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Autumn is upon us, and so is the cold and flu season. In Ayurveda, this is known as Vata season. Vata is translated as Wind in Tibetan medicine, and in many climates we are likely to see some windy weather and some "windy" nervous systems as well!
There are many easy steps you can take to keep your nervous system grounded and your immunity strong during this transitional time.
If you find yourself having any of the following typical Vata symptoms then you will definitely want to take preventative measures.
*lack of concentration, distractibility
*dry skin, hair, and sinuses
*thirst, gas and bloating
*stiff, achey muscles and joints
1. One of the best Vata pacifying therapies is abhyanga = warm sesame oil self-massage. This is best done before a hot shower. This therapy not only moisturizes the skin, but more importantly it nourishes the muscles and joints, grounds the nervous system, promotes restful sleep, and strengthens immunity.
2. Nasya = Herbal oil nasal drops. Again, this therapy calms Vata at its point of entry, and also lubricates the sinuses so that the dryness of autumn doesn't cause inflammation and reactivity to dust, smoke and pollens.
If you suffer from nasal congestion, sinusitis, or respiratory infections, this is the number one preventative therapy for you.
3. Superfood tonics. My favorites are Maca root, Chinese 5 Mushroom Formula, and Blue-Green Algae. All of these strengthen your immunity in different ways. Taken regularly, these superfoods prevent illness and provide maximum nutrition on a cellular level. They are also adrenal tonics, which helps to combat the effects of stress and fatigue.
4. Seasonal Foods = If you shop at the farmers' markets, you see winter squashes, sweet potatoes, beets, and kale. These foods are perfect to balance Vata and keep the body warm and well nourished. It is best to transition away from raw foods and fruit smoothies and move into warm soups and stews as the weather gets colder. This keeps your digestion in peak health.
5. Regular acupuncture treatments. My patients that receive weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly treatments get sick the least. It is most effective to get regular acupuncture even when you don't have an acute issue. When we address subtle imbalances before they become full-blown illness, it is much easier to treat.
I hope the tips in this article help you to stay in balance with the seasons and our natural environment. This time of year is so glorious, I want you feel great so you can be out enjoying it!
Adopting new food habits is probably one of the hardest, if not the very hardest, things in our life to do. We all have so many attachments to certain foods and the feelings we associate with them. Believe me, mine come up all of the time. According to Ayurveda, there is a "Yes" food list and a "No" food list for each constitutional type. You can imagine the look on my patients' faces when I show them the Ayurvedic Dietary Guidelines handout and they see all of their favorite foods on the "Avoid" list! Over the past 13 years in practice, I've realized that equally important to steering my patients in the right direction as far as "what" to eat, is "how" to make the change to an Ayurvedic diet. Here are some tips and a video that are really helpful to make your Ayurvedic diet, or any diet for that matter, stick.
Last week I had the honor of being interviewed about Ayurveda, nutrition, and cleansing on a yoga-oriented internet radio show called "Where is My Guru." I love the name of the show because the answer to that question is the profound, empowering teaching "The guru is in you." These fun girls interview all kinds of guests in the yoga/wellness/sustainability world. We talk a lot about daily and seasonally cleansing, the proper mindset and intention to help you lose weight, and how to get our kids to make healthy food choices. Have a listen, make a comment, and check out their other shows as well!
According to Ayurveda, the root cause of all disease is improper digestion. Why exactly? Because when we don't fully break down food and assimilate nutrients, we accumulate this undigested, toxic material that in Sanskrit is called ama. When we have ama, our pipes get clogged. All kinds of pipes. Physical and mental. This is a big deal, because any number of bodily functions may be compromised. The bad news is there are many, many causes of ama. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do about it. Here we go.
One of the most beautiful things about Ayurveda is the way spices are used not only to make food more delicious, but also to heal and balance your body. Autumn is the season dominated by Vata, otherwise known as Wind. You can easily keep your body, mind, and spirit in balance with the Vata season by including Ayurvedic spices in your cooking. Here's a recipe for a Vata spice mixture that you can carry with you when you eat out, or add to your meals at home. You can also take 1/2 tsp. of this mixture with warm water in between meals any time you're experiencing gas and bloating.
Vata Digestive Spice Powder
Grind the following spices and combine in decreasing quantities:
Cardamom seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, dry ginger powder, turmeric, sucanat, mineral salt, hing (aka asafoetida).
Benefits of Vata Spices
Vata is cold and dry. In autumn when it's also cold and dry, it's important to keep your body warm with good circulation. Warming, pungent spices accomplish this by keeping your digestive fire stoked. Ayurveda also teaches that for optimal digestion, all 6 tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, and astringent) should be present in a meal. This spice mixture has all tastes except sour, so just squirt a little lemon or lime on your meal to round it out.