During winter the earth’s energy is withdrawn back into herself. It is a time of rest, storing and preparation. Rest from the bounty of the Autumnal harvest and preparation for the vitality of the coming Spring. This is a time of being grounded, internalised and still. The weather is cold and dry – qualities that aggravate both the kapha (earth & water elements = phlegm & heaviness) and vata (ether & air elements = dryness & movement) doshas (constitutions).
How we live each day is key to Ayurvedic living. Ayurveda is really the art of moment to moment living in accordance with our unique nature and Mother Nature. The awareness of how we need to live to be optimally healthy needs constant adjustment. This is very difficult because of our routines, commitments, desires and attachments. Ayurveda recommends different lifestyles according to age, sex, climate, time of day and time of year.
Suggested Daily Routine – Dinacharya:
* Sleeping late in winter is fine – rise with the sun around 6:30am.
* Hold some warm sesame oil in your mouth for a few minutes. This sounds strange but it has a wonderfully nourishing effect on the mouth, strengthens the teeth and stops bleeding and receding gums. Massaging your gums with your finger is also very beneficial.
* Massage yourself with warm sesame oil. Sesame oil is warming and can be beneficial to every constitution at this time of year. This can offset the seasonal tendency to coldness and aching joints.
* Rinse the oil off in a hot shower.
* Drink a cup of warm water. This relaxes the digestive system, enkindles the appetite and encourages a healthy bowel movement.
* Now its time for your yoga practice! Begin with some brain-cleansing pranayama (kapalabhati) or bellows breath (bhastrika). These practices invigorate the body with prana and clear excess mucus, lethargy and sluggishness.
* Practice asana that balances kapha helping to clear excess heaviness and phlegm. Do vigorous sun salutation (suryanamaskar) up to twelve rounds until you are warm and your breathing becomes deep. Also include strong backwards and forward bends that open the chest such as the fish (matsyasana), the wheel (chakrasana),the camel (ushtrasana)
and the tiger (vyagrasana) to stimulate the kidneys and lungs.
* Your winter diet should consist of warm cooked foods that are mildly spicy, slightly salty and nourishing. The digestive fire is usually stronger in winter as the colder weather constricts the surface of the body and pushes the heat back in to the centre of the digestive system.
* Breakfast can be a bowl of porridge oats, millet, barley or rice. Add some cinnamon, cloves and honey. Honey is considered to be beneficial for kapha as it is heating and helps to clear mucus.
* Lunch and supper should be wholesome meals avoiding too many cold, wet and damp foods that are excessively sweet or from the fridge or freezer. Barley is one of the best grains for kapha as it gently clears fluids from the body and can help clear sluggish digestion.
* Drink spicy teas throughout the day.
* If you are easily disturbed by the cold and heavy qualities of winter then you may benefit from taking the herb Trikatu. This is a mixture of ginger, black pepper and long pepper – it will help blow away colds, coughs, poor circulation and post-nasal drips.
* After a day of hard work settle in for a relaxing evening. Ayurveda suggests that an occasional glass of dry and warming wine may be beneficial in the winter to encourage circulation and stimulate digestion!
* Then it is off to bed with a delicious glass of hot spicy milk. Nutmeg is a very calming herb that promotes sound sleep and can be added to your milk.
Ashwaghanda – a tonic herb that benefits the central nervous system, energy levels and reproductive system. Very beneficial in all conditions caused by stress, useful post-convalescence, as a pain killer and anti-inflammatory to treat arthritis and is useful to strengthen the lungs. Ashwaghanda is a tonic herb for both the male and female reproductive systems.
Triphala – is a key part of all programmes of health maintenance as it is used to purify and nourish the colon helping to treat sluggishness, constipation, bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, indigestion. It can also help to heal ulcers, inflammations, and general dysbiois in the gastro intestinal tract. When there are signs of toxicity in the blood manifesting as skin
inflammations, acne and boils, Triphala is used to detoxify the whole system.
Trikatu – the three spices formula (ginger, black pepper & long pepper), is a warming and stimulating herb for colder weather. It is effective in the treatment of a sluggish digestive
system with bloating, abdominal pain and flatulence; also helps in conditions of poor assimilation due to low enzyme secretions. Its heating properties rejuvenate the lungs effectively treating colds with nasal or sinus congestion, coughs or wheezing with sticky white phlegm. Where there is slow metabolism with low energy and lowered immunity, Trikatu can be part of a treatment strategy and is also helpful in boosting circulation and warming the body. Use before meals as a digestive stimulant and after meals as an aid to digestion.
Shatavari – a beneficial tonic herb for the female hormonal and menstrual cycle to regulate, clear inflammation and boost fertility. Very useful to treat various menopausal symptoms.
By Wendy Young