By Rebecca Davies Wilson, RYT 500 and Ayurvedic Health Counselor Intern
Ayurveda is an ancient system of healing that originated in India 5000 years ago and is still practiced successfully today all over the world. At its root, Ayurveda is about balancing both body and mind by cultivating the opposite quality of the present imbalance. If there is too much heat in body and/or mind, we look to cool the system down. If there is too much stasis and lethargy, we look to energize, increase movement, and lighten. The Ayurvedic practitioner teaches the client how to recognize imbalance, and gives the client practical and simple tools to start to shift the individual back towards a balanced, healthy state.
Ayurveda is a completely holistic system, which means it also takes into consideration how our health is affected by the seasons. The Winter Season is a time when the following qualities are abundant in our environment: cold, dry, light, and mobile. All of us are affected by these dominant Winter qualities, and as a result many of us feel brittle, dried out, depleted, over-stimulated, and run-down during the Winter months.
To balance the Winter qualities of cold, dry, light, and mobile, we must cultivate their opposites. Below are some guidelines and practices to support you during the Winter.
1. Balance cold by cultivating warm
During the Winter it is especially important to cultivate strong, healthy, and consistent digestion. A wonderful way to gently cleanse and wake up your digestive system is to drink warm water with lemon daily upon waking. Ayurveda also teaches us to avoid drinking cold liquids, especially with meals! It is best to drink room temperature (or warm) water between meals, and to only drink ½ a cup of warm water with a meal. Lastly, cultivate more warmth by spicing your food to be moderately warming but not overly spicy. Some good spices for this are: cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cumin, fennel, garlic, fresh ginger, nutmeg, thyme, and turmeric.
2. Balance dry by cultivating moist
Hydrate both through what you drink (lots of warm water at room temperature between meals) and what you eat (more soups and stews, which contain more moisture). It is also beneficial to eat more healthy fats, cook with warming oils (like sesame and almond oil, and ghee), and to practice daily self-massage with almond or sesame massage oil.
3. Balance light by cultivating heavy
A winter diet should be warming, grounding, and nourishing. Increase your intake of root vegetables, cook your vegetables rather than eating them raw, and incorporate nourishing grains into your diet like amaranth, cooked oats, quinoa, and white or brown rice.
4. Balance mobile by cultivating stable
The number one way to restore this Winter is by cultivating silence in your daily routine. All around us the natural world lies dormant, signaling to us that this is a time of deep restoration, rumination, reflection, and recovery. Some ways to consciously integrate resting into your routine are to go to a restorative yoga class, start a meditation practice, go to sleep earlier each night, or listen to a Yoga Nidra (guided relaxation) recording every day. It is also important to schedule “white space” into your routine, ensuring that you are not constantly on the go and giving your mind and body time to recharge.
By bringing into your daily routine the qualities of warm, moist, heavy, and stable, the Winter season can be a time of replenishment and healing.