Shorter days, colder weather and less sunlight … Winter is definitely here. The combination can make your body and mind feel run down. Between cold, wet, and humid days, your Vata and Kapha doshas worsen. It is common to get constipated, develop a cough and cold, and in some cases catch the dreaded flu.
The lack of sunlight robs us of our strength. Hence, it is a great opportunity to focus on our immune systems as we prepare for the rest of the year. I recommend doing this by getting a little more rest (hard to come by at times during the holiday season) and eating richer foods that will increase your agni or digestive burns.
People with more pitta dosha will do better in winter, but understanding Ayurvedic tips on how to stay balanced during this cooler season is always helpful.
Prefer a warm, nutritious diet to calm Vata and calm Kapha.
We are basically programmed to eat more in winter. add a few pounds with no guilt. From time to time let us know what types of rich foods we choose by considering what is most nutritious and least stressful.
Enjoy a hot breakfast – porridge or oatmeal are excellent choices. Stick to plenty of rice, barley, and rye for lunch and dinner. Look for healthy oils like ghee, coconut, avocado, hemp, and olive oil. Try adding seasonal root vegetables to soups and stews, and avoiding non-seasonal foods (like salads), which are most likely to make the vata worse. End your day with hot milk and warming spices (ginger, cinnamon, cardamom).
Go ahead and add that extra spice to your life.
It’s the time of year to enjoy that glass of red wine. Not only will it relax you, but it will also do a double duty of warming your body. If you are not a wine drinker, drinking teas with various warming spices can achieve the same effect. Add more cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, cumin, turmeric, tarragon, rosemary, oregano, and cayenne pepper to your diet. A little will go a long way.
Find the D!
Because of the scarcity of sunlight in winter, look for foods high in vitamin D. Recommended dishes include salmon, tuna, cod, dairy products, eggs, mushrooms, yogurt, cheese, zucchini, and tomatoes.
There is an Ayurvedic self-massage called Abhyanga that is known to be very grounding. Try this with sesame oil to heal dry skin and improve blood circulation. Rub oil on your head to prevent dandruff, headaches, and anxiety that can come from the change of seasons. Warm baths, vapors, and saunas are also great ways to warm up the body and ward off the cold!
Get your blood moving.
Exercise is one of the best ways to stimulate sluggish digestion, regulate your metabolism, and remove toxins from your body. When we are bombarded by cold weather, the body tends to draw heat from where it is most needed, the vital organs. This means cold hands and feet: the feeling of being chilled to the bone. Vigorous exercise is recommended for repetitive movements such as sun salutations. Sun salutations are indeed an ideal way to start the day as they build warmth in the body and warm up all of the major muscles. Kappalabhati breathing exercises are also excellent for generating inner warmth and improving the digestive fire (Agni).
Rest and prepare.
December is a time to rest and reflect on the past year as we prepare for a new year. It is a good time to go inside, plant seeds, and create intentions. It’s a time to ground and find stillness, to be more introverted. Take advantage of this by giving your mind and body extra time to meditate, honoring the silence that comes with shorter days and enjoying the quiet. Sometimes shorter days are associated with seasonal depression due to the lack of light. To counteract this, meditate on the light and chant OM or another mantra that resonates with your heart!
If you catch a cold with thick phlegm: Cut down on your diet for a few days. Eat light, warm, and simple foods like soups while you rest and relax. Avoid dairy products, sweets, fried foods, and breads with yeast. This will make the congestion worse. Ginger tea is ideal for coughs and colds, especially with a little raw honey for a serving of sweetness.
May you have plenty of warmth and light as you plunge into the winter to prepare to come back rested, grounded, and healthy in the spring.
Joan’s sound teaching style creates space for students to deepen their personal journey while aligning themselves with the teachings of true yogic traditions. Joan shares her health and wellness insights frequently in national magazines and blogs, including Elephant Journal, Mind Body & Green, Yoga Journal, ORIGIN Magazine, and Women’s Health. She currently has a successful career as a Wanderlust Senior Teacher (E-RYT500), running yoga retreats, workshops and teacher training around the world while maintaining a full yoga class schedule in Los Angeles. joanhyman.com