Nourishing Ayurvedic Winter Tips for Balance
YogaLife Coaching with Jenny Rhodes. www.alignedyoga.net
Taking your cues from nature, and living more in tune with the seasons, can keep you in alignment with your natural seasonal rhythms, which leads to feeling more centered and accepting of life on life’s terms.
1. Rest, Restore and Revive
Some animals hibernate during Winter and we also do well with more much-needed rest this season. The increased amount of darkness is a fairly obvious sign that we need more sleep at this time of year, so getting to bed earlier and rising a little later is supportive to good health at this time of year.
Vata is all about movement and activity, but is also strongly linked to anxiety, whilst Kapha is related to stillness and ‘groundedness’, yet also inertia. Both qualities are in play during winter. You can balance these two aspects by moving each day in a way you enjoy; get outside and bask in the Winter sun when it’s out, go for brisk walks in the cold, practice asana, swim, cycle or dance around the living room. Take a warm bath at least once a week and wear socks to retain more body heat.
Spend more time nourishing yourself in these and other healthy ways, by finding stillness more often and focusing your intentions toward self-care.
2. Healthy Herbs
Ayurveda is big on using herbs to heal and help and Winter is the perfect time to spice up your life. Digestive fire is strong at this time of year, which is why we’re usually more than happy to eat a little more than we might in the Summer. Specific herbs and spices can help warm the body and maintain digestive fire, also known as ‘agni’.
Herbs to add:
- Black pepper
- Chili pepper
3. Sesame oil for self-massage
Daily oiling and massage is an important aspect of Ayurveda, in order to keep joints supple, muscles toned and the body’s temperature regulated. Sesame oil is ideal for self-massage during Winter. You can scent the oil with sweet, warm fragrances like good quality orange or rose for example and massage your whole body in the mornings or evenings, including your scalp.
Abhyanga, or self massage, can be done once dry, after a warm bath or shower. It can also be practiced after dry brushing and before a very hot shower.
Dry Brushing is an effective way to replenish and renew tired, dry skin. Use a soft bristle natural fiber brush using, long strokes in the direction of your heart.
*This is a great practice for lymphatic drainage too!
4. Boost your Ojas
Ojas can be translated as ‘vital essence’. It’s a little like the body’s vigor, energy, abundance and is related to Kapha’s more positive qualities of stability and strength. During times of instability, cold and dryness, ojas can become depleted, leading to physical and mental weariness, decreased digestive fire, (constipation or upset stomach), low mood and depleted energy levels.
Eat more Warming stews, soups and hearty winter grain dishes, cooked fruits and hot grain cereals for breakfasts or deserts.
To replenish your vitality and keep levels of ojas high this season, add these foods to your diet on a regular basis:
- Sesame oil and other healthy oils such as coconut, olive and almond
- Almonds (soaked and peeled if possible)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds and Tahini
- Warm, lightly cooked vegetables
- Organic, easily digestible grains
5. Add color & humor
Especially if you’re susceptible to bouts of Winter Blues, keeping warm and vibrant colors around you is important for retaining a positive and ‘warm’ mood at this time of year. Colors like orange, gold, deep reds and mustard are a simple yet effective way to encourage a pleasing, cozy sensation, whether worn as clothing or draped around the house.
Humor whenever & wherever you can get it, even if it’s laughing at and with yourself. Loosen up & have more fun, be more playful and laugh. If you don’t find anything to laugh about, start giggling and keep going until it becomes a full-on laugh. Winter doesn’t have to be so serious,
6. Cover up
Wearing a hat and scarf when it’s windy outside can be particularly helpful, especially if you feel a little ‘scattered’ or vulnerable during the windy, wet and cold. The head is an important place to keep warm and covered as keeping extremities warm, can help the body’s internal environment stay balanced and nourished, Also covering your head is an effective way to promote feelings of safety, calm and security.
7. Go Within
Winter is an ideal time for deepening any contemplative practice.With Winter’s increased darkness, morning meditation can be even more potent.
The two hours before sunrise is called “brahma mahurta,” the most subtle time of day, perfect for shifting awareness inward.
Be okay with being still. Be okay lowering your standards if it affords you more time for rest or whatever creative outlet that feeds your soul.
Meditate on self compassion, gratitude, courage, or self-expression.