In autumn, the body and mind start shifting away from the external focus of summer activity, and we naturally draw our attention inwards. We are surrounded by the qualities of Vata dosha, including a drier climate, windy weather, colder temperatures, and changes to our routines, which can lead to a subtle (or not so subtle) feeling of ungroundedness, frayed nerves, or outright anxiety.
Another common challenge during autumn is our digestive power gets unbalanced. The heat of summer may still be running through our body, yet the changeability of Vata season can set our digestion “off,” leading to increased constipation, gas, bloating, or irregular appetite.
Generally speaking, when the digestive fire (i.e. gastric acids and enzymes) is “burning” appropriately, the body readily breaks down the food we eat, assimilates nutrients effectively, and protects the body from bacteria and other food-borne intruders.
However, when autumn hits and inner wind and dryness start to rise, the digestive fire can start burning irregularly. It becomes easier to overpower our digestive strength, especially if we eat too much dry, crunchy or raw foods, convenience or junk foods, or simply overeat what our fire can manage.
If our fire is diminished, digestion is impaired and then excess waste is created, like the smoke and ash of a failing campfire. With extra waste production, the pathways of elimination can slowly get clogged, causing a backlog of sludge (called āma in Ayurveda) that slowly robs us of our energy. This waste leaves us feeling cruddy over time and sets the stage for disease to take hold. This can happen to all of us, regardless of how “clean” or healthy our food choices are. Autumn itself can lead to irregular fire, or agni.
We must also consider the high level of mental “toxins” created by our modern, busy lifestyle, especially during the high emotions of the pandemic. Information overload, stress, and overwhelming demands on our time produce a physical effect of stress hormones and neurotransmitters, like cortisol and norepinephrine, which directly inhibit effective digestion. Negative thinking or excessive worry clog our subtle energy network including digestive passages. All of these factors can compromise our system’s ability to process, filter, and assimilate our experiences and ultimately remain balanced.
While the body is exquisitely designed to maintain equilibrium, when the inner fire is weakened and sludge backs up, we all need periodic help to recover. Drawing on the ancient and reliable guidance of Ayurveda, we find many tools to help us navigate this very moment in Nature’s calendar.
Significantly, simplifying our food intake can be a powerful way to help our system reset. Crafting a daily routine of simple foods, and nurturing, balancing rituals is sometimes all it takes to restore our digestive strength and reconnect to a sense of groundedness.
A self-guided “Digestive Reset” can take just a few days. For those who want to create your own reset, here are 5 key recommendations:
- Set an intention to reconnect with your highest good. Affirm that your actions can bring your back to a sense of ease and well-being.
- Simplify your foods. Set aside a few days to eat only kitchari, the classic healing dish from Ayurveda, to help reset your digestive strength. Kitchari is easy to digest, giving your digestive system a needed rest, and allowing it to rebuild its strength.
- Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. The exact time is less important than making it the SAME time every day. Helping your body find a rhythm is the key.
- Establish at least one daily practice to nurture your sense of stability. The practice of self-massage with oil (abhyanga) is a powerful way to nourish the nervous system in autumn. Sitting still for 5 minute of breathing is another simple nurturing practice you might try.
- Connect with a supportive community. When vata is high, we can feel isolated and alone. It’s so important to feel your kinship with humanity, to connect with others who care about you and are similarly focused on nurturing themselves.
If you are inspired to make a real system reset and join a community of like-minded others doing the same, I encourage you to join me for our Autumn Digestive Reset. Every year at this time, I offer the Autumn Digestive Reset as a group program to move through a deeply nourishing, clarifying experience together.
This group program walks you through a profound process to stoke the digestive fire, pull old waste from the deep tissues of the body, release old stored emotions, and reconnect to your sense of solid ground.
We will lean into the support of the group, soothe the mind, and find inspiration to propel us into the rest of the year with clarity and enthusiasm. I hope you’ll join us. The rest of the year you’ll be grateful you did. To learn more and register, visit the Autumn Digestive Reset website.