Winter Routine for the Doshas
Balance your Dosha for Winter
Jim Montrose, Ayurvedic Health Consultant, July 2018.
Winter Routine for the Doshas
Winter Balancing Your Constitution to Stay Healthy, by Jim Montrose
The Ayurvedic science of living recognizes that the change of seasons affects the health of all living beings. Certain changes in diet, behaviour and medicines are prescribed as a “seasonal ayurvedic routine” to counter the bad effects of the season and capitalize on the good effects so we stay healthy. As fall and early winter ends vata peaks with resulting dryness and nervous disorders as we then enter the coldest part of the winter where everything slows down and produces dormancy in plants. This is the season of Kapha and the dosha most affected by winter, peaking in July or August. Winter often brings kapha aggravations like allergies, colds, and congestion when the winter routine for the doshas is most needed.
The quiet solitude of winter makes it a perfect month for deep thought, rest, hibernation and contemplation an antidote to the fast paced mobility of summer and fall. As the earth becomes cold and frozen solid (in snow regions) the winter solstice brings the shortest day of the year. Enjoy resting and hibernating, but avoid complete isolation. Gather those you hold dear together for more intimate connection with potluck and true connecting.
Read on to learn how to counter winters effects and stay healthy with the Winter routine for the doshas.
Let go of the old and restart the book of your life with 365 new pages. Direct your attention inward. Establish new habits and focus on spiritual growth, physical health, anything you want to create and own. Start by journaling your thoughts, revelations, and intentions for the coming spring. Then, discuss these ideas with those closest to you. Make a final list of changes you want to make and take a step in the right direction to implement your goals.
To learn more about your own dosha take our constitution self-quiz to get a rough idea of your dosha. For help with a health issue or to get a clearer picture of your innate constitution and the current state you are displaying, schedule a constitution pulse exam with Jim, call 071 959 0786 now.
Winter routine for the doshas, Balancing for your Constitution
In winter we continue the building routines of fall mentioned in the Fall Balancing article continuing with a warming, heavier and unctuous or oily diet and the fall lifestyle choices. In late winter it generally becomes damper and signals that spring is coming. The bitter cold of winter turns watery and spring is around the corner. You may see shoots pushing up from underground. As the temperatures bottom out and begin to rise, your body shifts its strategy from building insulating fats to releasing them. The body releases fat to cleanse and prepare for the warmer weather ahead. Late winter and early spring are thus ideal seasons to start a new diet and lose weight.
As your body starts to shed the winter layer of fat, you may notice a loss of appetite which is just a sign your body is naturally purging the liver to begin loosing the extra bulk put on for winter. If Kapha is aggravated, you may experience flu-like symptoms and fatigue. Your body has started its own cleansing cycle to get you and your body ready for summer. If you lose your appetite, try fasting from grains and sugar for a few days. It is seasonal and it will help you lose winter weight and is a good time to fast as is observed by many culture at the end of winter and beginning of spring (spring cleaning and cleansing).
Winter is a time when the crops hibernate and rest until spring reawakens them, and the body leaves its fall Vata character (cool, dry, light and restless) moving to late winter Kapha character (heavy, unctuous, thick, cool, strong, slow and cloudy) attributes. So our diet and lifestyle should incorporate the opposite qualities of lighter, dry, liquid, hot, soft, quick, and clear to avoid illness and disease in food, lifestyle and the winter routine for the doshas. You may notice the slowing of your life, the desire for heavy warm foods and the resulting fullness at the end of winter. Mentally, you may feel quiet and introspective wanting to hibernate and rest.
In Chinese medicine, deep winter is considered to be the most yin time of year – a restorative time to rebuild tissues, rest, and reflect inward before you spring back into action September.
With the coming of Spring the body heats up. Fat and toxins melt away from the tissues and into the blood, often leading to congestion or lymphatic constriction. We have more mucus throughout the spring and especially during allergy season. Kapha’s heavy and oily nature reflects that of melting fat. Those with a Kapha constitution will naturally feel heavier and more sluggish in late winter (July or August). A Kapha pacifying diet with plentiful greens and sour taste can help.
