Winter is characterized by shorter days and lower energy. Nature slows down, plants go dormant and animals go into hibernation. This is the time of year when the natural world begins to retreat . . . and as per the teachings of Ayurveda, we should do the same.
After all, we are a reflection of the outside world, right? The cold, dark days of winter represent a time for a much needed restoration. During the holiday season and into the new year, we're more likely to indulge in sweet treats, heavy, warming stews, and nourishing fats. The extra 5 pounds of â€œwinter weightâ€ provide a welcomed insulation from sub zero mornings.
Following a Vata pacifying diet during the late fall and early winter is advised, placing emphasis on warm, moist, cooked foods . . . to prepare the body for the cold winter ahead.
In January, the qualities of the season begin to shift. Cold weather is accompanied by a sense of heaviness with increased moisture, either in the form of rain or snow. There can be a tendency to feel sluggish, depressed, and stagnant . . . and the body may be producing excessive mucous or showing signs of water retention.
is unctuous, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft, and static (Ashtanga Hrdayam 1:12). As we prepare for the new year andÂ Kapha season, it's a good idea to make resolutions to lighten our load!
Ayurveda teaches us that anything can be used as medicine when we find balance by using an opposite quality. When we begin to feel the excessive heaviness of the damp, cold, dark days; we must find lightness in other foods, drinks, routines, exercise, colors, and scents in our everyday life.
The transition between seasons can prove a dangerous time for the immune system. Many of us find ourselves struggling with colds, congestion, and a generalized feeling of crumminess. Ayurveda acknowledges that the transition between seasons can be a difficult time to maintain health, so we must be particularly vigilant as our body adjusts to the changing climate.
The highest goal of Ayurveda is to maximize the body and mindâ€™s potential to heal itself.
When we fill the body, mind and spirit with the proper amounts of nourishment, during the proper season, at the proper time, we are able to maintain health regardless of the season.
To truly live an Ayurvedic lifestyle, you must listen to the wants and needs of your body while maintaining rhythm with Mother Nature.
Here Are Some Tools You Can Use to Make Way for the New Year and Prepare for Kapha Season.
1. Move more: Even if you havenâ€™t packed on the extra pounds from the holiday season, itâ€™s important to stimulate Kapha by providing the body with some form of movement.
Find ways to move around more throughout the day rather than staying hunched over at the computer, negatively affecting both your posture and your health. Dasha Chalana, or the Ten Churnings are a great way to provide circulation and the free flow of movement to your major joints. You can take this practice with you everywhere you go and you donâ€™t need a mat or much space at all. You can find a youtube tutorial on the joint circle sequence and then practice on your own.
2. Spice up your life: While warm, moist foods are still in order, start to increase the spice factor of your food to assist in digestion.
With Kapha comes stagnation so by adding mustard seed, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, black pepper and ginger to your favorite dishes you will easily transition your palate from the dry qualities of the Vata season, to the moist qualities accompanied by Kapha. Also, begin to decrease the amount of oil used in cooking. While extra ghee, butter and sesame oil is welcomed in the late fall, choose lighter oils like sunflower, olive, and flax for the Kapha season.
3. Incorporate more bitter greens into dishes: While you donâ€™t need to say goodbye to sweet potatoes, squash and carrots just yet, do start to incorporate more greens into your veggie side dishes.
Winter tolerates heavier meats, cheeses and oils while late winter and early spring thrive on a plant based diet. Now's the time to switch to the whole-food plant based diet dietitians and cardiovascular surgeons Â have been recommending to combat diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
4. Learn about chromotherapy: Certain colors are infused with healing powers. When you wake up feeling dull and depressed, ditch the black!
Choose the red blouse . . . go for the bright orange bowtie! Kapha needs the extra stimulation of bright, hot colors. You will not only increase your own energy levels, but everyone around you will benefit from your radiant wardrobe. The color red helps to stimulate circulation and helps to combat exhaustion, orange gives vitality and helps stimulate digestion and yellow is said to have decongestant properties.
5. Start to eat less: The extra insulation during the winter months is cute, but at some point you have to say goodbye to the extra padding.
The transition between winter and spring is the best time for fasting. This doesnâ€™t mean transition from eating three full meals a day, to eating like a bird- it just means honor your hunger. Try skipping a meal and see how the body responds, if you find yourself overeating at the next mealâ€¦ then it probably was not the best idea. If you find yourself energized, vibrant and alive, then an empty plate was just what the body ordered. As the damp qualities of the Kapha season roll in, the metabolic fire (agni
) also dampens and slows down. When we pile food onto a dwindling fire, it begins to go out, we must tend to the fire like the delicate flame that it is during this time of year.
Because caffeine is better tolerated during the sluggish Kapha season, try this delicious chai recipe. Chai is a great substitute for coffee or hot chocolate, and a perfect cold weather treat for after a morning of shoveling or an afternoon of skiing.
INGREDIENTS FORÂ CHAI:
- 2 cups water
- 4 cloves
- 2 pinches nutmeg, ground
- 2 pinches cinnamon, ground
- 1 pinch of cardamom
- 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped fine
- 1 tsp black tea
- 1 cup milk (whole, almond, coconut or soy are all suitable options)
- 2 tsp honey
- Boil water and spices for 2 minutes.
- Add tea and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add milk and heat until hot but not boiling.
Add sweetener and serve.
Ayurveda is never about quick fixes. We gradually change as Mother Nature does. In the practice of Ayurveda, we look for the root cause of illness and a lot of the time the problem begins with inappropriate diet and lifestyle for the current season.
Ayurveda invites us to apply opposites. Practice balancing the unctuous, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft, and static qualities of Kapha with warm, light, mobile, and rough qualities. Do this Â both in your meals as well as in your daily routine. As you come in tune with Mother Nature stagnation will dissipate and a clear space will emerge for a successful, joyful Â 2017!
Happy New Year!