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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Ayurvedic Self-Care Tips for the Fall Season

Oct 01, 2020 09:30AM ● By Jaya Ramamurthy
A nip is in the air, and trees are starting their colorful transition — fall is upon us! Ayurveda, a holistic healing system from ancient India very much in use today, focuses on seasonal wellness and recommends shifting one’s self-care accordingly in order to adapt optimally to the environment.

Ayurveda talks of three doshas, or fundamental life forces — vata, pitta and kapha — which combine in unique ways to make up our natural constitutions, or prakriti. Knowing one’s prakriti helps one optimize health of body and mind and knowing how the seasons express the doshas can deepen one’s harmony and vitality.

In Ayurvedic terms, fall is the start of the vata season.

Fall is cooler and drier than summer, and under vata influence, the qualities of fall are cold, dry, rough, mobile and light. To bring balance, one must counter those qualities with their opposites: warm, moist, smooth, slow and heavy. For fall — and winter, too — it is best to favor heavy, moist foods made with good fats such as ghee, virgin coconut and sesame oils. It’s also recommended to choose sweet, sour and salty tastes and to reduce astringent, bitter and pungent tastes, which are naturally drying and cooling.

To maintain well-being, Ayurveda recommends that we slowly shift our daily routines from one season to the next. As summer turns to fall, cooling and juicy fruits and vegetables give way to sweeter and heavier ones. Melons, fresh greens and cucumbers are replaced by root vegetables and squashes, and sweet fruits like apples and pears come to harvest. Freshly harvested grains and legumes also enter into the diet in the fall in most cultures. Ayurveda recommends we eat what is naturally growing in the seasons. But since grocery stores carry most produce year-round now, this wisdom can get lost.

Look for locally or regionally grown produce that tends to be seasonal. In addition, it is also important to avoid cold, dry and light foods — chips, cereals, granola bars, and cold salads, for example — that aggravate dryness and cause imbalance in the body. In the fall, it is best to eat warm, moist meals. Soups and stews made with colorful fall vegetables and spices provide nourishing options. Fall spices, such as turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon and allspice, are warming and aid in digesting heavier foods.

Ayurveda points out that our digestive power is lowest in the summer and highest in the winter. Also, one’s appetite follows the sun each day; it peaks in the middle of the day along with the sun and is comparatively lower at dawn and dusk. Modern medicine supports the idea that eating seasonal foods according to this biological and chronological clock is smart science. Eating smaller breakfasts and suppers and consuming the heaviest meal around the middle of the day allows the body to optimize digestion.

Seasonal Cleanse

As seasons change, it is wise to do a gentle home-based cleanse. This checklist is a good starting point and can be practiced for the entire season. 

  1. Reduce or eliminate caffeine, white sugar, white flour and alcohol.
  2. If a morning tea or coffee is habitual, especially to stimulate the bowels, switch to an herbal tea, such as Holy Basil or Tulsi with rose. It is a heat-reducing tea that will cleanse summer’s heat buildup.
  3. Cultivate a regular habit of elimination soon after waking. Make the time to start a morning hygiene routine.
  4. Eat a light breakfast of seasonal, stewed fruit at room temperature. Avoid dry cereals, protein bars and multi-ingredient smoothies.
  5. Sip warm water throughout the day.
  6. Take advantage of cooler days to get more time out in the sun.
  7. While still enjoying summer’s fresh vegetables and fruits in salads and lighter fare, avoid eating raw food in the evenings. Switch to a small cooked supper instead.
  8. Eat dinner or supper at least two hours before bedtime.
  9. Adjust bedtimes to reflect the change in sunlight.
  10. Listen to your body’s cues. Appetites tend to increase as the weather cools and the desire for cold, light foods naturally decreases.
  11. Start a daily oil massage practice before the shower. This practice is called abhyanga in Ayurveda. It is a grounding and nourishing self-care practice that helps counter the season’s drying and unsettling tendencies. The skin gets protection from the drying effects of a warm shower, so there’s often no need for topical lotions afterward. Add a few drops of an essential oil to extra virgin olive oil for the massage. Experiment with warming oils, such as frankincense, patchouli, or ginger. Sesame oil is traditionally used due to its warming properties.
  12. Ayurvedic daily practices of neti and nasya are invaluable in protecting nasal membranes and sinus passages during this dry time of year. Neti is the practice of washing the sinuses with saline water, which keeps these passages free of allergens and congestion. Neti pots are easily available online. Nasya is the practice of placing a few drops of oil (typically, sesame oil) inside each nostril with a dropper and inhaling deeply. Nasya keeps nasal passages from drying out, providing a strong barrier against seasonal germs.
  13. Adjust the timing of outdoor exercise to a warmer time of the day rather than early mornings. Take care not to expose the body to the drying effects of cold temperatures. It is best to protect against the elements, erring on the side of being warm rather than cold. On frosty mornings, a brisk yoga practice in a sunlit room may get the job done, creating warmth and flow and making for an energetic start to the day.
As summer gives way to fall, these simple recommendations can help foster balance for total well-being.

Grounding Breathwork

When the weather starts to cool, many find that colder days leave them feeling foggy, anxious or sleep-disturbed. Anuloma viloma pranayama is a form of alternate nostril breathing that’s designed to ground the body and mind without disturbing the body’s energies. A daily meditation practice where one sits still can be challenging; this practice offers a great way to start a meditation habit focused on the breath.

  1. Sit comfortably, cross-legged on the floor if possible, with a straight spine.
  2. Fold the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in towards the palm. Bring the palm facing up to the nose. Alternately, rest these two fingers in between the eyebrows.
  3. Close the right nostril with the thumb of the same hand.
  4. Gently inhale through the open left nostril.
  5. Release the thumb and smoothly close the left nostril with the ring finger in one action, allowing gentle exhalation through the right nostril. Then inhale gently through the right again.
  6. Repeat step 3, using the thumb to close off the right nostril, exhaling through the left. This completes one cycle.
Repeat as many cycles as you can without forcing the breath or being uncomfortable in the sitting position. If the mind starts to wander, gently bring awareness back to the breath. Start slowly and progress all season, giving the practice enough time to induce a state of meditative ease.

Digestive Spice Blend

Use this spice blend to flavor all sorts of fall vegetables and soups. To use, warm some fat in a pan, add the desired amount of spice blend and then add other ingredients. Done this way, the spices release more of their pleasing aromatic oils.

½ cup cumin seeds
½ cup coriander seeds
¼ cup black peppercorns
10-12 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon ginger powder
¼ cup turmeric powder

Gently dry-roast whole seeds, such as cumin, coriander, peppercorns and cardamom pods, in a skillet over a medium flame until the kitchen is filled with their aroma! Transfer to a bowl and cool uncovered. Using a coffee mill reserved for spices, create a fine powder. Mix in turmeric, cinnamon and ginger powders and combine well. Store in an airtight jar.

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 Jaya Ramamurthy, whose Indian roots inspired her to share the restorative wellness offered by Ayurveda’s health care methods, is a state-certified clinical Ayurveda specialist in private practice. Reach her at [email protected] or

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