image by EssjayNZ
Autumn can be a challenging season. For those who love the heat of the sun and long light evenings it can be difficult to accept the crisper days and darker evenings Autumn brings.
When we observe nature and align with the changing seasons we can create a healthy experience where resistance is replaced with contented mindful acceptance.
Finding something to love about Autumn can help us enjoy the change. Although I'm not so keen on darker evenings, I do enjoy the changing colours of the leaves, acorns, squashes and pumpkins, spiced tea, vegetable stews and baked apples. I like meditating by candlelight and walking without feeling overheated. By focusing on what I do like about Autumn and learning to adjust in preparation for change I can now enjoy what used to be a tough time of year for me.
When we live closer to nature we naturally adjust with the seasons. Harvesting apples, nuts, pumpkins and firewood are all part of the natural transition to Autumn. But we, in our heated homes and cars, tend to move through life in an artificial climate controlled mono-season. We do the same things and eat the same things all year round.
Yet each season brings it's benefits and challenges and knowing them helps us keep in step with nature and take better care of our bodies and minds.
In Autumn, the air is highly charged with vital energy (prana). Autumn is a wonderful time to walk and fill your lungs with cool clean air. Stepping through the crisp coloured leaves, counting your steps and your breaths, or repeating a mantra or affirmation can transform your steps into a grounding meditation that helps to calm your mind.
As I write this I'm sitting in a tea shop at a country park with a pocket full of acorns. Outside the window a tall fennel plant is swaying in the breeze. It has thousands of seeds. Seeing it reminds me of nature's generosity - fennel seeds make the perfect tea for Autumn. Fennel gives a grounding energy and gentle warmth that nurtures us and helps us stay healthy in Autumn.
The nuts, pumpkins and squashes coming into season are also rich with the properties that help us create a healthy sniffle free season. Baked apples with cloves and cinnamon are rich with vitamin C. Hot apple juice with ginger protects us from colds.
Chinese medicine teaches that we become attuned to the chi in our local environment; another good reason to eat local seasonal vegetables whenever possible.
Autumn is the season of drier, lighter air, and cooler winds, this provokes vata and the nervous system. Autumn directly affects our anxiety levels, our digestion and our skin.
Ayurveda teaches that "like increases like" that means that the cold, dry, light, and sometimes erratic windy nature of Autumn increases those same qualities in us. If we are vata in nature we will be strongly affected as vata is very like Autumn. Vata, like typical Autumn weather, is also dry, light, cold, moving and erratic.
If you are of a vata nature and suddenly find that you feel more anxious, or stiff and achy, or your digestion becomes sluggish, your skin becomes dry, and your sleep is disturbed you can know that this is may well be due to the influence of Autumn.
Knowing this, you can take steps to look after yourself and get back in balance.
Here are some tips for creating a healthy Autumn for your body and your mind:
Try getting up early before the world gets busy and invest a few minutes in a relaxing breathing practice.
Oil your body. Massage yourself with warm sesame oil. Sesame oil is lubricating and warming to your skin, joints and muscles and will help protect you from dryness, cracking joints, and stiff muscle pain.
Applying a little warm sesame oil to the inside of your nose and ears also protects from the influence of cold dry weather. It helps prevent ear aches and supports your immunity by protecting your nose and ears from infection.
Practice pranayama (yoga breathing exercises) to take advantage of the increased prana in Autumn air and energise your body and mind. Pranayama will also help you calm your mind and lift your spirits.
The ideal autumn diet should consist of warm foods that are sweet, mildly spicy, and salty. These are the tastes that increase moisture in the body and help us feel grounded. Try pumpkin soup, seasonal vegetable stews with a little olive oil and black pepper, and baked apples.
Porridge with cinnamon and maple syrup makes a perfect Autumn breakfast.