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A Fall Guide to Maintaining Balance with Ayurveda

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Change is in the air. You can probably feel and smell the season shift into fall as the air becomes cooler, the winds pick up and nature starts to adapt to a new season: fall. Ayurveda is informed by nature and therefore when you follow the Ayurvedic principles and Ayurvedic seasonal food list in this fall guide, it will help you maintain balance, health and overall well-being.

Welcome to the season of transformation. Just as the leaves fall from the trees, it is also time for you to shed what doesn’t serve you. Autumn is a time when you’re invited to slow down, turn more inward, and observe what is working and not working in your life. Pay close attention to how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally during this transitional season, you will learn what needs to shift within you in order to feel your best this fall.


The autumn season is governed by the vata dosha, which is composed of the air and ether elements. Don’t let the wind carry you away, rather keep your feet on the ground and your mind calm.

For some, fall can be an unsettling transitional period as the air becomes cooler and brings with it wind. The land starts to brown as some plants start to shed their leaves in preparation for winter. Just as nature adapts to the fall season, Ayurveda guides you to adapting to the changes fall brings.


Remember the key principle in Ayurveda: likes increase likes and opposites balance. Fall ushers in qualities that are vata in nature, and how you can maintain balance is by using the opposite qualities to keep your body, mind and soul properly nourished, grounded and calm this fall.


My goal with this guide is to share with you an overview of Ayurvedic principles that are easy to adapt to your life, so you can feel your best this fall. This guide will cover:

If you are new to Ayurveda or want a refresher check out my blog "Introduction to Ayurveda".


I hope you enjoy learning these amazing guidelines Ayurveda has to offer!



Living in the Fall Season According to Ayurveda

As mentioned, the prominent dosha (or constitution) present in fall is vata, which controls all movement in the body, the nervous system and the process of elimination. Since vata is in charge of the nervous system, your mental health is reflected by how in or out of balance vata is within you. During the fall it is more easy to get overwhelmed since the nervous system becomes more active. It is natural this time of year to feel more unsettled, ungrounded and unstable.


There is a tendency towards constipation and dryness this time of year, so be very mindful of what you eat. Use the opposite qualities to help bring you back into balance through the food you eat and the activities you participate in. So, if you are feeling dry, add more healthy fats, proteins and oils to your daily meals. Incorporate more warming foods, spices and drinks. Practice moving slow, rather than fast, in other words don’t rush. Grounding yoga practices and taking time to exercise in nature can really support a calmness to counter the movement that is all around.


Through a consistent daily routine and incorporating healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices outlined in this blog, you can maintain a grounded and peaceful state this fall.

Everyone has all three doshas in themself: vata, pitta, kapha, yet we all have a unique combination of them. Even if your primary constitution doesn’t carry vata, you can still experience vata symptoms, especially in fall. There is an abundance of vata energy circulating in the fall because of the qualities or gunas that are connected to vata.

  • Primary Fall Dosha: Vata

  • Fall Months: Mid-September, October, November, beginning December

  • Fall Elements: Air and ether/space

  • Fall Gunas (qualities): Dry, rough, cold, light, subtle, clear, mobile/moving

  • Gunas to balance Fall qualities: Moist, smooth, hot, heavy, gross, cloudy, static

You can maintain good balance during autumn by adjusting your nutrition and lifestyle to counter the prevalent vata energies present all around you. Each day make choices to incorporate yoga, exercise, food and lifestyle that hold the opposite qualities of vata dosha and you will be in a good state this fall.


Ayurvedic Nutrition Guidelines for Fall

As the temperatures shift towards a colder climate, and the more we move away from summer, it’s time to start eating cooked, warm, oily foods that have protein. While it sounds counterintuitive to most, in the fall you want to reduce your raw food intake. The rough, cold, dry qualities of vata can dry out the digestive system and cause constipation.

Remember: likes increase likes and opposites balance. Always go back to this principle. For some, eating a salad for lunch in the fall will do them just fine. For others, it could lead to a day or two of constipation. Eating warm food is easier to digest and absorbs the benefits that the food provides to you.


General Rule for Fall: Eat warm, well cooked foods that have a good source of healthy fats and protein to nourish and warm the body.

The three main tastes to favor in the fall are sweet, sour and salty. Sweet does not mean sprinkle sugar on everything and have a sugary dessert every night. Sweet is a taste that is found in foods like yams, beets, pumpkins, dates and grapes. In addition to these tastes, it’s helpful to use warming and stimulating spices when you cook.


You want to make sure to incorporate healthy fats (ghee, olive oil, avocados) and proteins into each meal, and it’s also important to sip warm water throughout the day. This is a good time of year to enjoy meat and eggs if you eat them. Also, dairy, nuts and seeds are beneficial this time because they are a good source of protein, which helps the joints from drying out and vata aggravation.


Ayurveda Fall Cleanse

Fall is a great time of year to do a simple cleanse. One way this is done in Ayurveda is through a mono-diet where you eat the same thing for a certain period of time that is easy to digest and can help clear out excess heat from the summer. If you’re curious to learn more you can read this Banyan Botanicals article or schedule a 15 minute FREE consultation with me.


