There is something funny about the height of summer. I don’t know if it’s the warmer temperatures, the longer days, the later nights, or those extra gin cocktails…but I really struggle to get up and apply myself to, let alone enjoy, my Ashtanga practice. Instead, I counter the heat with something more stilling, like Yin or meditation, or choose to flow as my muscles turn molten.
I live in a warm climate in the middle of a mountain range in Portugal, and come late June, temperatures soar, the air is dry and arid, a stillness sets in, the waterfalls cease their flow, and the lush green landscape shifts from fertile to resting; ready to rejuvenate and renew in Autumn.
This morning there was a notable chill in the air. The grapes in the vineyards I navigate on my walk to the retreat centre where I work are hanging expectant and ripe — ready for plucking, having turned a deep purple hue. Suddenly...
Autumn Is Upon Us
And so I find myself back on my mat, ready to shift my practice once more and acknowledge this changing, universal rhythm that governs us all. In Ayurveda, Autumn is known as Vata season.
Ayurveda helps us to seek balance and increase our vitality and well-being. It recognizes that we, as human beings, are infinitely connected with everything around us and that what we put into our bodies, our external environment — including the climate — and the people around us, all influence our internal state and our ability to maintain equilibrium.
This is the time of year we are intuitively drawn towards warming, soulful food, rich colors, soft, cosy, comfortable layers, and evenings in spent curled up on the sofa as a counter-measure against the movement and airiness of the season that can leave us feeling less than centered and a little sad that summer is over.
How To Stay Happy And Balanced During The Season Shift
Vata, the King Dosha concerned with movement, embodies the qualities of air and space. And since Autumn is Vata season, our efforts are best directed towards grounding and creating warmth to counter the drying influences that come into play at this time of year, in order to maintain balance.
So to help you achieve this balance, here are some tips on how to stay happy and healthy and balanced during the shift in season.
1. Pace Yourself And Adopt A Positive Perspective
Make space in your day to stop moving, tune into your body and the universal energies that create these shifts in the season. When you stop and think about it, the changes we are able to obverse in nature and the natural rhythm of life are not only beautiful, incredible, and awe inspiring, but life-affirming too.
This is our natural time of regeneration and just as winter is on its way, it too shall pass and make space for spring, which brings new life and opportunities for personal growth. So stay positive!
Lay on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands on your abdomen and heart space and breathe big and deep and long. Allow the body to relax. Feel the weight and warmth of your hands on your body. Watch your breath enter and exit the body. When you feel the breath becoming more even, begin to name your actions as follows;
- Inhale ‘Rising’ (as you feel the belly rise)
- Exhale ‘Falling’ (as you feel the breath release)
- Pause ‘Grounding’ (in the suspended moment before we inhale once again – bring your awareness into the parts of the body in contact with the floor).
Practice this for 10 minutes each day.
3. Do Child’s Pose
Assume Child’s pose and breathe big into the back, inflating the back of the ribs and allowing the head to become heavy, so there is gentle pressure on the space between the eyebrows. This helps to pacify Ajna chakra, and counter the natural rise in overthinking that comes with an excess of Vata.
4. Stick To A Regular Yoga Practice
Keep it measured and work to maintain mindful movement and focus on developing your awareness, together with a presence and steadiness in each pose you perform.
5. Take Your Time
Ensure there is some structure to your day, particularly around meal times, as an erratic schedule can lead to erratic thinking and behaviour. Set a steady pace and begin to do a little less as we descend into winter. Autumn is the natural time for reflection and restoration and beginning of a quite withdrawing.
This is the season to eat! I love hearty, warming and welcoming dishes at this time of year. Vata season is not the time to worry about weight or try to lose it. It’s important we include plenty of cooked and grounding foods along with good sources of oil and fat.
Skip foods that are drying; those things that are bitter and astringent, along with raw veggies and opt for sweet, sour and salty tastes instead.
And, remember: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me, there lay an invincible summer.” ~Albert Camus