All around us nature is slowing down, withdrawing, going inward. This is the flavour of winter for us humans too…remember we are a part of Nature!
Winter is the season for more rest and rejuvenation, more introspection and stillness.
Ayurveda guides us to respond to the changes of the seasons for our health and wellbeing. This looks a little different for everyone.
The foods and habits to favour in winter are those that have the opposite qualities of YOUR experience of winter.
In Adelaide, winter can be cold and dry and increase Vata that shares these qualities. Or it can be cold and wet and provoke Kapha. In general Winter is a kapha provoking season with Vata secondary.
If you are naturally a quick, light and dry type of person then you are likely to experience Vata increasing during winter.
This looks like dry skin, more internal wind that buffets one’s digestion about creating bloating or cramping. Vata also makes us feel scattered and anxious.
To balance Vata in Winter you’ll need more gentle warmth in food and drinks, gentle exercise and slower activity in general.
Nourishing and grounding are key words!
If you like to go slow in the mornings, work methodically, have good stamina and a tendency to mucous production then it is likely that you have a natural abundance of Kapha which is cold, damp, heavy and inert or stable. These qualities naturally increase in Winter but, too much of these qualities will create mucous, low appetite, sluggishness in body and mind.
To balance Kapha in winter favour hotter spices, stimulating exercise and activities that increase circulation and warmth in your body. Warm, active and lightening are good key words for this body type.
Pitta, fire types are generally the most comfortable in Winter as the coolness tempers their natural heat.
In general, everyone one does well with more warmth in winter. It’s simply common sense! We wear warmer clothes, enjoy fires or heaters and eat more warm foods.
As your internal heat increases to help keep you warm during winter this also stokes your digestive fire making digestion strongest in this season. We all naturally want more richer and nutrient dense foods this season but, don’t want to overdo it by over eating or eating excess rich and heavy foods.
Always seek the balance that feels right for you! After eating you want to feel satisfied, calm, light and alert. Not heavy, dull, sleepy or with indigestion!
Increasing the use of spices during winter will support good digestion for good immunity, energy, keep mucous away a create clarity in body and mind.
Ginger, black pepper, cumin, mustard seeds and cayenne are pungent/spicy tastes which help to keep your digestion strong through winter and keep mucous production to a minimum.
If you are a Pitta / hot body type, go easy on these heating spices and enjoy more for cumin, fennel and coriander and ginger powder.
If gas and bloating is common for you, choose cumin, fennel and ginger rather than the hotter chili and cayenne which are too drying. Add ginger to warm to hot water and sip throughout the day to calm the nervous system and aid digestion.
Eating less dairy, especially cold like yogurt or icecream, less meat, pasta and bread will help prevent mucous formation. If you enjoy milk it is best to heat it before consuming. Opt for lighter cheeses like goats of cottage cheese over the harder or creamier cheeses.
Winter is the time of porridge and cooked breakfasts rather than cereals and fruit salads. Save them for Summer! Sometimes I’ll even have soup for a delicious and nutritious breakfast!
It is good to keep eating some fresh salad or steamed greens like broccoli and beans to meals to lighten the heavier aspect of winter foods. Greens are generally bitter and astringent and keep the liver and gallbladder working well.
Legumes are astringent (drying) making them a good choice for Kapha. They must be cooked and spiced well to support good digestion. Vata individuals do well with the smaller legumes such as mung beans and red lentil and more Ghee or oils to counter their dryness.
Root vegetables are grounding and building and are abundant during winter…nature provides!!
Staying active is important if you have more Kapha tendencies in winter. Excess Kapha equals feeling dull and heavy and needs the warmth and circulation that exercise creates to keep you feeling vibrant and warmer through the cold days.
Only exercise to your own capacity. If you are already rundown, prioritise rest and gentle walks instead of pushing yourself.
Lastly, as winter is naturally the slower season it is a wonderful time to cultivate more contentment. More simply being ok with what is. Less striving, pushing and doing; and more being.
Two practices help me to be more in the moment: practicing gratitude and dropping into the still space between the breathes.
I like to think of at least one thing (and often more) that I am grateful for each day. I usually do this just before I fall asleep and sometimes in between clients too. Feel gratitude drops us into the moment and tells all the cells in our body that we have all that we need. This creates ease and gentleness within. Feelings of contentment arise out of this state.
Secondly, when you breathe slowly and gently you may have noticed a gentle pause in between the breaths; especially at the end of the outbreath. I like to drop my awareness into this momentary still space, sink into it, and keep some awareness there even as I naturally breath in again.
Breathing is part of doing. This pause between the breathes is a doorway in being. I invite you to try it!
Two Ayurvedic products that are helpful in winter are Chyavanaprash and Nasya Oil.
Chayavanaprash is a jam made from more than 24 spices and herbs. The primary one is Amalaki (Indian Gooseberry) which contains the highest levels of Vitamin C than any known food. Chyavanaprash is a wonderful tonic and boost for your immunity.
Nasya oil is a herbalised Oil designed to keep the channels of the Nasal passages lubricated and open. A few drops in each nostril once or twice a day helps keep sinuses clear and awaken the brain!
Both of these wonderful products are available from my clinic in Aldgate or can be posted to your door.
I hope that these Ayurvedic tips help you stay well and warm through winter. It will be spring before we know it!