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Enjoy a healthy Winter with Ayurveda

January 23, 2010

 The UK Winter is predominantly a cold, wet and damp season. These conditions can affect both Vata and Kapha doshas, leading to coughs & colds. To help stay well:

  1. 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), steamed vegetables, rice with a little ghee and end the day with hot milk and warming spices (such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamon).
  2. Warm up with some mulled wine! The good news is that Ayurveda suggest an occasional glass of warming wine may be beneficial in Winter (though its sister science Yoga has different views!). 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!)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Winter Seasonal Recipe (serve 6): Sweet Carrot Halva

Carrots are a nutritious vegetable, rich in Vitamin A. They are most often recommended for Vata and Kapha, as they are heating which can aggravate Pitta. Carrots purify the blood and tone the kidneys. This is a warming winter pudding, which is very pleasing for the mind. This recipe is balancing for all doshas but Kapha types should eat in moderation and make with goat’s milk where possible.

You will need: 1 pinch saffron, 1 tbsp water, 2 cups of organic carrots (very finely grated – this is important as thick grating won’t look so appetising!), 6 tbsps ghee, 1 cup of milk (cow, goat, almond, rice or soya will work), 1/3 cup of sweetener such as agave syrup or sugar, 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, 1 tbsp sliced almonds.

To make: Soak the saffron in 1 tbsp water for 10 minutes. Melt the ghee in a heavy pot and add grated carrot. Cook for 5 minutes until they are slightly brown. Add milk, stirring all the time, then the soaked saffron and other ingredients. Cook on a low heat, uncovered until all liquid absorbed (about 15 minutes). Keep stirring or it will stick! Serve in small dishes. You can also make this with other vegetables instead of carrot, such as sweet potato or courgette. You could also add dried coconut, raisins, dates etc.

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