The Healing Powers of Autumn

AUTUMN IS A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY FOR HEALING – AND AYURVEDA TELLS US HOW TO DO IT.

It is Autumn now. My favorite season here in Germany. The air is pleasantly cool again, after the heat of summer, light breezes are soothing the mind. The leaves begin change colour – soon the parks and forests will be a celebration in orange, red and yellow hues, tinted golden by the sun. Here, where I live, the mountains give a spectacular glow in the evenings, just before sun set. It really is a beautiful time. 

It looks as if the world is on fire. Not a blazing forest fire, but rather the soft glow of a comforting fire place.

We are a mirror of the world around us. We can read the signs of nature to see how our body (and mind) works in any season. Now, there is also a fire inside of us. It is the afterglow of the summer heat, of barbecues and ice cream and of sunbathing and of long days of light. Pitta, that has been building up all summer long is now at its peak and loosened by the cooling, soothing winds of Vata and of Kapha. Like the leaves on the trees, we are ready to let go. 

Also our cells are ready to let go now. 

They let go of all of the aggravating substances they no longer need, the acids and toxicity that have been building up. 

Now is the time to let go. 

Now is the time to detox. 

To rid ourselves of the aggravations of Pitta, of inflammation, that may otherwise become an allergy or chronic illness. 

Now is the time for cleansing ourselves. Not only on body, but also in mind. It is the time of letting go. 

In Ayurvedic traditions, this is the best time to help built up Pitta leave the body, by doing a short cleanse. That doesn‘t mean fasting, but rather eating in such a way that inflammation and acid can easily leave the body.

There are different ways to do that, depending on your needs:

1. THE LIGHT CLEANSE

From now on, reduce or leave out all foods that build up acidity or inflammation in the body:

– Alcohol

– Coffee

– Sugar & sugared drinks

– Dairy products

– Red meat

– Fried foods

– processed foods

– Wheat

Instead, eat only whole, seasonal vegetables (pumpkins, root vegetables, chard, anything that is in season right now), fruit (apples, pears, raspberries, plums, etc), grains & flours (wholegrain or basmati rice, barley, millet, spelt, etc), nuts and seeds (sunflower is best at this time, walnut, sesame, almonds…), pulses (lentils are best – mung beans, red lentils, brown lentils, chickpeas, white beans, etc) and (if you are not a vegetarian) supplement your diet with fish, chicken and an occasional egg. 

Cook your food lightly. Try not to fry anything – instead, use a small amount of water, broth or soy sauce to sautee your vegetabes or meat. Leave out the oil altogether, or use it only to sprinkle a little over your ready meal or salad. 

Use digestive spices like cumin, coriander, ginger, fennel, ajwan and herbs. 

Keep your meals simple. 

In the evenings, take 1/2 – 1 tsp of Triphala powder (an ayurvedic formula consisting of three different types of powdered fruit which balance the doshas and have a detoxifying and very mild laxative effect). 

2. THE FULL CLEANSE

For about three days to one week, eat only Kitchari. 

Kitchari is a traditional Ayurvedic dish consisting of basmati rice and mung dhal, two ingredients that support the detoxification process in the body, and some digestive spices. 

Here is how you make it:

Mix 1 cup mung dhal with 1 cup basmati rice. If you have time, soak it for a while or overnight but it works well without soaking too. Wash it well.

Blend a piece of fresh ginger (and 2 tbsp grated coconut if you like) in a little water. Add 8 cups of water, plus the ginger/coconut mix to a pot, together with the rice and dhal. Cook it on low heat for about an hour, until it is soft and mushy. It will have the consistency of a porridge. If you prefer it more like a soup, simply add more water. Roast 1 tsp cumin seeds and 1 tsp fennel seeds in some ghee, add 1/2 tsp turmeric (and other, suitable spices from the list if you wish), and add it to the kitchari. Add some rock salt to taste.

