Ayurveda for the Winter Season
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
The Winter Solstice will soon be here ushering in the coldest, darkest days of the year. To find balance, it benefits us to keep aligned with Nature and adjust our diet and lifestyle practices accordingly to accommodate for this energetic shift happening around us.
Different geographical locations will experience Winter differently, so the moisture level and temperature drop in your own environment will be an important factor in determining how you need to adjust yourself.
As the Sun has a decreased opportunity to heat the land, less moisture will be dried up, so this could result in a wetter environment, in addition to how much precipitation comes along naturally. But also, how low the temperatures drop plays a part in this, as well. The colder it is, the less moisture that will be available to hydrate the Earth as it will be locked up frozen. Yet another factor that will affect us personally is all the heaters we use to stay warm. This will end up creating more dryness in our inside places, and therefore in our bodies.
In general, if the environment around you is wetter in the Winter, Kapha dosha could become provoked. If it is drier, Vata dosha can become more provoked.
Ever notice how you crave more hearty foods in the Winter?
Our appetite is greater and our digestive fire is hotter in the Winter by design. When it's cold outside, the body adapts by constricting the pores of our skin and superficial connective tissue in order to prevent heat loss. This forces the fire element away from the peripheral tissues and deeper into the core of the body, increasing the heat in the stomach and digestive organs.
With cooler nights, the brain starts to crave sweet, salty tastes and oil-rich foods. These are foods that will help insulate the body and calm the nervous system. Foods like grains including breads, root veggies that are sweet and starchy like potatoes and squash, and heavier, protein-rich foods like meats and nuts.
This physiological blueprint has been with us for thousands of years before modern-day obesity was a problem, so our natural inclination was to crave foods that will help give us a buffer, in the form of a layer of fat, to keep us warmer in the Winter - something our ancestors would have needed in a world where modern agriculture and excess weren’t reality.
These natural cravings are beneficial for Vata types who need heavier, fatter, sweet foods, but it greatly benefits Kaphas to be aware that typical Winter foods can increase Kapha dosha, so eating smaller portions of these foods and taking in more astringent foods that are dry would benefit them best.
Winter is typically a great time for Pitta. They appreciate the cold and the dark, cooling off their usual fiery nature. They just need to make sure to not overindulge in the heating foods and lifestyle practices that Winter promotes.
To maintain balance through any season, you will always need to first focus on your primary dosha, but making necessary changes that acknowledge the shift of energy from season to season, will allow you to find greater health and well-being. It's one of the foundational tenets of preventative medicine.
To Balance the Energies of Winter with Diet:
Scrape your tongue & drink warm water
First thing in the morning before eating anything ~ this stimulates digestive juices, encouraging the digestive fire.
Focus on warm, cooked, well-spiced foods
Pitta types should avoid too much heating foods & spices.
Season foods and drink teas with warming spices
This helps to promote digestion: cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, ginger, garlic & cayenne - most spices are beneficial at this time (again, Pittas be cautious).
Avoid cold drinks, frozen foods, excessively sweet, oily, or heavy foods
Rule of thumb: moderation. If hard to avoid for a meal or two during the holidays, make ginger tea your best friend that day.
Lessen the sweet taste & fats for Kapha
Its mucus-producing qualities can easily lead to congestion and ultimately respiratory issues during the Winter.
Higher fat & the plenty of wholesome sweet taste for Vata
They will need the insulation and grounding quality these types of foods provide.
To Balance the Energies of Winter with Lifestyle:
Follow the Sun’s cues for wake times
This depends on your dominant dosha. Kaphas should rise before the Sun taking advantage of the lighter energy of the early morning. Easily stimulated Pittas & Vatas can wake up at Sunrise to allow for more dreams. Winter is a time for inward focus and deeper rest.
Avoid late nights
We produce melatonin sooner in the evening (melatonin helps us slow down & sleep) so go with that flow to move into a more supportive nighttime routine & enjoy a more restful sleep.
In addition, Winter is the time we have the weakest immune system - a darker, colder environment equals a weaker immune system - so rest more, nourish more.
We need movement to flush the lymphatic system which can get bogged down with the cold - add some heat, stay warm, encourage circulation - just move. Adopt a short but invigorating morning routine to help stimulate the cold, stagnant quality of Winter.
Soak up the Sun’s rays
Spend time outside or near a window to receive some natural Vitamin D to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder, maintain healthy sleep rhythms, and boost your immune system.
Massage your body with warm oil (Abhyanga)
This protects the skin from dryness and adds a layer of insulation that buffers the nervous system. Kaphas will need less oil, Vatas & Pittas will need more.
Do regular Nasya - oiling of the nasal passages
This calms the mind & lubricates the mucous membranes to keep away allergies and it prevents headaches. Especially if you have more dryness - oil, oil, oil! If there is any nasal congestion, do NOT do this.
Create opportunities for lightheartedness & laughter
Balance it with quiet and stillness - savor Winter’s slower pace.
Wear layers to add insulation and allow for any temperature adjustment as you move between indoors and out.
We gain deep wisdom and become empowered when we know how to work with the forces of Nature. Remember, we are Nature too. What happens out there, happens within us.
When you know Nature, you know yourself.
So Winter's prescription: be merry, eat mindfully, move your body, and rest well.