Ayurveda has been India’s traditional health system for thousands of years. Translated as ‘science of life’, its methods prescribe and detail how to use foods, herbs, Yoga and health routines to support our health to live a balanced and fulfilling life.
Ayurvedic treatments and lifestyle advice help each individual to live in harmony with their surroundings and their unique constitution (dosha). These health routines empower each person to use self care tools to counteract the effects of their external environment and to respond wisely to their internal environment. This article is an introduction to the basic principles of Ayurveda and what Ayurvedic habits you can adopt this winter.
The distinctive physical, emotional, habitual and energetic qualities of each person are an indication as to which dosha or constitution they express. The word dosha loosely translates as ‘imperfection’, ‘blemish’, ‘fault’ or ‘mistake’, referring to the way each dosha controls and drives our individuality and uniqueness. For the most part, a person’s dosha is most obvious when they are required to adapt to changing circumstances. It will usually have an impact upon how they respond to life’s stresses.
Anything that requires us to adapt is thought of as a ‘stress’, such as a change in temperature,
digestion, work, effort level and so on.
A person’s body and mind type, or dosha, is also a good way to predict certain tendencies, ailments and preferences that they may have. I studied in India over nine years in Mysore, Karnataka. All the Indian families had an Ayurvedic cabinet in their kitchen filled with herbs, oils and spices. This was their at home health center. Each family member knew what herb or practice was correct for them, even the young children.
As you integrate the knowledge of Ayurveda, you will use foods, herbs, exercise regimes, sleeping routines and dietary advice to live more balanced. As you become more accustomed to these practises, you may explore Ayurveda’s seasonal cleansing practices, mantra practises and meditation to deepen your self care. My aspiration for you, is that you will create a personal Ayurvedic cabinet that becomes one of your sources of health and vitality.
The three different doshas are:
Vata (governed by air and ether), Pitta (governed by fire and water) and Kapha (governed by earth and water). It’s not only humans who embody these particular doshas and in a particular balance. All life forms, from plants to animals, are expressions of the doshas. Also, all the seasons, times of day and periods throughout our life cycle are closely linked to a particular dosha. We live in a dosha mix.
Spring is primarily governed by Kapha, Summer by Pitta, Autumn by Vata and Winter by a combination of both Vata and Kapha. The cold, dry, windy and vulnerable nature of Vata is prevalent in Autumn and Winter, while the dark, inert, wet and earthy qualities of Kapha are more prevalent in late Winter and early Spring. By observing the qualities of nature throughout the seasons, we can use our intuition and intelligence to help ourselves thrive during the year.
Rest, restore and revive
Some animals hibernate during Winter and we would also do well to spend time getting some much-needed R&R. The increased amount of darkness is a fairly obvious sign that we need more sleep at this time of year. So getting to bed earlier and rising a little later as the sun rises can support good health. Vata is all about movement and activity, but over doing these physical habits can be strongly linked to anxiety. Whilst Kapha is related to stillness and ‘groundedness’, yet also inertia when over done. Balance these two aspects by moving each day in a way you enjoy. Some ideas of adding physical exericises into your daily routine is: 1. Get outside and bask in the Winter sun on a brisk walk 2. Practice morning asana (Sun salutations and Standing Postures are great at this time of year. ) 3. swim, cycle or got to your favourite dance class. To support and soothe your Vata nature, spend time nourishing yourself, settling into stillness and focusing on self-care. Two tips: 1. At the end of the day, take a warm bath at least once a week. 2. Wear socks and a toque to retain more body heat.
Great classes to promote warmth and circulation are a daily Yoga class and iRest Yoga Nidra classes. Click here to find out about my upcoming weekly iRest Yoga Nidra online classes.
Classes that promote calming and grounding are Restorative Yoga. Click here for Dec. 18th, 2022 Restorative Class.
Take a Mindfulness Meditation class to learn how to calm, focus and relax.
Click here for Dec 11th, 2022 Introductory Mindfulness Meditation Course (Online & in-Person).
Click here for January 2023 6 week Mindfulness course (Online & In-Person).
Ayurveda strongly advices using herbs to heal and nourish our bodies. Autumn and Winter are the perfect seasons to spice up your spice cabinet These list of spices I have provided promote digestion. Digestive fire needs to be strong at this time of year to maintain blood circulation, body heat and provide us with strong metabolism to assure that we utilize the calories we require in cold weather. This is why we are usually more than happy to eat a little more than we might in the summertime. Ayurveda discovered that specific herbs and spices support our bodies metabolism and digestive function, known as ‘agni’ (fire) in Sanskrit.
Herbs to add:
- Black pepper
- Chilli pepper
Sesame Oil for self-massage
Daily massage is an important aspect of Ayurveda. This helps our joints staying mobile, muscles toned and the body’s temperature regulated. Sesame oil is excellent for any Vata-type people and is the preferred oil for self-massage during Autumn and Winter. You can scent oils with sweet, warm fragrances like sweet orange and rose. It is recommended to lightly massage the whole body in the mornings, paying special attention to the scalp and feet.
Boost your Ojas
Ojas can be translated as our ‘vital essence’. It’s considered the body’s vigour, energy, abundance and juiciness. It is related to Kapha’s more positive qualities of stability and strength. Physically, it relates to the lymphatic, fascial system and immune system of our bodies. During times of instability and change like cold and dry weather, ojas can become depleted. This can lead to physical and mental weakness, decreased digestive fire, low mood, SAD and depleted energy levels. To replenish your vigour and maintain optimal levels of ojas this season, add these foods to your diet on a regular basis.:
- Sesame oil and other healthy oils such as coconut, olive and almond
- Ghee (clarified butter)
- Almonds (If possible before eating, soak and peel almonds so they can be digested easily.)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds and Tahini
- Warm, lightly cooked vegetables
- Soups and stews (Curries are great!)
- Organic, easily digestible grains
Another Ayurvedic suggestion is to add a teaspoon of Chyawanprash to your daily diet. Chyawanprash is a nutritive and regenerative herbal jam which is available to purchase at many health shops and Indian Grocery markets. It contains herbs like amla, ashwagandha, cinnamon, cardamom, bamboo manna, saffron and many more which aid in building immune strength, known as ‘bala’.
Keep calm and add colour
Especially if you’re susceptible to bouts of Winter Blues, keeping warm is essential. You can promote well being through simple colour therapy. Add vibrant colours to the space around you to promote feelings of positivity, energy and warmth. Colours such as orange, gold, deep reds and mustard are a simple and effective way to encourage an energizing and comforting response. Utilize colour therapy in your home, desk area and in your clothing choices.
Wearing a hat and scarf when it’s windy outside can be particularly helpful to anyone who feels a little ‘scattered’ or vulnerable during the colder months. The head is an important place to protect and keep warm. Covered up if your external environment is cold and unpredictable. Keeping the your arms and legs warm generally will help the body’s internal environment stay balanced. Plus, covering your head is a simple and effective way to promote feelings of safety, serenity and peace.
I hope these suggestions spark enthusiasm to revamp your self-care routine this season.
If you have any questions and want to book a Yoga and Ayurveda appointment with me, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be well and Be Metta, Allison