Eat a small portion of this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or just once or twice a day, depending if you are a Kapha, Vata or Pitta type (you can do a quiz here: https://ayuyoga.ie/ayurveda-offerings).

In addition, take a teaspoon of Triphala each evening. 

In buying Triphala, source a good, organic quality one, making sure it is 100% pure. The powder tastes pretty awful but it is much more effective than the tablets or capsules, so if you can, use the powder. Even tasting it will make you feel cleansed. 

Kitchari is a really tasty dish, which makes this an easy cleanse. 

You can use a small amount of Ghee over it, which makes it even tastier. Ghee also helps Pitta leave the body. 

You won’t be feeling hungry, but you might well feel the effect of the detoxification, so try to not do it while you are in the middle of some intense work project or during a busy social schedule. Give yourself plenty of time for self-care, reflection, and relaxation.

If you are a sturdy Kapha type, you can do this cleanse for up to a week. For a sensitive, dainty Vata type, three days will be enough. Pitta can do about five days.

3. ADDITIONAL MEASURES

OIL MASSAGE

If you have access to an ayurvedic massage therapist, go for it! It is the best time to do it! 

If not, or in addition to that, you can give yourself a massage at home. 

Use a good quality oil (if you had no worries drinking it, it is probably a good oil). Sunflower or coconut are great for Pitta, Sesame for Vata and Kapha. Start with the head (your hair will love it too!). Then go to the feet and work your way up your legs, then your hands and arms and belly. If you are doing it in the evening, leave it overnight and shower in the morning. Otherwise, leave it for as long as you can, then shower it off. 

OIL PULLING

Use the same, pure oil to swish around your mouth, pulling it through the gaps of your teeth, until it emulsified, for up to 20 minutes (5 minutes when you are starting out, to get used to it). Spit and rinse, then lightly brush your teeth with a natural paste or powder. 

TRIPHALA 

I’ve mentioned it before. Triphala is a mix of three different types of dried, powered fruit: haritaki, bibitaki and amla. In my experience, it is one of the best remedies everyone should have in their home apothecary. It is safe to use for all Doshas, has a balancing effect on Vata, Pitta and Kapha and acts as a mild laxative and detoxifier. It is my go-to remedy and first call for many conditions. Take 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of it in a small amount of hot water at night. 

GIVING BLOOD

Yes, this too can be a great measure to take. 

Giving blood is something we all can do and it will help someone else in a lifethreatening situation. I was in such a situation once, and I was greatful for it. Apart from its obvious benefit of saving someone‘s life, it also helps you:

In Ayurvedic Tradition, blood letting was one of the traditional methods to relieve a person from too much Pitta. Nowadays, this method isn‘t use much anymore, but giving blood achieves a similar effect: Some of the Pitta heavy blood is released from the body, which gives the body an opportunity to create fresh, balanced blood. 

In addition to that, it increases your good Karma too. 

Autumn is a great time to do that!

I have booked my appointment already. 

Also the mind can do with a cleanse at this time of the year. 

Let go…. whisper the leaves as they fall from the trees. Listen to them. 

It is a lesson like no other. There are so many methods that help you to let go from things you no longer need. Two things I always do in autumn:

1. A big clearout in the house

I sort through everything – clothes, books, kitchen utensils, you name it. It will be all given away – no selling, just donating. A letting go. This automatically puts my mind in a space of letting go too. I can let go of a dress I never wear, I can also let go of an attitude I no longer need. 

2. I get creative

Creative expression is like the elimination stage of the mind‘s digestion. In writing, painting, dancing, we can express and let out our innermost visions. They carry the energy of all that we are. In painting (and I don‘t mean painting by numbers, I mean creative expression), or writing, we can let it all out and create space for the new to come. And that is exciting, because the new always grows from the seeds of our wishes (be careful what you wish for!)

Yes, autumn is truly a wonderful time. 

I love it, and I hope you do too.

AYURVEDA – HEALTH, DIGESTION AND IMMUNITY – AN EASY TO READ GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING AYURVEDIC PRINCIPLES

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