Withstanding Winter With Ayurveda

Jun 21, 2013 | Ayurveda

Today, here in Australia, marks the shortest day of the year – the Winter Solstice. It is a transitional time moving from Autumn, ruled by the Vata dosha, into the Kapha season of Winter. Many of us will still be experiencing the effects of the Vata qualities, and due to this we may need to maintain our Vata pacifying practices for a little longer. However, at this time we can generally start to integrate some simple steps into our daily living, bit by bit, to manage the dominance of Kapha creeping up.

In the Vata season of Autumn, the qualities which rule are those of air, space, light, cold, mobile, rough, and dry. We are most susceptible to dry coughs and colds, asthma, fatigue, dry skin, constipation, and more. If you are managing any of these, then maintain a routine that supports pacifying the Vata dosha for a little while longer.

With regards to Winter, as Kapha begins to dominate, we are more inclined to catch the flu, have a lot of mucus in the chest or nose, or end up with pharyngitis. We may also become more sluggish in energy. It is when nature slows down, and we also naturally slow down also. Winter is associated with clouds, cold temperatures, and snow. In line with this, Kapha’s qualities are cold, wet, oily, heavy, and sticky.

Ayurveda teaches us that we are all unique individuals, and therefore our daily routines will vary according to our individual dosha (prakruti), our current state (vikruti), the season, and where we live in the world. Some of us live in climates that offer a much milder winter, and others will experience strong winter weather with snow, heavy cloud, and freezing temperatures. If your climate is rather mild, you may experience the influence from Vata more noticeably, so it is important you are very present and aware of the messages your body is sending you.

Keep in mind also, if your constitution is Vata dominant (that’s me), there will most likely be that influence in the early parts of winter. If you are someone with a dominant Kapha constitution (my husband), it is almost certain that the symptoms of a Kapha dominance is creeping up on you right now!

TIPS to withstanding Winter…

  1. Stay warm. Ensure that the head and neck is always protected from the cold air.
  2. Start to cut back on dairy products, which are heavy and mucus forming. Use non dairy milks where possible (always avoid soy). Goats milk and cheese is ok.
  3. Avoid cold drinks, ice cream, yoghurt, cheese, deep fried food, bananas, melons, and coconuts.
  4. If you are a meat eater, stick to white meat only, preferably chicken breast.
  5. Eat warm, cooked, digestible food – curries, stews, soups, steamed vegetables, basmati rice, dahl, kitchari, etc.
  6. Use spices in all of your cooking – turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, etc. And particularly use invigorating spices such as dry ginger, a little chilli, cayenne pepper, and black pepper towards late Winter.
  7. HYDRATE. Drink a lot of warming teas. Never drink anything cold. Sip warm water throughout the day.
  8. Get out in the sunshine as often as possible – to keep warm, get your vitamin D, and to boost the immune system.
  9. Allow your (daily) yoga practice to be very warming. A Vata pacifying practice should incorporate stillness and strength, holding poses for a longer period of time. A Kapha pacifying practice should be more vigorous, flowing continuously, to get the blood and heavy energy moving.
  10. Sleep more. Yes, you have permission! This is the one time of year that it is ok to go to bed earlier, and sleep in a little. However, be sure to awake by 7am (yes that is a sleep in folks), and keep your morning routine of tongue scraping, teeth brushing, exercise, etc.
  11. Cook your greens (lightly) – spinach, chard, kale, etc. Add them to your kitcharee, soups, and curries.
  12. Repair dry, cracked skin with a weekly oil massage, using cold-pressed black sesame oil – be sure to warm the oil before application.
  13. Early winter, use warmed nose drops (nasya) to lubricate. In late Winter, irrigate the nasal passages with Jala Neti (salt water cleansing of the nose).
  14. Dress in warming hues. Get out of your black and grey. Get into vibrant orange, red, and yellow!
  15. Make time for more personal connections with others. Invite your friends over, light a couple of candles, cook up a nourishing meal, sip some masala chai tea, and enjoy relaxing conversations with other inspiring and peaceful folk.

Have any timeless tips you apply to your daily live to maintain your health and wellness throughout Winter? Share you insights in the comments below – you might just help someone else too!

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