Autumn is the season of the vata dosha—the subtle energy that governs movement. Literally translated as “wind,” vata is dry. It comes in bursts. It moves (and changes directions). It is often cold. Vata rises in autumn, and when it does, it can leave you feeling worn out, brittle, and susceptible to illness. If you’re experiencing some of the following symptoms, you have excess vata:
• dry skin
• achy joints
• restless, fitful sleep
• irregular bowels
• lower backaches
• erratic thinking
• erratic routines
Ayurvedic oil treatments are the perfect panacea. The sheer weight of oil applied to the skin slows down vata’s flighty, hypermobile nature. Oil lubricates the skin, tissues, and joints and puts you back on solid ground. Try this nourishing oil regime and see for yourself.
Dry, chilling weather enters the body through the pores, the ears, the nostrils, the lips, the belly button, the genitals, and the anus. By lubricating these openings, you shield yourself from the cold. Before you go to bed, rub a few ounces of warm (not hot) sesame oil all over your body with special attention to the ears, nostrils, and other openings. (If you’re having trouble sleeping, rub some oil on the soles of the feet and into the scalp.) Then take a warm bubble bath and scrub your body with soap. Your muscles will melt, and you’ll sleep like a baby.
Mouth and Gums
Every night before going to bed, take a mouthful of sesame oil, swish it around, hold for 1–2 minutes, and expel it. Then apply some oil to your index finger and gently massage your gums. This is called kavala. It’s good for an impacted wisdom tooth, receding gums, and sensitive teeth, and for preventing cavities and earaches.
Charaka, the legendary father of ayurveda, recommended putting a few drops of freshly made garlic oil into each ear at bedtime once every two weeks.
Boil 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1/2 clove of freshly chopped garlic until the garlic turns brown. Then press the oil from the garlic and strain it. Cool the oil to body temperature. Lie on your left side and put 5–10 drops of oil into your right ear. Rest for a few minutes. Then roll over to your right side, protecting your pillow with a gauze pad, and put 5–10 drops in your left ear. Relax and enjoy a sound sleep.
Garlic oil has a wonderful aroma that calms the mind and makes you mellow. This procedure is good for TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), tinnitus, earwax, and hearing loss. Never put oil in the ear when there are signs of infection or discharge.
If you have dry eyes, this remedy is for you. While lying on your back, face up, put one drop of warm castor oil in each eye at bedtime. In the morning your eyes will be moist, beautiful, and clear.
It may seem odd to put oil up your nose, but this practice (nasya) will pacify the vata dosha, improve vision, and reduce snoring. It’s also good for sinus congestion, dry eyes, neck stiffness, headaches, migraines, even spondylarthritis.
You can do nasya up to twice daily (on an empty stomach and at least one hour before or after showering). Here’s how: Lie on your back, face up, with a pillow under your shoulders and your head tilted back so your nostrils are facing the ceiling. Put 3–5 drops of medicated nasal oil or warm ghee (clarified butter) in each nostril. (Find a recipe here.) Rest with your head in this position for one minute.
Your Perfect Oil
Ayurveda recommends oils according to your constitution, which is composed of three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. Most people have one predominating dosha. To find out what your constitution is, take this quiz. Then choose from the list of oils below. Note: organic, unrefined oils are the most nourishing.
Vata: Sesame, olive, avocado, coconut, and mustard oil.
Pitta: Ghee (clarified butter), sunflower, olive, soy, flaxseed, walnut, and coconut oil.
Kapha: The best is corn oil, then canola, sesame, sunflower, and mustard oil.
Did you know?
Autumn accelerates the aging process. The dry, cold atmosphere, coupled with restless sleep, can result in dry skin, fatigue, and wrinkles. Oil massage restores moisture to the skin and relaxation to the body.
Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc, is a world-renowned ayurvedic physician from India. He is the founder of The Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is the author of numerous books.