The Ayurvedic approach to embracing the seasons is a little like...dating. I say this only because one of the most important things to pay attention to about the seasons (besides how they make you feel), is their inherent qualities or personality.
Winter, by most standards, is a pretty cool (and cooling) customer. Its qualities are cold, heavy, damp, and slow. It's the spitting image of Kapha dosha.
The Low Down on the Slowdown
During winter, Kapha qualities show up outside of us as rain, snow, fog, and an ambient energy that just feels sluggish. Inside us, these qualities show up as colds, flu, depression, blocking, slowing, and gumming up the works of everything from our digestion to our willingness to take action.
The good news is there's a formula for staying happy, healthy, and sane in midst of the “Big Freeze.” All it takes is a little shift in your thinking...and your energy.
A Recipe for a Winter That Shines
Small changes in the way you eat, move, think, and even talk to yourself can keep your mind and body light, strong, and radiant all winter long. The key is to counter the cold, damp, and heavy Kapha qualities with just the right amount of warm, light, and dry stuff.
Not sure what that could possibly include? No worries, I got ya covered. Check it out.
Light the Fire Inside
Winter yoga should focus on heating the body from the inside out, clearing congestion in the places where Kapha hangs out (sinuses, chest), and waking up the nervous system. My favorite winter yoga poses include...
Benefits: An upper body opener and mood enhancer all in one, Sphinx is terrific for spinal flexibility and stimulating the abdominals and digestion.
Tips and Variations: Incorporate the lower body by bending the legs gently (one at a time), drawing the heel towards the glutes. Deep Ujjayi breathing is GREAT here to warm the insides and melt congestion.
Benefits: A stimulating heart opener, this pose is “good mood food” (for your body) and it lights up the legs and the belly too!
Tips and Variations: Focus awareness on the soles of the feet, ensure that the heels are no more than hip width, and engage the triceps to turn up the heat in the upper body.
3. Twisted Chair
Benefits: This pose builds strength while creating a focus on your center (physical and mental). The twisting action invigorates the muscles and organs by deepening the stretch.
Tips and Variations: Focus attention on activating three key areas: heels, navel center, and crown of the head. Turn this into a fun flow by inhaling to one side and exhaling to the other, three to five times on each side.
Benefits: Inversions are great for moving lymph around the body (hello immunity boost!), building strength, warming the muscles and joints, and stimulating the nervous system. This one opens the shoulders too!
Tips and Variations: A relatively accessible inversion, this one can be done with both feet on the floor (for pretty much the same benefit), both feet extended, and everything in between! Placement of the head is key, directly on the crown.
Use the forearms to control the pressure through the neck. Squeeze the elbows toward the center line of the body. Oh and don't even think about this one if you have neck issues.
Spice Things Up a Little
The secret weapon to a shiny happy winter is...spices! So you are hereby invited to put spices on EVERYTHING in the winter time! Just about any spice will do actually, but here are a few spicy superheroes that'll give you the best Kapha-reducing bang for the buck!
Known in Ayurveda as the “Universal Medicine,” ginger has the perfect combination of qualities for kicking things up a notch and reducing the stagnation of Kapha in the body (and mind!).
It's both pungent (spicy) and sweet (a perfect combo in my book), great for stimulating digestion, alleviating cough and congestion, dealing with nausea, and yes, even pain relief!
- Ginger Tea (bold) – Fresh slices of Ginger Root + Hot Water + Steep 3 to 5 minutes
- Agni Elixir (bold) – 1 tbsp Grated Ginger + ½ tsp Rock Salt + 1 tsp Lemon or Lime Juice + Mix and eat a little before meals
Another multi-functional warming spice, cinnamon is pungent, sweet, and astringent (that means it absorbs stuff), so it's great for drying up anything that's congested or running! It’s also a terrific digestive stimulant.
- Cinnamon Tea – Cinnamon Stick + Hot Water + Steep 3 to 5 minutes
3. Black Pepper
A powerful detoxifying spice, its hot and penetrating qualities are great for vitalizing circulation, respiration, and digestion.
- Light Breakfast Drink – 1 cup Milk + ¼ tsp Black Pepper + ¼ tsp Cinnamon + ¼ tsp Ginger Powder + 1/8 tsp Nutmeg + ½ tsp Ghee (optional) + Bring to a low simmer, cool a little, and enjoy!
Use Your Words
Healing mantras have been used for centuries. They're simple empowering words or sounds (vibrations) that resonate with our mind-body’s health and happiness frequencies.
There is no shortage of healing mantras in Ayurveda. In fact, there are specific mantras for each of the organs of the body, the chakras, the five elements, and many, many more. But I've found that the most powerful words are those that speak directly to you.
So...What words or sounds resonate with your health and happiness frequency? What phrases and themes make you feel clear, energized, and rejuvenated? Take a little time this winter to feel into and create your personal wellness mantra. Write it down, keep it near, and repeat it often.
And now, over to you...What winter rituals do you follow to stay happy, healthy, and sane (even if it's freezing where you are)? Sharing is caring, so use the comments and let me know!
Image Credit: Chara Caruthers