The ayurvedic lowdown on winter
The bitter cold of new year’s eve reminded me that winter has officially started and it is time to start making changes in our routines to keep in good health and holistic bliss. So here is the lowdown for the ayurvedic guidelines for this time of the year. May be some of them will trickle to your list of resolutions…
If you need an introduction to the ayurvedic concepts discussed in this topic, read The ayurvedic lowdown on spring. I also recommend that you read some of the resources listed in the Ayurvedic Institute website for a more complete introduction ayurvedic science in and tests to find out what your constitution is.
Winter is the season for kapha. To remain in balance, we need to follow a regimen that keep us active and that pacifies kapha especially, if your constitution is primarily kapha. The qualities of kapha are cold, dark, heavy, and damp. If your constitution is primarily vata, be aware that other qualities of vata might show up in some winter days such as cold, dry, and windy. The key to keep kapha in balance is to keep active and welcome change and excitement into your life!
What to eat
Choose warm, light and dry foods with a variety of spices. Favor foods with bitter, pungent, and astringent taste to help you reduce kapha.
- Bitter foods purify the blood, stimulate digestion, and reduce complacency and anger.
- Pungent foods increase circulation, stimulate digestive fire (agni), reduce mucous, favor extroversion, and sharpen the senses. Be aware that they tend to aggravate pitta.
- Astringent foods purify the blood, aid to assimilate fat, decrease bile and mucous, and favor introversion.
Here is a list of recommended foods for winter:
- Warm cooked whole grains that are drying such as buckwheat, millet, quinoa or oats
- Most vegetables except potatoes, tomatoes, and water chestnuts
- Dark leafy greens such as arugula, collards, kale (bitter)
- Heating legumes in small amounts such as brown and red lentils, kidney beans, navy beans (astringent). Best protein source for kapha
- Astringent fruits such as cranberries, peaches, and pomegranate. Berries, apples, and pears are astringent but they are also cooling
- If you eat meat, it should be roasted, broiled, or baked (dry ). Chicken and turkey are good choices
- Indulge on herbs and spices. Ginger and garlic are best. Also, heating spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Some of the cooling spices can also be beneficial such as cumin, coriander, and fennel
- Drink herbal teas that stimulate and clear the mind such as gotu kola , calamus, and skullcap
Sweet, sour, and salty tastes aggravate kapha. Also, avoid cold, oily, and heavy foods. Here is a list of foods to avoid:
- Very sweet and very sour vegetables
- Frozen and iced drinks
- All types of sweeteners except a little raw honey which reduces mucous
- Dairy (mucous-forming and congesting) except for small amounts of ghee, buttermilk, or goat milk
What to do
Keeping active at all costs! Here are some of the recommendations:
- Get plenty of physical activity.
- Exercise is most beneficial in winter. It is important to to work to your half capacity. When you star sweating in the forehead and you feel force to breath through the mouth, you should stop or reduce the intensity of the exercise.
- Get adequate sleep and avoid staying up late. Sleep is important in reducing kapha. However, sleeping during the day increases kapha. Rising time can be delayed until 7 am.
- Use warming colors such as yellow, orange, gold and red. Use brown, grey and black in moderation.
- Massage with warm sesame oil that is good for all constitutions before shower in the morning. For details, see Keeping warm and moist.
- Avoid excessive stimulation (tv, movies, and radio).
- Dress warm and always ware a hat when going outside.
What to practice in yoga
Beneficial postures for winter season include:
- Sun Salutation
- Shoulder Stand
These postures help to open the chest, stretch the throat, drain the sinuses, and relieve congestion of the chest.
If you practice pranayama, practice right nostril breathing to promote circulation and heat. Also, the breath of fire is indicated to cleanse the kapha dosha.
Follow your breathing exercises with quiet meditation. Don’t be in a rush. Meditation helps to get into the rhythm of winter and to raise the awareness of your complete self. Thus, helping you deal with feelings of loneliness and depression. Swami Rama teachings say about loneliness:
"A lonely person is one who is not aware of the complete fullness within. When you become dependent on something outside without having awareness of the reality within you, then you will indeed be lonely. The whole search for enlightenment is to seek within, to become aware that you are complete in yourself. You are perfect. You don’t need any externals. No matter what happens in any situation, you need never be lonely."
Warm oat cakes
This recipe is a variation of the oak cakes recipe from Eva Cabaca’s cookbok. Perfect for breakfast or snacks. Makes about 12.
Play with this recipe. It is very forgiving. I have used ground almonds instead of coconut, added raisins, or added blue berries with cocoa nibs. Try your own combinations!