Dr Gwendolynn Diaz, AyD
Seasonal Health - September
September evenings are full of stillness and the sound of crickets in the dry grass. Vegetation becomes sparse. Garden stems are leggy. Even the midday sun seems a bit darker. Evening coolness reminds us that although we wish summer could last forever, all good things come to a close. This time of summer ending is also a new beginning - the harvest is ripe, the air full of inspiration and excitement. The playfulness of summer begins to give way to focus as new projects begin. School starts back up. Work is back in full swing. It's time to enjoy the fall with a walk through the apple orchard.
Psychology of September
Whereas summer is dispersive, fall marks a time of coming together and tending the hearth if you allow the season to draw you inward. Fall brings new reverence for the familiar, and to re-establishing routines. You may experience a sense of nostalgia as fall's immanence dances in the air. If you resist this inward pull, you may feel scattered and anxious as you ease your way back into the world of responsibility. The winds of change are blowing. Depending on where you live, you might begin thinking about winter preparations. Traditionally, fall is a practical time of year to line up your ducks in a row before the long, hard winter. Healthwise, supporting your body in September is essential to strong immunity and resilience all winter long.
September comes as a surprise and shock to your system as winds pick up and temperatures fluctuate. The days are noticeably shorter, with less humidity in the air. Change is in the air, which always aggravates Vata. Altogether, these have the characteristics of air element - dry, mobile, and light.
Evenings are significantly cooler. Mornings are chilly. Your body may be as unprepared as your mind for the sudden drops in temperature you'll experience by mid-month. This means extra caution is necessary in early fall, to help your body cope with the sudden shift. Sandals, shorts, and t-shirts are no longer adequate protection against the coming change of seasons, no matter how the warm you feel in the afternoons.
Be wary of the hot midday sun, which can tempt you to shed too many layers, only to find yourself shivering several hours later. Instead, keep several layers of clothing nearby in anticipation of the drop in temperature. Don warmer pajamas or keep a sweater next to your bed at night - a drop in temperatures can leave you tossing and turning, sleepless.
September in the Body
With the humidity gone, dryness abounds and Vata is easily aggravated. Unless adequately hydrated, digestion will be weak. Dehydration can lead to weak appetite, gas & bloating. However, if you are well hydrated, a robust appetite and a strong digestion will return with the cooler temperatures this time of year.
Constipation due to dryness is a common fall complaint - especially for Vata types - and can contribute to illness, anxiety, and the feeling of being scatterbrained. You may even suffer from insomnia this time of year, which is often related to constipation and dryness. Heed these warning signs of gas and dryer, darker stools to stay healthy and prevent bigger illnesses from surfacing. Adequate fats, salt, fluids and sour taste can help keep digestion strong and elimination regular.
Your body will be using all available energy to build an insulating layer of fat before the temperatures plummet in mid October. The result is that your blood will be depleted of fats, aggravating Vata symptoms of dryness. This 'Vata Dryness' tends to attack the liver and kidneys, leading to further dehydration and making your mind anxious and spacey. Fortunately, your body will be craving sweeter foods that nourish your blood. If you're Vata, you'll benefit and enjoy following those cravings.
Fall seasonal allergies are often related to toxicity in the colon. The fermentation creates toxicity, which is absorbed by your blood and irritates mucous membranes. One of the best ways to keep your sinuses clear in early fall is to cleanse your colon with enema therapy.
Vata individuals suffer the most in September, while Pitta Vata individuals may break out into a rash around mid September, due to the combination of heat and dryness. Pitta folks will notice that any Pitta aggravation that might have built up over the summer flares up in early September, then gradually subsides as September progresses and the weather cools.
Kapha people will enjoy carefree lightness and new inspiration this time of year as the congestion and heaviness of summer humidity dissipates. Kapha individuals are energized by the fall - and should use this energy to accomplish their goals before winter hibernation sets in mid November.
Note that parasites thrive in the heat and humidity of summer. Once it cools down and dries up they're more vulnerable, making September an ideal time for all doshas to do a Parasite Cleanse.
Your joints may be stiff and crack more often than usual. You may even feel as if your bones are weaker and thinner this time of year - that fall dryness makes you feel more frail. Just as the leaves begin to dry out, the dryness of Autumn seems to shrivel up the body right down to the bones. If you feel this way, keep moisturized with massage oil (Vata, Pitta or Kapha). A daily habit of self oil massage helps you stay supple, oils your cracking joints, soothes your nerves, and boosts your immunity.
You may feel a little less sure-footed, scattered and ungrounded in general. Smooth and fluid movement may be challenging. For Vata individuals, September is a good time for stillness, rest, and rejuvenation. Shift your exercise routine to gentle stretches. Take time for a restorative and nurturing stroll in the neighborhood.
Ayurvedic Routine for September
Labor Day, the kids going back to school, and this can leave your daily routine resembling a roller coaster ride. Avoid making any big plans in September, especially vacations or too many activities. Instead of filling your social calendar, take advantage of the shorter nights to watch a movie or snuggle up with a warm almond chai. Depletion this time of year can make you feel spaced out, easily scattered, and distracted. Avoid any overexertion, especially if you're Vata, as your body needs all available energy to prepare for colder months ahead.
Ayurvedic Diet for September
During the first week of September, apples are appetizing. Their cooling, laxative nature can help purge any residue of summer heat. So enjoy pleasant fall walks in the countryside ripe with apple orchards. Bask in the delight of apple pie.
