The Space Between: Transitioning into Autumn

The Vāta winds are blowing – fall is here. And your closet isn’t the only thing that needs changing. It’s time for you to create a new rhythm as well.

Āyurveda: In Your Element

According to Āyurveda, we are all were born with a combination of the same five essential elements found in all creation – fire, water, earth, air, and space. These combinations make up our constitution or doṣha.

Those with more fire are classified as Pitta. Those with more water and earth are Kapha. And those who contain more air and space are Vāta. While each of the doṣhas are present in everyone’s makeup, one or two will likely be predominant. 

Our doṣha does not change – but nearly everything else does. And these outside changes can affect our balance. Though perhaps no more felt are those changes than during the shift of seasons.

For example, as summer temperatures rise, Pittas can overheat. The ground freezes in winter, and Kaphas may lose all motivation to move. Or as the fall winds begin to blow, Vātas might feel scattered and spacey. Like now.

Autumn is Vāta (air & space) season: cool dry, light, a bit brittle, and constantly moving.

Though remember, everyone is a combination of all three doṣhas. So no matter how much air you have in you, everyone’s Vāta is bound to get slightly aggravated as autumn approaches. Especially if we don’t change with the seasons.

Ritu Sandhi: The Space Between

The seven days at the end and commencement of a season is known as Rtusandhi (inter seasonal). During this period, the regimen of the preceding season should be discontinued gradually and that of the succeeding season should be gradually adopted;
- Āṣhtānga Hṛidaya Sūtra 58-59  

Āyurveda calls the transition between two seasons, Ritu Sandhi, or ‘the place where seasons meet’ – and offers specific healing practices and rituals to help prepare for the change, already in the air.

In autumn, this transition begins one week before the Fall Equinox and another seven days after. Though only two weeks long, it is a brief yet critical period of time in securing our health.

The days are still warm but the nights are getting cooler. Leaves are turning colors but haven’t yet fallen. Change is in the air – and yet, that change hasn’t fully happened.

Because seasons don’t change overnight – nor should we. There is a process that is meant to be gradual. And for those living in the Western Hemisphere, that’s where we are, in the blurry space that is no longer summer and also, not yet fall. 

Autumn: The Winds of Change

Vāta (or vayu) is a Sanskrit word that means wind. With elements of air and space, wind is also cool dry, light, and constantly moving and changing. These are also the qualities of fall.

And why Autumn is known as the Vāta season. 

In balance, Vāta is light and full of vitality, with an exuberance and dynamism that is utterly contagious.

Which is especially useful for transitioning spring into summer. Vāta IS the breath of new life. 

But too much of anything is never a good thing. An excess of one means a void in another. Too much activity leads to not enough rest. Too much change leads to not enough stability. Too much excitement turns to anxiety. And a head always in the clouds leaves no place for roots.

To stay balanced, we need more downward energy. We need the weight of water and the grounding of earth. Now is the time to exhale. It’s time for more Kapha.

Your Fall Checklist

With elements of both water and earth, Kapha is heavy, dense, slow, oily, and moist – providing a perfect to balance to this windy season. So that means eating Kapha foods (like root vegetables and hearty soups), adopting a more Kapha lifestyle (slow and steady), and adding a few Kapha rituals (oil massages).

Tip #1: Slow Down

The days grow cooler and the nights grow longer, inviting us to surrender. Rather than try and maintain the high energy of summer – now is the time to slow down and savor. In your yoga practice, this may mean less postures with longer more breaths. Walking may very well be the best exercise. Or consider taking up basket weaving. I hear it’s a wonderful way to relax and refresh the brain.

Tip #2: Build Strong Roots

Vātas resist structure – but they need structure. And now more than ever. Because it’s all too easy to get swept away by autumn winds – and why you need strong roots. Your roots are your routine. And your routine will help keep you grounded – no matter what the wind blows our way.

Tip #3: Eat Natural
Root vegetables have more Kapha or earth qualities – and can help keep us grounded.

When it comes to deciding what to eat, use nature’s harvest as your menu. Foods that are in season – like root vegetables, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and squash – are all foods that are sweet, heavier, smooth, and more dense. These are Kapha qualities and will help pacify Vāta.

And if you don’t have a garden or a farm nearby, try joining a Community Supported Agricultural Program (CSA) where you can get local, chemical-free produce either delivered or available for pick up each week. We join one every winter and spring.

Other foods include nuts, brown rice, oats, bananas, and ghee. Ghee is essential in fall as it is packed with essential fatty omega acids, it’s dense and lubricating, and helps improve digestion. I put ghee in just about everything right now.

Tip #4: Add Some Spice

Herbs play a huge part in Āyurveda. Top of the list to pacify Vāta and increase Kapha include turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and fennel. Tastes you’ll want to avoid is anything bitter or astringent.

Tip #5: Care + Nourish

Self care is vital for all seasons of the year. And using oils is one of my favorite ways to nourish myself, inside and out. Like Abhyañga, is a self-massage you can do at home.

Done a few hours after eating and at least an hour before taking a bath, warm the oil (using a thicker oil like sesame or avocado) and then apply. I like to include earthy scents (especially now) like basil, rosemary, and clary sage. Self massage is warm, loving, and nourishing. It feels good. And you are worth it.

Tip #6: Maintain Warmth

Around 11 am, after the heat of my practice has dissipated and I’m starting to loose steam, instead of reaching for coffee – I cook up this cup of goodness:

  • An inch or so of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Aṣhwagandhā
  • 1 tsp. Ghee
  • 1 crushed cinnamon stick
  • 5 crushed cardamom pods
  • 10 oz of milk (you can substitute in a nut milk instead)

Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain and pour. Add honey (though never cook the honey!!) and sprinkle some turmeric on top. It’s warm, nourishing, and the perfect pick-me-up on a chilly fall day.

Tip #7: Settle In

There are many ways to bring your focus in. Journaling is one way. Every morning, I sit and handwrite a few pages. Just a way to empty my mind and start the day fresh. But important for this time of year, journaling takes ideas and thoughts out of space and makes them tangible.

Chanting is a beautiful and powerful practice, Through vibration and prayer, we can quiet the mind and open the heart. If that interests you, we have an introductory course beginning next month.

Begins October 3rd.