In late August and early September, we find ourselves in a special time each year. The sun has reached its highest point a while ago—the nights are getting longer, the days shorter. Temperatures are slowly but surely dropping and cloudy, cooler days are becoming more frequent. “Late summer” exactly covers exactly the transitional phase in which we find ourselves: summer is coming to an end, but autumn has not really begun yet.
As such, this period rather difficult to pinpoint, which can cause you to feel off-balance. Add to that the fact that the glorious days of summer are coming to an end and that you’ve probably already finished your vacation—a thought that can make some people feel rather gloomy. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to still feel balanced during this time of change. In this blog, I’ll explain why late summer is a special time for your body and mind. I also give you 5 tips for how to move with the energy of late summer, allowing you to create a stable base both physically and mentally for the months to come.
Why late summer calls for extra attention
Ayurveda has two important basic principles that come back again and again, and therefore probably sound familiar to you. The first: everything is constantly in motion. And the second: what happens in our bodies is a reflection of what happens in the world around us. We are part of the universe we live in, and connected to it at the deepest level. The ever-recurring cycle of seasons and rhythms in nature therefore also takes place in our bodies and minds. With the changing of the seasons, we ourselves are also going through a transition again and again. Because this transition means a shift of energies in our body, we are more susceptible to an imbalance at those moments. You might notice this in the form of mental or physical complaints, or because you’re not feeling comfortable or balanced in another way. Therefore, it certainly can’t hurt to become aware of what your body is currently going through and to support it as best as you can.
From Pitta to Vata
In late summer, the dominant energy in nature slowly shifts from Pitta to Vata. Pitta’s energy provides warmth, light and vibrancy in summer, while Vata dominates autumn and early winter with cold, dryness, clarity and mobility. In late summer and early fall, we fall right in between these energies. The transition in temperatures has a considerable impact on your body, and adapting to that shift demands a lot of energy. It is therefore not surprising if you don’t feel completely fit or even get sick at this time of year.
5 self care-tips
How can you smoothly move with this change and ensure that you remain physically and mentally balanced? The key lies in letting go of summer and preparing your body for autumn, by making appropriate adjustments to your diet and lifestyle step by step. This way, you give your body time to slowly adapt to all the changes. Below, I give you 5 tips to support your body during this transition of the seasons, so that you can continue to feel comfortable in your own skin.
1. Provide hydration
After the heat of summer, our bodies can use some moisture, and meanwhile the dryness of autumn is also making its appearance. Therefore, it’s not a bad idea to make sure you get a good dose of extra hydration. This will prevent typical dryness symptoms from emerging later in autumn, such as dry skin and constipated intestines. Moreover, a lack of hydration can cause restless feelings, an overactive brain and insomnia. Especially if you are a Vata person, you’ll probably recognize that you’re susceptible to this.
So drink a lot—this will ensure you start autumn without any physical or mental deficits. Drink water, preferably at room temperature and not ice-cold. The latter quickly extinguishes the digestive fire.
2. Choose easily digestible, warm meals
While our body could use some cold and raw foods during summer, you would do well to slowly switch back to warm, cooked dishes. Leave the salads out more often and go for soups and light stews. You will probably automatically start to crave nutritious dishes with a bit more “body”, as your body starts to prepare itself to create a buffer that it will need during the cold months.
Make sure you don’t immediately switch to heavy meals. Rather, just like in summer, choose foods that are light on the stomach. This way, your body can gently get used to the transition and your system won’t get disrupted.
3. Avoid dry & astringent and opt for sweet, sour & salty
Preferably avoid dry and astringent foods, such as walnuts, barley, pomegranate, rice cakes, black tea, coffee and dried fruits. These amplify the very dryness you are trying to combat. Instead, opt for sweet, sour and salty flavors.
Sweet foods—in Ayurveda, sweet does not mean “packed with sugar” but rather “grounding and nutritious”—give the body the strength it needs to prepare for autumn. Quinoa, rice, sweet potatoes, carrots, oats, and rye are all recommended.
During the summer, Pitta builds up in the liver. This can cause your body to retain toxins longer, which in turn leads to sensitive skin, irritability and an agitated belly. Especially if Pitta is dominant in your constitution, you can suffer from this. By choosing sour foods, you promote digestion and gently cleanse the liver. Think, for example, of peaches, grapes and limes.
Salt helps your body retain the moisture it so desperately needs right now. Add some salt to your dishes (not too much) and eat fish, seafood, cheese, olives, soy sauce and seaweed more often.
4. Go for grounding, moisturizing & cooling herbs
The late summer mix of cooler days, occasional hot summer days and the rise of dry autumn air calls for a specific kind of herbs. With spices that ground and hydrate, you create a counterbalance to Vata’s dryness and mobility. For instance, choose ashwagandha to prevent dehydration, maintain your energy and prevent stress. Or go for licorice for extra moisture and hydration. Tulsi is also a good choice. This herb gives your immune system and digestion a boost. It also promotes mental calm and grounding, bringing Vata into balance.
In addition, don’t forget cooling herbs, because the last bit of Pitta’s heated energy is still in the air. Amalaki, for example, is highly recommended—a herb that is less known to us, but is available at the health food store. Amalaki drives excess heat out of the body. In addition, it acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and detoxifier. It regulates digestion by calming it down and at the same time stirring up your digestive fire. This way, you help your body to get rid of toxins.
5. Give yourself a massage
Giving yourself an oil massage at least once a week (but preferably once a day) will prime your skin for the dry autumn and winter months. In Ayurveda, this kind of massage is called abhyanga. Oil massages gives your skin the fats and hydration it will need, while simultaneously boosting circulation. You’ll notice that your skin will tolerate the cold and wind a lot better and will look more radiant.
Choose the best oil for your body based on your constitution (or your imbalance, get advice from an Ayurvedic practitioner). Vata benefits from warming, somewhat heavy oils, such as sesame or almond oil. For Pitta, cooling and light oils are great, such as coconut or sunflower oil. Kapha’s best choice are warming, light oils, such as sesame, corn or mustard oil.
Want to know more about abhyanga and how best to perform it? You’ll find all the information in this blog.
Hopefully these tips will help you to get the most out of late summer and enjoy this beautiful time!