Ayurvedic Lifestyle, Exercise & Diet Guidelines for Winter
Winter is here and it's time to remind ourselves that the changes in the weather can and will affect several factors of your life. The cloudy days in this seemingly dormant season can often times leave us feeling stagnant, weighed down or uninspired. According to Ayurvedic principles, winter is the season of kapha and specific guidelines should be followed to obtain a balance of the doshas and maintain one’s overall health. Adopting the following kapha-pacifying regimen into your lifestyle will help maintain balance and harmony during this season.
Lifestyle changes you may want to consider
Early birds may want to consider sleeping in a little longer (waking up around 7 am recommended in winter!); also, taking a pause from constantly rushing (especially after the hustle-bustle of holiday shopping and year-end deadlines!) is more important in this season than any other – because adequate rest and overall steadiness are important to keep your kapha in check, and your body temperature maintained optimally. Interestingly (and expectedly), Ayurveda recommends surrounding yourself with people and loved ones in winter months to abate depression and loneliness – sure signs of kapha imbalance.
Adding oil rubs with sesame or corn oil – all over your body prior to a hot shower in the AM, and to your scalp and the soles of your feet at bed time – will also pacify kapha and keep your circulation strong.
Yoga and meditation
Starting your day with sun salutations can give your circulation the necessary boost it needs in the winter months. Also helpful are poses that help open up the chest cavity and give your windpipe a gentle stretch so you can stay congestion free all winter – try locust, boat, lion, fish and camel. Advanced practitioners should add in shoulder and head stands to further add a boost of immunity!
Begin with your belly on the floor. Keep your arms at the sides of your torso, forehead resting on the ground, and your palms up. Breathe out and raise your head, legs, arms, and upper torso away from the ground. Raise your arms so that they come parallel to the ground and actively stretch them backwards. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute. Exhale. Repeat if desired
Sit on the floor with straight legs in front of you. Inhale and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Place your hands on the side of your thighs just below your hips, keeping your fingers pointed toward your toes. Exhale and slowly lean back at your hips lifting your legs, with bent knees, a few inches off the floor. Slowly straighten out your legs. Begin to slowly move your arms alongside your legs with palms facing down until they are parallel to the floor. Hold for 10-20 seconds to begin, gradually increasing the time you hold the pose to one minute. Release the pose by dropping the legs and returning to the sitting position.
These postures help promote circulation to the chest, stretch the throat, drain sinuses, and relieve congestion of the chest.
Breathing meditation can be a powerful addition to your practice – try right nostril breathing (exactly as it sounds; hold your left nostril closed with your thumb and inhale/exhale deeply from your right nostril ten times; repeat up to three times). More advanced practitioners can try the breath of fire (great for alleviating respiratory issues and allergies). Inhaling normally through the nose, exhale in short bursts of breath and with a gentle force – exhaling about 15-25 times before resting briefly. Repeat 3-5 times. This breathing meditation improves absorption of oxygen into your bloodstream and warms the body from within.
Herbal teas – especially those made from ginger, cinnamon and clove – are great for the season. Another holiday drink that features those very ingredients? You guessed it – mulled wine (in moderation!) also helps improve digestion and circulation during the winter months. Also, try these kapha-pacifying recipes for winter warmth and well-being!
Recommended Breakfast recipe: Quinoa, Walnut & Date Cereal
3 whole Dates, 1 tbsp Ghee (Clarified Butter), 1 tbsp Maple Syrup, ½ c Quinoa, ¼ tsp Salt, ¼ c Walnuts
- Chop walnuts. In a medium saucepan, dry roast walnuts on medium heat until browned. Meanwhile, chop dates.
- Add remaining ingredients and continue frying the quinoa in ghee for another 60 seconds.
- Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cover. Continue simmering for 20 minutes or until quinoa is soft.
- Add maple syrup to taste and serve!
Lunch meals should consist of kapha-soothing food such as whole-wheat bread, steamed vegetables, and hot soup. If you opt to consume meat, Ayurveda says that the winter is a good time to eat it since agni (digestive fire) is strong.
An hour after having your meal, you can help increase heat and pitta, improve circulation and eliminate mucus in the system by drinking a hot cup of tea. Ayurveda recommends a tea blend of dry ginger, cinnamon, a pinch of clove for the colder months.
Lunch or Dinner Recipe Suggestion: Warming Vegetable Ragout (Serves 2)
1 large onion – cut into wedges
1 medium turnip
2 medium carrots
1 medium beetroot
½ cup Vegetable Stock
1 tsp. Curry powder
Parsley leaves and Lemon Zest (for garnish)
Ghee (Clarified butter), Mustard Oil & Unsalted butter
Salt & Pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
- Peel and chop the turnip, carrots and beetroot into ½ inch cubes and toss with half a teaspoon each of ghee and mustard oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about twenty minutes, until the vegetables are tender
- Heat ghee in a large skillet and cook the onions until golden brown
- Add the roasted vegetables into the skillet, adding vegetable stock, curry powder and sale and pepper to taste. Simmer for 3-4 minutes until vegetables are thoroughly coated.
- Garnish with parsley and lemon zest
Optional: Pick cornbread for your choice of carb for its kapha-moderating properties!
Snack: Carrot Probiotic Drink (8 servings)
5-6 medium carrots
2 medium beetroots
8 cups of filtered water
Black salt, to taste
- Thoroughly rinse and peel the carrots and beetroot
- Sliver the carrots and beetroot into 1-inch long pieces
- Mix all the ingredients together in a glass or ceramic jar, and cover with a lid or muslin cloth
- Leave the jar in the sun for 3-4 days, stirring the jar every day with a clean wooden spoon and covering it back up after stirring
- The fermentation should lend a sour taste to the mix which should be ready to drink in 3-4 days
- Consume within 1-2 days of making for a great digestive boost and kapha-pacifying goodness!
Following this kapha-pacifying routine will help tame signs of gloom and sluggishness that might arise during this cloudy, gray season!