Winter wellbeing: an Ayurvedic guide
Each season brings some common and predictable patterns that can affect our health. For example, as we move from autumn into winter the temperature plummets and we descend into the darkest time of year. During winter, the earth’s energy is drawn back into herself: It’s a time of rest, storing and preparation.
Winter is the time of year where you need to be more grounded, internalised and still. The weather is often cold, wet, cloudy and heavy and is dominated by the earth and water elements. Understanding why these patterns occur can help us to develop strategies for staying well during winter and maintain maximum wellbeing.
Ayurveda in winter
The dominant qualities present during winter are earth and water, which primarily aggravate the kapha dosha. Those with a high level of kapha will become more prone to chesty, mucus coughs and colds and may also experience a slow digestion, chills and swollen joints.
In climates where there is a long extended winter season, this can also aggravate the vata dosha due to the climate being drier and cooler. This can create symptoms such as ‘cracking’ sore joints and dry, sore skin.
For those with a dominant pitta dosha, winter can actually help keep their typically hot thermostat under control, but it’s still important that they keep their core warm to protect their internal organs.
If you are dominantly kapha or vata, try incorporating some of these top tips into your daily routine to balance the introverted energy of winter:
Sleeping in until a bit later can actually be beneficial during the winter, as staying warm in your bed helps you to rejuvenate (good news for kapha types who love a lie in!).
When you get up, if you brush your teeth with the addition of stimulating oils such as cinnamon and clove, or, wash your mouth out with warm water rather than cold it will help clear the palate of congestion.
Try to massage yourself a few times a week with warming oils, you could try sesame or Pukka Active 35 oil to offset the tendency to coldness and aching joints. Allow time for the oil to be absorbed and then take a warm shower. Using an exfoliator or loofah will also help get the blood flowing on those chilly mornings.
Make your first drink of the day a sip of something warming and invigorating containing herbs such as ginger, turmeric, cinnamon or clove. You could try a cup of Pukka Three Ginger or Revitalise tea. To wake up the appetite and encourage a healthy bowel movement, try adding a twist of lemon and some honey to your tea, or try a cup of Pukka Ginger, Lemon and Manuka Honey.
Try once a day to practice stimulating yoga postures such as sun salutations until you feel warm and your breathing deepens. If you have time, you could also include some strong backward and forward bends that open the chest and help to move stagnant kapha.
If you are easily disturbed by the cold, wet and heavy qualities of winter then you may benefit from also taking a dose of Pukka Elderberry Syrup in a cup of Three Ginger or Elderberry and Echinacea in the mornings or evenings as it will help blow away any colds and coughs.
The winter diet should contain warm foods that are mildly spicy, slightly salty and nourishing to clear excess kapha. We have a tendency to eat more during the winter because our digestive fire is often stronger, this is because the cooler weather constricts the surface of the body, pushing the heat back to our core.
Here are some top dietary tips:
In the morning, try a bowl of warm porridge with cinnamon, cloves and honey.
For lunch and dinner, try to avoid cold, wet and damp foods that are excessively sweet or taken straight from the fridge.
In the evenings, Ayurveda suggests the occasional glass of warming wine may be beneficial to encourage circulation and stimulate digestion (an excuse for some mulled wine!).
Alternatively, you can make a glass of hot, spicy milk including herbs such as cinnamon and nutmeg. If you don’t have these spices to hand, then you can heat up your milk of choice in a pan with a tea bag or two of teas like Three Cinnamon or Vanilla Chai.
The most important point is to allow your body and mind time to adjust to its new environment - give it time and support it. Ensure that you receive adequate periods of rest and sleep, have a good nutritious diet, take regular appropriate exercise and try to maintain a positive state of mind. By working towards this, you will start to re-charge your body and really feel ready and stocked up for cold months ahead.
For a more bespoke winter wellbeing guide tailored to your mind-body type, find your dosha using our dosha quiz.