A Blissful, Stress-Free Winter : Seasonal Health with Ayurveda.
The quiet solitude of January makes it a perfect month for deep thought, rest, and contemplation. The dark, introspective winter seems to bury all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, bringing the previous year to a complete rest. As the earth becomes frozen solid, all the animals are in deep sleep, trees and pants pull all their energy inwards and many birds have migrated to a warmer place, it is from this frozen place that us human beings can root down by also turning our energy inwards as we are not separate from all that is "nature". From this grounding and solid place then we can set our intentions for the next year.
Ayurveda teaches us that we are in fact a part of this natural environment, therefore any qualities that exist outside of us will in fact affect us on the inside and out. The rule of ayurveda is like increases like, opposites decrease. So what this means is when it is bitter cold outside everything dries out even water itself seems to have the dry qualities of Vata dosha or air elements. You can see this manifesting as dry skin, dandruff or dry skull, dry nails and even dry colon! Constipation for example is a sign of this. So since Ayurveda teaches us to balance these qualities with the opposite qualities, if we eat whole foods that are well cooked and fresh with good fats such as Ghee or coconut oil in them, these dry and rough qualities will be balanced out.
It is also important to know, this is a kapha time of the year as well. Kapha consists of the earth and water element. All the heavy snow, freezing rain makes our environment very heavy and could manifest as being sluggish. It could feel as though all has stopped and time itself seems to be sluggish, it is time to make the most of this quiet opportunity to establish new habits. The impulse to bundle up and spend more time indoors draws you naturally inward anyway. How will you focus on your spiritual growth this year? What about your physical health? Start by journaling your thoughts, revelations, and intentions for the new year. Then, discuss these ideas with those closest to you. Make a final list of changes you want to make and take a step in the right direction to implement your goals.
In every end is a new beginning, no matter how painful the transition. The sharp, biting cold of January seems to capture the bitterness of life's transitions. Then suddenly, when all seems hopeless, spring returns. It seems January's solitude and bleakness is an essential part of the process. January is a time to contemplate how God is calling you and planting the seeds of new beginnings. If you're feeling down, cheer up! It all gets better from here. To make things better and make your body stronger, try some of the following tips:
1- Use this time to snuggle up with family, get home early, cook dinner, bake, sit around as a family or with your pets or your plants and have a warm cup of tea! This practice is one of very important Vata healing practices that Charaka (the father of ayurveda) has mentioned.
2- In January, notice that fat and sweet cravings subside with the transition from Vata to Kapha season. Your body no longer needs to develop a layer of fat to insulate the skin - it already has. In honor of that impulse to eat less, fast from heavy grains and dairy to dry Kapha out the blood and get a jump start on the spring. Light grains include those with a little bit of the rough quality, such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, or buckwheat. Avoid heavy breads and wheat.
3- Sauerkraut and other sour, fermented foods were traditionally the only foods available in late winter. Enjoy them, as well as vinegars, pickles, and pickled beets. Many fermented foods are both warming and sour, which will not only create heat, but also moisten your glands and even your skin. These sour foods soften your skin, combatting dryness as they release oils with the opening of the pores. A tablespoon of red wine at night will warm the blood, move stagnant blood, and even help cleanse the liver. Vata dosha can indulge in sour cream this time of year if they still need heavier, more building foods.
4- Hot, bitter herbs such as Trikatu and Triphala will warm up the system as well as detoxifying the heavy kapha promoting a healthy bowel function. (It is best to sit with an ayurvedic practitioner for a one on one before taking any herbs). Also A teaspoon or two of Chyavanprash every morning will increase energy, immunity, and inner strength through the winter. This is a fabulous formula to boost your immunity system and you can find it at the studio. Also read the blog for a immune boosting, Ojas empowerting drink.
5- An invigorating and expansive yoga practice this winter can be surprisingly supportive of your overall wellbeing. Try Moksha flow classes, go to Ashtanga or power vinyasa class but if your Vata is still feeling ungrounded then balance that out with a gentle Yin or restorative class.
6- Mostly stay alert and joyous by starting a daily meditation routine, you can even do this while practicing yoga. Repeat a mantra like "Om, mani padme om" or simply say to yourself "by breathing in I feel joyful and happy, by breathing out I am relaxed."
7- A Pranayama technique that gets the blood flow is very helpful in the winter months. You can try "Breath of joy" or "kapalabhati breathing".
An appropriate winter season diet and lifestyle may look quite different from one person to the next, but each of us has a great deal to gain from honoring and aligning ourselves with the rhythms of nature. Adopting a personalized seasonal routine is an invaluable gift you can give yourself this winter—a long-term investment in your own health and vitality. This season, adopt a routine that will help you to fully receive the offerings that the winter season so generously showers upon us. You may find that doing so allows you to relish, rather than resent, the darkness and the quiet.