As the weather turns colder, dryer and darker here in Minnesota, I can feel it reflected in my reactions. I’m a little more nervous but I don’t know why. Anxious about work but without a cause. For Ayurvedic practitioners, they recognize this as a Vata imbalance:
The light, rough, cold and dry qualities are depleting to the system, lowering our immunity and resistance to illness. This is why the onset of fall and winter can trigger many seasonal imbalances, such as allergies, colds, fatigue and digestive sensitivities.
There are many ways to combat this imbalance that lie outside of Western medicine prescriptions. Feeling your best starts by understanding your dosha type. Kapha, Pitta and Vata are the three main types, and everyone falls into some combination of earth-fire-air with one usually presenting itself as the dominant force in your mind-body connection.
Meditating and yoga, along with developing a consistent routine, are methods that I find useful all the time to calm my Kapha nature. These practices feel especially helpful in the fall as we start to naturally turn inward in a sort of hibernation before winter.
Being mindful of the food that you’re eating, like opting for warm, denser, heavier foods can help as well. And taking notice of what your mind is consuming via your to-read list is important, too.
Combat Fall Freakout Feelings
Taking a lot of “you” time is an Ayurvedic prescription that’s ideal to fill via reading. Here are my top picks to pinpoint particular effects of a Vata imbalance.
“Sourdough” by Robin Sloan
Ayurveda prescribes heavy food to fight too much Vata, which in my mind means carbs, which makes me think of good, crusty bread. If you jumped on the home sourdough bandwagon last year, you’re bound to enjoy “Sourdough,” a fictional story in which sourdough is more of a character than bread. Lois is a Silicon Valley engineer whose life revolves around work and her nightly takeout. Until she is gifted the mother of sourdough starters.
“How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odell
This book made a huge splash when it came out in 2019, and feels particularly relevant today. Warm feelings come from within, and if there’s one lesson from this book to take with you into Vata season, it’s that meaningful connections are worth 1 million+ Instagram likes.
Odell has created a composite picture sourced from fellow artists, philosophers, and more to share ideas on how to opt-out from social media, Amazon, and other Internet services by practicing a unique kind of mindfulness.
“The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley
Tuning into your Ayurvedic dosha requires grounding and a sense of place. Comfort food might be different from culture to culture, but there’s something immensely reassuring in these dishes from Sherman which focuses on indigenous cuisine from the upper Midwest.
This 2018 winner of the James Beard award groups recipes by where the ingredients are obtained, i.e. ‘Fields and Gardens,’ for example. It utilizes ethnobotany as a framework, stripping out colonizer staples like white flour, sugar, dairy and more.
“Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives” by Gretchen Rubin
The architecture of everyday life. Habits emerge from our routines and, whether constructive or not, can be hard to implement and harder to break. Learn more about the psychology behind habit-building and a literal framework to try out if you’re looking for a little fall rejuvenation.
Learn how to drink more water, stop yourself from picking up your phone or tablet when you can’t sleep, or reaching for sugar when you want a quick snack. As Rubin says in the book:
“…habits eliminate the need for self control.”
“Severance” by Ling Ma
Is it too meta to read about a global pandemic during a global pandemic? This quick, satiric read was published in 2018, long before COVID-19 but the takes on things like live-to-work culture and consumerism feel fresh and nuanced.
Candace manages Bible production in the literature industry, and even as the fictional Shen Fever take over New York City, the USA and the globe, she continues to go in to work until her contract is complete amidst the fairly gentle zombie-like infected.
Self-Care is You-Care
While the pandemic continues to sow uncertainty in its third year, that uncertainty can show up in our lives in different ways. Maybe we internalize it, maybe our decision making becomes a little more chaotic. While we can’t always control what happens around us, we can control our responses.
Learning more about your primary doshas can help you through many of the imbalances in life. Understanding why you feel the way you do is step one. And I would argue that a good book — or a few good books — is an excellent step two.
What reads help bring you clarity or shape perspective?
Stuck for what to read next? Check out our Reading Recs page. And if you’d like to support our work, please consider making a donation via our Donations page. We’re trying to raise money for paid commissions, so any contribution will bring us closer to that goal. Thank you for reading!