The news around the world these days can be pretty distressing and, for some, it might cause an underlying feeling of anxiety, even if we’re not entirely conscious of these stressful effects. This time of year can also trigger anxiety, destabilizing our energy as the days get shorter and the weather becomes more unpredictable: nervous habits and mental agitation are common if we’re not taking care of ourselves.
Vata dosha increases at this time of year, and those who are constitutionally Vata types are especially likely to feel anxious and have trouble with digestion and sleep as their balance is more easily disturbed. But anyone can be subject to nervous imbalances because Vata is an aspect of everyone’s personal makeup to a greater or lesser extent.
I’m currently near London on an Ayurveda seminar with the wonderful Dr Vasant Lad. Lately, I’ve been travelling a lot and combined with the typically cool, windy, dry and changeable Autumn weather of this Vata season, I feel ungrounded and edgy, and needing some more stability. Dr Lad is a wonderful example of a Vata type in balance: he shows us how to really take care of himself, by remaining quiet as often as possible, eating carefully and calmly, and resting as often as he can.
As a portable support for Vata, nothing beats prānayāma (yogic breathing exercises) and warming, savoury, cooked food to help feel more grounded and calm.
Travelling naturally upsets Vata dosha and exercise like āsana practice is not always easy to fit into the schedule. But prānayāma can be done nearly anywhere, ideally before eating or a couple of hours afterwards.
Sitting and breathing quietly for ten minutes in the morning and evening (and before lunch and dinner, too, if possible!) is an easy way to feel better quickly. A simple breathing exercise that can be done safely by nearly everyone is to enjoy taking increasingly longer pauses at the end of each breath.
As you inhale gently but fully, without straining to breathe in deeply, notice the breath naturally pauses before you exhale again. The same thing happens at the end of each exhalation, as you breathe out fully, just rest in the pause before the inhalation. Prolong this pause with each new breath, without forcing or straining.
To help keep the body warm and happy in this cold and dry season, eat mostly cooked foods, avoiding raw foods as much as possible or eating them in the middle of the day when digestion is strong. Prepare one-pot-meals like soups and stews, or Indian kitchari, and take miso soup as a mid-afternoon snack if you’re looking for something healthy.
Massaging the body with sesame oil is also a very good way of balancing Vata dosha, and if you don’t have time to do the whole body, just massage the soles of the feet before going to bed for a calming night of sleep. You might want to wear socks after this, but if your Vata is too high you are likely wearing socks to bed anyway!
In Ayurveda, not listening to the body is known as
prajnaparadha – a crime against wisdom.
If we don’t take care of ourselves by taking care of the first signs of a Vata imbalance – which are always the first signs of illness, regardless of your constitution – we become unwell and even more stressed.
Wishing you many calm and wise autumns ahead!
Love and light,