By Jill Leslie
Owner and Founder
Fall is a time of transition and change, and in Ayurveda, the junctures of the seasons are considered times to gently cleanse the body and prepare for the upcoming season.
The logic of this is exquisitely simple. As we prepare for changes in life, we release the old and create the optimum environment for what lies ahead of us.
We do this during the bigger transitions of life as well as the smaller ones. In fact, if we manage the “smaller stuff of life,” we are not as rocked by the larger ever-present shifts that are part of the natural unfolding of time.
In the ancient Ayurvedic texts, we are reminded that “like increases like” and “opposites balance.” These straightforward beliefs are the perfect way to cultivate harmony in our lives, and maintain and restore balance—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
In the fall, the air element is dominant. In Ayurveda we call this the Vata time of year.
Vata is responsible for all movement in the body. This includes breathing, the functions of our senses, elimination, and our motor skills. In the mind it governs creativity, clarity of thought, flexibility, feelings of joy, and enthusiasm. When out of balance, vata manifests as fear, anxiety, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, rigidity, insomnia, absentmindedness, and an intolerance to the cold.
Imagine a windy autumn day. The air is dry, cool, and moving. Vata, like the wind, cannot be sensed directly. We experience vata by the way it colors our physical, mental, and emotional experience. Just as these qualities in nature increase during the fall and winter seasons, these qualities increase in our nature.
To stay grounded this fall:
1. Follow a regular daily routine.
2. Keep calm: meditate, listen to soothing music, breathe, relax.
3. Keep warm: avoid extreme cold. Take warm showers and baths.
4. Do gentle exercises like yoga and tai chi, or take a walk.
5. Massage the body daily with warm sesame oil.
6. Go to bed early, rest when tired, and take naps.
When it comes to selecting your food, here are a few more tips to keep you grounded.
- Eat foods that are in season, local, organic, and fresh. Enjoy root vegetables and winter squash. They will help nourish and balance the body. Try carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, acorn, butternut, delicata, and buttercup squashes. Casseroles, soups, and stews are easily digested and can be very nourishing and warm the body from the inside out.
- Eat warm, nourishing, fresh-cooked foods, and include warming spices, such as ginger, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, and cinnamon. And, when possible, incorporate ghee (clarified butter), sesame oil, and other healthful oils in the diet.
- Favor foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes — and limit foods with bitter, pungent, and astringent tastes.
- Look for foods that are sweet, heavy, smooth, dense, and moist, for they help balance the body during the cool, windy season.
- Eat at routine times each day, and try to make lunch your largest meal.
- Avoid ice-cold drinks, and raw, cold foods such as salads and raw vegetables, and minimize caffeinated beverages and other stimulants, for they can aggravate your system.
Try Spiced Oatmeal for Breakfast
1. In a medium saucepan over low heat, heat 1 T. ghee (clarified butter) with 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. cardamom, 1/4 tsp. ginger, and a dash of nutmeg and clove, just until the scent is released from the spices.
2. Add 2 cups water, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 cup raisins or 1/4 cup chopped prunes, and bring to a boil.
3. Stir in 1 cup organic rolled oats.
4. Let the cereal come to a boil again and then reduce the heat to low, and simmer until it reaches a smooth, creamy consistency.
5. Serve with maple syrup or honey as a sweetener. (Never heat honey; it creates a toxic effect in the body.)
Options: Add raw nuts or seeds, best if soaked overnight to make them more digestible.
Before bed: Have warm milk spiced with a pinch of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg to calm the nerves and promote a restful sleep.
Warm up with Winter Squash-Coconut Soup for lunch or dinner
4 cups winter squash (my favorite is kabocha; however, butternut, acorn, delicata, or any combination is delicious, too)
1 large fennel bulb, sliced
2 T. butter, ghee, or olive oil
12-14 oz. can of organic coconut milk
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Spices: 1/2 tsp. sage and 1/2 tsp. thyme for a taste of Italy, or 1/2 tsp. cardamom, 1-inch grated ginger root, and a pintch of nutmeg for a pungent and sweeter soup
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Cut the squash into halves and scrape out seeds with a large spoon. Place squash open-side down on a greased cookie sheet or pyrex pan. Bake until the squash is very tender.
2. Sauté herbs in butter, ghee, or oil.Saute the herbs briefly, just until they release their aroma.
3. Add the sliced fennel to the herbed oil, and cook until lightly browned. Transfer to a stockpot along with the cooked squash and add broth, bringing to a boil and then reducing to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until very tender.
4. Blend the soup in small batches while adding small batches of coconut milk. Continue blending until all ingredients have been blended together and soup has a smooth creamy consistency.
5. Return to stockpot and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with basmati rice or your favorite grain.
6. Garnish with a sprig of this or that, a flower, or a drizzle of coconut milk. Make your soup a feast for the eyes and your palette! Your body will receive more nourishment when all the senses are fed.
For more great recipes visit: www.Ayurvedaalchemy.com/recipes.
About Jill Leslie and Ayurveda Alchemy
Jill Leslie is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, herbalist, wellness chef, and yoga teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area who, for more than two decades, has been immersed in the study and practice of natural healing.
The entrepreneur, who has owned her own businesses since graduating from the University of Maryland in 1986, founded the award-winning retail shop Milk & Honey in Sebastapol, CA, in 1999. She sold it in 2006 so that she could delve deeper into her study of yoga and Ayurveda.
As she discovered the life-changing wisdom of these ancient practices, she began sharing her knowledge at wellness retreats, yoga studios, and through cooking classes. Her passion for herbal medicine and nutrition, and her love of sweets, inspired her to found Ayurveda Alchemy, in 2008.
In addition to hosting classes and events, and providing consultations and dietary advice about Ayurveda, she has created a line of healthy and delicious confections, which are available online at Kitchen Alchemy Treats. “When I learned the adage of Ayurveda, ‘Let your food be your medicine,’ I put on my apron and said, ‘Let your medicine be delicious,’” she says. Learn more at www.AyurvedaAlchemy.com.