How to find calm and be grounded during the whirlwind of Vata Season?

We have entered into Vata season with a vengeance this September here in Southern Ontario, Canada… without much warning. Fall is upon us.

Last week we were in the mist of fire and heating elements with over 30˚C degree weather. Exhaustion from lousy sleep due to the heat for those like myself who don’t use air conditioning. I personally like the heat, but being a dominant pitta dealing with two weeks of constant sweltering hot days and no relief at night was way too heating for my pitta / vata self. Then…. BAM!  Overnight it all changed. The vata side of me was thrown into a shivering cold frenzie ~ “Give me my sweater.. where are my sweaters ~ Why is it so cold?Bring back the heat!” I cried while wrapping myself in a throw blanket and desperately heating the kettle to make a tea.  One day we were fanning ourselves and dripping with sweat at 30˚C+ degree heat to waking with 12˚C degree of bone chilln’,  cold rain, windy weather and a sore throat.  This kind of drastic change in weather can cause havoc on the body & mind balance, completely throwing Vata’s off. So how do we find balance and calmness of the mind during this windy, cold, dry, season? How to deal with Vata season and come out on top!

Fall is the beginning of the Vata Season and during this time we want to work at pacifying vata elements.  This time of year for all dosha’s including both Pitta and Kapha, will need to pay more attention to the changes of what this season brings with it, especially those who are vata dominant or vata imbalanced.  If you are a dominant pitta, then the fall vata season may be your favourite, cooling to your over heating.  Although if like me who is both pitta and vata, this time of year if gradually changes is welcoming, I usually love the fall and the sweaters, scarves and boots to go with it, but the sudden drastic change in weather and seasons can be rather disruptive.  So, if you are already Vata dominant or blended dosha like myself pitta / vata you may find the sudden onset of this season to be particularly aggravating.

What is Vata Dosha and how does it effect us?

Vata controls all movement in the body. It controls blood flow / circulations, elimination of waste, our breathing and movement in mind and thoughts. Since vata controls all movement in the mind/body it is considered to be the ‘master or king’ of the doshas.  Therefore, Pitta and Kapha need to pay attention!  This is the season of wind, cold, dry, a lot of movement of air, causing dryness of our skin our eyes and scalp.  Our nails are more brittle, cracking and soreness of our joints, coldness in the body, especially the hands and feet. Difficult with respiratory, coldness in the chest. Decrease immunity. Our digestion may be off and circulation poor. Our minds tend to be a bit more scattered, and anxiety, worry, difficulty making decisions may be more prominent. All of these qualities can come into play. And if you are already vata dominant or vata imbalanced, it may worsen.

So how do we find calm amongst these cold blistering whirlwind days ahead?

We have to pacify vata elements. When you look at it and how the seasons work and corresponds to the elements and connections to the doshas it all begins to makes a lot of sense. When it is cold and dry, add warmth and moisture. When hot, add coolness. When moist and heavy, add lightness and dryness. Nature is designed to find homeostasis. Being one with nature, we too strive for balance and harmony of the mind, body and spirit.

So what do we do? We want to pacify vata elements. Therefore, during this time it is increasingly important to add warmth to the body by introducing pitta fire and grounding kapha earth elements to your daily life.  We want to add good quantity of oil, warmth in our foods and drinks, sweet (naturally), sour and salty. Foods are to be well cooked and softened, easy to digest.

One way to do this is through our foods. If we look at the fall harvest, we will begin to see a lot of root vegetables and vegetables of wonderful colour. Pumpkins, butternut squash and acorn squash all have a beautiful Orange colour, a fire colour which is pitta element and if you look at them from a nutrition point of view, they are filled with immune boosting nutrients and antioxidants, both very important for Vata’s.  E.g.: Vitamin A, C, Fibre, B2, B6, Folate, Copper, manganese, Vit. K calcium, magnesium,  potassium, etc..   The Yummies of Winter Squash . Everything that we need to keep strong and healthy this fall/ winter Vata season.

Other foods that are great to introduce this time of year are your root veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, turnips, celery roots, carrots. Roots are exactly that… grounding. A gorgeous blend of colours and warmth to keep you cozy on those cold days and nights. Roots vegetables come from the earth and hold earth qualities. Dense, nutrient and mineral rich, natural sweetness and full of fibre, which will help keep you feeling full longer and more grounded.  When cooking, you want to make sure that they are well cooked and soft. Roasting or making lovely fall soups with these beautiful grounding roots thisVata pacify time of year will help calm and ground Vata’s all season long.