Select heartier root vegetables and grains like oats, tapioca, sweet potatoes, and potatoes. Heavier foods like nuts, sesame seeds, and meats like chicken and salmon offer nurturing sweet taste, beneficial for fall. For dessert try dates, which provide ojas building sweetness. Almond coconut fudge is another of our favorite ojas building autumn treats.
By mid-September, natural cravings arise for cooked mushrooms, onions, and garlic, which will help sedate your anxious September nervous system and prepare your body for winter hibernation. Salty foods, as well as foods with darker colors, will encourage earth element and give you a sense of feeling grounded.
To counteract fall dryness, be sure your tongue is moist when you sit down to eat. A moist tongue means adequate saliva and digestive juices for digestion. If you have gas & bloating, avoid difficult to digest food. Instead, favor easy to digest food. If your mouth is dry, try a glass of warm water with a pinch of salt and a wedge of lime. Alternatively, almond milk is a nourishing way to hydrate your body during a 3pm slump.
Salt counteracts dryness as it helps you retain fluids. It also replenishes electrolytes. Miso soup in the evening, rich with seaweed and replenishing salts, can help you rebuild and feel strong again. Seafood, especially mollusks like clams and oysters, add the perfect salty protein to your meal. Avoid bitter, astringent, light, and cold foods.
Sour taste, such as lime, moistens tissues and encourages digestive secretions. The tartness of homemade applesauce keeps you juicy while it warms your heart. After cooking the apples, they become a digestive. Or try cooking cranberries into a fall stuffing to add the sour taste. Add healthy fats like ghee to your diet to lubricate your intestines and ensure a smooth flow.
Ayurvedic Herbs for September
In September, moistening, sweet herbs are often useful, especially the heavier root herbs. Ashwagandha means "strength of a horse," suggesting its ability to make you feel strong, sturdy, and focused when you are feeling tired in the middle of the day. This root is a tonic for drained adrenals, replenishing your storehouse of energy so you can be productive and alert. Ashwagandha is the perfect herb for fall insomnia because of its sleep-inducing qualities. Grounding and soothing to your nervous system, it relaxes your body and mind so you can drift easily into sleep, even while winds whip quickly outside and thoughts turn over and over in your mind. Thanks to the repairing and rejuvenating abilities of ashwagandha, your sleep will become more potent so you wake up fresh and strong.
Chyavanprash is a sweet, herbal jam that the whole family can enjoy. Rich with antioxidants, Ayurveda's most famous tonic is renowned for its immune boosting properties. This nourishing elixir strengthens and rejuvenates the body enhancing your vim and vigor. Children love it!
Chyavanprash is an excellent method for daily herbal consumption due to its unique constituents of cane sugar, ghee and honey. Proven effective over a thousand years of use, these nourishing tastes play the important role of "carriers" that allow the herbs to penetrate deep into the tissues. In a small daily dose (1 or 2 teaspoons), it makes for a tasty and very healthful treat.
For those who feel frail in the fall, Vidari is an essential herb to nurturing your body. Ideal for seniors and anyone with a Vata constitution, Vidari promotes healthy aging. Vidari is a nourishing rejuvenative for Vata and Pitta. It is also a muscle tonic. As a root, its heaviness is grounding for Vata. This ojas building herb is oxytocic, actually making you more affectionate. As an aphrodisiac, Vidari increases fertility, building semen in men and supporting healthy menstruation in women. It's oxytocic properties also promotes healthy lactation in women.
Haritaki is an excellent fall laxative for Vata dosha. Haritaki is one of the herbs in triphala, the famous Ayurvedic bowel cleansing formula. While triphala is too drying and irritating for Vata (due to Bibhitaki), haritaki is perfect - it not only warms up the digestive tract (dispelling gas), but softens stools.
Dashamoola soothes your nerves, relaxing your body while it strengthens you. Dashamoola has many uses beyond its relaxing effect. Made of ten roots, this formula is known for balancing Vata. A 1/2 - 1/4tsp can be boiled in milk for a good night's sleep and to strengthen your bones. A decoction of the whole herbs may used as an enema to tonify your colon and eliminate natural toxins from the GI tract and to balance Vata in the lower region of the body.
Licorice root also tones the adrenals. Its sweet taste and demulcent nature helps to keep you grounded and prevent your body from drying out. Use the soothing properties of marshmallow root anytime you feel dry. Marshmallow root is very demulcent, meaning it forms a gel. This gel not only coats dry mucus membranes and tissues, it moistens stools for easy elimination.
Warm spices such as black pepper, ginger and cinnamon are helpful digestives in the fall, as is hingvastak churna.
If you're feeling anxious and scattered, sedatives such as tagar, poppy seed and nutmeg are helpful. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of nutmeg in warm milk before bedtime for a soporific (sleep-inducing) effect. Bhringaraj oil is a tridoshic herbal oil that serves as both a sleep aid and hair tonic. As a relaxing sleep aid, rub Bhringaraj oil into the scalp and feet. It also cools the head and calms the mind.
Shirodhara is Ayurveda's most restful and relaxing remedy for the fall. Shirodhara is a slow, steady flow of warm oil on the forehead. It eases stress and promotes sound sleep. See a practitioner near you to experience the benefits of shirodhara.
September is the last hurrah of the outdoor season and a pivotal month, in that it sets the tone for your body's endurance through winter. Be sure to keep balanced and healthy by following Ayurveda's time-tested wisdom.