It’s best to incorporate lifestyle choices that encourage pacification of Kapha that calms their heavy, slow, cool, oily and cloudy qualities through lightness, fast activity, hot, dry and stimulation in food and activity. Kapha does best with a pacifying diet composed mainly of bitter, astringent and pungent tastes limiting the sweet, sour and salty tastes. If the weather is presenting more vata with heavy drying winds and cold you may need to switch to the fall recommendations. Make sure your food is warm to hot, add some spices, well cooked, and easy to digest. Increase drying foods and a limited amount of uncooked. Don’t worry if your appetite decreases—this is a natural tendency in winter and helps you let go of the winter fat. Heating and stimulating exercises like aerobics and aerobic exercises are useful when done according to your doshas capacity (Vata light, Pitta medium and Kapha the most). Utilize oil massages and tonic foods, unless you experience fall rains where you would need to adopt more of a spring routine.
Eating more cooked foods and favouring heavier foods like nuts, root vegetables, beets (blood cleansing), bean soups, rich fulfilling dishes helps you get through winter but needs to be balanced in late winter with the need to let go of accumulated reserves and detoxify (spring cleanses are popular around the world). Some General guidelines (especially for Kapha) that favour mobility, lightness, letting go, and flexibility for your winter routine for the doshas are:
- Do a short morning routine including: rising with sunrise (7AM), brush teeth, scrape tongue, light yoga to wake and energize, breath exercises, meditation, massage (sesame oil or dry brush), and shower.
- Get outside and try to get sunlight for 15-30 minutes if possible.
- warm cooked food and drinks that emphasize bitter, pungent and astringent tastes.
- Keep yourself warm, stay close to your partner at night to stay warm and companionship to feel great.
- Ayurveda recommends increased sexual activity in the winter.
- avoid cool and frozen drinks and food.
- Keep hydrated
- Start the day with warm lemon water
- Experiment with various herbs and spices
- Start to add small amounts of raw vegetables, sour fermented foods are traditionally used in winter in many cultures and are useful.
- Try a warming tea of equal parts ginger and cinnamon; and a pinch of clove.
- Oil body with sesame oil daily
- Avoid cold wind and dampness.
- Practice calming vital energy generating exercise (yoga, tai chi).
- If Kapha becomes highly aggravated consider an Ayurvedic Panchakarma treatment to remove excess Kapha. A light fast or the Kitchiri cleanse is also good.
- Warm, bitter root vegetables such as turnips, rutabaga, or parsnips have a heartiness for winter satisfaction and gently coax your body into the natural cleansing cycle.
- Ginger, turmeric, bay leaf, cloves and black pepper will keep you warm and mobilize fluids. Cinnamon assists in maintaining good circulation and a healthy blood sugar balance. Hing, fenugreek, and black cumin are all hot bitter spices ideal for Vata and Kapha in winter. Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and black pepper all relieve congestion.
- For dessert, Kapha can enjoy lighter options such as baked pears with cardamom.
- Hibernate, reflect, and dream. Engage in creative activity.
- Good sleep is important, finish eating by sun down.
- Consider using a Neti pot and nasya oil daily to ensure clear lungs and nose.
Staying Healthy in the Winter
Ayurveda tells us we are most likely to develop a disease at the transitions between seasons. A healthy well-balanced person can usually make adjustments in food and activity to control Kapha during late winter and prepare for early spring. A strongly Vata, Pitta or Kapha person often needs to control their predominant dosha all year long. Kapha-Pitta or Pitta-Kapha individuals must control Kapha in late winter-early spring and control Pitta in late spring-early summer. Kapha-Vata and Vata-Kapha individuals need to control Vata in fall and early winter and Kapha in late winter and early spring.