Fruits of the season are apples, pears, pomegranates. We want to make sure our apples and pears are sweet to taste and juicy juicy. Eating these fruits help to remove heat of summer from the body and prepare for vata seasons. However, for vata’s we want to make sure to eat them at room temperature or even cooked like in an Apple Pie or bread {Apple Pie Oatmeal Recipe ohsheglows}. And when eating ensure they are Organic, so you can have the skins on.  Most of the nutrients in these lovely fall fruits are in the skins!  Apples are rich in Vitamin C and the skins hold a lot of goodness. Soluble and insoluble pectin fibre rich, and are helpful for respiratory diseases and disorders like asthma and lung cancers, and C.O.P.D, as well as cardiovascular health and regulating blood sugars.  Find out more about apples and all their goodness here.     

Pears too have an abundant of health benefits. They are high in fibre, copper, Vit. C and K. Pears are not conventional in what is considered to be an antioxidant, but these fall fruit along with apples are very helpful for chronic illness, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant function.  If you are choosing your pears to enjoy… choose them juicy!!! Pears and how they can benefit your health

Naturally sweet juicy fruit is good for Vata’s.  Sour flavours too, a squeeze of lemon or lime, oranges and ‘Pomegranates’. Pomegranates, are a fruit of the fall and winter months. These bright red coloured fruit is very important and hold a lot of antioxidant functions. Important for vata season where we need to build and increase our immune systems.  Pomegranates canIMG_2399 be a sweet and sour, and is considered a sour that is tri-dosha. Good for all constitutions.  In Ayurveda, pomegranates are used medicinally, as well as for food. When consumed as a whole, including the skins it is great for our digestion, dealing with parasites and more.   Enjoying the fruit inside too has many health benefits; anti aging, immune system boosting and antioxidant and good for heart health. You can eat the fruit as a whole or make juice with it.  And remember, we are pacifying vata dosha, so we only want to consume foods that are room temperature or warmed. Cold food, drinks and food are to be avoided. Pomegranates are also lovely to have warmed to enjoy as a tea.  Health Benefits of pomegranate and Ayurveda uses

Nuts, which are good healthy fats and healthy fats are important for vata to eat. Almonds, cashews and pistachios are especially beneficial for vata. May be good to soak them or mix them with some sesame oil, olive oil, or sunflower seed oil, and add a little rock salt or sea salt for taste.  Sesame Seeds too are very good for vata.  If eating dry fruit, you may wish to soak them to add some moisture. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, or if gluten intolerant or celiac then choosing a quinoa, sorghum or cornmeal to make a porridge for breakfast in the morning to add warmth and moisture may be a wonderful way to start the day. However, bear in mind that if you’re a Vata with Kahpa imbalance you may need to choose foods to help balance both doshas. An Ayurveda practitioner can help you with this.

Dairy is okay for Vata Dosha, and having a glass of warm milk at night with pure saffron – or with tumeric and a bit of cinnamon, is lovely too, {saffron has wonderful benefits for vata dosha. Saffron and it’s benefits.}Personally being vegan I drink almond or cashew milks. Therefore, if you too follow a plant based diet, you would look at non dairy alternatives.  As well, same if you have lactose intolerance or are Kapha dosha dominant with vata imbalance and create a lot of mucus… dairy is not your friend.  However, if none of these apply to you and you drink dairy, then choose Organic Cow. Or try Goat Milks. FREE from hormones, antibiotics and steroids.  And if eating cheese, you want for your cheese to be the same and free from all the above, as well as free from modified ingredients.  Cheese, is to be soft and moist as with cottage cheese or ricotta or goats cheese. And / or hand made cheese like paneer or if vegan and lactose intolerant then eat home made cashew cheese as an alternative.  How to make Cashew Cheese

Food is one aspect to help pacify Vata Dosha, yet it is not the only practice to use. Daily hygiene practices are very important in helping to calm vata.  One way of doing this is to use Oils. Oils add moisture and helps to retain moisture in the body and are just as helpful to use in our food prep and meals as it is to use topically.

Using a good quality sesame oil or olive oil to put in the hair and use as a body rup is most important to combat dryness in Vata’s.  Instead of store bought soaps that are toxic and dry the skin, begin to Oil wash for your face daily.  Here “Wellness Mama” gives her Oil Washing regime Oil Cleansing Method . Vata’s tend to have very dry skin. To get rid of dry skin, simulate blood circulation and lymph circulation, use a skin brush and dry brush the skin before going in the shower in upward circular direction starting from the feet and working up towards the heart. Same with the hands and work along the arms towards the heart.  Do this before showering.  Then bathe using clean non-toxic skin products.  When you have finished showering pat dry the body to maintain the moisture and then slather your whole body with oil. Sesame oil, olive oil or sunflower seed oil. These three are generally tri-dosha neutral.   Especially important to oil your feet and hands and face and hair.  Even add some oil inside the nostrils. Leave on and allow for the skin to fully absorb the oil for about 10-15 minutes before getting dressed.

