That tell-tale nip in the air? Dew on the grass? Fall approaches! Fall solstice is September 22 and we are in Ritu Sandhi.
In Ayurveda, Ritu-Sandhi (meaning ‘Season’ – ‘in between’) is the transition period between seasons, 7 days leading up to the equinox/solstice/season change and seven days after.
What does this mean?
“During this period, the regimen of the preceding season should be discontinued gradually and that of the succeeding season should be gradually adopted; sudden discontinuance or sudden adoption gives rise to diseases caused by Asatmya (non-habituation)” – Ashtanga Hridayam.
Ayurveda pays a lot of attention to annual cyclical self-care, shifting with change in the seasons to allow for optimal adaptation to the environment. As we get to the end of summer, our bodies have accumulated excess Heat or Pitta, especially if we have not eaten from summer’s offerings of cooling fruits and vegetables, or if we had an intense lifestyle of harried schedules, partied a little too much, or got a little too much sun. In addition, the cooling, drying influences that we naturally tend to gravitate towards in the summer are accumulating as well, and as we go into a cool, dry, season, it becomes essential to hit the reboot button.
Ritu Sandhi offers a two-week period to tune into our bodily rhythms and maybe do a mild seasonal cleanse to prepare for the colder months ahead.
Diet for Fall Ritu-Sandhi
For a two-week period:
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine, white sugar, white flour, and alcohol.
- For a warm drink first thing in the morning, especially to stimulate the bowels, switch to a tea like Holy Basil or Tulsi with rose – this is a Pitta reducing tea that will cleanse summer’s heat buildup.
- Have a regular habit of elimination; if you don’t have one, pay attention at this time and start cultivating a morning hygiene routine that includes making time to clear the bowels.
- Restart daily Abhyanga massage before showering – as the weather cools, this ritual protects the skin from the drying effects of the colder temperatures. Suitable oils are coconut or olive for late summer, early fall and sesame for winter.
- Eat a light breakfast of ripe seasonal fruit that is at room temperature. Avoid dry cereals, protein bars and multi-ingredient smoothies.
- Sip warm water throughout the day.
- Take advantage of slightly cooler days to soak in some mid-morning sunshine.
- While still enjoying summer’s fresh vegetables and fruits in salads and lighter fare, avoid eating raw food in the evenings. Switch to a small cooked supper instead. Grilled veggies with a light grain like quinoa or Poha (rolled rice) is a great option.
- Start to reduce ice-cold beverages and heavy foods like ice-cream that are an American summer staple.
- Eat dinner/supper at least a couple of hours before bedtime.
- Adjust bedtimes to reflect the change in sunlight.
- During this transition, listen to the body’s cues – appetites tend to increase as the weather cools; and a desire for cold and light foods naturally decreases. Sleepiness may set in a little earlier and the body may need a few more minutes in the morning to wake up.
As the weather cools and we move fully into the season, move your diet to fall’s bounty – apples, pears, squashes, sweet potatoes and yams, heavier legumes and beans, and whole grains soaked and prepared correctly.
My personal to-do list:
- Set up daily Abhyanga (self-massage) oils, moving from coconut to warming sesame as the season approaches. A few drops of an aromatic essential oil like lavender or sandalwood can make this daily ritual aromatherapy and massage rolled into one.
- Clean out spice pantry and restock the warm spices – cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper. Make the Garam Masala blend that I love to cook with in the fall and winter months.
- Make ghee – I tend not to use ghee in the summer much, preferring to dress salads with extra virgin olive oil and cook with coconut oil instead.
- Stock up on some favorite fall teas – Pukka’s Three Tulsi (immune boosting), Traditional Medicinals Tulsi with Ginger (appetite regulating as well), Organic India’s Tulsi, various Licorice teas (moisturizing). Checkout this link for more options!
- Stock upon a good Nasya oil – I like several and use one before setting out for a walk in the cool morning air. A facial oil is also wonderful to keep the cool air from drying out tender skin.
- Stock upon Ayurvedic herbs – Triphala or Amalaki to keep the colon healthy and bring in bioflavanoids that naturally boost immunity; and Chyavanprash – this multi-herb jam is Ayurveda’s antidote for the travails and bugs of winter; it is rich in anti-oxidants and immune-boosting. It is suitable for all ages, particularly valuable for the wee ones and the seniors in the family.
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.