The general guidelines presented above will serve the Kapha during the Winter-Spring transition to create their winter routine for the doshas, Pitta and Vata will adapt the relevant ones that make sense for the season like adapting to the cooler and wetter weather by staying dry, warm, eating warmer cooked foods and eating fresh, local, in-season produce will keeps us feeling tip top.
As the transition to early spring Kapha is predominant and a purification therapy such as Panchakarma is often recommended for Kapha. A simpler home procedure is to do a seasonal cleanse like the kitchiri mini-reboot cleanse or a juice fast. As we know, seasonal cleansing rids our bodies of all sorts of toxins, pollutants, harsh chemicals, pesticides, and any other Ama (toxic residue) that our physical body has accumulated over the winter and is an excellent addition to the winter routine for the doshas. It also helps us shed the extra weight most of us put on during winter. Seasonal purification routines help prevent disease by removing body wastes that clog the body channels. An ayurvedic counsellor can assist you with purification procedures and panchakarma when the dosha imbalance is large. As we feel the beginnings of spring and late winter leaves a spring cleanse or a mini-reboot cleanse for a day or two with a kitchiri mono-diet is recommended.
Some ideas to keep you going before the spring transition:
- Start to reduce the heavy and tonifying foods
Continue with warm foods and beverages but eat a bit lighter. Near the end of winter start to reintroduce the raw salads and bitter and astringent tastes in higher quantities to reduce mucous and weight. Reduce fat and heavy protein intakes a bit.
A powerful thing we can do for ourselves during seasonal changes or anytime is to set aside quiet time that involves no agenda. This ‘down time’ allows us to turn inward, just be, connect with stillness, experience silence, and open ourselves to our witness aspect that is our essential nature. It is through the non-active participation in quiet time each day that we integrate activity and rest into a state of balance.
· Dry brush
your body to counter late winters moisture and dampness with stimulating dry brushing. It stimulates circulation and sloughs off the old skin cells.
· Stay Warm
· Use Warm Spices
Spices such as ginger, black pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon are ideal for Kapha types.
Winter is naturally a time of more sleep and the brain actually cleans out physical debris at night, probably the most important kind of detoxification. Sleep also reduces inflammation, which is connected to a host of lifestyle disorders from heart disease and hypertension to obesity and diabetes. Try to get to sleep before 10 pm.
- Reduce inflammatory foods
Low-level chronic inflammation comes with sugar, junk food, and demanding schedules that induce tension and stress. Make an anti-inflammation lifestyle, and benefit in how you age, whether you get sick or not, and almost every other aspect of your well-being. Try on some of these options looking for less tension and more rest in your day: Reduce or eliminate fat and sugar; Eat organic natural foods; Avoid toxins in stale cooking oil and leftovers; Don’t use tobacco or alcohol; Avoid packaged food, junk food, and fast food; Reduce everyday stress; Practice yoga and meditate daily; and avoid situations that trigger toxicity like anger and anxiety.
- Mental Detoxification
Mental toxins are produced by old memories, traumas, and conditioning that gives you undesirable attitudes and habits and is often more important to remove than physical detoxification. These states produce constricted where we waste time and energy in fear, resentment, depression, victimization, attachment, and self-defense. Healing happens when you expand your awareness and meditation is an ideal way to start this and rounds out your winter routine for the doshas.
Your Seasonal Ayurvedic Routine for your Dosha
Late-winter to Spring transition, occurring from July to late August, can be navigated with awareness focusing on local, fresh and in-season produce as important parts of the winter routine for the doshas . Start to add steamed or stewed fruits and more root vegetables. Kapha spices like: ginger, black pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon. In late winter, the Kapha dosha becomes the most pronounced. So our diet and lifestyle should incorporate the opposite qualities of lighter, dry, liquid, hot, soft, quick, and clear to avoid illness and disease in our winter routine for the doshas.
