Not unusual in the high desert in spring, it’s an extremely windy day today. The winds can be fierce in this valley, kicking up dust and pollen and nipping at our ears. For many, like me, excessive wind can bring discomfort, especially if we have “air” type aspects in our personal constitution (the energetics of our mind and body). When I speak of elements here, I am speaking of the qualities and states that one encounters in nature, not the physical elements we learn about in chemistry. The elements I am referring to have been delineated by ancient wisdom traditions like Ayurveda and are the basic building blocks of matter: ether, air, fire, water, and earth.
Each element has distinct characteristics which directly relate to aspects within our bodies and the world around us. Because there is no separation of humans and nature, our health is directly correlated to our ability to tune in to the world around us and work in rhythm with the elements and seasons as much as we can. What happens externally affects us internally. Understanding and working with each element can help us to achieve greater balance and therefor greater health.
The air element is the concept of motion. It occurs when Ether is given movement and direction through vibrational energy. It represents all the forces in nature that have the ability to move things like gravity, wind, propulsion, the tides, etc. Air has characteristics of lightness, dryness, subtlety, coldness, roughness, and dispersiveness. Like any element, it can bring us more in balance or more out of balance depending on our personal state by causing us to become more dry and more cold or increasing movement. This is why understanding the elements and ways to work with them is so valuable to health!
In Ayurveda, Doshas are the three energies that define every person’s makeup and are associated with particular elements. The Vata Dosha corresponds to air and cold. A person that has a lot of Vata energy will tend toward having dry skin and hair, being cold, typically have a light and wiry frame, and perhaps find it difficult to sit still. Vata’s beneficial qualities include creativity, exuberance, mental acuity, transformation, change, positivity, and flexibility. When Vata is in excess it can bring about anxiety and restlessness, an overactive mind, irregularity in moods and bodily functions, extreme cold and dryness, achy dry joints, digestive problems, etc.
Every Dosha can benefit from knowing how the elements affect us and how to help balance their energy. The Vata Dosha will be especially thrown off balance by wind, so those with a strong Vata Dosha will want to pay even closer attention to working with and managing the wind/air element in their life.
The following tips will help you to maintain balance in your body and emotions during windy weather.
- Wear something over your ears when you go outside, like a hat, hood, scarf, earmuffs, or ear warmers. It can also be helpful to wrap a scarf around your neck, mouth, and nose if the weather is cold.
- Be prepared with clothes that block the wind. A windbreaker jacket is great,or a rain jacket can be helpful even if it’s not raining because of its wind blocking properties.
- Earth and Water elements counteract the effects of wind. Taking a salt bath or use a salt scrub in the shower to help you to ground your energy and warm up.
- Practice slow and gentle stretching exercises that get you on the ground, like Yoga.
- Find stability through meditation and stillness. Taking long, deep, gentle breathes through your nose can be very grounding.
- Stay hydrated with plenty of room temperature or warm water, herbal teas, and other warm drinks. Avoid drinks with caffeine, however, since caffeine increases the wind/air element.
- Enjoy a face steam. Check out this blog post for more information on how to do steams.
- Eat warm and moist foods, like soups, stews, curries, casseroles etc. These will be especially helpful when paired with grounding foods like pasture-raised meats and root vegetables.
- Imbibe in warming spices that increase your digestive fire, like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, turmeric, ginger, etc.
- Enjoy a heating pad, one of the microwavable heating pads filled with grains, or a warm water bottle on your skin, especially in any areas you are cold.
- Offer yourself self-massage. Adding in body oils, like sesame oil or my Liquid Gold Oil can be very helpful, especially when dry, popping joints (a sign of excess air element) or achiness is involved.
Like people, herbs also have elements with which they are more closely associated. In this way, we can work with herbs that counteract the air element when we are needing to reduce the effects of wind on our body. Warming, sweet, moistening, calming, and nourishing herbs are particularly suited to balancing excess wind. Here are some herbs that can be helpful to work with:
- Tulsi – Also known as Holy Basil, Tulsi is a gently warming, pungent herb that brings a feeling of solidity and groundedness. Tulsi helps bring about more resilience by quieting the mind, focusing thoughts, and uplifting mood. Tulsi is wonderful taken as an infusion (tea). My Tulsi Chai is an excellent way to warm up and soothe the nerves on windy days!
- Milky Oats – This beautifully restorative herb is actually the seed of the oat plant harvested during the narrow window of time when it is exuding a milky white sap. Milky Oats nourishes and feeds the nervous system. It moistens, provides minerals, and creates deeper resilience when used consistently for longer periods of time. To use, the oat seed should be harvested in the green, milky stage and preserved immediately in a tincture.
- Burdock Root – Burdock produces and long, deep tap root, which is the part of the plant we use for both food and medicine. Burdock has a sweet, earthy taste which indicates it is well suited for Vata types. It is a very grounding herb. The root is excellent for aiding digestion because of its high inulin, a pre-biotic fiber that feeds the microbiome. Burdock is typically taken as a decoction (roots simmered in water for around 20 minutes). My Awaken Herbal Coffee Alternative is another great way to incorporate Burdock and other grounding herbs into your day.
- Cinnamon – This beloved kitchen spice is a warming favorite for adding to all things sweet. Interestingly, it is both astringent and demulcent, which means it can help to coat and soothe irritated membranes at the same time as toning those membranes to better keep moisture in the body. You can add ground cinnamon to foods like oatmeal, soups and stews, or warm beverages.
- Ginger – another beloved kitchen spice, ginger has an affinity for warming the digestive system in a way that can help improve motility and reduce gas and bloating. As a root, it tends to offer grounding properties like burdock and other roots. As an added bonus, it is rich in antioxidants, can help calm inflammation, and has anti-viral properties.
- Catnip – You may not have expected to see this herb here, but Catnip is an excellent herb for quelling excess air that comes in the form of nervous energy or nervous stomach. Catnip is both warming and cooling at the same time. In the digestive system, it can cool irritation, stimulate better digestion, and relieve gas pains. It has nervine and sedative properties which help to ease restlessness and calm the mind. It is wonderful in tea blends or tinctures. You can find Catnip in this beautiful Garden Nymph Tea blend.
I hope these tips help you to stay more balanced, especially when that wind tries to throw you off course! Want to share how these tips helped you, or anything else you would add here? Share in the comments.
Stay joyfully rooted,