The months of October, November and December constitute in the northern hemisphere the fall, autumn or early winter season of the year. This is the time when there is withdrawal of water from nature, the winds increase and the temperature falls due to decrease in sunshine. There is an increase in the vata dosha (the air humor, governing such functions as breathing and movement of the muscles and tissues) at this time of year and a tendency for more vata disease to become evident, especially in those who have a vata constitution. It is a good time to review our diet and way of life and make changes according to the needs that arise by the withdrawal of heat and moisture.
The pitta and the kapha types may find some relief with the dawning of this season; but they too should review and revise wherever necessary. At this time we need more moist and warm foods. There can be an increase in the sweet, sour and salty tastes with a relative decrease in pungent, bitter and astringent. We can eat avocado, berries and figs. We may also add brown rice and other grains to give us the earth connection we need; but we will still sparingly use barley, corn and millet. Yogurt relieves excess vata, as do sesame and corn oils. Shun cruciferous vegetables (mustard greens, cabbage, cress, etc.) as they increase vata, as does celery and okra.
Cucumber, radishes, sweet potatoes, cardamom, ginger, clove, mustard seed, salt and sesame tend to relieve vata.
The seat of vata within the body is the lower pelvis. The daily hatha yoga asanas should be changed to include more positions that apply pressure to the pelvic area, such as backward bends, plough, cobra, knee to chest and the headstand. All of these will aid in keeping the vata in its natural location, as will a light circular massage of the lower abdomen with castor oil.
The ailments that are most common at this time of the year are dryness and cracking of the skin and corners of the mouth, aches and pains in the joints and accumulation of gas in the bowel. There may also be some minor temporary difficulty in remembering. If the vata becomes unbalanced, there may be instability and lack of tolerance. If these should pop up, dietary changes are indicated.
As the seasons change, our bodies are more susceptible to colds and flu. Thus it behooves us to be specifically cognizant of the incoming changes and make enlightened adjustments to our life style, especially diet. Our main dietary regimen would still be that of our constitutional dosha; but we would make minor adjustments such as eating more of the seasonal vegetables of our particular area. Use very sparingly vegetables that are not native to your area--especially fruits that are grown far away, picked while still green and shipped long distances.
At this time of year, going from pitta season to vata, we would eat fewer cold salads, cold drinks, substitute room temperature red wines for the chilled white wines and avoid dry and uncooked foods and raw fruits. We may eat half our diet from our constitutional dosha list and half from the seasonal dosha list. Use more of the spices consistent with the seasonal dosha. Do not be alarmed at this time by an increase in appetite, but do not overeat.
Dr. Tandavan, 78, retired nuclear physician and hospital staff president, lives in Chicago, where he specializes in alternative healing arts. If you are interested in further articles on health and healing visit his home page.