Natalie Deering: What is the ancient medicine of Ayurveda and how can it help with the transition to falling?
As we move into the fall, I often think of the changes that are happening not only around us in nature, but also the changes that are happening inside our bodies, both physically and mentally. Fall is a time of death, decay, and ultimately rebirth, and our bodies go through similar transitions with the season.
We tend to feel more tired, wanting to retreat to our dark rooms and beds to rest. We tend to crave heavier foods and nutrients to get through the cold winter months. And we tend to seek warmth and security in ourselves and in our surroundings.
So how can ancient Ayurvedic medicine help us in this beautiful transition to fall? I turned to Jenny Griffith, herbalist, Ayurvedic wellness counselor, permaculturist, and former native of Northern Kentucky, to show us the way.
Q: What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a healing system derived from ancient India. It is said to be the oldest healing system in the world. Ayuh means life and Veda means knowledge. It is a medicinal science and its purpose is to maintain the quality and longevity of life. It consists of a daily regimen that has evolved from practical, philosophical and spiritual enlightenment. Ayurveda explains that everyone has their own constitution, mind and consciousness which are the foundation of our health and happiness. There is no notion of specialization. Ayurveda treats the whole person, not just the organ or system involved.
Q: How is Ayurveda useful for our health?
Ayurveda is useful to understand because it shows a different perspective than what we are used to here in the West. Ayurveda is made up of 5 elements that make up all of existence including human life. The five elements are; water, space, air, fire and earth. Through an Ayurvedic test or consultation, you can find out how much of each element we have in our body. These elements are grouped into three constitutions, called doshas. The word doshas actually means “fault” or “impurity”. Air and space are the Vata dosha. Water and fire is Pitta. Finally, water and earth is the Kapha dosha. When we find out which dosha we are, we can start to add the opposite elements into our life. For example, if you are primarily the Vata dosha, you would want to reduce air + space by eliminating something like crispy / dry chips from your diet and adding the opposite element like earth. So you would add more moist and moist foods like avocado and ghee to your ground diet.
Q: How can we bring Ayurveda into our daily life?
There are many practices that you can incorporate into your daily life. One of my favorites lately is the practice of an oil treatment called abhyanga. Every morning I massage my face with a medicinal oil to wake me up, reduce any drowsy / swollen swelling and bring moisture to all my facial openings like nostrils and eyes. I also recommend buying a tongue scraper to remove excess toxins from the tongue every day and night. Finally, Ayurveda recommends living in unison with the sun and the moon. It means waking up when the sun rises and starting to set when the sun goes down. You will feel so much better if you live in conjunction with the rhythms of nature.
Q: What do you recommend for people passing by in the fall?
Autumn is a time of intensified Vata dosha. This means that we may experience more dry skin, anxiety, sleeplessness, bloating, gas, spasms, etc. It is best that we start incorporating more heat and humidity into our way of life. Examples of this could be cutting down on cold and dry foods and adding more hot / hot foods with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. Warm and slower physical activity is also preferable; try a hot yin yoga or nature qigong class to stay grounded. Many people tend to get nervous and overwhelmed during the fall. Make sure to meditate often, and take periods of silence throughout the day away from the screen to stay present and calm.
Jenny is currently working in addiction recovery at the Villa Kali Ma Women’s Treatment Center in Carlsbad, California. She also works 1: 1 with clients, guides groups online, and offers in-person programs on regenerative living and health. She is also in the process of launching a line of herbal products with slow, hand-harvested drugs that she grows herself. To find out more and get in touch with Jenny, find her on Instagram @jennygracegriffith and on her website www.jennygriffith.com.
Natalie Deering is a mental health therapist and owner of ND Wellness Psychological Services in northern Kentucky. See his website.