The ancient science of Ayurveda holds that health is maintained through balance, both within our individual mind-body configuration (known as our dosha) and our personal balance with the larger environment. And this has repercussions throughout the year, since as the seasons change, so does our balance.
As we move from fall into winter, or winter into spring, our mind-body constitution is challenged to maintain internal balance.To maintain health year-round, Ayurveda suggests we modify our diet and lifestyle according to the season. I personally have found Ayurveda to be the highest science of nutrition, and I try to follow Ayurveda’s seasonal recommendations. How does Ayurveda recommend we care for ourselves in winter? Let’s take a look.
Ayurvedic self care in winter
In the winter, “Vata” energy predominates. This is a cold, fast-moving, drying energy (think of wind, air and space). Winter is cold and dry time; thus Ayurveda recommends hot, nourishing cooked foods and warming drinks such as soups and stews, hot milk with honey, and turmeric, along with warm environments (a cozy fire, layered clothing), and other interventions that are warm, moistening, and calming (think sesame oil massages).Here are my favorite top 10 Ayurvedic self care tips for maintaining balance through the winter.
1. Get regular. Avoid the winter winds of change by developing a regular daily routine—regular times to eat, work, exercise, meditate, and sleep.
2. Rest up. Get a bit more rest by going to bed early (9:30 to 10:00) and getting up before dawn.
3. Heat up. Stay warm and moist with hot and cooked, soupy foods. The easy to digest mung dhal kitchari is one of my favorites.
4. Increase your oil intake. Favor heavier foods with more healthy oils, such as ghee, sesame and olive oils, nuts, and seeds.
5. Moisturize. Speaking of oil, indulge every few days in a warm sesame oil massage to maintain your skin’s oils and fight off dryness. I do this just before my shower daily, it keeps my skin moist and calms my nervous system.
6. Downplay stimulants. Limit stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine-containing beverages and late-night TV.
7. Breathe deeper. Calm your nervous system with gentle deep-breathing exercises enjoyed during the day.
8. Meditate. It’s good to do this daily in the morning upon arising and before dinner. While 20 minutes twice a day is ideal, even a few minutes “mind quieting” helps reduce mental stress.
9. Get outdoors. Exercise outdoors regularly, hopefully in the sunlight. If bitter cold and ice make even a short walk unreasonable, stepping outside few minutes in the bracing air each day (followed by some indoor activity) is a good alternative.
10. Spice things up! Use vata-balancing spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and fenugreek for flavoring teas and foods. For a warm mug of Ayurvedic goodness, try my recipe for Winter Warming Tea.
Winter Warming Tea
¼ tsp cardamom pods
¼ tsp ajwan or caraway seeds
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 cup fresh water
Add all ingredients except water and cinnamon stick to tea infusion basket. Place basket in a large mug. Boil water and pour in mug, covering the basket. Place cinnamon stick in mug. Steep for 3 minutes. Remove infusion basket and cinnamon stick. Allow to cool slightly and enjoy.