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Enjoy a healthy Winter with Ayurveda

January 5, 2018

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Favour a warm, nourishing diet to pacify Vata without aggravating Kapha: We’re designed to eat more in Winter, adding a few pounds without guilt! However, it must be the right types of foods to nurture whilst minimising congestion. Rice, barley, rye, healthy oils (ghee, coconut, linseed, avocado, hemp, olive), and seasonal root vegetables in soups and stews are all recommended. Avoid Vata aggravating non-seasonal food, such as salads and raw food in general. Have a warm breakfast (porridge is excellent, drizzled with maple syrup), lots of steamed vegetables and end the day with a hot milky drink and warming spices (such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamon).

Warm up with a spicy herbal tea or even mulled wine for Vata types: The good news is that Ayurveda suggest an occasional glass of warming wine may be beneficial in Winter for Vata types (though its sister science Yoga has different views!).  Alcohol is seen as too heating for Pitta types, and too fattening for Kapha types. You can make a warming wine punch with added cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, fennel, cumin, coriander, nutmeg and black pepper. Drink a glass before or after dinner to aid digestion and encourage circulation. Drink spicy teas throughout the day, avoiding cold liquids and foods which aggravate Kapha and Vata. As our digestion is strongest in Winter, if you eat meat now is the time to indulge (again, Ayurveda and Yoga have differing views here as Yoga has a strictly vegetarian approach to diet!)

Stay warm however you can think of: Massage with warm oil and saunas or steam rooms are all good to ward off the cold. Ground yourself with a daily self-massage with a warm sesame oil or olive oil followed by a warm shower/ bath to prevent feelings of coldness, and stiff, aching joints. Use aromatherapy oils that are warm, pungent and uplifting such as camphor, cinnamon, cloves, cedar and frankincense. The ancient Ayurvedic texts also promote the ‘physical expression of love’ between couples as being healthy in the Winter months! Favour clothes which are bright, cheery colours, such as reds and oranges. Finally, always wear a hat outside as 60% of body heat is lost through the head.

Keep moving: Be up by 7am latest and to do some vigorous exercise to get the lymph moving preventing congestion. Some Sun Salutations are ideal as they build up heat and work all the major muscles. Kappalabhati and Bhastrika pranayama is also excellent for generating internal heat and improving the digestive fire (Agni). However, Winter is also a natural time for resting and preparing for a new year so leave time for activities which promote a sense of internal stillness. However, avoid day sleep which increases Kapha dosha. The short dark days can be depressing so make sure you keep sociable too.

Yoga tips for Winter 

  1. Sun Salutes are ideal as they work all the major muscles and heat the body.
  2. Ideal poses for Winter open the chest, throat, and sinuses remove congestion in the respiratory organs. Try:
  3. Fish Pose (Matsyasana): This supine backbend/inversion opens the throat and chest. Do up to three sets.
  4. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana): Open your chest with this backbend. Do up to three sets.
  5. Locust pose (Salabhasana): This “baby backbend” opens the chest while strengthening the back. Do up to three sets.
  6. Also: boat, lion, and camel poses along with the shoulderstand and the headstand. Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana): This supported inversion helps with stagnation of lymph. Do one time and hold for a minimum of 12 breaths.
  7. Follow this with a systematic relaxation and a few rounds of bhastrika, the breath of fire. This breathing practice builds heat and eliminates mucus from the respiratory tract. Kappalabhati is also excellent for generating internal heat and improving the digestive fire (agni). These are rapid, sharp exhales, passive inhales, and a snapping of your lower abdomen. You can start with cycles of 30 breaths and gradually increase up to 100, for 3-5 rounds.