Our bodies mirror the seasons
Although here in Brisbane the changes are subtle, the impact on body and mind can be significant. As the mornings become cooler, the days shorter and the wind stronger, you may notice that your skin and hair is drier, your metabolism and digestion is slower. Perhaps you’re lacking focus, finding it harder to get to sleep or feel like you are agitated more easily.
Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, provides clues as to the correlation between our embodied experience and the seasons. According to Ayurveda, there are three primary doshas or energies which are associated with the five elements: earth, water, fire, wind, ether. Just as each person has a primary dosha, so too does each season.
Generally speaking, vata dosha is dominant in autumn and early winter, when the elements of air and ether (space) abound.
Words you might use to describe vata are rough, dry, light, cool, erratic and irregular.
We see these characteristics in nature and they are mirrored in our bodies, particularly the nervous system which is easily thrown out of balance by the abundance of vata energy. It is common to feel overwhelmed, unsettled and anxious. My anxiety levels have been building and there have been moments when I’ve felt paralysed by these feelings.
We can use yoga, food and lifestyle choices to restore balance, focusing on practices which have the opposite qualities of vata.
1. Mindful movement and meditation
Whereas a fast-paced yoga practice can aggravate vata, yoga postures done slowly and mindfully will help quell the restless energy.
The dryness of vata is linked to sluggish bowels. If this rings true for you, incorporate gentle twists and forward folds which:
- compress and massage the abdominal organs, aiding digestion and elimination.
- mobilise and nourish the spine.
- contain the excess movement, easing anxious feelings.
Try this gentle, seated sequence to balance the effects of vata.
Follow with a short period of meditation. This guided mindfulness meditation uses visualisation to help calm, steady and focus the mind.
2. Immerse yourself in nature
During seasonal changes, it’s important to remain grounded. Spending time in nature is one of the most effective ways to do this. You can also bring mother nature indoors with the power of essential oils. Earthy, heavy oils – Balance, Vetiver, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Arborvitae, Frankincense, Wild Orange – are ideal at this time of year.
Balance is doTERRA’s grounding blend. This combination of tree oils gets me out of my head and into my body, helping me tap into the inner strength and fortitude I already possess. I like to couple this with Cedarwood, which promotes feelings of connection. In Emotions & Essential Oils, it is said that Cedarwood “invites the strong-willed individual to couple the strength of individuality with the supportive power of community”. Try applying a blend of Balance and Cedarwood essential oils to your temples, wrists or the soles of your feet or dilute with a carrier oil and massage into your body after a shower.
And, if you’re feeling under the weather, boost your immune and respiratory function with On Guard, a spicy, energising blend of wild orange, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oils. This combination of oils is generally used to protect against environmental and seasonal threats but the benefits extend beyond the physical realm, building inner strength and resolve.
3. Food and drink
As with yoga practice, the principle of ‘like increases like’ applies to food. Cold drinks, raw veggies and juices provoke vata. So too will light, dry foods such as dried fruit, popcorn and crackers.
Support your body and mind by:
- choosing foods that are warm, cooked, and moist. Think hearty soups, porridge, curries and slow-cooked meals.
- adding spices such as ginger, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. These spices warm the body and improve circulation and digestion.
- eating nuts and root vegetables.
- including high-quality fats in your diet.
My favourite tonic on a grey day is a warming cup of spiced Masala Chai.