How Does Vata Season Impact Your Immunity?
According to Ayurveda, Vata season is associated with the late autumn and early winter season when the weather turns cold and is characterized by qualities of Vata that include: cold, dry, mobile, and light. Because of the dry and windy nature of this time of year, it’s easy to see how Vata energy governs the fall season.
You’ll find that Vata can quickly go out of balance during this season which not only leads to Vata specific disorders, but can throw many other body systems out of sync. Immunity is one of these systems, which means taking proactive steps to help bolster the immune system is a wonderful, supportive practice this time of year.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
There is only so much we can do once the immune system’s defenses have been compromised. Often, sickness takes days or weeks to manifest, which means once we feel the symptoms, the ailment has already taken hold.
The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a basic tenet of Ayurveda, and gives us tools to help prevent ailments, rather than try to bolster recovery once the body is in distress.
Once your immune system begins fighting off seasonal ailments, it won’t benefit as much from supplemental measures that preemptively bolster immune defense.
How Does Ayurveda Prepare Your Immune System?
Ayurvedic philosophy views immunity as interconnected with the entire mind-body system. When the body functions in balance as a holistic unit, each system nourishes the others and fosters health and vitality.
When the body is out of balance from periods of stress or cold and flu season, for example, the immune system weakens and the ecological relationships of the body systems are disturbed, often leading to illness. Incorporating supportive, daily routines and striving to keep the doshas balanced can help the body function optimally as a complete and whole system that will benefit the mind, body, and spirit.
Ayurveda incorporates botanicals, gentle exercise, meditation, diet, and many other tools to balance the body and bolster the immune system in preparation for Vata season.
Ayurvedic Ways to Boost Your Immune Defenses
It helps to think of the immune system as a protective shell that can take a few hits. When you have a strong first layer of defense, it can often fend off attackers and recover before it is tasked to defend again.
Without that defensive layer, there is a greater chance the immune system’s defenses won’t defeat invading pathogens, requiring the immune system to fight, rather than shield the virus or bacteria.
Ayurveda can help boost immune defenses by adopting healthy daily routines and incorporating traditional herbal blends to keep the body in balance.
Pacify Vata and Soothe Kapha for Doshic Balance
Autumn is the time of year to balance Vata and help pacify the quick-moving energy of Vata. At the same time, it’s important not to go overboard pacifying Vata which can lead to an increase in Kapha. This dosha is associated with earth and water, elements that contribute to a slow, heavy, and grounded influence.
Soothing Kapha helps ensure you won’t tip the scales too far in the wrong direction as you work to pacify Vata’s influence in your daily life. To balance these two energies, you will find that warm and earthy foods are excellent, but they should not be dense or weigh you down as this will increase Kapha. Likewise, you should maintain some level of exercise to ensure that Kapha does not take the reins, but exercise should be gentle enough that it doesn’t aggravate Vata.
Stay Warm and Avoid a Cold Diet
Staying warm doesn’t just mean cozying up next to the fireplace or layering up before venturing outside (although those are great ideas when the weather turns cold!). While all of these things are beneficial, it is important to understand that warmth also comes from within. Try incorporating warming spices like black pepper, turmeric, or ginger into your food and warm beverages.
Wondering what to limit? Consuming cold or raw foods can aggravate Vata and Kapha, so you should always ensure your food and drinks are at least room temperature. Frozen or chilled foods put a strain on the digestive system and should be minimized this time of year.
Foods like warm and hearty soups are great for pacifying and grounding Vata. Overall, choose late summer or fall seasonal foods to guide your diet. Avocados, bananas, lemons, pumpkins, carrots, squash, almonds, and beets are just some of the varied Vata-balancing ingredients you can put on your shopping list.
Additionally, avoid carbonated or alcoholic drinks; removing alcohol from your diet will help facilitate a strong immune defense as the body does not have to filter these toxins out of the body. Replace these beverages with room temperature water or warm, herbal teas.
Stay Rested and Hydrated
One of the most basic activities during Vata season comes to many of us naturally: rest. As the weather gets colder and the skies get darker, it seems like the world is getting ready to begin hibernation. As a result, we are naturally inclined to go to bed earlier, get up later, and find comfort and cozy in between.
With too much Vata in your system, you may feel inclined to keep pushing yourself until you reach a point of mental and physical exhaustion. Resting helps your body recover from everyday stressors and bolsters immune defenses.
While sleep is an excellent source of rest, it is also important to nurture your resting state during wakefulness as well. Meditation, yoga, and gentle pranayama, also known as breathwork, are excellent activities to keep a hyperactive Vata mind grounded.
Hydration is not only essential to keep all of the body systems running smoothly, it is also complementary to rest and helps improve the quality of sleep. Take care to make sure you’re drinking enough water. Proper hydration helps your body absorb nutrients and balance hormones, creating a healthier environment and reducing stress on your immune system. This will also support healthy sleep cycles.
Take Ayurvedic Supplements
Ayurvedic medicine is centered around health and vitality. The immune system is key in defending the vital life force of the body, and in fact dependent on ojas, or vitality itself. Ayurvedic supplements and herbs can help keep ojas strong and support the body to adapt or cope with stress to facilitate a strong first line of defense.
Should you want to detox your system at any point through Panchakarma, our popular Nasya oil is great for lubricating the nasal and nervous systems and ensuring the proper elimination of toxins. Guduchi, Andrographis, and Indukantha Ghritham capsules are also popular supplements that may help prepare your body for the stressors and imbalances of colder weather and lowered immunity.
Above all, Ayurveda emphasizes prevention. It is important to remember that while certain supplements may facilitate recovery, it is best as a preliminary measure to prevent undue strain on your immune system in the first place.
Manage Stress and Stay Grounded
To pacify and manage Vata, aim to minimize stress and stay grounded throughout the day. There’s no way to control many external factors, and trying to do so will often lead to further stress and anxiety. Instead, seek peace from within and allow the stress to wash right off you.
You can manage stress by practicing pilates, yoga, breathwork, meditation, and many other activities that are complementary to Vata. No one activity is better than the other, but ideally, a mix of all should be incorporated into your routine throughout the season.
Your food choices can also help you stay balanced and grounded. Stick with a Vata-pacifying diet and favor freshly cooked foods that are moist, warm, and nutritious. This will prime you for meditative and grounding activities such as yoga and meditation and fuel your body for a gentle workout regimen.
A Balanced Lifestyle in Vata Season
When Vata is a strong or primary influence on the body, it can be difficult to manage the seasons because Vata is particularly sensitive to environmental changes. A fluctuation in the temperature of just a few degrees, too much or little socialization, or the wrong foods at the wrong time of year can all impact your mind, body, and mood. This is why Vata season, or fall, is often a struggle because the cool, drying and energetic influences of the season can easily become overwhelming. This is especially true since fall often blows in quickly when many of us are still pacifying the heat of the summer Pitta season.
Learning to live a balanced lifestyle in any season doesn’t have to be difficult when you familiarize yourself with some basic Ayurvedic concepts. By catering to your body’s needs and determining which doshas need balancing, you can create equilibrium in your life no matter which season you are in.
Learning Ayurvedic Principles is a Journey
Ayurveda is a philosophy based on empowering the healer within. It is a journey of self-discovery that gives us tools to live a healthy and balanced life.
One of the key principles is to listen and learn from your body’s cues as this will always cue you into current imbalances.
By tuning into these signals early on and following some basic principles of Ayurveda, you can help keep your immune system healthy year-round, especially during Vata season.