Your Body in Winter
Winter is the time of dark. It is a good time to face your own darkness and the physical and mental triggers it provokes. This is the ideal time to create and develop new habits. It is natural to hibernate and sleep longer, the digestion is activated and is stronger which allows us to eat more heavy warming food and help us with winter’s less active lifestyle.
It’s a great time to relax, enjoy, plan for next year’s renewal during spring and set your aspirations for the spring thaw. The cold, dark, and rainy days can make you sluggish and drive you to cuddle up in bed. It’s very important to bundle up and stay warm; consider wearing a hat to stop the great loss of heat from the exposed head.
Stay connected with friends and loved ones to stay lively and emotionally involved. Rest, reflection and slowing down are the order of the day. This is an ideal time to contemplate and soul-search.
Eating a healthy diet based on Ayurvedic principles helps us appreciate the winter — a season of bountiful vegetables, hot beverages, and traditional sweets.
The drop in the temperature intensifies the digestive fire (jatharagni in Ayurveda) which helps in digesting foods rich in fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates.
Wintertime is particularly challenging for our physical and mental strength. Many of the season’s symptoms, such as the common cold, cough and shortness of breath are caused by the accumulation of too much Vata and Kapha.
The Vata winter (dry, cold, isolated, and rough) is less aggravating when antidoted with the opposite characteristics; that is to keep warm, hydrated, moisturized (great time for sesame oil massage), and connect with others and be aware that it affects Vata decisiveness and anxiety so do a few alternate nostril breaths, make decisions anyways, and reduce stress.
Additional tips: slow down, follow a schedule for stability, time away from devices, warm baths, or saunas, spend time in sun daily, if possible, in morning hours. A light slow paced 30–40-minute strengthening and stretching routine is great for exercise. Exercise from 6am to 10am (Kapha time). It is important to balance out the Vata dosha otherwise you’ll end up feeling isolated and depressed. Continue to socialize to avoid isolation.
The Kapha winter (cold, wet, dark, heavy, and sluggish), what we are experiencing right now at the ranch, is less aggravated by emphasizing characteristics of staying active, waking up, keeping the digestion high with bhastirki breath, pungent spices, and avoid real heavy mucous producers like dairy, cheese, meat, refined sugars, etc.
Additional tips: follow an organized routine, stick to daily goals, do some exercise, and occasionally, give yourself freedom to break your routine, and spend time in the morning sun. The Kapha can benefit from long invigorating and challenging workouts. Exercise from 6am to 10am (Kapha time). Winter’s lethargy needs to be balanced with activity.
Braving the winter season
Rich foods, shallow breathing and lack of fluid circulation can cause buildup of toxins. Chilled to the bone, Vata types might become too deficient and vulnerable to disease and flu. Kapha types might overshoot their need to build protective layers of fat, creating ripe conditions for thick mucus and feeling sleepy. Winter is often accompanied with the flu, nausea and a Kapha type acid reflux. Late Winter can lead to over buildup of mucus and toxins if we eat too richly and overdo sweets.
Read on to learn how to embrace simple hacks that keep you warm, focused, healthy, and productive this winter with a balancing daily routine.