Reframe Seasonal Affective “Disorder” and Return to Balance with Ayurveda
by Tierney Farry
Studies show that up to 10 percent of people living in northern latitudes will be categorized with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as the seasons turn toward the cooler, winter months.
Unfortunately, modern living fails to recognize the cyclical patterns in nature that were celebrated for centuries before the industrial age. Why is it a disorder to feel a meaningful shift when winter comes? What if the classification of SAD is a representation of an evolutionary mismatch? What if the body’s rhythms for homeostasis simply haven’t caught up to societal and cultural ideas of hyper-productivity and detachment from the environment?
Ayurveda, often called a “sister-science” to yoga, is an ancient practice of individualized and preventative medicine that empowers one to balance the body, heart and mind. Ayurveda allows one to align themselves with the cycles of nature to optimize health by examining lifestyle choices. Often touted as a system of care that “prevents and treats the diseases of civilization,” a person can receive a wealth of wisdom from this lifestyle medicine in order to bring themselves back into balance with the environment during each and every season’s change.
Ayurveda operates on the theory of the five elements and three doshas: vata (air and space), pitta (fire and water) and kapha (water and earth). These doshas correlate with seasons. As the autumn and winter seasons are considered vata, the accumulation of air and space can create a restless and overall spaced-out feeling that often mimics the symptoms of SAD.
Ayurveda prescribes meditation, movement, proper diet, herbs, touch and massage, detox, regulation of emotion and examination of sensory stimuli to help the body though this transition. One can help their immune system by strengthening digestion. To achieve this, try drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning upon waking and eat the main meal of the day at lunch rather than at dinner. Rest well to help the body heal by going to bed before 10 p.m., during kapha time when the body naturally supports rest. This is the time of year to make time to enjoy a favorite yoga class with a focus on grounding standing postures, like tree pose, as well as seated forward folds that promote tuning in. Try practicing alternate nostril breathing, a grounding and vata-balancing breath practice that induces a relaxed nervous system response, each morning or before bed. Ground with sweet, warm essential oils, such as frankincense, geranium and clove. This fall season, take the time to explore a new paradigm of wellness.
Tierney Farry is a licensed professional counselor, yoga and Ayurveda health consultant and an essential oils educator. November 2019