Graciously contributed by Sarah Guglielmi.

Fall is in full swing here in the Northeast– it’s the season of change and contrast! Striking colors on the trees move into muted shades of barren brown; yesterday’s clear blue skies were replaced by a cold wintery wind today.

Fall is the season of “wind.” The air and space elements are more dominant in nature, bringing forth qualities of cool, light, dry, and variance. We can see these qualities in nature around us, and if we take a closer look, many of us will find these qualities inside as well. Remember, we are a microcosm of the macrocosm, and natures’ rhythms are at work both outside and inside of us.

Air and space comprise the vata dosha, and it is common to experience some vata imbalance during the Autumn season. It may manifest as dry skin, stronger thirst, constipation, variable energy levels and variable digestion. You may find yourself wanting a second power nap each day, or you eat something you’ve been eating for months, and out of the blue you’re saddled with gas and indigestion.

How can you counter this tendency towards Vata imbalance? Apply the opposite! One tenant of treatment in Ayurveda is to look at the qualities of your imbalance (cool, dry, light, variable) and then incorporate practices and foods that have the opposite quality (warm, oily, heavy, steady).

Warm oil, used externally and internally (through diet), is one of the main ways to support balance for vata. Remove raw food and salad from your diet, and incorporate proteins, grains, and vegetables cooked with oil and warming spices such as turmeric, ginger cumin, and fenugreek. Try warming, moistening teas such as licorice, cinnamon, and ginger – yum!

The other must do practice is Abhyanga, or Ayurvedic Self Massage. As the winds pick up and temperatures drop, our minds move to visions of being warm and swaddled. I think about bundling in a blanket with a warm drink in front of a fire place. To kick the “swaddling” effect up a notch, incorporate a massage with warm oil into your daily routine. Oil is heavy and moisturizing. When it is warmed, rubbed on the body, and allowed to absorb for a period of time without any movement or stimulation, the oil creates a steadying effect on the nervous system. I experience it as a “downshift” in my nervous system, a deep calm. This is one of the most effective ways to counter the variable (i.e., moving all over the place) quality of vata. Try organic sesame oil which is heavy and warming, or if you tend to get overheated, use organic sweet almond oil or organic olive oil.

Choose a bathrobe you don’t mind getting some oil residue on! Place your bottle of oil in a cup of hot water to warm it up. Find a seat, and take a moment to acknowledge the time and care you are taking for yourself through this practice. With the bathrobe and/or towel underneath you, begin by oiling your head and scalp using circular motions. Place a small amount of oil on your index finger and rub just inside your nostrils and just inside your ears. Rub the outside of the ears as well. Massage your face, and then upward along the sides, back and front of the neck. Use long strokes to rub oil into the arms, and circular motions at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. Follow the same routine on the legs, knees, and ankles. Now move to the navel, chest, and back rubbing in a clockwise direction. Oil the hips, buttocks, lower back and lower abdomen. The pelvis is the home of vata in the body (where it is most concentrated) – so take care not to skip this area! To finish, oil the soles and tops of your feet, toes, hands and fingers. Massage your skin as if you were being given a professional massage – with loving presence and patience. Take your time and feel the sensation of the skin being nourished.

Now wrap yourself in a bathrobe, blanket, pajama bottoms, socks –whatever allows you to feel cozy and warm, and sit in a pleasant space. Sip warm water, warm tea, relax, or meditate. Avoid stimulating your senses in any way (This is not the time to clean the house or check your iPhone!). Sit quietly for 10-20 minutes and feel the “swaddling” effect of the oil and cozy clothing and blankets. When complete, shower and begin your day.

Short on time? Focus on your head, nose, ears, lower back, hands, and feet – the areas with the most nerve endings. Pay attention and notice any changes in your body sensations, mood, and the flow of your day. Abhyanga sets a calm, centered tone for your day as it supports detoxification, stimulation of the immune system, circulation of energy flow, and softness and luster to the skin. Happy swaddling!

About Sarah

Sarah Guglielmi has been on a personal journey of healing and spiritual growth for over 15 years. She has taught yoga since 2002 in corporate, studio, and clinical settings. Originally drawn to yoga practice to relieve chronic stress and illness, Sarah has not only regained her health, but has discovered a spiritual dimension of life she finds rich and inspiring. Sarah serves on the teaching faculty of the Himalayan Institute and is the Professional Education Manager at their headquarters, where she has lived in residence since 2004. She holds a Masters Degree in Materials Engineering from the University of Delaware, and completed an eight-year engineering career with W.L. Gore and Associates, prior to joining the Institute.