Shorter days, cooler nights, kids are back to school; it’s time to fetch some cozy socks and boots and take a long walk and a deep exhale. Ahhhhhhh, autumn has arrived. … We count these crisp and still sunny days — enjoying the perfect “fall” from summer crazy: The surf’s up at Squibby, your favorite restaurant is still open (for another week or so), and the sun holds strong enough for short sleeves midday. Behold, the beauty of the “Vineyarders summer,” this short and well-deserved reprise of autumn.
Yet there’s something else blowing in the air that makes us a little uneasy — a looming of winter upon us. Folks seem a little scattered, as some rush to make their winter travel plans and others prepare for the long Vineyard winter. Cords of wood begin to pile up in the backyard. Bank accounts are examined.
In the sister science to yoga called Ayurveda, which focuses on the wellness of our physical, mental, and emotional body, it’s known just how acutely our health is influenced by the seasons. Like a finely tuned machine, we are manipulated by the changes in nature. The air dries a little; so does the moisture in the body, affecting our joints and our digestion. As the temperatures cool, so does our mood. As the winds blow around the dead leaves, our minds circle and spin, pondering our purpose.
Autumn is the time when the element of air/wind/space, called “vata,” is most prevalent in nature and in ourselves. Vata has “behavior” that is quick, dry, moving, and inconsistent, leading our bodies and minds to feel a little unsettled. Our internal vata governs all movement in the body and our nervous system. With an excess of vata outside and inside in the next few months, we can tend to be more impatient, scattered, agitated, and confused, as well as to have physical symptoms like dizziness, digestive problems, and irritation due to dryness of the skin and joint tension.
How do we keep our vata balanced so that we can master seasonal sanity during these blowing winds of fall?
1: Stay in the moment. There’s nothing like keeping the mind worry-free despite the changing times. The best way is to remain present and aware of our exact reality during the moments when anxiety creeps up. If we allow ourselves to land in the present and breathe, we become grounded in what is versus stressing about what isn’t. Simplify by asking yourself, quite literally, three simple questions:
Who am I? (I”m Sherry Sidoti)
Where am? (on the deck at Yoga Haven)
What am I doing? (writing on my computer)
Take a deep breath in as you ask yourself each question; let a long breath out as you answer the question. Studies show that one breath can turn our nervous system from the sympathetic (the fight/flight/freeze response) to the parasympathetic (the “everything’s gonna be all right” response). So breathe!
2. Keep the body warm and lubricated. Eat foods that are warm and a little more dense, like soups to keep you grounded (or if you prefer salads, add avocados, cheese, or nuts). Add natural oils, such as olive, avocado, or almond to your skin daily. They will help keep your joints juicy and prevent your skin from drying out. Add some fluid movement to your daily routine that is smooth and not jarring on the body: Try a vinyasa yoga class, cycling, or a massage, or get your groove on and dance. And if you have a wood stove, make sure to keep a pot of water on it as a natural humidifier for your home (it can be extra nice to drop a dab of lavender oil into the water for fragrance.)
3. Align your life clock to the changing daylight hours. Wake up early, go to sleep earlier. Spend quality time with those who keep you centered. Go out into nature as much as you can during sunlit hours. Soak up the vitamin D while you can!
Here’s to a grounded and cozy fall!
Sherry Sidoti is the creator, director and lead teacher of FLY Yoga School, the Vineyard’s first-ever 200-hour Certified Yoga Teacher Training Program. Additionally, she is the owner of Yoga Haven, which offers daily classes, continuing education for yoga teachers and practitioners, and special workshops in the spirit of healing, harmony, and balance for the greater good of all. For more information, visit flyyogamv.com.