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Transitioning to Fall: Ayurvedic Seasonal Routines

September 22, 2022

The harvest moon — called so because it is the closest moon to the autumnal equinox and rises early and bright, allowing farmers to harvest crops into the night — has come and gone. Summer’s abundance has been gleaned. And, despite a ‘pick-up’ in many families’ schedules due to the start of the traditional school year, the time for an inward turn has come.

Stepping into Fall

With the autumnal equinox having arrived, summer’s pitta influence makes way for fall’s vata. During this time, this dosha is more easily aggravated. The elemental shift from fire toward air manifests in the climate, the seasonal ingredients we have to work with, and our own bodies. In support of a balanced transition into the season predominated by the vata dosha, Ayurveda offers recommendations. One admonition involves the importance of wisely engaging the physical transition between seasons, called ritusanhi. Ayurveda also offers recommendations for routines to engage throughout the fall, called ritucharya, in order to prevent vata dosha accumulation and aggravation. We remember that “dosha” means “that which is easily thrown out of balance.” So, Ayurvedic ritucharya for fall include diet and lifestyle routines to balance the vata dosha, that which is more easily thrown out of balance during this time.


Both Ayurveda and common sense discourage extremes, as balance brings health. This includes required balance in transitions, which must be engaged gradually. During the waning of pitta season and the rise of vata season, marked by the autumnal equinox, ‘easy does it’ is key. To jump from a summer diet to a fall/winter diet in a day isn’t advised; instead, an easeful shift is recommended.

Turn this little-by-little shift into a 16-day seasonal rite of passage during the ritusandhi, the period between seasons that includes the final eight days of summer and the first eight days of fall. As our bodies begin to sense the vata season approaching, beware of overloading on vata-aggravating foods you were used to in summer, but don’t jump so quickly to strictly vata-pacifying foods, either.

Diet for Fall

Vata is characterized by cold, dry, light, mobile, and subtle qualities. To balance its likelihood for accumulation in fall, then, we want to infuse our diet with heavy, dense, and oily foods. Thick, slow-cooked stews that are heavy in root vegetables and red lentils will hit the spot. Favor sweet and salty tastes and cooked foods as much as possible.

Other vata-pacifying foods to include in your fall diet include most grains and cooked oats, cooked root vegetables like sweet potato and carrots, butternut squash and pumpkin, soaked seeds, dates, mung beans, red lentils, milk, yogurt, and ghee.

Supportive spices and herbs for fall include ginger, garlic, basil, cumin, mustard, cloves, turmeric, oregano, and pepper.

Activities for Fall

Begin the day early, sticking to daily routines such as waking and sleeping times, self-massage with sesame oil, meal times, meditation, and grounding movement.

Monkey mind is something that vata types know well, and this levity of the thought mind (to put it in generous terms) is a symptom of the autumn months for many, regardless of their constitution.

As such, grounding activities and practices that bring coherence to the bodymind are favored during this time. This could include

  • hiking,
  • two-legged standing yoga postures, forward fold, cat/cow, and shavasana,
  • repetition of a phrase or sound,
  • taking an epsom salt bath, or
  • meditation on a fixed object such as a candle or the breath,

to name but a few. Follow your intuition when it comes to grounding your thoughts and feelings. Ayurveda teaches us that the mind desires to follow its imbalances, whereas the body seeks balance. When in doubt, listen to your body as you’d listen to a close friend.

Pranayama for Fall

Nadi shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is an excellent practice to even out the solar and lunar sides of your body, open physical and energetic channels, and create a sense of grounded balance. In a comfortable seated position, place the ‘peace sign’ fingers of your right hand on the space between your eyebrows or folded into your palm. Exhale fully. Use your thumb to gently block the upper right nostril; inhale through the left nostril; remove the thumb, place the ring finger on your upper left nostril to block flow, and exhale through your right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril; exhale through the left. Inhale through the left nostril; exhale through the right. Continue in this horseshoe pattern for a few minutes. Then release your hand and breathe normally, noticing any differences in your physical and energetic beings.

When it comes to easing into the fall season using the principles of Ayurveda, the most important thing is to listen to your body and move with slow steadiness. Support the shift by practicing gratitude for all you have harvested this summer and trusting openness to what the season ahead brings.

The Author

  • Rebecca Adams

    Ayurvedic Health Counselor and Early Childhood Educator

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