Winter is officially here and Ayurvedic winter rituals can help to support your wellness during this chilly, introverted season, as Erica Breen explains.
Winter is upon us and it's the perfect tonic to the faster pace of the warmer seasons. Winter is a time to rest, reflect, and turn inward. Each season has the potential to either bolster or hinder your sense of wellbeing, and this is where Ayurvedic winter rituals can help to support you.
Ayurveda and the seasons
Every season brings a unique set of qualities that can either alleviate or aggravate the inner workings of your being, depending on your dosha.
Ayurveda is based on the idea that everything in the universe is made up of five basic elements – space, air, fire, water and earth. These five elements then combine to give rise to three forces (or doshas). The combination of these three doshas (called vata, pitta and kapha) determine the biological, physiological and psychological functions of the mind and body.
When a dosha is out of balance, it can cause physical and emotional distress as the seasons change. It's why some people love the heat of summer or why others can spend hours playing in the snow. Regardless, nature's season influences your overall state of balance and wellbeing.
By adapting your diet and lifestyle to accommodate the changing seasons, you can drastically reduce the likelihood of any seasonally induced imbalances that interfere with daily activities. By practising Ayurvedic winter rituals, you can help to support your immune system, optimise your digestion, and have more energy.
Winter is a cold and chilly season that can be very dry at times, but also have lots of moisture. Ayurveda recognises winter as a kapha season with strong vata undertones.
Kapha is associated with cold weather, a sense of heaviness, increased moisture (as in rain or snow), and little sunlight. It also creates a grounded, slow feeling that sends many animals (and humans) into hibernation. However, suppose your climate is freezing and dry, or you tend to feel more isolated during the winter months. In these cases, vata will also be a vital component of winter.
Ayurvedic winter rituals
Winter is when the digestive fire is most vigorous because our bodies require more nutrients to stay healthy and warm during this season. It's why you typically find yourself eating and craving more in the winter months! A supportive winter diet will pacify kapha without increasing vata and vice versa.
Focus on eating warm, cooked, well-spiced nourishing foods during the winter season. Cooked grains like oatmeal make for a great breakfast, while lunches and dinners of steamed vegetables and hearty soups are ideal.
Vegetables like carrots, onions, and root vegetables are perfect for winter. Some great spices for warming the body are garlic, ginger, and cayenne. Where you can, try to avoid cold or frozen food, and those foods that are excessively sweet or oily.
Ayurveda encourages drinking room temperature liquids, and the winter is ideal for warm, hot beverages. My favourite thing to drink this time of year is golden milk in the evening. It's super yummy, easy to make, and allows me to have a deep sleep.
During this cold, grey season, you want to invite warmth, joy, and relaxation. Winter can create loneliness, so you want to maintain relationships, keep a sense of purpose, and make frequent opportunities for fun and laughter. It's key to avoid rushing and embrace a more slow, relaxed pace at this time of year.
The winter season is a time to balance meaningful socialisation and a quiet time of reflection. We often don't want to go out in the colder winter temperatures, which gives us a rare opportunity to retreat and check-in with ourselves.
Winter is characterised by long nights and short days, so you should give your body and mind ample amount of rest. Let your body live to its natural circadian rhythm by going to bed early and rising with the sun. The longer nights provide an ideal atmosphere for you to relax and unwind, and it's best to avoid daytime naps during this season.
Having an Ayurvedic morning routine will help you stay balanced, minimise anxiety, and keep things clear for you this winter.
The best way to support physical health in the winter season is exercising.
The optimal time to exercise in the winter season is in the morning from 6am to 10 am as this helps to set the tone for the day. With winter, you want to maximise your exposure to sunlight. Exercises in the early morning can help to lift your energy levels and encourage you to stay active in nature.
If the weather is more vata (dry and cold), opt for a slow exercise like walking or yoga. During more kapha weather (heavy rain, snow etc.), a more high-intensity workout, like a jog or challenging hike, will feel more suitable. It's essential to listen to your body during this winter season and decide what feels best for you that day.
I like to include and focus on yoga poses like sun salutations, warrior 1, warrior II, and reverse warrior. It can also be beneficial to have forward and backward bends to stimulate metabolism. These can be poses like cobra, bow, and supine twists.
About Erica Breen
Erica is a life-long mover and forever student. Trained in Pilates, Yoga and Ayurveda, Erica has a breadth of knowledge when it comes to the human body and its inner workings. Leading a nomadic lifestyle, you'll find Erica sharing her work online from all over the world! Find out more at ericabreenpilates.com.