Have you ever experienced the weather as a direct mirror of your internal state? When it’s sunny, warm, and clear, you might be filled with feelings of excitement, possibility, and clarity; when cool, grey, and rainy, you might feel a bit more melancholy. As many ancient texts point to, “as above, so below, as within, so without.” We are very much a product of our environment, and a reflection of the universe on a smaller scale.
The winter season can bring up feelings of loneliness, boredom, and sadness, especially if we live somewhere that tends to be grey during this time of year. Ayurveda describes winter as an expression of Kapha energy, with qualities of coldness, dampness, heaviness, and roughness – the qualities of the Earth – stable, grounded, solid. With the insight of ancient texts, it’s no surprise that such feelings may arise. Fret not, Ayurveda also arms us with tools to stay balanced and presents us with an opportunity to go inward, reflect, and truly get in touch with our inner most selves before emerging anew in the Spring.
In most climates, winter inherently directs us indoors. Much like our emotional state as a reflection of the season, the physical act of being indoors can also direct us inside ourselves. When hunkered down in a more quiet state, we are presented with the perfect opportunity to practice self care and self inquiry. Instead of allowing sadness to overcome us, we can ask ‘Why am I feeling this way? ‘What do I need to nourish myself?’ Sadness can be an indication of needing to connect; so as we can see, the season offers us an opportunity to both go inward, discover what we need and to reach out and bring balance back into our lives. Below you’ll find several guidelines to stay balanced in the body during these winter months, as well as some prompts and ideas for self care and self inquiry. Remember that like everything in life, winter is simply a season, one that will soon pass and transform into a new season. It is up to us to take each season as an opportunity to learn a new lesson, as a student of life.
Ayurvedic Winter Guidelines
- Wear colors such as red and orange, stay covered and warm to counter the cold, damp, heavy, dry and windy qualities
- Wake later, if your schedule allows – 7am as opposed to 5am, following the rhythms of the sun
- Practice the following asanas: sun salutations, locust pose, boat pose, bow pose, camel, should stand, headstand. Asanas to open the heart and chest -to stimulate breathing and prevent the kapha imbalance of heaviness or congestion
- Practice heating pranayama -kapalabhati or bhastrika
- Recite the mantra “No time to rush.”
- At least once a week, practice self massage with warm sesame oil then take a hot shower
- Apply sesame oil to the scalp once a week as well – it is warming and calming to the mind and nervous system
- Avoid napping as it will increase kapha
- Favor foods and activities that are warming, grounding, soft, moist
- Utilize spices like cinnamon, ginger, and clove
- Focus on steamed vegetables (which retain more water than other cooking methods), root vegetables, hot, thick soups, richer oils such as sesame and ghee, and moist whole grains
- Emphasize sweet, sour, and salty tastes
- Avoid raw foods, dry foods like crackers and chips, dry grains like millet and rye, cold food, and foods that are out of season
- Herbal Allies: pippali (stimulates digestion and increases digestive fire), licorice, ginger, punarnava, black pepper, kutki, chyavanprash (herbal jam that is rejuvenating and nourishing for the immune system and digestion)
- Make connection a priority, especially if you live somewhere cold and grey, and feel isolated – call a friend, get together for hot cocoa, or write a letter to a loved one
- Enjoy warm baths and showers
Tools for Self Care and Self Inquiry
- Essential Oil allies: Vetiver (grounding and comforting), Lavender (soothing and calming), Arborvitae (grounding energy from the tree of life), Frankincense (for meditation and overall cellular health, grounding, anxiety), Wild Orange (uplifting)
- Take time to journal and be in silence with yourself
- Bundle up and take a walk in nature – pay attention to the animals that are active during this time of year, note how the foliage changes and how plants and animals hibernate and become less active
- Know it’s ok to rest, and not push yourself
- Take time to reconnect with a hobby you enjoy – drawing, painting, crafting, knitting, cooking, baking, woodworking, reading.
- Reflect on the year and ask yourself, ‘What went well?’ ‘Where can I grow?’ ‘What do I want to get out of coming year? How do I want to feel?’