Winter has finally arrived. Fresh air, cold wind and frosty mornings with some areas experiencing a dusting of snow. The days are short. It is difficult to get out of bed on the dark mornings.
We may have started the year full of new year's resolutions and intentions but by the end of January your enthusiasm might have diminished.
So how do you stay balanced, warm and energised during this season?
Let's will look into the ancient sciences of ayurveda and yoga for ideas to enjoy winter wellness.
When the seasons change it makes sense for your internal cycle to respond to the outer environment. According to ayurveda you accumulate the wintery qualities of cold, heaviness, stickiness, mucousy, lethargy, depression and slowness at this time. These are some of the characteristics of kapha dosha. The positive aspect of kapha is love, protection, steadiness and stability.
It is also a time of change, cold winds and maybe a sense of feeling isolated during the dark evenings. These qualities are associated with vata dosha. However a balanced vata dosha might feel creative, be great communicators and happy to move around.
Ayurveda translates to "the science of life". It links the five great elements of space, air, fire, water and earth to the creating of your unique constitution (body type) or dosha. Excess of any dosha will bring imbalance and potentially illness.
Vata: is composed by the elements of air and space. The qualities include: light, dry, cool, anxious, creative, changeable.
Pitta: the element is fire. Think of the fire of digestion, transformation, heat, being sharp, focused and clear. And potentially aggressive. Another work for fire is agni. Agni is related to your digestive fire.
Kapha: has the fluidity of water and solidity of earth. Stable, grounded and heavy. Too much makes you lethargic, depressed and perhaps mucousy.
To avoid excessive kapha and vata accumulation during winter and to stay balanced try the following ayurveda recommendations:
- Add warming spices to your food: fresh ginger is the perfect spice to counteract the cool quality and stickiness of kapha. It stimulates digestion and breaks up any heaviness. Other recommended spices include: cumin, cinnamon, pepper and cayenne.
- Enjoy warm easily digestible foods such as soups, stews and casseroles. When the food has been cooked it is easier for your digestive fire to digest according to ayurveda. With the coldness of winter your agni, digestive fire, is not in its strongest place.
- Keep active. Embrace invigorating expansive movement practise. Practise sun salutations, dance, take a brisk walk, go for ride on your bike. Exercising will warm up your system, support your blood circulation and help you to avoid stagnation.
- Stay balanced and breathe. Deep complete inhales and long relaxed exhales keep you invigorated by supplying plenty of oxygen and prana, vital energy, to your bloodstream as well as massaging your abdominal organs. An excellent yoga practise called alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana, is highly recommended to promote balance and calm. Try it here:
- Daily massage. Abhyanga is the ayurvedic principle of daily self-massage. This is a highly recommended routine for health and wellbeing - and one of my favourites. Use organic vegetable oil such as a warming sesame oil (not toasted). Alternatively use almond oil or a lighter sunflower or grapeseed oil. Warm up the oil either on the radiator or add the amount you want to use into a small cup and gently heat the cup in warm water. Before your shower apply the warm oil to your body. Concentrate on your abdomen, joints and feet. Massage your body with love. Leave the oil for 10-20 minutes before you rinse it off. Oil massage will embrace the positive aspects of kapha: being grounded, feeling loving, stability and supported.
Enjoy your winter wellness.