instead of a pill. If you find yourself feeling unusually disjointed and stressed as Fall moves into Winter, some adjustments to your diet and daily routine can counter the impact of the excess vata energy.
A VATA REDUCING DIET
• Eat well cooked foods that are easy to digest. Avoid dry foods like crackers, pretzels, dry cereal, crisp, cold and raw foods.
• Drink lots of warm liquids. Drink warm water with lime in the morning and herbal teas throughout the day.
• Eat more of the sweet, sour, and salty tastes and less of the bitter, astringent, and pungent ones.
• Good additions to your diet include: Avocados, sweet berries, bananas, mangoes, peaches, lemons, pumpkins, carrots, beets, asparagus, quinoa, rice, mung beans, nuts, dairy products, sesame oil, and ghee.
See my favorite Kitchari recipe here
• Stay warm. Vata is a cold, dry dosha. You will feel less edgy if you make sure that your indoor environments are heated and that the air has enough humidity.
• Massage your skin with warming oils such as sesame or almond.
• In the morning and at night, rub a drop of sesame or nasaya oil inside the edges of your nostrils, as nasal passages tend to become dry during winter.
• Maintain regular habits such as eating and sleeping at the same time, and get a good amount of sleep.
• Exercise intensity should be moderate, especially on days when you feel particularly scattered, edgy or tense.
• Try a more meditative yoga and/or incorporate warmth, grounding, stability, and focus into your practice. Tai chi, walking, or swimming are also useful. Avoid sports that tend to be frantic.
• Add a daily supplement of the herb Ashwagandha which supports an over taxed nervous system and counters the effects of stress.
FALL KITCHEN RECIPE
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained, or organic mung beans ( I like soaking the mung beans overnight for at least 8 hours)
5 cups water or stock
2 Tbsp Ghee
1 small yellow onion, chopped
6 whole cloves garlic
1/2 tsp each – your choice – Tumeric, Coriander Powder, Cumin Powder, Whole Cumin Seeds, Mustard seeds
1/4 cup minced fresh herbs such as: Cilantro Italian parsley Dill
In a medium size pot, warm the ghee. Add cumin, mustard and fennel seeds. Sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Place all other ingredients in the pot over medium-high heat. **
Cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The consistency should be thick, mushy, just slightly liquid. Add more water if necessary. Add herbs, soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste
**Options: Add cooked and diced veggies such as shredded green cabbage, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, etc. at end before fresh herbs
Toppings: Fresh Grated Ginger, Lime, Sea Salt, Mango or Fig Chutney