Winter – when days get colder, snow gets whiter, lights get brighter, sweaters get bigger, books get thicker, blankets get larger, chimney gets hotter, snuggling gets nicer, and hearts get closer. This is a quote by Belinda Craig. I thought it captures the essence of winter quite interestingly!
During winter, our digestive fires get stronger and the body begins to retain heat. In Ayurveda, immunity and digestion are very closely related – the better the digestion, the stronger the immunity. So, winter is actually a great time to build the body’s immunity. Physical strength and appetite are both high at this time. Winter is no time for dieting and fasting – it is a time to build and nourish the body and mind. If the body doesn’t get enough fuel through food, the digestive fire will start to eat into the body’s tissues, leading to a vata imbalance (Click here if you want to learn what vata, pitta and kapha – the doshas mean). Winter can be a cold, wet, damp time of the year (in some places) – all conditions that can aggravate kapha, if adequate diet and lifestyle tweaks are not made.
With no further ado, let’s look at 5 simple ayurvedic tips for winter to stay healthy!
1. Warmth for the body and soul
Eat warm, cooked foods with digestible herbs like ginger, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, asafetida, fennel, coriander and containing adequate healthy oils and fats like ghee, and other nut oils. Avoid raw, cold foods and drink. Drink warm fluids and herbals teas through the day and keep yourself well hydrated. Favor sweet, sour and salty tastes. Avoid bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. This is the season to eat well – stay away from junk, processed, preservative-laden foods and choose fresh, organic fruit, vegetables, dairy, grains and lentils. Stay warm and avoid extended exposure to cold winds and chilly weather. Spend time with friends and family and soak in their warmth, love and friendships during the holiday season.
2. Move It, Baby
Exercise regularly, incorporating some vigorous and stimulating movements like dancing, brisk walking, jogging, sports etc. Regular exercise helps in combating any potential kapha build up in the body at this time. Needless to mention, you will feel and look great!
3. Find Your Inner Peace
Make some time for some inward focus and spend some time for reflecting and relaxing. Regular yoga and meditation will go a long way in promoting mind-body stability in this time of the year. Holidays can be stressful with all the chaotic shopping, trips, lack of routine, diet and sleep irregularities etc. Centering yourself, quieting the mind and going within will help you immensely to find some balance!
4. Oil, Oil, Oil
Give yourself a regular oil self-massage (abhyanga) with a suitable warming oil like sesame oil. Ensure that you massage the head, ears, palms and soles of the feet. This helps keep vata in check and offers a myriad other benefits like providing lubrication, grounding and energy. If you are comfortable, do give yourself nasya treatments (drops of medicated oil or plain oil or ghee in the nose) to keep the nasal passages lubricated and healthy. Winter can be a dehydrating time, especially during early winter if the weather is cold, dry and windy (in some places). The indoor heaters can also tend to exacerbate dryness problems. So, a daily oil massage and regular nasya treatments keep all the systems well-oiled and flowing effortlessly!
5. Get your Guilt-Free ZZZ’s
Sleep well and rest up – shorter days and longer nights are meant for giving the body and mind that extra rest. Go to bed early (latest by 10pm) and wake up later than usual, but not later than 7am, because then other kapha like symptoms of lethargy, dullness etc. will start to set in. Rest and revitalize your energy reserves. Avoid long mid-day naps in general, unless you are excessively tired and unable to function without a quick power nap.
So that’s it – follow these 5 simple ayurvedic tips for winter and keep the winter blues, sniffles and sickness at bay!
I will leave you with this simple herbal tea recipe that is calming yet invigorating, is a digestive aid and is delicious tasting!
Calming Winter Tea
- 6 cups of water
- Fennel seeds (1 tsp)
- Coriander seeds (1 tsp)
- Cumin seeds (1 tsp)
- Cardamom (2)
- Cinnamon (1 inch piece)
- Dried ginger (small piece)
- Licorice (mulethi/athimadhuram/yashtimadhu) ( 1 inch piece)
- Carom seeds (ajwain) (1 tsp)
- Add spices to water.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Simmer for a few minutes and switch off the flame.
- Strain and drink.
The tea has a light sweetness to it. If you want more sweetness, increase the amount of licorice. With the amount mentioned in this recipe you will get a delicately aromatic, fragrant tea with hints of sweetness. Sip it through the day, especially during the afternoon time – try it and watch how your mood, energy levels and focus perk up after a few sips!