Care for yourself with Ayurveda this Winter

It seems like only yesterday that I was writing last year’s Ayurveda for Winter blog (click here to read it and discovery even more wintery Ayurvedic wisdom!). But here we are again;  entering the season of reflection, healing, and restoration.


Winter can be a calming time if you work with the season, rather than against it. It can be a time to settle into yourself and rediscover the steadiness within; to take stock, reorder, and care for your energy with kindness.

  

How do you work with winter?

 

In Ayurveda, it’s important to adjust your lifestyle to balance the challenges of the season. When you do so, you can enjoy the positive and nurturing qualities of winter without becoming low, ill, or exhausted.

 

The three doshas are biological energies that exist in every living being. In case you haven’t read my other Ayurveda posts, I’ll recap the key dosha details here:

 

  1. Vata — Air. Qualities include: thin, physically cold, often tall. Creative and quick; changeable; excitable. Irregular. High energy, but in short bursts.

  2. Pitta — Fire. Qualities include: oily, hot, and light. Sharp — quick-thinking and intelligent. Liquid, moving, motivated.

  3. Kapha — Earth. Qualities include: slow paced, heavy, relaxed. Stocky and strong. Stable and reliable; honest, compassionate and faithful.

The majority of us have a combination of these three doshas within us. We usually have one or two dominant doshas — use this quiz to find out more about your personal constitution.

 

And each of the natural cycles of the environment around us has a dominant dosha, too. Winter is a kapha season. That’s why it’s easy to become ill in winter; to feel heavy, slow, sluggish or low.

 

To work with winter, you need to balance out the kapha. That doesn’t mean you have to fight it; some of the kapha properties of this season are exactly why it’s such an important, healing part of your annual cycle.

 

Embrace the goodness of the season by following any urges that you feel to quiet down and focus your energy on yourself, and those closest to you. Enjoy a slower and calmer time. And use this time to meditate and process all that has happened in the last few months.

 

But use your diet to balance the heaviness of kapha, and maintain a healthy and vibrant body and mind as you move through the season with ease.

 

 

Eating for Winter

 

First, read last year’s Ayurveda for Winter post for some more general pointers on the kinds of foods, drinks, and supplements that will support your health and happiness right now.

 

And then try these simple recipe ideas! Add these foods to your daily diet to feel nourished, energetic, and joyful.

 

  • Mung dal soup. Mung beans are a staple of the Ayurvedic diet. They’re simple to cook, utterly delicious, and easy for your body to digest. Mung dal soup is light but warms yours body from the inside out. Cook mung beans slowly in water until you have a soft, delicious soup. Add your favourite chopped seasonal veggies, and season to taste. For extra creaminess, throw in some coconut milk!

  • Sweet potato stew. Slow-cook sweet potatoes in water in a big pot. Add a little ghee or coconut oil, and a few handfuls of kale. Throw in kidney beans and chopped almonds for added protein; and serve with steamed rice. Season to taste.

  • Steamed spiced apples. Chop up large cooking apples and place in a pan with 2 inches of water. Add a little cinnamon and ginger for extra warmth, and a spoonful of brown sugar or handful of raisins if the apples are very tart. Put the lid on the pan, and bring the water to the boil; and then turn down the heat and leave to steam on a low heat with the lid on, until the water has reduced and the apples are delicious, soft and sweet.

All of these super simple meal ideas will add warmth and nourishment to your day.

 

 

Remember to Keep Moving, Too

 

Finally, don’t forget to move your body. Starting each day with some gentle stretching and mindful movements will help to keep your digestive system working at its best, and allow your mind to feel peacefully awake and alert.

 

 

Use this 5 minute practice when you wake up tomorrow (no yoga experience necessary):

 

  • Stand up and root your feet down into the ground. The feet are a little wider than hip width distance apart, and you feel steady. Close your eyes and rest your palms on your ribcage, with the fingertips just touching in the centre.

  • Take a few moments to bring awareness to the breath. Notice the movement of the hands on the ribcage as you draw breathe into the lungs, and then breathe it out. Become aware of how the whole body feels.

  • Slowly and softly, open the eyes and and inhale as you interlace your fingers sweep your arms up overhead, exhale take a deep stretch to the right; inhale back to centre and then exhale to to the left. Do up to 7 rounds

  • Interlace your hands behind your back; and on an exhale, fold forwards to take your hands up behind you. You can bend your knees as needed. Move fluidly for 6 rounds then pause in this forward fold; allow the arms to lower to the floor the spine to become longer on the final round. Notice the breath here.

  • Bring the hands to the thighs. Come halfway up; pause; and then slowly sweep the arms all the way up above the head again, stretching the spine and the shoulders.

  • Release the arms to your sides. Become aware of breath and close the eyes once more.

  • Finally, take a deep inhale through the nose and then exhale out through the mouth as if you are blowing through a straw. Repeat three more times.

     

And then open your eyes and begin your day.

Yoga for the Soul Retreats wishes you a beautiful winter!