It seems that our seasons are shifting into later arrivals each year but I can now say with certainty that Autumn has arrived! As the colder weather becomes more constant and we dig deep into our drawers for those forgotten jumpers it is the Vata, or wind energy that in on the rise in Nature around us and within our bodies. The qualities of Vata are light, dry, mobile, quick, erratic and cold.
In both Ayurveda and Chinese medicine the organs that are most vulnerable to this change of season into Autumn are the large intestine (LI) and the lungs. Not surprisingly the large intestine is the primary seat of Vata in the body. Look after your LI and you nip in the bud any increase of the Vata or wind energy.
Ayurveda states that in the correct amount the doshas, (bio energies called Vata, Pitta, Kapha), sustain life and all bodily functions. However, when the doshas increase beyond what is their correct level for each individual they start to create unpleasant symptoms. This starts in the digestive tract with mild digestive complaints. And, when left to gather strength, they overflow into one’s circulation to create more serious symptoms.
In Autumn we want to keep the Vata energy balanced. Too much Vata and we see symptoms such as bloating and abdominal distension, gas and constipation, dry skin, chapped lips, stiff muscles, heightened anxiety, light and broken sleep patterns and we can feel more spacey or frazzled with a tendency to excess thinking or worrying. Leave it too long and these mild (but no less annoying symptoms) will develop into the more serious disorders driven by Vata such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis or leaky gut syndrome.
When we have dry skin it is a sign that the large intestine is also experiencing dryness. This dryness prevents the large intestine from functionally properly. It impedes its ability to not only rid the body of wastes but also to properly absorb into our blood stream the vitamins and minerals that our body needs to sustain health and strength. For example calcium is absorbed through the walls of the large intestine into our blood and bones.
The lungs are also related to Vata as it is this organ which brings in our life giving oxygen and Prana, or lifeforce, which is the subtle aspect of Vata. The lungs, like the large intestine, also have a waste releasing function as we breathe out carbon dioxide.
Looking at these two organs of Autumn we can see that they are both organs of ‘letting go’ of what is not needed in our body, as well as organs that build nourishment. Indeed, we must let go of waste materials before good quality nourishment can occur. How can we build good tissues if our bodies are gunked up with toxins which should have been eliminated?
This energy of letting go is essential in Autumn before we take on the natural accumulations that winter encourages.
What can you let go of this Autumn to allow more nourishment into your life? How can you care for your lungs and large intestine keep your Vata balanced this Autumn?
Read on for some helpful tips!
For Your Large Intestine (LI): Just like you and me, the LI likes to be listened to. Suppressing the natural urge to go do no.2’s confuses the LI which then acts sulky and clams up! Not going when we need to will weaken the LI’s smooth muscles and lead to constipation. In Ayurveda one of the causes of disease in the body is suppression of natural urges including sneezing, belching, blinking, farting and yes going to the loo!
Your body is hard wired to eliminate first thing in the morning. Sleeping in is another way we might suppress this natural urge. When we miss that first urge it often disappears for hours and may need stimulants such as coffee, which further dry out the LI, to get it moving. Follow these simple Ayurvedic tips for a happy healthy large intestine.
- Help to keep your LI clear by rising with the sun.
- Scrape your tongue either with a copper or stainless steel tongue scraper or the back of a spoon. Your toothbrush just does not cut it. Any coating at the back of your tongue is a sign of toxins in your LI. Most people have this especially in the morning after the body has done its overnight housecleaning, but, we don’t want it to be reabsorbed! YUK!
- Start the day with drinking at least one large mug of warm water…hydrate to eliminate!
- Don’t rush your bowel movements. Sit and breathe deeply into your abdomen. If it still isn’t coming easily invest in a small foot stool from a local hardware store or even a squatty potty. Just elevating your feet a little will tilt your pelvis and LI into a more natural and easy position for pooing!
- Only eat when you are hungry and don’t overeat. Two serves of what your cupped hands can hold is perfect.
- Add good quality oils to your diet such as ghee, olive oil and coconut oil.
- Oil your skin regularly, even daily if you are particularly dry. Cold pressed Organic Sesame oil is best. It may seem a long way from your LI but as mentioned earlier your skin and the LI have a strong relationship so taking care on one also helps the other!
- Exercise regularly and within your capabilities to keep the body moving and breathing well.
- Keep your lower back area covered and warm.
For Your Lungs:
- Many respiratory disorders stem from poor digestion so taking care of your digestive fire is essential for lung care. Click here for more info on building good digestion.
- Poor posture will constrict the lungs and hamper their ability to breathe well. Stand and sit tall and practice yoga or other mind body focussed practices. Notice your posture especially if using a computer often and take a break every half hour to move the body. Do some seated twists or arm rotations.
- Speaking of Yoga….Pranayama or breathing exercises are essential for strengthening the lungs! It does not have to be fancy but make sure that several times a day you breathe deeply into the lungs allowing the lower abdomen to softly, without force, swell out as you breathe in, and release back behind the navel as you breathe out. This abdominal breathing has the added benefit of increasing circulation and switching on the parasympathetic nervous system which is the rest and digest mode of being and we all need more of that!
- The herb Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is particularly good for the lungs. It is an adaptogenic herb meaning it helps the body deal with stress whether physical, environmental or emotional. There are many good brand of Tulsi tea out there for you to try. I love the Organic India range!
- The emotions grief and sadness will also adversely affect the lungs. It is important that during the times when grief and sadness come in our lives we learn how to express and release these emotions rather than hold them in. Seek counselling and ask for help in a supportive and safe space.
Some general tips for Autumn:
- favour warm cooked foods rather than raw foods. Think soups and stews, roasted root veggies and one pot dishes like Kitchadi.
- Eat Seasonally available foods. Nature provides us with the fruit and veggies that are just right for each season. Autumns abundance is in apples and pear, (lovely stewed with cinnamon), pumpkins (bring on the soups!), celariac, kale leek and spinach to name a few!
- Eat predominately foods that are sour, sweet and a little salty to balance Vata.
Take care of yourself this Autumn. Tune into the natural rhythm of introspection and quietening. Like the trees whose sap moves into their centre now is the time that our energy also turns inward to build deep nourishment and strength to see us through winter.