Guest post graciously contributed by Sarah Guglielmi
It’s like clockwork. The Ayurvedic clock, that is. Mid-August in Buffalo NY, and the winds arrive, signaling the onset of autumn. Autumn is the ‘in-between” time. The winds of fall work their magic, allowing nature to “burn off the summer heat”. Temperatures cool, the weather varies, and the leaves gradually dry and change shade.
Sharpen your awareness of nature’s dance, and you’ll notice how the qualities of this “in-between” time show up in your own body and mind. You are, after all, a part of nature! Through the Autumnal transition, physical symptoms may arise, as your internal nature “burns off the summer heat”. These symptoms are often characterized by a simultaneous increase in the vata and pitta dosha and present as hot, dry, and variable. You may feel overheated, over-reactive (to foods or people), inflamed, red, itchy, intense, unsteady, and variable in energy.
To counterbalance a symptom, the golden rule of Ayurveda is “Apply the Opposite”. As vata and pitta naturally increase in August and September, make lifestyle choices that ground, soothe, hydrate, and release heat. When it comes to food, this involves striking the yin/yang balance of heating and cooling herbs. Warm enough to soothe vata, and cool enough to abate pitta.
I’ve recently discovered the surprising delight of adding cooling herbs to chai tea – a perfect beverage for Autumn days. Traditional chai tea is an alchemic blend of black tea, ginger, cardamom, milk, and natural sweetener (this time of year I use coconut sugar to kick in the cool, and pacify pitta’s glycemic sensitivity). In the past I found chai tea overheating and over stimulating during the summer and autumn months. The combination of ginger and caffeine has the potential to aggravate the hot and sharp quality of pitta for some. This year the wisdom of Ayurveda smiled upon me, and my beloved yogini roommate introduced me to her father’s “Mint” Chai recipe.
Mint chai you say? Skeptical? I know. But …. don’t knock it ‘til you try it! It’s surprisingly delicious and takes the sharp edge off that ginger and caffeine. This is the 6 tastes at work – finding the right balance of the 6 tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) in any recipe to create balance for your doshas. The dominant taste of mint is Bitter (as it is for most culinary herbs). Bitter foods are dominant in the air and ether element making them great pacifiers for pitta. Turns out mint isn’t the only chai friendly herb. One morning we ran out of mint, and I decided to use basil instead – loved it! Slightly different flavor, and a bit less cooling than mint.
Now it’s your turn! Go out to your garden (or your local grocery), harvest some mint and basil and make a chai date with yourself! As you sip your cup of Autumn Chai your vata will be warmed and soothed by the milk, sugar, cardamom, and ginger while pitta is pacified by the mint, basil, and astringent black tea. A cup of autumnal bliss! Here’s how it’s done:
Autumn Chai Bliss (Serves 1-2)
- On high heat, bring water and ginger to a boil.
- Add black tea, and mint or basil leaves.
- Boil until ginger is fragrant, and tea is steeped to desired level. Adjusting boiling time is key in modulating the pungency of the ginger, caffeination of the tea, and flavoring of the herbs. Experiment!
- Add the milk and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling turn down the heat.
- Add the cardamom and sugar.
- Bring to a boil and reduce the heat 2 more times. Boiling 3 times increases the digestibility of the milk.
- Cover and let sit for a few minutes.
Sarah Guglielmi MS, E-RYT, Certified Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist
Sarah Guglielmi is a professional educator and clinician in the fields of yoga, meditation, and ayurveda. She was initially drawn to yoga, over 15 years ago, while working as a product development engineer, and looking for relief from chronic stress and illness, Sarah not only regained her health, but discovered a deeper dimension to her life she finds rich and inspiring. Her overarching intention is to make the therapeutic power of yoga and ayurveda accessible and transformative for her students and clients. Sarah has served on the Faculty of the Himalayan Institute and Yoga International for past 10 years she has taught numerous workshops on yoga, yoga philosophy, meditation, stress management, yoga therapeutics, and Ayurvedic lifestyle. In addition to teaching here in Buffalo, she travels nationally as a Teacher Trainer for the Himalayan Institute’s 200 hour, 500 hour, and Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist training programs. Sarah holds a Master’s Degree in Materials Engineering from the University of Delaware, and spent 10 years with W.L. Gore and Associates (makers of GORE-TEX), prior to joining the Institute.