Ayurvedic winter practices to add to your daily routine
11th March 2020
In many parts of the world, winter is a cold and damp month, and can be challenging for Vata doshas particularly. Winter is a predominantly Kapha season, with the cold, damp, heavy qualities that come with cool air, rain or snow, and cloudy days. With every season, we have the opportunity to connect and balance with the natural world that we all share, and notice how the season can serve us in our own journey towards balanced health and wellbeing. Ayurveda teaches us that like increases like, and opposites balance, and this holds true with our daily winter practices that can support us in maintaining our health this season.
Why does the climate within which we live affect our health?
The qualities of cold, hot, dryness and damp affect the taste of the air, food and water; together with our general mood and energy. The reason why we are affected by these changes is that they affect our internal environment, and our body changes its physiological mechanisms to compensate.
Our body does not like to be “jerked around” with dramatic changes, be it temperature, environmental, emotional, or physical. With dramatic temperature changes, for example, going from a warm day to a very cold one, and vice versa (as happens during the transition days between seasons), we notice this is when we experience illness and seasonal colds as our body tries to adapt and compensate for these dramatic external changes.
The best way to understand seasonal patterns is to observe the world around you. Take a look at your immediate environment: What is it like today? Is it cold, hot, dry or damp?
Staying healthy through the changing seasons means staying one step ahead. We can do this by anticipating how the changing environment will affect us, and making provision for this before that change occurs. Winter is a predominantly Kapha season.
Simple ayurvedic winter practices to add to your daily routine.
Cloak yourself in warm, cozy apparel. Staying warm is an obvious instinct in winter months, but this extends even to our indoor habits. Wrapping your neck with a scarf, cozying up in flannel sheets, wearing wool socks and base layers can keep our body warm and balanced especially if we find ourselves going inside and outside multiple times per day. This limits the extreme temperature fluctuations our body experiences, thus maintaining a more homeostatic internal balance. This practice is especially helpful for Vata’s, who tend to be more sensitive to cold temperature changes.
Balance internally with warmth: Heat is the balance to cold. Drinking circulatory supporting herbal teas such as Three Ginger, Revitalize, and Lemongrass Ginger are all excellent ways to warm up our internal body. Limit cold beverages during winter months as this dampens our digestive fire.
Nourish your skin: Warm oil massages are the ideal winter body care for vata’s this time of year. A warm oil massage with sesame oil is grounding, stimulating to our circulation, moving, warming, and extremely replenishing to dry skin. Although there is dampness outdoors, our skin may feel dry and itchy due to the heat we surround ourselves with. Topical oil massage is an ideal way to balance Vata until spring arrives and keep our skin glowing and nourished.
Rest, rejuvenate, & slow: Although winter is a popular time for resolutions and change, Ayurvedically this is perhaps the worst season to embark on too much change. Look around you. The earth is hibernating, sleeping, rejuvenating, and resting. This, too, should be how our body responds to the winter months, through hibernation, slowing down, and deeply connecting with our routines and grounding practices. Consider setting and implementing your resolutions until you at least see some buds on the trees and flowers poking through the earth.
Avoid cold and raw foods + add oils and spices - Cold, damp and raw foods can all potentiate further imbalance in winter months. Instead, focus on warming soups and stews with gently moving spices like fennel, cardamom, ginger, lemongrass, cinnamon and cumin. Grounding vegetables such as roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash and lightly cooked hardy greens like collards and spinach are all balancing this time of year. This is an especially good season to use oils such as sesame, olive, avocado and ghee in cooking.
Don’t deprive yourself: Our body needs extra nourishment in winter, especially through calorically dense and nutrient rich foods. Avoid dieting, cleansing, or limiting your diet too much during this time, as we need to make sure we have the nutrient reserves our body needs to make it through winter and into spring.
Pukka Teas for Winter Support
Look at what’s going on in the environment around you. Is it a cold, wet, and cloudy day? Is it a brisk, windy, and bright day? Connect with your senses and intuition and reach for the tea that’s calling to you. These are some formulas that are particularly ideal for supporting our health in the winter season:
Written by Pukka Herbs US Herbal Expert, Lindsay Kluge