With arrival of fall, we see the leaves turning beautiful variations of fall colors. The trees getting ready to let go of these outer expressions and turning inward as they prepare for the winter. This is a process of closing the channels that push the energy upward and outward through the spring and summer. With closing these channels, the life force becomes more concentrated in trunk and roots of the trees. Thus, helping to preserve life through harsh expressions winter.
The difference between lives of trees and humans is that our community is not setup to allow this kind of slowing down and turning inward. Instead, we are forced to be outward-focused and exposed to the elements. For this reason, Ayurveda encourages a fall rejuvenation process to cleanse and open the channels body to make it lighter, as well as instill warmth in the core stem and root of the body to make it stable and resilient.
Why do Fall Rejuvenation?
Starting from spring, all of terrestrial life starts to experience an unfolding and expansive energy. Channels become open and body prepares of outer expression of creativity, beauty, and work (table 1). Through the summer, these outward expressions reach maturation. They result in an increase in qualities of heat, dryness, lightness, movement, change, expansion etc. in our body system. These qualities tend to cause an aggravation of the Pitta (fire+water) and Vata (air+space) towards the end of summer. Often by the end of summer, we are a bit more exhausted, ready to slow down, and wanting a restorative routine and rhythm to return our life.
Table 1: Our activities and their qualities
As fall arrives, schools return to regular schedule, work-flow settles down as fewer people are away on vacation, and focus of human society turns to the next fiscal year. Rather than a natural slowing down, we are required to change directions and keep moving. Additionally, as the weather turns cold and damp (rain, snow, hurricanes, etc. move in) our bodies must further deal with these oppressive expressions of Kapha dosha.
For this reason, Ayurveda prescribes a Fall rejuvenation. We must mitigate the aggravated qualities of summer through cleansing, soothing, grounding, nourishing, building, and regulating qualities of therapeutic herbs, diet and routines.
How to cultivate your Fall Rejuvenation?
Therapeutic herbs: Traditionally formulation are of herbal tea mixes perform the function of Deepana (restoring digestive/processing power) and Panchana (processing and elimination of toxins). Table 2 demonstrates some herbs that may be chosen to make such a formulation.
These and many more herbs can be employed in various ways to targets specific cleansing, warming, eliminating actions required to reduce the toxic load. Thus, preparing body for the Vata and Kapha balancing actions supported through diet and therapeutic routines.
Therapeutic Diet: Foods that are simple to digest, that are prepared in a way to have nourishing and warming effect on the body are ideal for a fall restoration.
Nourishing and grounding foods are denser and heavy in quality: like squashes, root vegetables. Individuals with kapha (heavy/dense) constitution can be given lighter foods: like green leafy (kale, collard), cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, etc.) These lighter foods when eaten raw or cooked by baking or on the grill have drying effect. However, they can be made more soothing and nourishing by steaming or sauteing them with water.
Spices also play an important role in promoting warming and nourishing actions of foods. Ideal spices to include in our fall and winter cooking process: Ginger powder, black pepper, turmeric, marjoram, paprika, cinnamon, clove, carom seeds, cumin seeds, coriander, garlic, onion, mace and nutmeg.
The hallmark of fall rejuvenation is internal oleation through oral ghee intake and oil enemas, as well as external oil application through swa-abhyanga (self-massage). Oil or ghee have a nourish, soothing, supportive, and restorative effect on the body. Application of oils in these various ways helps us to make use of major pathways to balance and restore the Vata dosha (degenerative, wear-n-tear) and stabilize the agni (metabolic activity) in the body. For additional nervous system support, Nasya or nasal oil or ghee application is done. These can help relieve headaches, improve sleep and focus, and reduce mental fatigue. Some details of these oil applications are discussed below:
Ghee: Therapeutic ghees (Kalyanaka, guggultiktakam, etc.) infused with cleansing herbs are taking during the detoxing phase of the fall rejuvenation. This ghee can penetrate deep in to the joint, across the blood-brain and blood-marrow barrier, etc. To help reduce degenerative effects in deep tissues. In the restorative phase of the rejuvenation, ghee-based herbal jams (like chyavanprash, brahma rasayanam, etc.) are used to support and strengthen the system.
Oil enemas: 1-3 enemas are done during the cleansing/detoxing phase. Then, 3+ oil enemas are done during the rejuvenative phase to support bowel health, balanced gut flora and eco-system, and promotes stable functions of the bowels.
Self-abhyanga: self-massage is a good routine for the fall/winter season helping the body feel stronger, energized, supple and flexible through winter months. Oil massage is recommended as part of morning routine, done before a warm/hot shower to wash off the oil.
Nasya: the nasal oil application must be learned under the guidance of a professional. With the right oil this application can impart many different benefits to the nervous system, sinuses, and mental activity. Ideal time to perform a nasya is as part of a morning routine.
Exercise: One of the best ways too keep our metabolism, physical vitality and resilience is the perform regular exercises. Physical movement induces muscles to demand more energy, support rejuvenative hormone productions and enhances mitochondrial activity. Breathing exercises like bhastrika (bellow’s breathing), Kapalbhati (fire breath), etc. promote increased oxygenation and metabolism. These exercise must be employed regularly to promote mental lightness and clarity, physical energy and vitality, as well as spiritual uplifting effect.
The goal of a fall rejuvenation is to strengthen, nourish and stabilize our core-stem. This, in turn, supports strong metabolism, energy, immunity, and resilience through this challenging time of the year. First step is always to cleanse the body through herbs, diet and cleansing routines. Second step is to adopt rejuvenating diet and lifestyle for the winter season the optimize body function.