Ancient Perspective: Using the Weather to Live Your Healthiest Life

If you have been paying attention to the change in temperature, the finished fireweed or chill in the evening air, you most definitely know that fall is in full swing. In addition to these changes in our environment, have you noticed that you are feeling a little bit on edge, having headaches, dry skin or having difficulty concentrating or sleeping as the carefree days of summer fade? If so, you’re not alone.

Since ancient times people have recognized the connection between the changes that occur in the body and mind with that of the seasons. Each season nature will give you information about what your body needs. All you have to do is stop and observe.

Ayurvedic medicine is based on generations of this type of observation and can be a great guide to learning about how our bodies function best. It is one of the world’s oldest medical systems and was developed in India over 5000 years ago.  In Ayurveda, the human constitution, as well as the seasons, are composed of three elements- vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata, the ether and air element, governs autumn. It is associated with transformation, movement, ungroundedness, cold, rough and dry qualities.Emotions associated with vata include fear, anxiety and emptiness. 

Below is a short overview of balancing practices for the fall season.

Lifestyle and Routine

The key to balancing vata is regularity.  Follow a routine that includes regular times for eating, working, and sleeping.

During fall, resist the urge to constantly push yourself. Instead use this time to be kind to yourself. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure you get enough rest, waking and going to bed at the same time every day.

Upon waking drink a glass of warm water to stimulate your digestion. Follow this by 10 minutes of meditation or other reflective practice.

Your daily plan should balance out adequate rest with exercise. Vata’s energy can be easily depleted so favor physical activities that are nourishing over excessively strenuous, taking into account your own constitution and what your body is used to. Good choices for fall include yoga, walks with a loved one, or hiking.

Avoid activities that require intense concentration or physical exercising in the evening. Begin winding down at least 30 minutes before you intend on falling asleep.

Vata Diet

Follow a predictable eating schedule and don’t skip meals or “graze” throughout the day. Eat your meals in a calm, peaceful environment, with your largest meal in the middle of the day.

Eat foods that are warming, well cooked and emphasize flavors that are sweet, sour and salty-such as well-cooked vegetables like squash and other root vegetables, rice, honey, olive oil, cashews, almonds, pistachios and sesame seeds. Remember that dry and rough are associated with vata. So to keep it balanced favor soft and oily foods like soups and hot cereals over foods that are dry, cold, uncooked or crunchy (i.e. raw salads, dry cereals, ice, popcorn, dried fruits, ice cream/smoothies, crackers).

Stimulating beverages like caffeinated beverages, aggravate and increase vata, so minimize these drinks. Instead emphasize hydration with nourishing and warming herbal teas.

When preparing foods use warming spices such as cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and black pepper.

Following the Ayurvedic lifestyle throughout the year will allow your body to adapt to the changing seasons with ever more ease. This fall take time to develop regular habits and embrace the relaxing, rejuvenative and reflective nature of this time of year. You’re sure to find yourself more balanced and healthy when winter rolls around.

Dr. Aimée Kaye, ND is a naturopathic doctor at the Alaska Center for Natural Medicine. To learn more about Dr. Kaye click here. You can make an appointment by calling ACNM's front desk at 907.452.3600.