As we head into the autumn our wellness needs begin to change. The fading light might make us feel more lethargic than usual, the cold air might make our skin feel dry, and when the heating comes on you might start to feel a little more dehydrated. Much as you might change other aspects of your life with the seasons, so too can wellness practices. Ayurveda is a term that you might well have heard bandied around the spa environment or seen on spa treatment menus, but what is it and how can you tailor it into your autumn wellbeing?
What is Aurveda?
Ayurveda is a natural system of medicine that’s often incorporated into spa therapies. It originated in India more than 3000 years ago, and is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge).
“Based on the idea that disease is due to an imbalance or stress in a person’s consciousness, Ayurveda encourages certain lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to regain a balance between the body, mind, spirit, and the environment […] The concepts of universal interconnectedness, the body’s constitution (prakriti), and life forces (doshas) are the primary basis of ayurvedic medicine. Goals of treatment aid the person by eliminating impurities, reducing symptoms, increasing resistance to disease, reducing worry, and increasing harmony in life. Herbs and other plants, including oils and common spices, are used extensively in Ayurvedic treatment.”
John Hopkins Medicine
It is also heavily linked to what it believes are five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space, which it focuses on bringing into balance in our bodies. People tend to be more dominantly characterised by one or the other elements, and these are defined as Ayurvedic ‘constitutions’. Spa guests will typically be asked questions and their constitution determined before a treatment. These forces (or doshas) are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha - roughly translated as air, fire, and earth respectively.
How is Ayurveda used in spas?
Ayurveda can be a whole lifestyle choice, incorporating nutrition, detoxification, therapeutic herbs, bodywork therapies, yoga, meditation, relationships, and geographical influences and more.
However, spas have also incorporated elements of this to create entire spa experiences or individual treatments that draw on its principles. A purist Ayurvedic spa might look at tailoring your whole programme including activities, therapies and food to fulfil personal goals. There are also treatments that are associated with Ayurveda, such as Shirodhara, a healing technique that focuses on the steady flow of oil onto the ‘third eye’.
Often, spas will have brought this into elements of the experience, such as a particular massage or combination of therapies. A typical Ayurvedic treatment will often incorporate an element of massage with therapeutic oils and herbs used to suit your needs. For example, an Ayurvedic massage often includes the use of warm poultices to massage the body, which are often muslin clothes containing a mixture of warmed herbs to promote healing.
In essence, while Ayurveda is not one thing, its influences are far reaching, varied and focus on holistic wellbeing - wellbeing of the whole person.
Ayurveda in the autumn
In Ayurveda, autumn is the season governed by the Vata (air) dosha. Vata is seen as:
It also governs the nervous system and mental health. Lots of us might notice feeling edgy, nervous or agitated in the autumn (something many of us will put down to the changing light and temperature etc. so you can see where it’s coming from!), and it can also have an impact on digestion.
With that in mind, top tips for coming back into balance might include:
- Incorporate warming spices into your diet, such as ginger, turmeric and cinnamon.
- Focus on a nourishing diet with foods like porridge, quinoia, soups and rice dishes.
- Take extra care of your skin to protect it from drying effects - you might use nourishing oils for example.
- Drink warm drinks - you might opt for a turmeric latte before bed for example!
- Dress warmly in things that make you feel cared for.
- Do yoga poses that encourage you to breathe and stand tall, such as slow Sun Salutations.
The emphasis is basically on being kind to yourself and supporting your body through the changing season. It’s not a time for fasting and cold salads, it’s a time for self-care and warmth!