Aaahh. Take a long, deep breath. Winter is here!!! Winter is the season when the earth’s energy withdraws back into herself as nature slows down and starts embracing a long, dark season of slumber and dormancy. There is a particular stillness that characterizes winter, and with it comes a subtle invitation to redirect our own thoughts and energies.
In Ayurveda, winter is considered a kapha and vata season, as it is characterized by cold weather, a sense of heaviness, and dryness. At the start of winter vata(Air and Space) is still dominant and slowly gives way to kapha (Water and earth) …….Now that we are in the middle of winter, welcome to the season of kapha. When balanced, kapha supplies strength, vigor, and stability to both body and mind. This subtle energy is responsible for lubricating the joints, moisturizing the skin, and maintaining immunity. But in excess, it can lead to sluggishness, mucus-related illnesses, excess weight, and negative emotions such as attachment, envy, and greed.
Ayurveda tells us that our bodies don’t exist in isolation to the external world. They are, instead, a part of it, integrated with it, and depend on it for our health and well-being. In this age, however, we live in such a separate state from nature that we’ve forgotten the natural and instinctual ways in which to nourish ourselves. The seasons play a big part on how life is governed on earth and they serve to inform us on what changes need to be made in our diets and lifestyle. Different seasons bring about an increase in different elements. They also bring about different crops from the earth; these crops are meant to be consumed as per the season in order to nourish us and also to safeguard us against the harsher aspects of the season. The guidelines and observances for seasons are known as Rithucharya (Rithu – seasons, Charya – disciplines) or seasonal disciplines. In south Africa the seasons take on more or less the following dates:
Summer – 1 December to 29th February
Autumn – 1 March to 31 May
Winter – 1 June to 31 August
Spring – 1 September to 30th November
Considering the Ayurvedic principle that opposite values are complimentary; vata/kapha season Winter (Cold, Heavy, Slow, Oily, Slimy, Smooth, Dense, Soft, Sticky) can be balanced nicely if we follow practices and routines that are filled with warmth, intensity, sunlight, introspection, planning, meditative reflection, and vision. It is also a time of joy, rest, thanksgiving and sharing
Winter and Diet
Your limbs stay chilled as your body prioritizes keeping your core warm, shunting blood flow to extremities and skin. Because of this concentration of warmth, your digestion is strong enabling you to process the richer foods you crave. Eating Ayurvedically for winter involves balancing and placating both Vata and Kapha – to help you thrive in the winter months.
- Spices for the winter include:
- Black Pepper
- Root vegetables
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables
- Coconut oil
- Cooked Grains
- Cream of Wheat
- Hot water and / or hot drinks
- Hearty Soups cooked with either ghee or coconut oil
We should generally try to keep away or limit the consumption of:
- Raw foods
- Raw juices
- Cold Foods
- Dry foods (Crisps etc)
- Dairy products
- Frozen foods
- White Potatoes
- Dried fruit
One of the easiest ways to support Vata and Kaph during this season is in sticking to a daily routine (Dinacharya) Four simple practices that I follow are:
- Waking up at a set time every morning (usually a little later than in other seasons – Between 6am to 7am)
- Nasya (placing two drops of sesame oil in each nostril)
- Oil Pulling
- Abhyanga (applying sesame oil on the body – 5 mins) before taking a hot shower
Waking up just before sunrise: If you set time for your day by waking up early you can really calm down the nervous system and keep it in rest and digest mode. Waking up later gives you less time to prepare for the day and activates the sympathetic nervous system (getup and go /fight or flight) and depletes the adrenals before the day is through leaving you tired, needing a pick-me-up before the day ends.
Nasya: Putting two drops of sesame oil in the nostrils each day, dilates, nourishes and oleates the channels responsible for communication to and from the sinuses and the brain. It lubricates the nasal passages, preventing allergies. Repeated use relieves tension from the neck, head and shoulder area. It gives more mental clarity and calms down the nervous system, preventing ailments like migraines in the long run and keeps the nervous system functioning at optimal levels.
Oil Pulling: Helps to reduce inflammation and reduce gum disease. Removes bad breath. Prevents cavities from forming and lubricates the channels responsible for communication in the head region.
Abhyanga: You can calm your nervous system, awaken your tissues, and ground your energy by massaging your skin with warm, organic Sesame Oil. Because of its highly penetrative properties, sesame oil is the oil of choice when applying on the body. It nourishes the tissues and helps to expel toxins from deep within the body, on a cellular level, over time.
Exercise is one of the best ways to support optimal physical and mental health through the winter months. If vata is predominant we will follow a slow, gentle, and strengthening exercise routine. On the other hand, if kapha is the more predominant with heavy, cloudy weather, and rain or snow—you will want to push yourself physically, increasing both the duration and intensity of your workout. The best times to exercise during winter are between 6am and 10am or 6pm and 10pm.