Coming Home: Creating Healthy Rhythms For Autumn and Winter
I have often said that autumn is my favorite season and I think it is because it is the season where I come back to myself. Of course I love the sensual delights of this season. I love the particular quality of sunlight that we get on these crisp cool days, the brilliant colors of the trees as they turn, the smells of woodsmoke and leaves burning in the air , and the tastes of autumn spices on my tongue. But what I truly love is the way that this season invites me back into rhythm with myself and reminds me of what I value most. It is a season of renewed inspiration, renewed intimacy, and renewed dedication. And it has always seemed to me that if I nourish myself well in this season, then for the rest of the year I am deeply fortified and have so much more to give.
So in today’s post I thought I would share four key reasons why I think fall is such an important season in which to re-establish healthy self care routines and rituals that nourish you on all levels of your being.
Summer & Spring are Extroverted, Autumn is Introverted:
The spring and summer seasons are times of great outward flowing energy and propel us into action and engagement. They are celebratory seasons and seasons of high activity. Whereas the autumn season is characterized by a slower, and deeper current of energy that flows both inwards, and downwards. In nature you see it as the life force being pulled out of the flowers and the fruits and back down into the roots. You see it in the animals preparing for the long winter and the bears getting ready to rest in hibernation. We are pulled by this current as well, though as modern humans often we forget it, and when we can synch up with it’s pulse it takes us deeper into ourselves and prompts us to restore ourselves so that we can also rest. In the seemingly non stop pace of our modern lives it is easy to forget that everything moves in cycles and that we must too, but when we forget we may experience burnout and a lack of thrive when the wheel takes us back around and it is once again time to express outwards.
Nourishing practices to take you inwards: meditation, yoga nidra practice, restorative yoga, yin yoga, silent walks, contemplation, journal writing
Rhythm is Key to Balance in Vata Season
Autumn is considered a Vata season according to Ayurveda which means it has gunas, or qualities, of dryness, coldness, and a mobility that tends to be erratic in nature if not grounded. In the same way if we are not well grounded in healthy daily rhythms at this time of year then we may find ourselves feeling scattered, anxious, and un-grounded, our energy easily dispersed and exhaustion being the result most often. I have always found the fall season to be the most ideal time to re-evaluate my daily routines and re-create routines that will nourish me, and my family. I look at how I am working, how I am practicing, how I am eating, and how I am engaging with the world and then refine the areas that need it so that I have a daily rhythm that allows me to do what I must, and still offers space for me to attend to my deeper needs as well. And the key point is that there is a quality of rhythm to it, a regularity to my activities that grounds me in its constancy. This is the pillar of my self care for the autumn and winter seasons.
Tips for creating healthy rhythms: look at when you rise, when you eat, and when you go to sleep each day and work to bring these into a regular rhythm as much a possible. Assess when you are working (if you have control over that), and when you are making time for your self care practices and decide what the most ideal routine would be for you as you enter this new season. Schedule in time each week for self care! This is the season where you need it most.
Fall is an Inspired Time
Vata season is also a time of heightened intuition and creativity. I am always amazed each year at how my inspiration seems to flag as we move into the more extroverted season of summer and then returns in a flood in the fall. I seem to need less sleep and my mind is bursting with new ideas. Teaching, writing, and studying all become joyful practices that feel as if they are supported by something higher (and much more brilliant!) than myself. I feel that this window of inspiration that is available to all of us each year is such a precious gift and for that reason we want to be awake for it and able to receive it. If I am running around doing too much, or have not been taking care of myself well then it may pass by me in a cloud of dullness and exhaustion. So while creating healthy daily rhythms is the foundation for being able to tap into the inspired energy current of autumn, there are also practices you can bring into renew your own feelings or creativity and excitement.
Practices to nourish inspiration: treat yourself to a retreat or workshop with an inspired teacher, make time daily for study and re-read the texts that uplift you, meditate daily and be open to receiving inspiration, create a book club or study group with like minded friends, buy yourself some new books and /or return to a hobby or craft that lights you up.
Autumn Is The Time to Strengthen Your Immunity
If we are heading into the autumn season feeling depleted from a busy summer than we are vulnerable to illness as the temperatures drop and the fall winds and rains pick up. Taking time each year to fortify the health of your physical body is a wonderful practice for autumn and will help you to transition gracefully into the winter season without seasonal colds and flus. For this reason it is a great time to do a nourishing nutritional cleanse that will strengthen your digestive system and empower your immune system. Extreme cleanses like the master cleanser and juice cleansing should be done with caution this time of year as they are very cooling. Aim to be more moderate and instead to a whole foods cleanse that will provide the deep nourishment you need this time of year, while also giving your system a break from food related toxins. Look at the quality of the sugars, salts, grains, fats and animal proteins you take in and see where you can clean things up for period of time. Reduce your intake of dehydrating beverages as the fall season is a season of dryness already and this can cause depletion. Add in more seasonal foods and spices and replace your coffee or black/green tea with herbs such as nettle, chamomile, fennel, and oatstraw to increase your uptake of minerals, provide nourishment for your nervous system and gently heal your digestive system. If you tend towards poor health and are feeling that this is a key step for you I recommend working with an alternative health care provider who can assist you in creating the ideal nutritional cleanse to support your individual health needs. Otherwise I have found that most people know exactly which foods are best for them, and which ones are causing trouble and simply making time in the fall to return to your optimal diet is the wisest course.
Practices for strengthening immunity: get enough good quality sleep each night, cut our refined grains, sugars, and fats, eat more whole foods favouring seasonal foods, reduce dehydrating beverages, eat your largest meals before 7pm each night, reduce snacking and eating on the run, pay more attention to how you nourish your body and listen to what it has to tell you.
I hope you found this article helpful and I welcome comments and questions in the comment section below. If you are looking for support in upgrading your self care practices and gaining more knowledge of Ayurvedic and yogic wisdom then take a look at my Yoga For Life program which I run in the fall and winter season. The next one kicks off on Sept 22nd and it is not too late to join in.
I hope that your autumn season is a rich and sweet time that offers you sustenance on many levels.