Aside…

The soaps you are using can be drying your skin. Here is a list of chemical commonly used in soaps and shower gels found in some of your favourite products bought off the self, and sadly does not exclude products in the “health food section” or even organic for that matter.  Choose products that are pure and clean and free from these chemicals.  Right here in Alliston and where I provide ‘Healing Journey Sessions’ in Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda is Organic Lifestyles… check out their product list! Organic Lifestyle Product List!

The following list of products are toxic and cause dryness and irritates the skin:

-Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Chemical agents which make soap foamy. It’s harsh, can irritate the skin, and even cause dry skin. Slightly less irritating is sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), but this chemical still causes skin drying.
-Triclosan.  An antibacterial and antimicrobial ingredient added to soaps which can cause skin irritation.
-Lye. A concentrated, watery solution of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, lye is often combined with animal fats to make bar soap. It is known as caustic soda, because it’s so corrosive. It may also cause itching, irritation, even burns.
-Polypropylene. Is  a possible carcinogen.
-FD&C dyes/Synthetic Dyes. Synthetic dyes that make our soaps colorful are made from petrochemicals that can cause allergies, skin irritation, even hives and respiratory problems. Choose brands that use natural colorants.

{List provided by Ingredients in you soap may be the culprit}

What about yoga? Where does yoga fit in to all this and how can it help pacify Vata?

Vata season or what most know as being fall and winter is a Yin time of year. This is a time when we need to begin looking at conserving energy. It is a time of year that we tend to hibernate, want to stay warm and be surrounded by warm cozy fires, wrapped in blankets and curled on the sofa, drinking tea, hot cocoa or warm milk. Winter is also a time of darkness and we tend to be more withdrawn and go inside both in a physical sense and spiritual sense.  It is a time when we are more introspective in our practices, both with yoga and meditation.

I find a good yoga practice for Vata’s  would be one that is grounding and nurturing for the Self.   Those practice would be Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga.  Yin Yoga is great for Vata dosha.  When looking at our physical bodies Vata is located from our lower lumbar /hip and down our legs. On an energetic level Vata is in the upper region of our head. A good balanced Yin Practice concentrates on these areas, stretching out the back, hips and legs and is a form of meditative movement.  Another practice that is healing, conserving of energy is Restorative Yoga and one of my personal favourites. Restorative yoga is a very grounding and warm practice, passive in nature yet quite meditative.

However, if you enjoy a vinyasa yoga practice, then begin to slow it down by practicing one posture at a time and balance your movement from left to right rather then practicing all on the left side and all on the right side; and connect to your breath, slowing down breath and movement. Vata is movement, air and space. High movement will aggravate vata’s a Hatha practice of holding would be beneficial.

As for breathing and pranayama I find practicing a 3-2-1 inhale and 1-2-3 exhale to be very grounding and centering.  Breathing into the belly, ribs, chest and exhaling from the chest, ribs and belly. Wonderful if you also tend to experience anxiety, very calming of the mind.

Another breathing exercise that I find most grounding and allows to focus the mind offering a very meditative practice is Bhramari or aka Humming bee. You can perform this either in savasana or in a seated Sukhasana (easy pose) or Padmasana (lotus).  I enjoy beginning in a seated posture and then moving to savasana while continuing my humming. This could be for 5-10 minutes or up to 30 minutes or even an hour. Once you lay in savasana, continue humming few more moments and then allow the body to fully rest in savasana and allow for the vibrational energy of the pranayam to resonate throughout your whole body.

These are suggestions to ease the transition into Vata season, especially those of you who are Vata dominant or Vata imbalanced.  I hope you find this helpful during these winds of change.  To be one with nature and find ease in it’s transitions… we strive for balance and harmony with the seasons of ones mind, body and spirit.  However, it is important to know that this is a generalization and a practice that has personally helped me with finding balance with my vata qualities. The best way to know what practice is most suitable for you is to see a Ayurveda Practitioner / Counsellor in your area.   They will be able to properly assess you and create a program best suited for your specific needs and your constitution.  For you own personal “Healing Journey” using Ayurveda, please feel free to contact me I would love to hear from you.

From my heart to your… Many Blessings and Namasté

Maa Moksha Anand {Michelle Joyce}

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