Embrace this beautiful season!
Winter can be a wonderful time to renew and restore our energy. The cooler weather and darker nights can encourage our innate need for more restful and relaxing activities.
If we allow nature to take the lead, it serves us well to slow down, get to bed a little earlier, and not overfill our schedules. It’s about balance though, and too many slow days though can lend us to feeling lethargic. Since we don’t have the ability to fully hibernate, it serves us well to find ways to fuel our energy and increase our zest for life.
This time of year, perhaps due to holiday excessiveness, we may be feeling a desire to get back on track, but lack the energy and motivation to fulfill those intentions.
Understanding the elements in play this season and how are bodies and minds are affected by the changes, can be very helpful. In Ayurveda, to counteract elemental dominance, we use the oppositive qualities of that element to achieve balance. How you are personally affected also depends on your constitution or dosha, and current state of balance.
Due to the increased moisture (ie snow), Winter is influenced by the Kapha dosha (elements of earth and water). On days when it’s cold, damp, cloudy and heavy feeling, that’s when Kapha is predominant. When Kapha dosha in the body becomes excessive, it tends to leave us feeling heavy, sluggish, and dense with a tendency towards excessive sleep, laziness, melancholy or depression. It’s easier to gain excessive weight and feel unmotivated and lethargic. We may be prone to respiratory issues. If you’d like to learn more about Kapha imbalance – please check out this link.
And when it becomes intensely cold and/or windy, then Vata dosha (wind & air elements) will take over. When Vata dosha becomes excessive we may be prone to physically feeling very cold, hard to warm up, stiffness, joint pain, dryness, as well as mentally scattered, difficulty focusing and jumpy or anxious. If you’d like to learn more about Vata imbalance – please check out this link.
To combat those winter blues, especially from Kapha imbalance, try to get moving vigorously– for at least 20 minutes per day. Outdoors, think a brisk walk, jog, skate or ski (my favourite). Adding a little heat to your Yoga practice such as Sun Salutations, Kapalabhati and Bhastrika breath will warm and energize as well as boost circulation.
I highly recommend oil massage (abhyanga) before or after bathing all winter long! It creates a barrier between you and the outside world. It is deeply nourishing for your skin to combat all the dryness, and it also stimulates your nervous and lymph systems.
The primary focus for a healthy Winter diet is eating warm, cooked, slightly oiled, well-spiced foods. Eat foods that are easy to digest, but also grounding and nourishing. Think soups, stews, porridges, one-pot meals, curries, etc. Well-spiced means more than just pepper and salt! Try recipes with ginger, cinnamon, clove, turmeric, etc. Spices add nutrients, ease digestion of heavy foods, and warm you up. Try to avoid overly fiery spices.
It’s advised to limit your intake of raw vegetables, salads, and cold or frozen foods. It’s important to increase your diet with healthy fats to counteract inner dryness and maintain body temperature. Use healthy oils like ghee and olive oil, and add more seeds and nuts to your meals or snacks.
Drink room temperature, warm or hot beverages, and avoid iced or chilled drinks. A tea with ginger or cinnamon, chai tea is perfect example, to warm us from the inside out! I like to add a few slices of fresh ginger to a thermos of hot water to sip through the day. Also, tea between meals can help to keep our digestive fire stoked.
Here’s my favourite Winter Breakfast Recipe!
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
· 1/3 cup oats, regular rolled oats
· 3/4 cup water
· 1 tsp olive, ghee or coconut oil
· 1" cinnamon stick
· 2 cardamon pods (optional)
· 1 tbsp raisins, 1 chopped date, 1 chopped dried fig
· ½ or 1 small apple – peeled and chopped finely
· 2 tbsp pecans, roughly chopped (optional)
Lightly toast pecans in dry skillet a few minutes.
Heat oil in pot on low and add cinnamon stick (if using) for a few minutes or until fragrant. Add oats, stir and toast for up to 1 minute. Add water and other ingredients, bring to a boil, then turn down to low, cover and cook for 10 - 12 minutes. Remove any whole spices if using.
Serve with maple syrup and pecans.