Lessons from a tree
Vata season is coming. Fall is the season that is ruled by the air and either element according to Ayurveda. All you have to do is look around you, nature is so intelligent and will show us everything we need to know and do. The leaves start chaining colour and one by one fall off, how beautiful, they show us it is the season to let go. To shed away what no longer serves us and take care of our body and mind by bringing our energies internal.
Picture it: You are in your yoga class with an intention to get through the practice, you are in the warrior series but already anticipating the end of the practice. It comes to the end of the practice and teacher gives you Savasana time but you are unable to stay still, counting the seconds that door opens up and you can get on with your life. In your everyday life this might manifest as you driving from place to place running errands, always "busy" and indulging in distractions.
The truth is you are not alone, we live in a distracted, overwhelming society that is constantly bombarding our 5 sense organs with information. Think about it, you are driving down the highway and did not choose to look at the billboards but they are just there, you constantly have the sound of the radio, music or your Enviornment in the background. You do not choose to smell the exhaust from the car in front of you or even are aware how toxic the soap was you used at the doctor's office. This would all be somewhat ok if we knew how to turn the senses inwards. This is what Patanjali refers to as "Pratyahara", the ability to shut the sense organs once you have decided to. Unfortunately many of us have forgotten. This manifests as Insomnia or O er activity of the mind during the day, A.D.D, A.D.H.D vividly showing up even for our little ones.
According to Ayurveda, the 5000 year old sister science of yoga, all of this is explainable and nothing but the air element going out of balance. Air and Ether element create Vata Dosha in the body. Vata is a fantastic force that helps us move other elements around. Without Vata we wouldn't be able to swallow our food or even breath the air in and out of our lungs. But when Vata starts forgetting its job and moves too fast we end up with a tornado in the body that no other forces can control! This happens mainly when we do too much, too fast, eat fast food or not nurture our body & mind with the right nutrients and activities. Your nervous system does not know the difference between life threatening situations or when your boss yells at you, it gets upset just as much and releases stress hormones that stay in the blood stream for up to 2/3 days!!! Making us always run on anxiety and stress and not balanced energy.
Ayurveda teaches us how to recognize the signs and reverse them before it is too late. The following is a few tips on how to stay focused, balanced and nurtured this coming Vata season.
Vata's Gunås or qualities are cold, mobile, fast, light, dry and rough. Ayurvedic science is really simple in a way, like increases like, opposites decrease. So if your skin is dry due to change of the seasons first of all you can be sure your internal skin/organs are also experiencing dryness and therefore you might even become constipated, if you add more dryness to your internals (eat foods like cereal, foods that are cold, energy bars, rice cake etc...) you can be sure that like increases like, so your internals will become even more dry. Instead choose the opposite qualities and stick to food that are:
1- Warm and well cooked.
2- Oily (opposite of dry) with some good fats such as Ghee or coconut oil
3- Fresh, you want the colours in your food be like it was just picked and not grey and dull
4- Anything that comes out of a box, a can, the freezer or is pre-made will NOT give your body and mind the Prana it requires because it simple does not have it!! Avoid all this and any fast food or store bought food and make the time to cook your own meals fresh.
5- Avoid cold foods like salads and smoothies for the most part in Vata season.
6- Choose whole foods that are grounding and nurturing: Root veggies cooked in ghee and Ayurvedic spices, basmati rice and ghee, grounding stews and soups are all great for this season.
Slow down, slow down, slow down. Be mindful of every action and every sigmnle thing you do. If it is not worth your energy don't do it. There is nothing like running around and making yourself busy that makes Vata Dosha upset. Instead try a simple schedule:
1- Have a morning routine, wake up, brush your teeth and scrape your tongue, drink hot water with lemon or lime (better for Pitta) and maybe throw in some fresh ginger too, move your body, there is nothing like moving your prana (life-force) first thing in the morning, you might choose to do a 30 minute yoga practice or go for a walk. This will regulate your Prana to move in your favour for the rest of the day.
2- Eat warm nourishing meals at the same time everyday. Vata loves regular balanced schedule and if you starve it you can be sure it will be upset at you.
3- Choose nourishing movement versus harsh and fast. Example is a yin or restorative yoga class instead of going to the gym and running on the machines. Soother your nervous system with slow movement.
4- Have as night time routine: Shut down all electronic an hour before bed, send cozy time with family or pets or read a soothing book, Abhyanga or self massage with warm sesame oil or even better the Dhanwantaram oil from Kottakkal is the best oil you could use for Vata.
I always say, herbs are wonderful and magical but only if they go hand in hand with diet and lifestyle! Otherwise they will not be as effective. Try some of the herbs below for a happy and healthy fall and winter. (always contact your Ayurvedic practitioner to know what really works for your Dosha or particular condition)
If there is one herb I would recommend for Vata it would be Ashwagandha: The mother of herbs in Ayurveda has many different benefits but mainly it supports our nervous system and makes our body and mind strong. The name Ashwagandha means smell of the horse because it is a smelly herb but makes you as strong as a horse.
Ashwagandha is a comforting restoring strength and stability. This warm, relaxing herb helps you overcome fatigue when you are feeling drained and depleted, or after a chaotic day. If you tend to feel scattered, anxious or "on edge," its heavy and nourishing qualities are renowned for helping you feel calm, sturdy, and steady. A warm mug of ashwagandha settles a racing mind and swirling thoughts. Drinking it at night will make your eyes feel heavy. You'll enjoy a night of restful, uninterrupted sleep. See the Fall Rasayana I have offered you below.
Fall Rejuvenating, calming and grounding Rasayna
1/2 t. tulsi leaf tea (or one bag)
1/2 t. ashwagandha root powder
1/2 t. shatavari powder
1/4 t. amla powder
1/2 t. brahmi powder
1 t. organic, grass-fed ghee
1/4 raw honey or maple syrup (especially if you have a cough)
2 cups of water
4 oz. of almond milk
Directions: Mix all ingredients (except honey, ghee & almond milk) together and simmer for 5 minutes in 2 cups of water. Mix in the ghee and Almond milk and let simmer for another 3 minutes, remove from stove and then add raw honey or maple syrup. Drink fresh, only keep in fridge if necessary, It will retain its potency for 2-3 days.