5 Ways To Prepare For Fall, According To Wisdom From Ayurveda & Chinese Medicine
There is a gradual slowing down and turning inward this time of year. The days become shorter and darker, trees begin to lose their leaves, and plants draw their energy inward in preparation for winter.
The wisdom traditions of traditional Chinese medicine and ayurveda can offer support during the fall because they recognize that all beings (including us humans!) are affected by seasonal changes. After the height of summer activity, you now have the opportunity to lose your metaphorical leaves and turn inward, too.
Fall is a time for focusing, gathering, and simplicity. It can also bring seasonally induced imbalances. Traditional Chinese medicine and ayurveda teach that when you cooperate with the seasons through making intentional changes, you're rewarded with deeper health and well-being. How do you put that into practice? Let me share a few examples:
Work with your breath.
The season of fall is related to the lungs. To support the lungs, take a few minutes every day to consciously increase your breath capacity.
Find a comfortable position and pay attention to your breathing. Once you've connected to the natural rhythm of your breath, slowly begin to lengthen the exhale. Practice for 10 to 20 breaths.
Set the intention to let go of thoughts or emotions that need to be released.
Get your bowels moving.
The large intestine is also important this time of year, so ensuring proper elimination is key. Constipation may lead to all kinds of health problems like skin issues, mucus buildup, allergies, and mood concerns, especially in the fall.
Make sure to eat enough fiber, and stay hydrated. One of my favorite breakfasts during this season is warm stewed apples with prunes, to support healthy digestion.
Cold, dry, mobile, rough, and erratic qualities are thought to increase this time of year. These qualities lead to a scattered feeling, dry skin and hair, insomnia, and anxiety. To counteract this tendency, use the practice of self-massage by applying warm natural sesame oil or sweet almond oil to your body. This can help ground, nourish, and protect your whole system. It is also traditionally thought to increase lymphatic flow, which then nourishes the skin, supports the immune system, and helps the body eliminate waste.
When applying the oil, use sweeping strokes from your hands and feet to your center, and circular movements at the joints. Traditionally, this practice is done before bathing because hot water helps the oil absorb into the skin. Once you've completed your massage, take a shower, and only use soap if needed. When you're finished, pat yourself dry with a towel you don't mind getting a little oily, and be sure to clean your tub. If you find this setup a little messy and time-consuming, simply use the oil after showering or before bed instead.
Eat foods for the season.
Fall is a time to gather and store. Ayurvedic teachings suggest reducing raw and cold foods in favor of heavier warm foods and healthy oils. Choose natural foods that are moistening, and have a sweet, salty, or sour flavor—like sauerkraut, olives, pickles, rosehip tea, vinegar, and yogurt. Also, include aromatic and warming herbs and spices.
Think cooked grains for breakfast, then soups, stews, and root vegetables with ghee or olive oil for lunch and dinner.
Consider a nourishing cleanse.
At other times of year, traditional Chinese medicine and ayurvedic teachings focus on fasting and cleaning out the body—but the season of fall calls for something different. Cleansing in the fall usually involves heavier, richer foods.
Expand your idea of cleansing by blocking off a week or so to focus on practices that support simplicity and rest. During this time eat a monodiet of kitchari (basmati rice cooked with yellow mung dal). This is considered a way to deeply bolster your digestive function, help to eliminate toxins, and prepare you for the colder months.
Remember, fall is a time of transition. Aim to slow down and let go of what is no longer serving you. A seasonal routine can help you align with the changing rhythms of nature and help you embrace all the season has to offer.
Jennifer Raye holds her doctorate in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She is a published author, experienced yoga and movement teacher, licensed herbalist and acupuncturist, holistic nutritionist, and mindfulness meditation teacher. Jennifer’s offerings reflect her extensive and varied expertise in the fields of contemplative practice and integrative medicine. Steeped in the wisdom of Buddhist mindfulness, and her deep respect for the beauty and magic of the natural world, her teachings emphasize true self-care and are holistic and therapeutic. Jennifer teaches classes, retreats, and teacher training, locally and internationally, in addition to running her private medical practice.