Understanding what your body needs to stay feeling well throughout autumn and winter starts by observing the qualities of the season. It’s definitely cold, damp and just a little grey out there. These qualities can feel oppressive and weigh us down. Emotionally and physically we might feel a little low, lack energy, motivation and get-up-and-go. The fast pace and transformational energy of the Pitta summer has been replaced by the cold, stillness of winter.
Summer was a time for grounding and cooling. Winter is a time for invigorating and warming. To maintain balance and good health we can follow the Ayurvedic principles of ‘like increases like and opposites create balance’. The qualities of the season can either pacify or aggravate our inner environment depending on our Ayurvedic type.
The qualities of Autumn and Winter are shared with Kapha and Vata dosha. Winter is considered to be a predominantly Kapha season with strong Vata influences. You can read more about the qualities of each dosha here.
To balance the heavy, cold, moist qualities of kapha it’s important to bring the opposing qualities into our diet and lifestyle: Food should be warming, invigorating and dry. Sweet, sour and salty tastes increases Kapha, whereas bitter, pungent and astringent tastes pacify Kapha. Naturally Kapha dosha has a tendency to overeat, driven by their love of food. Especially in winter when the appetite naturally increases, this is something to be mindful of.
Kapha dosha does well to limit sweet, sugary foods and refined carbohydrates as these all increase Kapha due to their cooling, grounding qualities. Include lots of heating vegetables: root vegetables, onions, radish and mustard greens. Astringent vegetable like spinach and kale are also a fantastic addition.
Cook with lots of warming, pungent spices: garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, turmeric, cayenne and chilli are all beneficial. Cooked grains: buckwheat, millet, oats and brown rice are more Kapha balancing than pasta, white rice and bread. Pulses, with their astringent qualities are also great for Kapha dosha.
Vata dosha is most affected by the cold qualities of winter. Autumn also brings lots of movement through blustery winds and cold air. These are the qualities we should be mindful of when we consider balancing Vata throughout Autumn and Winter. To balance the mobile, cold and dry qualities of Vata dosha diet should be: warming, moist and grounding.
Vata is balanced by the opposite tastes to Kapha. Sweet, sour and salty are most pacifying for Vata with pungent, bitter and astringent aggravating Vata.
Kapha benefits from maintaining an invigorating routine of activities, getting outdoors and spending time with others as much as possible. It’s all too easy for Kapha types to stay at home, but this can increase the tendency towards melancholy and loneliness. It’s good for Kapha types to maintain a sense of purpose and try new things. Have fun, stay light-hearted of body and mind, keep things fresh and a little unpredictable.
It’s now we start to see the seasonally induced conditions affecting Kapha and Vata type: coughs, colds, congestion in the chest and sinuses. At Lotus we’ve developed our top tips for a healthy and happy winter, through our programme of activities and therapies available at our studio.
Here’s our top Ayurvedic Wellness Tips for a healthy, happy winter:
- Stock up with warning winter spices: garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, turmeric, cayenne and chilli. Find out more about how we can use them in food and in Ayurvedic cold and flu remedies here.
- Develop a regular morning routine. Ayurveda recommends sleeping a little later in winter if work and family allows, of course, 7am is perfect. Brush teeth, scrape tongue, have a warm shower and massage the body using sesame oil or our Vata oil available at the studio. Sesame oil is warming and suitable for all doshas in winter. Moisturising the body is especially important for Vata dosha.
- Shake of sluggishness of Kapha dosha by adapting a regular, Invigorating morning routine. A few rounds of Surya Namaskar is perfect. Start with 2-3 rounds and try to work up to 12.
- Incorporate Invigorating, warming pranayama into your morning routine: Ujjaya (victorious) Breath and Kapalabhati breath are best practiced in the morning with an empty stomach to help stoke the digestive fire. If you’re suffering from acid indigestion, hiatus hernia, are pregnant, hight Pitta dosha or have other stomach problems these practices may not be suitable.
- In the winter there is a tendency towards melancholy and loneliness. Don’t let this creep in; come to the studio. Being with others, practicing together and social interaction with others is the prefect antidote to the winter blues. Kapha individuals benefit from keeping things fresh and mixing things up a bit. Don’t get stuck in the winter, Kapha mud, try new things, there’s so much to choose from at the studio: Look at what’s on throughout Autumn and Winter: workshops, Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates and Reformer for all levels. Try something New: the Sound Bath or Kirtan. Keep light-hearted of body and mind. Have you tried the Kirtan? The Yoga of Sound. Chanting of Sanskrit mantra. I guarantee you will leave feeling pure joy.
- Follow the principles of a winter dosha balancing diet: Pacifying Kapha without aggravating Vata and vice versa. Read about each dosha here. More recipes to follow throughout the season.
- Get moving. Vata benefits from a strong, steady strengthening routine of activities. At the studio we recommend: Pilates Reformer, Tai Chi and Yin Yoga if you feel the effect of the cold, blustery autumn winds.For Kapha types its all about invigorating. If there was was ever a perfect time to practice Ashtanga Yoga it’s now. if you’ve not practiced before try out the workshops in November and December. You can read more about them here. An invigorating winter Yoga practice will help increase agni, improve circulation and remove congestion from the chest throat and sinuses. Include: Cobra (Bhujangasana) Fish pose (Matsyasana), Bow (Dhanurasana), Locust pose (Salabasana), Camel Pose (Ustrasana).