Now the hot summer and the dry autumn is over, we can take a deep breath, and welcome the winter season. The days are still getting shorter and nights longer.
As the temperature drops down, and the cold of winter settles in, we are moving from vata season to kapha season. Autumn and early winter are considered the vata season while kapha season encompasses mid to late winter and early spring. We need to balance vata and kapha doshas during the winter time.
Regardless of who you are, the change in the weather plays an important role in your overall state of balance. If we do not adapt to seasonal change, we lose our inner balance.
Winter is a time to rest, revitalise, and withdraw some of our outwardly focused energy – the opposite of our face-paced summer activity. By redirecting your focus inward, you build your energy stores and align with the seasonal changes of nature.
When the weather is cool, our bodies tend towards storing our inner warmth, which is also good for igniting our digestive fires. For this reason, Ayurveda describes winter season as one of the times of the year when the body has good strength and immunity – provided we adjust our diet and lifestyle to accommodate it.
If we don’t have balance we become prone to kapha and vata imbalances that lead to colds, flu, chest infections, sinus congestion, and joint pain.
Healthy diet during winter
• A supportive winter diet pacifies kapha without increasing vata and vice versa.
• Focus on eating warm, cooked, slightly oily, well-spiced foods.
• Balance sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes.
• Drink room temperature, warm, or hot beverages. Do not drink iced or chilled drinks.
• Hearty, warming vegetables like radishes, cooked spinach, onions, carrots, sweet potato and other root vegetables are generally well received at this time of year. Warming spices like garlic, ginger, black pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon are also good.
• Cooked grains like oatmeal, cornmeal, barley, tapioca and rice make a healthy breakfast, and lunches and dinners of steamed vegetables, whole wheat breads, and light vegetable soups are ideal. Kitchari is also an excellent food for any meal.
• Legumes are generally good for kapha, but they should be well-cooked, well-spiced, and garnished with a spoon of ghee so as not to aggravate vata.
• Because there is less sunlight in winter, food rich in vitamin D is recommended – Small amounts of dairy products like fresh natural yogurt, fresh cottage cheese, fresh orange juice (but not in an empty stomach), zucchini, tomato cooked with spices, cereals, soy products such as miso soup and tofu, and mushrooms.
• Dairy is best reduced in the winter months, but a cup of warm and spiced golden milk (warm milk with a pinch of turmeric, dried ginger, cardamom and nutmeg) before bed can help to encourage sound sleep.
• Winter is also good season to do an occasional one-day juice fast, or a mono diet fast using kitchari.
Ayurvedic lifestyle in winter
• Begin the day by rising early, brushing your teeth, scraping your tongue with a copper tongue scraper, and oil pulling.
• It’s important to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day during the winter, whether it be yoga, vigorous walking, or a sport.
• To counter the cold of winter, take baths with hot water and drink only warm or hot water.
• Oil massage is highly recommended during the winter season. Regular application of oil on the body relieves dry skin, improves blood circulation, helps to relax muscles and relieves aches and pains.
• Sweating therapy: To shrug the excess cold, it is good to undergo sweating treatment once in a while. This can be in the form of staying in front of a small fire in a fire place, taking a hot water bath or enjoying an ayurvedic steam sauna.
• Sun bath: Whenever you get a chance, expose your skin to sunlight and restore vitamin D.
• Footwear: Always wear footwear in the winter, even at home. Cold through the feet drastically increases vata and can lead to hip and leg pain.
• The transition from autumn to winter is also a great time to do an ayurvedic detox which cleanses and balances your body for the coming season.