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Ayurveda Self-Care for Fall

Ayurveda is the sister science of health to yoga's practice of body and spirit wellness. They developed over the centuries together in India, and both involve holistic practices that can change over time, whether it be the seasons or the seasons of your life.

You can do generic Ayurvedic cleansing practices that will provide gentle balancing to all body types, but if you really want more specific information as to what practices will help to balance your body, you need to find out your dosha (constitution). Every person is mix of the three doshas, which are vata, pitta, and kapha. Your specific mix can give you information on what might become out of balance during each season. Finding out your dosha can be as basic as taking an online test, or you could see an Ayurvedic practitioner for a more in-depth assessment.

A woman applying oil to her skin.

During the fall, there is a tendency to move from more pitta tendencies of the summer to the more dry, cooler vata in autumn. So for people that already tend more towards vata, doing more practices that reduce dry, airy, flowing effects can help you to stay grounded. These environmental factors influence the human system by increasing the same qualities in our minds and bodies. The light, rough, cold and dry qualities deplete our system, lowering our immunity response. This is why the onset of fall and winter can trigger many seasonal imbalances, such as allergies, colds, fatigue and digestive sensitivities.

One vata reducing practice I like to do starting in the fall is to use more oils on the body. I like to make my own sugar and oil scrub to counteract dry skin. See below for a general recipe to make your own. Rubbing oils into the skin after a warm bath is the epitome of fall and winter self-care!

A cup of warm lemon ginger water

Drinking warm water upon waking with some lemon juice and maybe a bit of cayenne pepper or ginger promotes much needed hydration after sleep as well as getting the digestive tract stimulated before eating any food. In general, Ayurveda does not recommend drinking cold drinks with meals. It is best to drink ice cold drinks before a meal, if at all. Warm drinks and fermented or cultured drinks are best during meals. So the Italians have it right by drinking wine (in moderation) with meals.

Ayurvedic practices often revolve around reducing the production of or removing excess ama, or buildup of mucus or toxins in the body. One such way that can be used all year round is tongue scraping. It involves a metal or plastic tool that is round on one end to gently scrape the top of the tongue and remove buildup of mucus and food. It promotes fresh breath and a clean mouth. Tongue scrapers are fairly commonly found in stores these days. Just be sure to clean yours once in a while with soap and hot water.

And my last tip, but certainly not least, is creating some structure. Vata imbalance tends to increase the feeling of "flightiness" or being untethered. So creating and trying to stick to even one or two things throughout your week can help create stability and groundedness. Maybe it is that morning cup of warm lemon water while you make coffee or tea. Perhaps it is a walk after work while the weather is nice. Your whole day doesn't have to be structured, but bringing in some structure can also help create good habits we want in our lives. The author of the book "Tiny Habits" recommends starting very small and totally achievable. Instead of promising to floss your teeth every night, just aim for flossing a tooth. Then if you end up doing more, its a win. But doing one is still meeting your goal, and who just flosses just one tooth? So if you start flossing, you're more likely to do more.

Homemade sugar scrub .

Find a glass or dark plastic container with a lid. Pour some fine grain sugar (organic cane sugar is best) about 2/3 of the way filling the container. In a measuring cup, combine one or more of the following oils: avocado, olive, coconut (I use less of this one overall), sesame, or safflower (for the vitamin E to keep it fresher longer). Depending on the size of your container, you need enough to fill the rest of your jar. If you want, add 20-30 drops of essential oils (more or less to your liking). Some good ones for the fall include: Earthy: cinnamon, fennel seed, ginger

Bright + Warming: orange or citrus

Calming + Sweet: lavender, ylang ylang, vanilla

Slowly mix the oil mixture into the sugar and stir to thoroughly mix. If you like your scrub on the dry side, add less. If you want lots of oil, add more.

Use the scrub at the beginning of a shower or bath and allow it to sit on your skin for a few minutes after gently massaging. If your skin is sensitive, only use this scrub about once or twice a week on legs, arms, and torso. This can also be used more often for soothing rough hands and feet, since the skin there is tougher.

These also make great gifts!

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