There is unlimited magic that comes with it determining routines. And as we continue to delve deeper into the world of wellness, we encounter rituals and practices that have existed in cultures for centuries. Ayurveda is perhaps one of the most prominent, and it is also the oldest model of holistic health care, dating back three to five thousand years. Among the many truths rooted in Ayurveda is our connection to the natural world. That’s why today we are sharing Ayurvedic winter tips to help you stay well this season.
Selected image of Kristen Kilpatrick.
Get some breathing room
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What is Ayurveda?
“Ayurveda is this idea that when you live in harmony with nature, you will have optimal health and a vibrant life,” Dr. Avanti Kumar-Singha former doctor who now works as an ayurvedic wellness expert, previously shared with us. Ayur means life and At a means science in Sanskrit. Essentially, Ayurveda translates to “the science of life.”
According to Deepak Chopra (perhaps the best-known modern practitioner), Ayurveda includes two main theories:
1. Mind and body are inextricably linked
2. Nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind
Deepak sums it up like this: “Freedom from disease depends on expanding our own consciousness, bringing it into balance, and then extending that balance to the body.”
5 Ayurvedic winter tips
In Ayurvedic medicine, everything consists of the five earth elements: fire, ether, water, air, and the earth. Ayurveda believes that these elements are what unites all people. Each element is manifested through the three doshas: Kapha, Pittaand Cotton wool.
We each have a different combination of the three doshas and tend to lean towards one type. (To discover your dosha, take this quiz. However, you should know that the tips below can be applied to any dosha type.) Fully understanding the intricacies of Ayurveda can take years, but there are Ayurvedic winter tips that can easily be woven into our daily lives. Below are my favorite nods to Ayurveda that will help you thrive this winter.
Get things moving early in the morning
An important theory in Ayurveda is the theory of “digestive fire”. Gut health is considered to be central to general well-being. We are learning more and more through modern science about the importance of gut health and how associated it is with major disease processes and overall immunity.
What to do:
Every morning when you wake up, drink a large glass of warm filtered water with fresh lemon juice. (You can learn more about the benefits of lemon water here.) If your body leans toward constipation, add bitter to your water to help with digestion. If your body is leaning toward diarrhea, add fresh mint or ginger to your hot water.
Eat for the season
Ayurvedic medicine thrives on the theories of a seasonal routine. By balancing your diet and lifestyle with the seasons, you set yourself up for optimal health. Ayurveda teaches that like brings like and counterbalancing a season with diet can help you reach a greater state of equilibrium. In other words, because winter is a dry, cold and generally harsh season, you should eat foods with opposite qualities to achieve balance.
What to do:
In winter it is important to move away from raw and cold foods. Instead, focus on eating hot foods with healthy fats, hardy vegetables, warming spices and hot drinks.
Try incorporating more of these foods in the winter:
Healthy fatty oils such as coconut oil or olive oil.
Hardy root vegetables such as onions, carrots, squash, pumpkin, beetroot and sweet potatoes.
Warming spices. I like to make the following spice mix at the beginning of the season and keep it on my spice rack to add to vegetables, tea, hot milk, chicken or cereal.
- Ayurvedic Winter Spice Blend: 6 parts turmeric, 3 parts cumin, 3 parts coriander, 6 parts fennel seeds, 1 part powdered dry ginger, 1 part black pepper, 1/4 part ground cinnamon.
Swish Away Bacteria a Day
Oil pulling is an oral Ayurvedic tradition similar to the idea of using mouthwash. Current scientific research have shown that daily oil pulling can prevent gingivitis and cavities. Of course, it should not take the place of good dental hygiene. However, oil pulling can be a great addition to your routine. In addition, it is always positive to take the time to complete a gentle meditative routine.
What to do:
Measure out a tablespoon of coconut oil and rinse the oil in your mouth. Gently rub the oil through your teeth and around your gums (don’t swallow it!). It should be tasty and soothing. The goal is to get up to 15-20 minutes of swishing a day, but even just 5-10 minutes will be helpful. I like to use it in the morning before and during the shower. Be careful not to spit it down the drain or toilet, as hardened oil can clog pipes. Spit in the trash or in a jar to dispose of later.
Find a way to move every day
Walking is considered a tri-doshic exercise, meaning that regardless of your dosha type, walking will help balance your mind, body and soul without strain. In addition, walking after meals helps digestion and supports the “digestive fire” that is so important in Ayurveda. In Western medicine and science, we also know that walking supports heart health, strengthens muscles and improves bone density. Why not make walking a habit?
What to do:
Plan a daily walk after your heaviest meal of the day. (In Ayurvedic tradition, both breakfast and dinner should be light, making lunch your heaviest meal.) But for most Americans, dinner is the heaviest meal. If that’s true for you too, make it a habit to stroll through your neighborhood after your meal. This movement increases blood flow to your intestines and stomach, which helps with digestion.
Live in harmony with nature
Routine is a beautiful way to align your energy, organize your life and focus on your goals. In Ayurvedic medicine, routine is deeply important and should follow nature’s cues. A routine must be predictable and match the changing of the sun and the seasons. In fact, your body is already programmed to follow the earth – you have an innate internal cycle called the circadian rhythm. Ayurvedic medicine encourages you to pay attention to this inner rhythm and the earth in terms of waking, energy expenditure, eating and sleeping.
What to do:
Remember that these are suggestions. Take them as loosely or seriously as you like – I like to think of the earth’s orbit as a general energetic guide.
6 in the morning Get up with the sun every day, preferably at this time. The early morning is a slower time with lower energy, so take care of yourself and your body.
6-10 in the morning This is a good time to eat a light breakfast. Consider meditating, light exercise or yoga, and gently start your work day.
10.00 – 14.00 This is your most energetic time. Exercise and eat lunch (you have plenty of energy to digest a large meal). Generally, this is your most productive time. Schedule tasks or work events that require you to be on point during this period.
14 – 18 This is where things start to slow down again. Listen to your energy and save tasks that are less mentally taxing for this part of the afternoon. Ayurveda also suggests eating dinner before noon. 18 for optimal digestion and health.
6 – 10 a.m Ideally, you should sleep around 10 p.m. When the sun goes down, begin to relax yourself. Gentle yoga or meditation is also good during this time block.
22.00 – 02.00 Hopefully you sleep in this window. Ayurveda believes that this time is important for rejuvenation, rest and digestion. If you are not, start relaxing and doing something relaxing to encourage rest. If you can’t sleep, a cup of warm milk with warm spices is Ayurveda’s Ambien and has scientifically proven sleep-promoting properties.
This post was originally published on January 9, 2020 and has since been updated.