Feel Vibrant This Winter With Ayurveda
Here in central Ohio winter has settled in. I feel the energy of vata dosha (air and ether) in my mind and body. Feeling a little spacey at times, finding I’m losing my car keys more often than I like. The cold and dry qualities seep into my bones. I’m moving a little slower in the mornings and find myself lingering in bed just a bit longer under my warm comforter. Colder days and colder nights, gray skies, and occasional rain and sleet, have me leaning into the wisdom of Ayurveda to navigate this season.
Ayurveda is a time-honored holistic health system originating from India based on ancient writings of the Vedas. Ayurveda literally means “science of life,” and because it offers a complete system to live a long healthy life, it is also considered the “science of longevity” ( 1).
Ayurveda reminds us that we are a part of the natural world, not separate. Our minds, bodies, and hearts are connected with the wisdom of nature. Our health and well-being are integrated and dependent on the rhythms of the natural world.
With this in mind, Ayurveda considers the response to seasonal changes and the practice of seasonal routines an important foundation for wellness. Balancing the nature of our local climate with lifestyle practices that offset seasonally-induced imbalances, is the key to fostering our well-being.
In Ayurveda, Ritucharya is an ancient seasonal regimen: Ritu (season) and Charya (regimen). Ritucharya consists of health-promoting lifestyle practices and diet, that are responsive to seasonal changes with the intention to remain balanced (2).
Winter Season, Hemanta Ritu and Shishira Ritu
Ayurveda recognizes the year is divided into two periods (kaal), and six seasons:
- Uttarayana (northern solstice), the seasons of Shishira(late winter), Vasanta (spring, rainy season), and Grishma .
- Dakshinayana (southern solstice), the seasons of Varsha(monsoon), Sharata (autumn), and Hemanta (late autumn, early winter) (2,3)
Winter has hemanta ritu, starting mid-November to December, along with shishira ritu from January to early March. Winter months tend to be cold, windy, dry, and also wet as it rains and snows. Winter has the energy of vata and kapha doshas. Vata dosha has the energy of the air and ether elements, with qualities of dry, cold, rough, and mobile. Kapha dosha has the energy of the earth and water element, with qualities of heavy, cool, slow, smooth, and flowing.
We can feel these energies in our bodies and minds. Ayurveda teaches balance can be achieved by bringing together opposite energies, and imbalance is created when similar energies are increased. During winter, it is especially important to balance the energies of vata and kapha doshas, being careful to choose lifestyle practices that do not increase them, leading to imbalance.
During the winter months as the natural world draws its energy inward to restore and rejuvenate, we can tap into this same inward energy. Winter can be a time to nourish ourselves, find rest, rejuvenate, and feel vibrant as we mindfully choose supportive lifestyle practices to balance the energy of vata and kapha doshas.
Winter Ritucharya To Feel Vibrant
- Eat warm cooked meals and drink warm beverages.
- Eat foods that are moist, unctuous, naturally sweet (not sugary), sour, salty
- Eat home-cooked meals that are adequately spiced, cooked without preservatives, additives, and excessive amounts of salt and sugar.
- Foods to favor
- Whole grains (cooked): amaranth, barley, quinoa, basmati rice, millet, oats, wheat, corn, buckwheat
- Vegetables (cooked): root vegetables (beets, carrots, parsnips ect), winter squash, cooked greens, cooked Brussel sprouts, green beans, corn, okra, cooked onions and leeks
- Legumes: brown and red lentils, miso, split mung beans, toor dal (yellow split peas), urad dal (black gram split), navy beans
- Nuts and Seeds (roasted, unsalted): almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, coconuts, filberts, lotus seed, pecans, pinons (pine nuts) sunflower seeds, walnuts, pistachio nuts
- Fruits (mostly cooked): apples, apricots, bananas, berries, dates, figs, grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges, cherries, ripe pears, pineapple, plums
- Dairy (organic): ghee, butter, soft cheeses, cottage cheese, sour cream, cow’s milk and goat milk (grass fed, warm or room temp), yogurt, butter milk
- Meats (if you eat them, organic): grass fed beef, free range poultry, eggs, all fish, lamb, venison, pork, shrimp, crab, lobster
- Oils (unrefined): ghee, olive, sunflower, sesame, avocado, mustard oil
- Sweeteners: maple syrup, local raw honey, coconut sugar, sucanet (dehydrated cane juice) jaggery, molasses, pure monk fruit, coconut sugar
- Spices and Herbs: Use most spices and herbs. Use pungent (spicy, heating) spices such as cayenne pepper, jalapeno pepper, and garlic in moderation
- Foods to minimize or avoid:
- Avoid frozen foods
- Avoid Iced beverages
- Foods that are cold, damp, excessively sweet and sugary, heavy, or oily.
- Winter Recipes
- Exercise in moderation daily and be sure to stretch
- Daily mindfulness practices such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, mindful meditation, o even knitting
- Spend time in nature daily, and bask in the sunlight when the sun is shining
- Abhyanga self-massages weekly and a mini-abhyanga massage daily. Mini Abhyanga massage
- Avoid napping during the day. If you are tired, try my Yoga Nidra, For Calm and Ease Guided Meditation
- Avoid exposure to strong and cold winds, making sure to wear a hat and scarf in cold weather
- Give gratitude daily
- Engage in a meaningful and joyful activity daily
- Stay connected with friends, family and people who support you
- Keep a journal to express and release your inner self
- Maintain or start a spiritual practice
Ayurveda empowers us to listen to our inner wisdom to guide us on our wellness journey. Choose and create practices that will support you. This winter, begin with one thing and then gradually add on other practices. Feel rejuvenated and vibrant this winter.
Take the Dosha Assessmenttoday to discover your true nature and your current state of imbalance.
1) Pandey, M. M., Rastogi, S., & Rawat, A. K. S. (2013). Indian Traditional Ayurvedic System of Medicine and Nutritional Supplementation. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/376327
2) Thakkar, J., Chaudhari, S., & Sarkar, P. K. (2011). Ritucharya: Answer to the lifestyle disorders. Ayu, 32(4), 466–471. https://doi.org/10.4103/0974-8520.96117
3) MD(Ayu), D. J. V. H. (2018, April 18). Ritucharya – Healthy Seasonal Regimen – Introduction, Divisions. Easy Ayurveda. https://www.easyayurveda.com/2018/04/18/ritucharya-healthy-seasonal-regimen/amp/
5) Kate. (2015, July 8). Pulses – the best kept protein secret. The Ayurveda Practice. https://ayurvedapractice.com/pulses/
6) Balancing Vata. (n.d.). Www.banyanbotanicals.com. https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/learning-ayurveda/balancing-vata/