Lifestyle choices include: Avoid exercising too much, loud noises and music. Yoga practices like alternate nostril breathing, forward bends, vajrasana, spinal twists, pavan muktasana and corpse (shavasana) are all good. Adopt a routine and stick to it. Dress in warm clothing as need and bring some color to break the monotony of the cold season. Invite warmth into your mind, body, and relationships, and create frequent opportunities for fun and laughter. Maintaining a predictable routine will help keep vata in balance this winter and kapha will benefit from keeping things fresh and a bit unpredictable, so do your best to strike an appropriate balance for yourself.
The lengthening days exhilarate Pitta and Vata types to get moving and dive into spring projects. Prepare for the spring – plan your garden, start your seedlings, get your bicycle tuned up, and clean out your home. Kapha people, on the other hand, may still feel sleepy, heavy, and dull. They can kick start the spring with some invigorating breathing exercises and gentle stretching.
On cold, dry days, continue with abhyanga using a dosha appropriate oils. As the weather warms up, dry brushing is preferred for Kapha, as it is more invigorating and moves stagnant lymph more effectively. Exercise is another great way to move stagnant lymph. Walking, hiking, biking, and workouts at the gym are all great ways to lighten up and metabolize that winter layer of fat. This constant awareness of the conditions and shifting between the fall and winter balance creates the ideal winter routine for the doshas.
Use a neti pot daily to flush excess Kapha from the respiratory system. Avoid daytime naps and continue to get to bed by 10pm. You’ll notice you need less sleep than in previous months.
Kapha, Winter routine for the doshas
Late winter and early spring is a watery Kapha season of warming temperatures lasting from July to late-August. Outside, the winter snow melts, making the rivers full and muddy. As temperatures become slightly warmer, the sap starts to run in the vasculature of maple trees. Our internal landscape reflects that of Mother Nature.
Pitta, Winter routine for the doshas
The release of winter fat puts extra strain on the liver, a primary organ of fat metabolism. A congested liver in late winter can make Pitta individuals feel especially frustrated. To release this frustration, aromatic herbs such as peppermint can relieve stagnation in the liver and tension throughout the body. Favor foods with sour & bitter taste, which will decongest the liver and provide relief.
Vata, Winter routine for the doshas
Late winter and early spring are easier, as warming temperatures and increasing moisture soothe Vata’s cold and dry tendencies. Since putting on fat is such a struggle for Vata individuals, their bodies won’t have much leftover to release into the bloodstream. The main thing Vata folks will need to do in late winter is keep warm. Light is returning! Notice that the sun rises a bit earlier and stays in the sky a little later.
Ayurvedic Diet for Late winter/Spring
Late winter as your body transitions out of winter and into spring, so foods that balance both are needed in your winter routine for the doshas. Vata will continue to favor hearty ingredients on cold days – so don’t lock up the root cellar yet. Potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, and carrots are all still on the menu whenever the temperature dips. To these hearty ingredients, add sour tasting and bitter foods to gently cleanse the liver.
In terms of grains, buckwheat and rye are ideal. Both provide the warmth and body needed for winter, but are diuretic and drying for Spring. However, you may have an aversion to grains, meat, and the sweet taste in general as your body is seeking to release fats instead of building them. In fact, food seems to lose its appeal altogether as Spring approaches. It’s generally a time to begin a Kapha pacifying diet.
Pungent tastes increase your circulation for cleansing. So spice it up – add more kick to your meals. This is an ideal time of year to turn up the heat (hot Indian food, Mexican food, etc.). Pungent spices boost metabolism and clear out congestion. Cumin is an ideal spice offering natural warmth and dryness. Kapha and Vata types can break out the cayenne and chilis to fire up digestion and shake off any remaining winter sluggishness. Tumeric also tops the list for the late winter/spring. Its warming and cleansing properties are a perfect fit for the turn of season. Turmeric improves circulation and thins the blood, cleansing the lymphatic system as well as all the vessels and tissues. Its ability to move the blood dries dampness and increases heat.
