When the seasons change, we must change. Even the smallest shifts (with the help of Ayurveda) can make all the difference for a healthy winter season.
While those who love the cold, snow, and winter sports look forward to crisp air and chilly temperatures, many others dread the onset of winter. The long months of cold mean less light, flu season, and unbearable cold. Finding ways to stay healthy and keep the light and positive energy flowing can be a challenge.
Understanding Ayurvedic holistic lifestyle practices, though, can improve circulation, energy, and digestion during the winter; which will also help to ward off illness. Ayurveda is a quest for a holistic lifestyle rooted in meditation with the intention of bringing peace to the body, mind, and spirit.
Alan Marks, CEO, Maharishi Ayruveda said, “As we move into winter, that’s vasa season, changes in the seasons result in changes to balance.” According to Ayurveda, “every individual is a unique combination of Vata, pitta, and kapha are mind-body attributes, or doshas.” said Marks.
The doshas—your predominant combination of these three attributes,—when out of balance, can impact your health. Marks said, “There is this paradigm in western medicine that says, there is something wrong with your body, let’s fix it.”
Ayurveda suggests that disease is a symptom of the body being out of balance. “If you bring the body back into balance,” Marks said, “the symptoms of disease start to go away. Sickness and disease takes on a very different meaning.” (Check out these links if you wish to learn more about Prakriti—your general underlying nature or Vikriti—your current state of balance).
As the season changes, so too does the delicate balance of an individual’s doshas. Making slight changes to daily habits and diet can help to restore balance and return that sense of equilibrium to the body, mind, and spirit.
In the months leading up to winter, when the weather starts to change, “Vatas start to change and go out of balance. They are cold and can’t get warm,” said Marks who suggested it’s a good time to get additional rest. “Wear socks at night, nice heavy blankets. Eat foods that are easy to digest. All health starts in the gut,” said Marks.
Jen Ryan, owner, The Yoga Loft agreed. “I can’t get warm in the winter,” Ryan said, “so like to spend a lot of time in the sauna and be aware of spending a little more time taking care of myself.”
Some ways that you can nurture your body and spirit in the winter are habits that will help to improve circulation and rid your body of toxins. “Warming sesame oil for Abhyanga, or self massage, helps to stimulate nerves and nourish the skin with oils,” said Ryan. Scraping the tongue, said Ryan, is a daily habit that is enormously beneficial though, “a little disgusting if you aren’t used to it.”
Because all disease comes from the gut, the ama, or build up of unwanted matter, collects on the tongue during sleep. “Scraping three times from front to back with a tongue scraper will get rid of all of that build up,” Ryan said.
What changes should we be making to our diet for a healthy winter season?
Marks warned that while people often think that they are eating healthier when they are eating raw foods, they are demanding a lot from their digestive systems because raw foods are more difficult to digest. “Start the day with warm tea, and avoid foods that are raw, crunchy, or hard to digest,” said Marks.
“Ayurveda tells us to be mindful to stay away from cold salads and sandwiches this time of year as these will only work with the weather outside to dry your body and douse your agni (digestive capacity),”said holistic health coach, Sarah Ann Stewart. “Your winter diet should definitely include hot soups, clean proteins, and organic vegetables roasted in healthy oils like walnut, olive, and coconut.”
Because midday is the best time to fuel your body for optimal and easy digestion, lunch should be the biggest meal of the day. Try to consume foods that are easy to digest. “Lunch and dinner could include warm chicken soup or wild caught salmon if you eat meat. Otherwise stick to flavorful lentil dahl or hearty squash soups. If you’re in the mood for dessert, be sure to keep the fire going in digestive system with warm stewed fruits,” said Stewart.
Herbal supplements offer a variety of health benefits. When taken in combination with a healthy diet, these and other Ayurvedic spices can strengthen the immune system and ward off disease.
“Chyavanprash,” Stewart said, “is a delicious herbal jam that builds the body tissue to prevent against colds. It’s made from amalaki, the most vitamin C-rich fruit, and about 30 Ayurvedic herbs that prevent against colds, stress, and exhaustion.”
Experimenting with spices to make your own teas can be a fun way to warm the body and enhance the mind through the winter season. Stewart suggested, “Homemade turmeric tea is used as an antibiotic and can be easily made with ingredients already in your kitchen. Simply boil a cup of water with a half teaspoon of turmeric and a splash of coconut milk for a nourishing drink that prevents against respiratory tract infections.”
What are some Ayurvedic suggestions for keeping a healthy mind and spirit through this winter season?
“Meditation,” said Stewart, “is important year-round for maintaining a healthy mind and spirit, but the serenity of winter helps us dive even further within our souls.” Because much of nature goes into hibernation during these cold month, “It’s a prime opportunity to tap into your introverted side and explore what you can learn from the quiet. Schedule extra time to sit in stillness,” said Stewart.
Ryan also suggested connecting the body and spirit through the practice of yoga. “Hot yoga will obviously warm the body, but there are other poses that focus on circulation and firing up different parts of the body,” Ryan said. “Tortoise pose is one of my favorite winter poses,” she continued.
What are some Ayurvedic practices that can help to bring couples closer together this winter?
Date nights spent cooking dinner together and snuggling up under a warm blanket for a movie will help to kindle the physical connectedness of a couple. Ryan said that she and her husband set Tuesday nights aside as their date night, “and sometimes we don’t even go anywhere. I just get dressed up in my jeans and heels and we cook dinner together,” she said.
Laughing together is also one way to warm the body and the soul. Stewart recommends choosing a funny movie or even going to a comedy show. “Not only will these fun activities fight off the winter blues,” Stewart said, “They will help you open up to your partner and help establish warmth in your relationship.”
Since the winter months demand that we make choices to return balance and equilibrium to our spirits and bodies, it’s also a good time to examine the balance in a relationship. Stewart said, “Taking time to ‘clean house’ and figure out what is and is not working will improve your relationship tenfold. Because you have more time to rest, you will be more likely to listen in to your partner and really make changes that will last!”
[image: via shutterstock]