Seasonal Ayurveda – Finding Balance in Winter
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old science that originated in ancient India.
Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest comprehensive healthcare systems. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, that combines the words Ayu for Life and Veda for science. It is the sister science of Yoga. Ancient practitioners designed this wisdom practice to offer precise and individualized support to care for your physical and mental/emotional bodies. The science of Ayurveda has been the biggest catalyst for bringing balance and healing to my own life and the lives of my clients.
“Ayurveda is beyond beginning and ending. A science of eternal healing, it is compared to a vast ocean and studying Ayurveda to swimming across. A true teacher can teach one how to swim, but swimming is up to the student; …it is a lifelong journey.”
Ayurveda begins with the principle that we are a microcosm of the macrocosm.
prakriti One primary Ayurvedic principle is that each of the five elements is present in everything.
Our entire bodies are comprised of the five elements – ether, air, water, fire, and earth. These elements represent in all things in the natural world. We can see the five elements at play everywhere. If we can understand the unique dynamism at play within and without we can create a life of balance, health, and longevity. Imagine for a moment you are holding a glass of water. The glass begins as the sand, which represents earth. Fire turns this sand into the glass. The water in it is, well, water with a little bit of heat that forms it into a liquid state. Notice too that air and space are also an integral part of the whole. To break it down further, this is a typical way that the elements show up in the bodily form:
Ether – hearing, intuiting, space
Air – touch, breath, movement, life
Water – taste, protection, nourishment, blood, plasma
Fire – vision, light, warmth, metabolism
Earth- scent, structure, muscles, bones
We can observe the five elements in the seasons, the times of day, the phases of life, and our physical and psycho-emotional bodies. These five elements come together in different “imbalances” to create the 3 Doshas, Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Discover your constitution here.
Vata contains both air and ether. It is very much like the late fall and winter – cold, windy, dry, and quick. Vata is also the season of old age. The time of day where Vata is most prevalent is 2-6 (am and pm). We will talk more about Vata dosha more as it is the primary dosha of winter in the western hemisphere. Understanding how to keep Vata in balance is especially helpful as the season turns. But first, let’s continue to explore the rest of the doshas.
Pitta is comprised of fire and water. This combination makes it hot, oily, light, sharp, penetrating. It is associated with summer and young adulthood. Pitta time of day is 10-2 (am and pm).
Kapha is made up of water and earth. It is cold, moist, heavy, and dense. Kapha season is spring and early fall and is most present in childhood. The time of day associated with this dosha is 6-10 (am and pm).
Seasonal Ayurveda – Vata Dosha In Winter
As we are entering the heart of winter, you may notice an abundance of air and ether and the qualities of Vata dosha all around. Nature informs us of what is happening within. The qualities of Vata are cold, dry, light, quick, mobile, rough, and clear. If you notice you are experiencing feeling cold, dry skin, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, constipation, or difficulty focusing, you may want to pacify Vata dosha.
People whose constitution is predominately Vata may move and act more quickly than other doshic types as well as tire more easily. They are creative, and their appetite, digestion, and elimination may fluctuate.
Whether or not your Prakriti or true nature is Vata dosha, during the wintertime it is likely to become vitiated or what’s known as your Vikriti. We want to be particularly mindful of bringing Vata dosha into balance to promote vitality, longevity, and overall well-being.
Here are my Top 10 Ayurvedic Tips for Winter:
- Establish a supportive daily routine. Wake and sleep at the same times every day, ensure you eat regular meals, and stick to a schedule of rest and play. If you have trouble sleeping, make sure you are getting morning and evening sunlight exposure
- Meditate on a word, an image, or a sound to focus and calm the mind
- Eat warm, dense, moist foods such as root vegetables, stews, and porridge
- Sip warm water throughout the day
- Enjoy warming spices such as cinnamon, clove, cardamom, black pepper
- Add bitter and astringent tastes to your diet
- Eat high-quality fats like avocado oil or better yet, make your own ghee
- Perform daily abhyanga or warm oil massage with organic sesame oil
- Enjoy going to bed early, ideally by 10 pm
- Remember, Vata needs stability, warmth, and regularity to be balanced. Incorporate these qualities throughout your life as much as possible.
Here’s a little video on performing abhyangha – the most loving self-care warm oil massage.
Enjoy these simple, pleasurable self-care practices that help you remain balanced and serene during this chilly season.
This life knowledge often feels like a remembrance for those who study it and I humbly seek to impart this wisdom as it was taught to me.
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