While most bitters are cold, fenugreek is a hot bitter. Fenugreek stokes the fire, driving out cold and damp. This makes it perfect for winter’s end. You can simply add it to your cooking, teas, or to your herbal formula. Fresh ginger is a mild detoxicant and digestive that’s sure to break up your winter congestion and keep your blood moving.
Beets, beans & greens are good additions and are wonderful for the season. Beets are the ideal food for late winter sustenance and cleansing. Light yet hearty, beets are cholagogues, which means they flush the liver and gallbladder of bile. They offer a healthy remedy to a congested spring liver. Chickpeas and black beans make especially good choices for late winter/spring as their fiber-rich content encourages healthy elimination. Eat your greens – kale, collards, spinach, and chard are all mild bitters that are hearty enough for winter but cleansing enough for early spring. Broccoli is also a good vegetable choice.
Pickled garlic is a good addition to your menu, and one way to get both sourness and pungency. The sourness of vinegar cleanses the liver while garlic moves stagnant blood. Lemons are another great cholagogue for February. Add them on top of your dishes to promote spring detoxing. Another way to encourage purification is to do the kitchiri mini cleanse.
Minimize fats and sweets – you likely won’t want them anyway (at least when your bodies natural guidance kicks in as you restore balance).
Shilajit is an invigorating and powerful rejuvenative that completely dispels late winter sluggishness. It has a strong cleansing action as well. Kapha individuals can use it to increase metabolism. Use Trikatu spice for upper respiratory congestion in February. It will warm your chest and liquefy mucus.
Vata types will do well with sour herbs which are mildly cleansing to the liver yet also nourishing. Amalaki is said to stimulate the production of red blood cells, enhance cellular regeneration, increase lean body mass and support proper function of the liver, spleen, heart, and lungs. It improves the digestive fire, maintains a healthy blood sugar level, and is a rich, natural source of antioxidants. As a detoxicant, it assists internal cleansing and rejuvenation, and is also balancing to all three doshas.
The winter blahs are not all in your head! Shifting seasons, less daylight, and colder weather lead to more time spent indoors, and a tendency to be less active can push your mood, hormones, and mindset out of balance. The cooler temperatures and darker days of winter can leave you feeling less energetic, cause an irregular appetite, impact your sleep, and make you feel down during the winter months. To compensate synchronize your body with the seasons for your winter routine for the doshas:
- Allow Yourself to Rest
- Let the Sunshine In, is especially important. Open drapes, take a morning walk in the sun.
- Focus on Your Breath, another important winter activity complete belly and chest breathing with invigorate, rejuvenate and drive the blues away.
Adopt a Winter Seasonal Ayurvedic Routine for Health!
Put this information to use immediately by choosing the foods and activities that balance you this winter to make your winter routine for the doshas. No matter what dosha you are stay with fresh, local and in-season foods which naturally provide the nutrients your body needs for the season you are in. If you are a Vata or Pitta follow the general guidelines and add a few of the Kapha balancing spices and foods to your cooking and reduce Kapha mucous producing and aggravating foods. Continue to use heavier, warming and oily foods to strengthen your body for winter and stay warm, but watch the weight gain (especially Kaphas) and do not overdo.
If you are a Kapha follow the Kapha guidelines and counter the cold and humid affects of the season. Increase the warm spicy tastes, wake before sunrise, avoid naps and stay active to counter the desire to hibernate.
This winter, shift your mindset and use this as a time of renewal and re-energizing. Choose one or two new habits and pay attention to how your mind and body feel. By paying attention to your daily rhythms and staying grounded and in touch with nature, you can emerge refreshed and renewed with a positive perspective come spring!
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P.S. Make an appointment for your individualized Winter Detox Plan Now or an overall assessment and Ayurvedic balancing, email or call Jim at 071 959 0786. Consider our On-Line Ayurvedic Balancing course to master your balance.
Copyright July 2018