Autumnal Ayurveda & The Qualities of Life: Live Harmoniously, Reduce Anxiety & Feel Grounded

redleavesThe beauty of living in countries like the UK, is that we really get to feel the changing seasons. Balmy Summers give way to the cool, whirling winds of Autumn, and Autumns slip into crisp, cold Winters, finally re-emerging with the warmth and wonder of Spring.

Whether you love the light of Summer or crave curling up in Autumn and Winter, there’s no denying the seasons have a definite effect upon how we feel, so it makes sense to adapt a few of our daily habits when a new season comes around.

TCM.herb_.chinesemedicine.alternative_blogWithin the realms of Ayurveda (the science of life, or ‘life knowledge’) – an ancient health and wellbeing system from the East – the seasons are an indicator of when to change diet, movement and self care practices. Health and harmony throughout life are determined by our relationship with the world around us; are we living harmoniously with the time of day, temperature, environment and season? How do the meals we eat, people we interact with, or thoughts we think affect us moment to moment? If these questions seem too big or complicated to answer right now, there’s a very useful tool to use when it comes to figuring out why we feel the way we feel. And that comes down to quality.

Everything in nature has a quality, and Ayurveda recognises and works with 10 pairs of them:

Dull Sharp
Hard Soft
Heavy Light
Cold Hot
Wet Dry
Dense Subtle
Rough Smooth
Slow Quick
Solid Liquid
Oily Brittle

These qualities are within everything we see, touch, taste, smell, hear, and they even exist within our own minds. Pause for a moment and take a look around you; can you recognise something hard? Something dry? Something oily? Something smooth? When you interact with the qualities of these things, how do they make you feel?

Ayurveda also has a handy saying: like increases like, but opposite brings balance….

autumn leaves 4If we remember this phrase, we can use it every time we want to change or enhance the way we feel, and especially when it comes to enhancing health throughout the seasons.

Autumn is governed by the qualities of rough, cold, light, dry, brittle, quick and also by aspects of unpredictability and movement. All of these things are linked to what is known as Vata energy – an energy type also governed by those same qualities. When Autumn arrives, the amount of Vata within many of us increases, which can lead to feelings of anxiety, ungroundedness, dry skin and painful joints, coldness and fragility.

So, what can we do to balance these qualities and adapt to the season harmoniously?

Like increases like, but opposite brings balance….

Take a look at the pairs of qualities; if you feel cold, how can you warm up. If your body and joints feel dry or brittle, how can you increase your qualities of moisture and oiliness? A good place to start is with these five simple tips for Ayurvedic Autumn wellness:

  1. legmassageTo reduce dryness and brittle-ness and increase warmth & oiliness: Begin a practice of self massage known as abhyanga with warm sesame oil. Focus on the joints and any areas you feel are particularly cold. For more information on self massage, click HERE.
  2. To increase groundedness, strength and moisture: Increase the amounts of heavy, oily, warm and cooked foods in your diet, such as nuts and nut butters, soup, curry, grounding porridge or golden milk. (for a golden milk recipe click HERE, or for an on-the-go golden milk click HERE). Warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, clove and black pepper can also do wonders for warming the body and enhancing digestion.
  3. To increase warmth and comfort: Surround yourself with warming, grounding colours such as gold, red, deep orange and mustard yellow.
  4. Emma Hi Res PigeonTo increase groundedness and reduce anxiety: Interact with people you feel safe and relaxed around, and whom you enjoy spending time with. Eat dinner together, and take slow walks that allow time for good conversation.
  5. To increase feelings of strength, comfort and reduce anxiety: If you have a movement practice such as yoga, try adapting the types of movements you practice; twists and forward folds can both increase the digestive fire and calm and focus the mind, whilst backbends can help un-do any cold-induced hunching over or lung congestion. Anything that increases your sense of strength and stability can help reduce anxiety, and enable you to feel more present, powerful and grounded in day-to-day life. (For four Autumn yoga postures, click HERE).

Give these things a try and see how you feel!

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