Always eat what is in season. The earth knows what to provide our body throughout the year. Shopping at the farmers markets can help you learn what’s in season, plus you support local farms.


Ayurvedic Fall Foods

The following list of ideal fall foods that have been recommended by important Ayurvedic figures (Vasant & Usha Lad and John Douillard).


Vegetables

These are really the top fall veggies, but all root vegetables are good to eat this time of year.

​Beets

Brussel Sprouts

Carrots

Chilies

Garlic

Okra

Onions

Pumpkins

Sweet Potatoes

Winter Squash


Meat & Fish

Fall is an excellent time of year to incorporate more protein in your meals to help nourish your joints. Eggs are considered meat in Ayurveda.

Beef

Buffalo

Chicken

Crab

Duck

Eggs

Fish

Lobster

Oysters

Shrimp

Turkey

Venison

Grains

This time of year is when grains are harvested and help to provide the body with a good source of fiber. Make sure to cook or toss your grains with a good source of healthy fat/oil.

Amaranth

Brown Rice

Oats

Quinoa

Wheat

White Rice

Fruit

In Ayurveda, fruit is typically eaten on its own separate from other meals. Some fruits can be cooked into food and then it’s considered ok.

Apples (cooked)

Avocados

Bananas

Citrus

Dates

Figs

Grapefruit

Grapes

Mangoes

Papayas

Pomegranates

Prunes (soaked)

Raisins (soaked)

Oils

With vata’s tendency to dry out in the fall, adding or cooking with a good amount of these oils can help keep vata balanced and steer you away from constipation.

Almond Oil

Ghee

Olive Oil

Peanut Oil

Safflower Oil

Sesame Oil

Dairy

Another good source of protein and way to nourish the joints and bones.

Butter

Buttermilk

Cheese

Cream

Ghee

Kefir

Sour Cream

Yogurt

Warm Milk

Nuts & Seeds

All are good this time of year.


Legumes

A great source of protein. To reduce bloating and absorption of the protein cook with bay leafs or hing/asafetida.

Kidney Beans

Miso

Mung Beans

Toor Dal

Urad Dal

Sweeteners

Always try to use natural sweeteners when possible and use in moderation.

Honey

Jaggery

Maple Syrup

Molasses

Raw Sugar

Rice Syrup

Spices & Healing Herbs

Warm the body up and stimulate the digestive system by adding spices to your food.

Allspice

Anise

Asafoetida (Hing)

Basil

Bay Leaf

Black Pepper

Cardamom

Cinnamon

Clove

Cumin

Dill

Garlic

Ginger

Mustard Seeds

Nutmeg

Oregano

Paprika

Parsley

Rosemary

Saffron

Turmeric


Beverages

Avoid cold and iced drinks, while favoring warm and room temperature drinks. Herbs and spices that are warming work great for teas. It’s important to stay hydrated in fall, while also not overdrinking. For every glass of alcohol or caffeine, have two glasses of water to maintain hydration. Sipping warm water throughout the day is helpful and if your digestion feels sluggish add some fresh ginger.


Fall Meal Suggestions

  • Breakfast: Cooked grains (oatmeal, cream of wheat, tapioca, etc.) or delicious stewed pears and apples with cardamom and cinnamon, and topped with almonds. Check out my yummy oatmeal recipe (even those who aren't fans of oatmeal like this!)

  • Lunch: Cooked grains, legumes, stews, curries, soups, steamed vegetables, and protein

  • Snacks: Date, nuts, stewed fruit

  • Dinner: Same as lunch, but eat a little less

Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines for Fall

Routine. Routine. Routine. While you may be someone who rebels against routine, this is one of the most effective ways you can help vata stay in balance during the fall. You’re aiming to do the same things around the same times each day. Find a way to have fun with this and get creative. Have a morning routine that helps you awaken your senses to the day and will also keep the mind calm. Make sure to incorporate movement and meditation each day.


Take time to sit down and slowly eat each meal to aid in proper digestion. Create an evening routine that helps you wind down. A great yoga pose to do at the end of the day is taking your legs up the wall for 10-15 minutes. Wear clothes that keep you warm enough throughout the day and bring you joy. Avoid going outside with a wet head and if it’s really windy wear a hat or hood, and keep your neck warm.


Fall Routine

One of the best ways to support vata in the fall is through a solid routine, which helps keep you grounded, centered, and calm. Attempt to do the same (or similar thing) every day. This will keep the mind from feeling scattered. Remember, vata is governed by air and ether elements, so there's a lot of opportunity to get swept away this time of year if you don’t keep your feet on the ground. Pay close attention to how you respond to establishing a routine, if you are rebelling against routine vata you may be out of balance.


As someone who is governed by vata and having worked through a lot of vata imbalance, I can attest to the importance of a routine. One of my favorite things as a coach is to help people create a routine that best supports their well-being and keeps their doshas in balance. You can schedule a FREE 15-minute consolation to learn more about how I can support you to do this.


