As we dive deeper into the cold, dry, windy winter, we use ayurveda to adapt to each season by cultivating opposite qualities. Taking into consideration that not everyone lives in the mountains like I do (yes Florida, I’m talking to you), you will have to assess which qualities of this vata season affect you the most during the winter and adjust your diet and lifestyle a tad to alleviate any little imbalances you may experience.
First, let’s tackle the obvious…staying warm! We are quite outdoorsy in the mountains, so having good clothing, hats, scarves, sweaters and layers of clothes is important to battle cold quality. Try to go outside when the sun is high, pitta time, from 10am-2pm. Other tips for staying warm include:
- Eating warm, cooked, soft foods like soups and stews
- Spice foods with cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, cumin, saffron, ginger, coriander, mint and if your digestion can go spicier, use cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, ajwain, hing, chili pepper, more ginger, and of course just about any other spice is good. Just be cautious if you have too much heat in your digestive system that you stick with the first 8 spices.
- Protect the ears from cold and wind with a good hat
- Treat yourself to a little extra heat in the house if you enjoy it
- Have a fire in the fireplace or let the dogs in the bed…get cozy
- Generate heat from exercise or yoga…sun salutations are great. I love the Hugger Mugger Tapas Original 74 in. Long Mat for these because it’s sticky to prevent sliding, and I really enjoy a long mat for any type of vinyasa flow yoga.
- Internally heat up from a pranayama like kapalabhati or bhastrika, or breathe only through the right nostril
The mountains seem to be dry all year round, but it may cause more problems with the cold. Be sure to get enough oils in foods, such as using ghee or adding olive oil to cooked meals. Enjoy more unctuous foods like avocados, squashes, nuts and seeds, dairy, whole grains and oils. If you’re a carnivore, go for oilier meats instead of too much turkey or chicken.
Begin a self-massage practice a couple of times a week. Heat up a glass jar of oil and massage it into your skin for about 10 minutes before your shower. You can even heat up the bathroom with some hot shower steam before you begin. Try sesame oil if you feel cold often, or coconut oil if you run hot. Or just use sunflower oil if you’re not really sure. But get some oil on you. This is one of the best practices you can do!
Oil the crown of your head and the feet before you go to sleep. You may need to wear socks to bed until the oil soaks up. Eventually you may just come to appreciate sheets with a little oil on them. Almond oil is a really nice one to try as I don’t find it as sticky and it’s warming.
Use oils for skincare instead of commercial products. Use ghee for delicate areas like eyes, nose or even the hands or heels if they are flaking. Use a little coconut or almond oil after your shower, but only after you are completely dry. You can look for boutique ayurveda companies that sell these types of products too, if you want to try things with fragrances, special blends or something fun and new!
Invest in a nice humidifier. As we turn up the heat to stay warm (unless you’re super lucky to have radiant heat in your home home) the air dries out. Add a little calming fragrance such as basil, orange, geranium, clove or rose to the water if you like. Your animals will be happier, and your plants will be perkier. And your vata energy will feel much better.
Finally let’s touch on the mobile quality of the season. This is the wind, movement, going places, doing things. In order to reduce mobile, we need to find calming stability. This may include things like:
- Reduce travel
- Get enough sleep
- Slow down, relax, take a breather
- Do things intentionally instead of just going where the wind blows
- Do yoga, weight-lifting or gentle walking instead of a lot of running or cardio
- Breathing – lie on your back using a Hugger Mugger Pranayama Bolster. Place a hand on your heart and a heart on your lower belly. Inhale, expanding the belly so that hand rises up slowly. Then exhale, and the hand lowers back down, for the same count of breath as the inhale.
- Take 30-60 minutes to relax and get off the electronics before bed
One of the best ways to create stability in your life is with a steady routine. Try and plan a daily schedule that you can maintain on both workdays and weekends. This is the best defense against an erratic vata season.
Ayurveda is a wonderful way to align our own cycles with nature. Adapting to our environment, the current season and our own natural preferences can create balance, health and peace. If you would like to learn more about ayurveda, please contact Maria Radloff at www.mariyurveda.com.