Those of you who follow me know that I have been traveling a whole lot this summer. They've been wonderful, heart-filled adventures and I'm grateful for the opportunity. I've met so many great people and learned a lot about the world. However, after this last lovely adventure to Vancouver/Whistler, I returned home feeling tired and "off". Travel had taken its toll.
Add to that the crispness in the air which signals our transition here in DC to the beauty of fall and it all spells: VATA!
So what is vata? Ayurvedicaly speaking, vata is the air element that causes all things to move and shake. It's present in everyone and everything and really makes the world go round. When it's in balance it's pure creativity, spirituality and the lightness of our being.
When it's out of balance, it's a mess! Oh man is it a mess. Vata imbalance causes us to feel shaky, insecure, anxious and is responsible for 80% of all illness, including metal illness. Life transitions, inconsistency of schedule, trauma and grief all cause vata to go out of balance.
Two other things that cause vata imbalance are travel and fall! Travel is movement which aggravates vata. Add in high, dry airplane travel, jet lag and missed sleep/weird food and it gets worse.
Fall is vata time of year when everything in nature shuts down and dries out. It's an important cycle of life--a beautiful one at that--but when we approach it already imbalanced, it can really throw us off. Cold and flu season, hello!
So my plan and the one I'd like to present to you is to get our vata nice and balanced before the falls sweeps over us in full force. That way we can be festive, apple-cider-drinking, sweater wearing folk who can fully appreciate this magical time of year.
Sound like a plan? Here are a few tips to get thy vata in check:
1. Cook your apples instead of eating them raw. When vata is in full effect, digestion gets more challenging. Opt for well-cooked, well-spiced foods. Baked apples with coconut oil, raisins and cinnamon are a favorite of mine. Plus the oven warms up my kitchen in the mornings!
2. Try out an oil massage. When I had my first massage in Indian I was completely unprepared for all the oil! I didn’t understand Ayurveda at the time but now I see why I felt so zenned out afterward. Heat up the oil first by sticking a plastic bottle of sesame oil in warm water and then give yourself a full body massage. After you massage it in, let the oil soak in for 10-20 minutes and then take a warm shower to seal in the moisture. It’s surprising to me how little oil remains on my skin after. If doing a self massage is too much then I highly suggest booking a session with Don Norwood in Washington, DC. He’s really good and I always feel like a new person walking out of his place.
3. Make cozy time to be with loved ones. Schedule brunch in a place you love and linger over another cup of tea. Have your favorite friends over for an early Saturday night dinner. Make soup + fresh bread, light candles and ask a few good questions that get people talking about the important parts of life. The Danes call this warm togetherness hygge and they use it to get through their dark winters (ok they drink a lot of beer too but we can take just the healthiest elements for our benefit).
4. If you enjoy deep, meandering and deeply insightful writing then read My Struggle, the first of six autobiographical books by Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard. My dear friend Erin has very good taste in books and lent me her copy while we were traveling together in Peru. His writing can come off as indulgent sometimes--three paragraphs to describe cooking fish!--but it's gorgeous writing and he always has a real point. I felt like more of a human being as a result of his honesty.
5. Say goodbye to summer. Can those last vegetables. Put away your flip flops and beach towels. Break out the scarves. Do it all with a bit of ceremony by reflecting on what this summer meant to you. For me, it was a lot of time on airplanes, falling back in love with the bicycle, speaking my rusty, trusty Spanish, celebrating my dear friend Gillian’s marriage, leading a group to the Sacred Valley, Peru, being lead through Sweden and Denmark (such a luxury), understanding group dynamics better than ever, learning about the Tarot, watching Mozart in the Jungle, reading Americanah and The Surrender Experiment, and feeling a sense of freedom, like things work out when they are supposed to and how they are supposed to.
6. No more ice! I really think that our collective addiction to ice water causes so many of digestive problems. In short, agni (Ayurvedic name for digestion) needs to be warm in order to perform its metabolic duties. When we douse it with cold water before, during and after a meal, it underperforms. I love drinking warm water (don’t judge it until you try it!) but let’s start with no ice when it’s cold outside. Deal? Treat it as an experiment for these colder months and notice how you feel/digest.
7. Stay active. You know this of course. But we all need to be reminded that we create our own heat by moving around, just like we generate our own love by opening our heart. When we are thrown off by transitioning, exercise can be the first thing to go and it’s probably the thing we need the most. Give it 10-20 minutes in the morning before you eat breakfast. Consistent exercise was hard for me until I built it into my morning routine. If you need help with your morning routine then sign up for my Create a Dynamic Morning Routine workshop on October 4, 2015 at Yoga District in Washington, DC.
8. The vata element going out of balance can cause anxiety, insecurity, and feelings of overwhelm. If you find yourself going through them, it’s a great first step to acknowledge that you are only out of balance. It’s not personal, it’s nature telling you to move a little to the center again. Create a routine out of exercising the in the morning, followed by a breakfast of baked apples and if it’s the weekend throw in a little oil massage. Have dinner with people you love and remember that you are part of the human family. If you still need help then let’s schedule a session to chat.
9. A kitchari cleanse is a magical Ayurvedic practice that can put you back into balance. You eat this delicious mixture of mung beans (or I like red lentils) and rice, cooked with lots of healing spices. You can eat it for dinner or one whole day or up to seven whole days. It’s perfectly satvic, which means that it doesn’t make you excited or sleepy. It helps you to just be and remember the beauty of just being. And I’ll say once again that it’s delicious and an easy go-to meal. Make it for dinner one night and bring it for lunch the next morning.
10. Maybe most importantly, let yourself off the hook a little more. Summer is the time of busy beavers being sociable as the sun stays strong in the sky. Fall is the time of closing up shop early so you can put on your cozy pajamas, light incense and read on soft, clean sheets. Look at the trees around you. They are drying up, shutting down, pulling their energy into the center. You can do this too! In fact, you may suffer a bit if you don’t. If you are suffering, then remember it’s only a call to come back to balance. You can do it today. You’re just one baked apple away.