Hands up if you're noticing the effect of the dark, wet, soggy Autumn we are experiencing?
I have wanted to post about this for a couple of weeks now, but the sheer volume of rainy days indoors has made it almost impossible for me to feel inspired enough to put it into words.
All aspects of my work, home and happiness are hugely influenced by time spent outside. And even though I go out anyway (to avoid losing my mind), today felt like the first day of inspiration and sunshine in ages. So I took myself out in my little car, to ensure I could get a proper dose of nature. I am very lucky to live right by the sea, and only a few minutes drive from the south downs, so finding brilliant places, plants and animals to photograph didn't take long. Rabbits, birds of prey hovering over bushes laden with bright red berries (and therefore small mammals no doubt), and the most magic of all - the low sunlight peeking through the trees and casting otherworldly beams of light and shapes onto the autumn coloured foliage.
Standing in the woods today was utterly spellbinding. I think I temporarily grew roots, because I found it really hard to leave and get back into my car.
Back to reality...(shakes off woodland-related-daydreaminess)
If you've been feeling frustrated with your energy levels, or just not feeling particularly sparkly, you're not alone. And although acknowledging this doesn't necessarily change anything, I think it's really helpful to put these wintry, lethargic days into context.
According to Ayurveda (an ancient health system which is closely linked to yoga) this season (Vata season) when the days are shorter, colder, wetter, windier and more likely to feel unsettled, we are very likely to feel similarly unsettled. You are possibly going to feel more tired, and maybe less well generally, with an increase in headaches, bloating, dry skin and hair, dehydration, aches and pains and of course, seasonal coughs and colds that are always around us this time of year. It can also affect our nervous system as the unsettled and dry nature of the season can make us feel restless.
When I first started learning about Ayurveda, it felt like something I had always known, and yet had been taught how to forget. This incredible ancient wisdom is so deeply rooted in nature, the seasons and the fluctuations and variations of our humanness, that I find it impossible not to link it to my own wellbeing, and it is now always a part of how I help people to bring themselves back into balance. It is invariably when I am disconnected from my own needs due to a busy schedule, poor sleep, erratic and quick-fix eating habits that I notice in myself a reduction in energy and clarity, and my nervous system starts to complain by giving me more headaches, aches and tiredness. I use the word "more" here, because I have to also factor in symptoms of multiple sclerosis and perimenopause which can both manifest themselves as an out of balance "vata" energy. In spite of these extra factors, I am generally able to keep myself well and balanced a really decent amount of my life as long as I am regularly caring for myself with freshly prepared and nutritious food, plenty of rest, regular exercise and time outside, and time on my own with a book or something that makes me feel creative and connected to nature.
If you are currently feeling all or some of these out of balance Vata qualities, it may feel quite tricky to know where to start. So think small and build up gradually. Look at your diary and if you can give yourself more time to chill then do. If you like cooking, make something warm and nutritious like soup. If you can get outside and see the beautiful blue sky, do this regularly and ideally before midday so that you support your sleep cycles. If you feel like you struggle to find time to take care of yourself and do things you enjoy, add something into your diary that is manageable and not stressful. A walk to the woods, a swim, a new book - whatever makes you feel happy inside. A little more regularity and routine can also be really helpful.
And to start us all off, here is my favourite dahl recipe (dahl is my dream food in the autumn).
As always, ask me questions, add comments and let me know if you make this dahl recipe
SPICY LEEK AND LENTIL DAHL WITH TASTY PARSNIP CHIPS
This one is full of fibre, protein, vitamins and flavour. Soup is such an easy way to get all the nutrition stuff we need. And at this time of year, it's really grounding and balancing to eat something so warm, delicious and comforting.
3 x parsnips
1 x large leek
2 x large handful of straight to the pan red lentils
1 x flat tbsp good quality oil such as extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil
1 x flat tablespoon of each of your favourite spices (turmeric, ground coriander, cumin, garam masala)
1 x thumb of fresh ginger
At least 3 cloves of garlic
1 x litre of vegetable stock
Plenty of black pepper ground in at the end to add warmth
Peel and cube the parsnips, and roast them in the oven on a baking sheet whilst you cook the dahl. Wash and chop the leek and courgette. Chop the garlic finely. Peel and grate the ginger. Heat up the spices and the ginger on a low heat in a large pan until you can smell them. Then add the oil and let it melt gently. Once the oil is hot, add the leeks to the pan and mix together so that everything is coated in the oil and spices. Cook slowly for about 10 mins. Add the lentils and vegetable stock and simmer for about 20 minutes. It’s delicious and really filling on its own, but if you’re really hungry, serve it with some warmed wholegrain pitta bread or some wholegrain rice. A dollop of Greek yoghurt is also lovely and great for gut health.