Ayurvedic Diet & Lifestyle for Fall
Updated: Sep 22, 2021
The Autumnal Equinox welcomes in the Fall. We call it the Vata season in Ayurveda, and the dominant energy and quality is the Air element.
The Earth starts dehydrating and getting brown and we see this in the leaves, we feel this in our bodies. The Sun sets a little earlier every night, giving us and the land more opportunity to cool off. One day could still offer quite a lot of heat, then be cool the next day. This significant teetering of temperatures back and forth and the wind captures the epitome of Fall energy - changeable, scattered, ungrounded.
Just like in nature, the qualities of Air ~ dry, light, mobile, changeable, and ungrounded ~ manifest in our body and mind. When energies shift in nature, they also shift in us, because simply, we are nature too. Some of the ways this could present in you are dry skin & scalp, cracking joints, stiffness, irregular appetite, constipation, a scattered and anxious mind, restless sleep, and an inability to focus.
Adjusting and attuning our diet and lifestyle to accommodate for the energetic shift in our environment is a practical and powerful way to keep our constitution in balance throughout the season.
The Summer harvest has passed its full peak. Mother Earth now offers us her more hearty bounty filled with grounding roots and vegetables. Apples, beets, and pomegranates are superfoods at this time as they are great liver and blood cleansers, helping to dissipate excess heat in the tissues that were acquired over Summer. Making sure you prepare these foods to best suit your dosha will ensure digestive ease. For instance, Vata does best with cooked or stewed apples with digestive spices rather than just a raw apple as that is harder to digest.
As the Sun’s energy towards us lessens, the body responds by gathering its heat into the core, increasing the strength of our digestive fire. Because of this, we can start to enjoy heartier, higher fat foods at this time. In addition, Fall air is dry and it can easily parch our tissues and mucus membranes, which can ultimately lead to constipation. Moist, higher fat, demulcent foods like oils, ghee, and avocado, and those with the addition of good fiber like oatmeal and well-ripened bananas are great allies during the Fall.
Bring on the sweeter breads and unctuous stews! Hello to Fall's warming and deeply nourishing comfort foods. These foods help us prepare for the cooler, longer nights of the coming Winter and to counteract the dry, light, and scattered qualities dominant during Fall.
In general, everyone will have Vata increase in their constitution during Fall, but to varying degrees, so the following guidelines are meant to be catered to your unique situation.
If your constitution is Vata dominant, Fall is one of the most challenging seasons to stay balanced. Because the qualities of Fall are just like Vata, it can easily exacerbate imbalances typical of Vata constitutions, so now is the time to really be disciplined with your diet and lifestyle habits.
In general, lessen or avoid:
Astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes - they’re all very drying, especially the astringent taste
Dry, rough foods & drinks - alcohol, caffeine, raw foods (salads), crackers, popcorn (butter please!)
Cold, iced, or frozen foods
Skipping meals, eating erratically, excessive snacking
Nervous system stimulants like caffeine (coffee, black tea, soft drinks, green tea, chocolate)
Things to FAVOR:
Sweet, sour & salty tastes - whole foods, not packaged baked goods
Well-cooked, warm, oily, moist heavy foods - mushy even
Ojas-building, nourishing foods - root veggies like carrots, beets, pumpkin, winter squashes, ghee & almonds
Warming, stimulating spices like cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, black pepper - add to meals, make a tea
Have a grounding, warm breakfast (grains) - oatmeal, quinoa, cream of rice
Higher protein, higher fat foods/meals compared to Summer - we’re preparing for Winter - adding a little extra coat helps keep us warmer & lubricated
Eat soothing, warming & easily digested meals such as soups & stews
Drink warming herbals teas such as ginger, cinnamon & cardamom
Keeping the nervous system stable throughout Fall is a significant tool for counteracting Vata imbalance.
The movement of blood from the extremities back to the core increases blood flow to the mind. Wind, sudden temperature shifts, the start of the school season, and the entrance into a busy holiday spell provoke higher stress levels and busy, scattered minds this time of year, so the mind can become easily over-stimulated.
Air is a very sensitive element, it's electrical energy and is easily affected by the surrounding environment. All of these factors make our nervous system the most vulnerable at this time. Having regular practices in place that help promote stillness, that quiet the mind and calm the nervous system are paramount for Vata balance. If we can properly support our nervous system in the Fall, it significantly helps us to maintain a strong immune system and overall health and wellbeing.
Things to FAVOR:
Routine meals & bedtimes ~ this is always a great practice for any time of year, but especially during the Vata time of year - this supports the easily frayed nervous system & allows the digestive system to work more efficiently
Go to bed early and get up early ~ Vata dosha needs the most rest and the early morning is the most calm & peaceful time - this greatly benefits your mind and supports balance of your circadian rhythms
Meditate, gentle yoga, slow walks, deep breaths, Nadi Shodhana ~ whatever soothing practice you like to do that calms your mind - make that a priority - the mind is easily disturbed during Vata season
Keep warm and stay out of strong winds ~ a sweater to heat the core does a better job than an extra pair of socks to cure cold feet. Once persistent cold has penetrated our system - the cold that goes through your bones, hot baths/showers may be the only way to restore circulation.
Do daily oil massage, called abhyanga ~ in the morning before a shower is best as it coats the skin, retains heat, grounds & buffers the nervous system, and prevents your tissues from drying out.
Do daily Nasya - oil administration to the nose calms Vata, nourishes the mucus membranes & clears the mind - use sesame oil or an Ayurvedic blend
Start slowing down in Fall ~ relax your nervous system, time to rest more, prepare for a deep hibernation in Winter
Early Fall is a great time to cleanse ~ to remove excess heat from Pitta organs from the Summer so we don’t dry out, helps to calm Vata & reset digestion
Regularly detach from tech devices - tech devices significantly overstimulate the mind & nervous system and distract us from being present with ourselves and others
Putting a practice in place that honors these shifts throughout the season is called Ritucharya. This is an ancient Ayurvedic seasonal regimen where the goal is to remain balanced against the changes in our environment that are triggered by the seasons.
Ayurveda teaches us that by balancing the nature of your local climate with your unique nature in addition to the appropriate diet and lifestyle adaptations, you can offset the potential for seasonally-induced imbalances. With Ayurveda, we can stay well through all the changes and weather any storm!