Here are some general guidelines for creating a fall routine:

  • Wake up around 6am. Go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, clean your tongue.

  • Start your day with a cup of warm water to stimulate your digestive system. If you are a caffeine drinker, try to have warm water first. This will help hydrate you rather than dehydrate you. You can always add a little bit of fresh ginger.

  • Move your body. Take some time to practice yoga (asana, pranayama, and mediation) to help calm the mind and get yourself grounded. Also remember to do some form of exercise.

  • Give yourself a massage. This is an excellent time to practice abhyanga (Ayurvedic oil massage) with raw organic unrefined sesame oil that you first warm and gently massage over your whole body. This is really nourishing for the tissues, while also grounding and calming. Let the oil sit on your skin for a bit before taking a warm shower.

  • Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at consistent times every day. Take time to relax while you eat and practice mindfulness (paying attention to eating). Remember to also pay attention to your constitution and what is present for you when it’s time to eat. People who are kapha predominant can often skip breakfast and even dinner. Whereas for vata and pitta types it’s really important to eat all meals.

  • Throughout the day be present and do your best to slow down and be mindful of what you are doing. The movement and fast qualities of vata can inspire you to move faster and try to do many things at once. You will actually be more productive if you stay focused on one thing at a time.

  • Establish an evening and bedtime routine that feels supportive, calming, and nurturing. If you can create a consistent bedtime, this will help your body prepare for better sleep, which can be a challenge for vata types.

  • You can eat a lighter meal, but make sure it has protein, good fats, and is warm. Try to have 2-3 hours between finishing dinner and going to bed.

  • Try to turn off electronics by 8 or 9pm and go to sleep by 10 or 11pm to not overstimulate your mind. Think of three things you are grateful for from your day before going to sleep.


Fall Exercise

Remember that vata gets easily disturbed through fast and mobile movements. It’s still important to get in daily exercise in fall, just make sure you are going slow, being gentle with yourself, while still strengthening your body. Breathe deeply and slowly, and practice around 50-70% of your capacity.

Hike

Pilates

Qi Gong

Tai Chi

Walk

Fall Yoga Practices

Yoga is not just a physical practice, it’s also a mental and spiritual practice. While the physical practice (asana or postures) can support your body, they can also impact the mind in a positive way. The other aspects of yoga, such as pranayama (breath control practices) and meditation are great ways to help you balance vata in the fall. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and since vata is in charge of the nervous system, which is connected to your mental state, make sure to incorporate yoga practices this fall that also work on calming the mind.


Asana (posture): In the fall you want to hold poses for longer periods of time to build strength and warmth in the body, plus this builds mental focus. It’s important to move slowly to help calm the body, which in turn calms the mind. Restorative poses are a great way to soothe an active nervous system, especially at the end of the day. Try this rejuvenating restorative class. To help yourself feel more grounded, while in each posture feel a connection to the earth. Try this grounding Gentle Yoga class to support you in times of ungroundedness.

Backbends

Cat/Cow Poses

Child’s Pose / Balasana

Corpse Pose / Savasana

Downward Facing Dog / Adho Mukha Svanasana

Forward Folds

Legs up the Wall

Moon Salutations / Chandra Namaskar

Side Stretches

Slow Sun Salutations / Surya Namaskar

Restorative Poses

Tree Pose / Vrikshasana

Twists

Warrior I & II / Virabhadrasana I & II

Pranayama: Breath control practices this time of year are centered around calming the nervous system and strengthening the diaphragm.

Three Part Yogic Breathing

Kapalabhati / Skull Shining Breath

Nadi Shodhana / Alternate Nostril Breathing

Ujjai / Victorious Breath (often called “ocean breath”)

Meditation: Connecting with nature is a great way to focus the mind on something to help calm and ground yourself, which is exactly what is needed to ease vata this time of year. You can take a walk in nature or sit and observe the sounds and smells. You can also still connect to nature through your mind while sitting or laying down at home. A helpful practice is to connect to the center of your earth and visualize roots growing down to ground yourself.


Autumn is a time of change and transitions. Just as the leaves fall from the trees, it is also time for you to let go of what doesn’t serve you, to release grudges, forgive, and be more gentle with yourself. You can bring these concepts and reflect on them in your meditation this fall.

Walking Meditation

Mantra Meditation

Guided Meditation

Breath Focused

Maintaining Balanced in Fall

Empower yourself this fall by staying grounded and slowing down to tune into the transformations taking place. Eat to seasonal fall fruits and vegetables, favor warm and hot drinks, develop a routine that best supports your nervous system to stay calm, and incorporate lifestyle choices that help maintain overall balance. Remember: likes increase likes and opposites balance. When in doubt, return to this guiding Ayurvedic principle to help you.


Want support this Fall?

I offer a variety of Ayurvedic services. From an introductory session, to seasonal balance support, to ongoing Wellness Coaching.






References

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