Even though there’s a lingering hint of Summer in the weather — and we’re grateful for that — you might have noticed a shift in energy pre- and post-labor day. A revving-up in pace and stress levels around the city. You might not be sure what to wear because the weather is a bit erratic. You might have noticed people around you getting sick.
So while we’re not quite in the crisp-air, leaves-falling, squash-eating, heart of Autumn yet, we’re in the threshold between Summer and Fall and the effects are real. What we do NOW will greatly impact how well we’re able to stay healthy and balanced to fully enjoy the coming season.
I was speaking with a student before class the other day. Like many of us, her Summer had been peppered with travel and an irregular work schedule. While fun, the warmer months had lacked routine, and now she felt herself dragging her heels to get back to her regular work, yoga, and life rhythms. It felt harder than it should to get back in the flow of things, yet she was a bit exhausted from all the fluctuations of Summer. Sound familiar?
It’s interesting the way this paradox can exist — on the one hand we crave the rooted feeling of a balanced routine, and yet it feels more difficult to plant those roots. According to Ayurveda, this paradox not only makes sense, but is completely predictable.
As we segue into Fall we enter the season of Vata Dosha and we begin to feel the qualities of Vata in a more pronounced way. Made up of Air & Space Elements, Vata in the natural world is associated with gusting wind, cooling air temperatures, slowly darkening days, and dry, brittle leaves. Energetically it is a time when anxiety or stress seems to surge — energy is moving towards something. In NYC it feels like back to school/back to reality energy.
Historically the more urgent energy of Fall might have been associated with harvest and preparations for winter. “Hurry Up!” Fall seems to instruct.
Just as we see Vata in the natural and energetic landscapes around us, we might also experience elevated Vata within us: often our skin, hair or nails get dry and brittle at this time of year, our joints might ache. We might feel a little all-over-the-place. We might have great ideas but difficulty actualizing them. We might slip into anxious “monkey mind”… thinking which feels productive but actually saps us of energy leaving us “wired and tired.” It is easy to become depleted and fatigued at this time, which then leaves us with even less energy to be productive or “get back into our routine.” As we get depleted our immunity wanes and it’s much easier to get sick, which of course knocks us even further off our course. It can feel like we’re trapped, going around and around on a carousel. And all we need to do is just step off the ride.
Vata benefits immensely from the anchor of a routine, from the stability and sustenance of roots. This is why, as Vata kicks up at this time of year, it is especially important. And yet it is the dosha furthest away from watery anchors and earthy roots — air and space elements can whip us up into a frenzy, which is why it’s so hard to get back into a routine when we need it most! This is that predictable paradox. And by the way, these predictable paradoxes exist in all the doshas – just wait until we get to Kapha season!!
But, for the time being, even though it might feel tough, begin to invite some routine, some ritual, some roots into your daily life. It’s even harder to establish routine once the gusting Autumn winds have kicked up, and much harder to fortify our immunity once it’s been compromised. Even one little thing done regularly is enough to begin. Many clients have asked, well what is the best thing I can do… and the answer is usually “whichever thing you will do.” It doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to be a commitment to yourself that you keep.
The more you can invite water and earth elements in the better. Here are some ideas:
1. I’m going to say it right out of the gate: Return to and stick with a regular yoga practice. This time we make for ourselves strengthens us, builds immunity, decreases stress, and on and on. When I was speaking with the student we joked about how even for teachers sometimes the hardest part of yoga is just showing up. Well show up and keep showing up because there’s nothing better for grounding Vata than being embodied.
2. Swap your iced coffee for hot, swap cooling mint tea for ginger root tea. Best of all is a real chai made with those warming, aromatic roots and spices.
3. Include Restorative or Yin in your weekly yoga schedule or your at-home practice – these slower, grounding practices help to center us amid the swirl and they nourish the nervous system, which can be especially overworked at this time.
4. If possible see how it feels to swap your spin class for swimming laps, choosing water element over spinning your wheels. Might be an interesting experiment for a few months.
5. Work your core! Build a little heat from the inside out.
6. Begin to eat more root vegetables, even if they’re still in salad form!
7. Add a good multi-vitamin, probiotic and herbal supplement containing echinacea to your nutrition plan. Many people begin to take echinacea only once they’re sick, but this herb is actually most effective in a cummulative/long-term way, not as an acute medicine.
8. Write a To Do list that feels attainable, either set just a few key goals for a day, or write your list to span the whole week so no one day is too overburdened.
9. Explore what a little Dinacharya, or self-care ritual, might be for you. It might be 7 minutes of meditation every morning, or at 4pm. It might be a curfew for your screen time. It might be taking the extra 2 minutes to apply coconut oil or a nourishing moisturizer before bed. Any little gift you can give to yourself every day can become an anchor.