Ayurvedic Tips for Winter: A Guide to Survive and Thrive

by Monica Gisella
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The astronomical start of winter is at the winter solstice, between December 21st and December 23rd, and ends at the spring equinox, between March 20th and March 22nd.

The energy of winter is that of spiritual hibernating, going within, and setting some time apart for self-reflection.

For a few months, the dark will prevail over the light.

And just like the earth, we are encouraged to face our own darkness, instead of suppressing it.

This is also the time when we experience the longest, darkest, and coldest nights of the year, which causes multiple physical and emotional changes.

Since we should adjust our diet and lifestyle at the start of every season, I want to introduce you to effective Ayurvedic Tips for Winter to help you welcome this wonderful period.

And provide you with the knowledge you need to survive and thrive in it.

ayurvedic tips for winter
Winter is a sacred time for rest and reflection

The elements

A couple of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, and earth) govern each season.

However, for winter, there are more elements at play.

This season is, in fact, a combination of both Vata (ether and air) and Kapha (water and earth) doshas.

Ether (“akasha” in Sanskrit), is the first of the five elements. It is subtle, primordial, cold, light, mobile, and omnipresent. It is the space other elements fill.

Air (“vayu” in Sanskrit), represents the capacity of motion or kinetic energy. It is mobile, cool, dry, light, rough, clear, and subtle.

Water (“apas” in Sanskrit), contains ether, air, and fire within. It is the cohesive principle and protector of the body. Water is cool, stable, heavy, moist, soft, gross, flowing, and dull.

Earth (“prithvi” in Sanskrit), contains the essence of all other elements. It is the principle of the solid nature of matter. It gives form to the human body and all other creations. Earth is cool, stable, heavy, dry, rough, gross, dense, and hard.

The exceptional combination of Ether, Air, Water, and Earth in winter offers a softening opportunity for us to stop the accelerated, busy-as-a-bee, and overwhelming rhythm of life we’ve had in previous seasons.

The shorter days and brief daylight instinctively call for rest, reflection, and slowing down.

At the same time, the heavy nature of Earth and Water — Kapha dosha — can promote the feelings of lethargy, stagnation, melancholy, downheartedness, and pessimism which can be soothed with specific Ayurvedic protocols.

Winter, Vata, and Kapha Doshas

Winter climate conditions may vary according to your location. In general, winter is a Kapha / Vata season that tends to aggravate both body types.

Vata Winter

For some, winter might have more Vata undertones when it is mostly cold and dry.

Vata dosha affects our body (i.e., constipation, skin, and hair dryness, muscle waste) and our emotions (you will tend to feel more isolated, indecisive, and nervous).

Kapha Winter

For others, this season feels moist and damp when there is rain or snow to a great degree.

At wintertime, you might feel fatigued and exhausted, which can make you wake up later than usual or skip your regular fitness routine.

Kapha dosha can also cause emotional eating, overeating, and a weak digestive fire, leading to indigestion, ama, and weight gain.

Increased mucous, dullness, and apathy are also common.

The foundation of these Ayurvedic Tips for Winter is to follow a basic, simple principle: Like Increases Like & Opposites Create Balance.

We will utilize the opposite attributes of what we are seeing in the outer world (macrocosms) and inside ourselves (microcosms) to achieve balance.

Reduce the excess ether, air, water, and earth

The purpose of these Ayurvedic Tips for Winter is to help you stay warm, relaxed, and take it easy during this Kapha / Vata season.

Our lives go through cycles of growth, harvest, death, and rebirth just as we see in nature.

So, this is a moment of transition to acknowledge our inner darkness and understand what is dragging us from seeing the light in our lives. Yet, at the same time we should recognize our personal power to grow and change.

During the stillness of wintertime, it’s important to appreciate silence, contemplation, and soul-searching.

First, because Vata aggravation often leads to worrying, excessive thinking, and distractions. Second, because if we are to live in alignment with Mother Nature, winter unpretentiously invites us to take a break and embrace serenity and calmness.

Likewise, during the winter solstice, the sun goes through a figurative death and rebirth. A reminder for us to patiently wait for the upcoming light and hope that our vision of the future will come into manifestation.

The good news is that we can find equilibrium through diet and lifestyle.

The following are some valuable self-care rituals and strategies that can help you navigate winter more gracefully.

Lifestyle suggestions

Slow down

  • Intentionally, set empty periods in your schedule to let your metabolism slow down, reduce stress levels, and cultivate peace in the spaciousness of unplanned time.
  • Spend time in meditation and reflection in the morning.
  • During winter, it is normal to feel sleepier than usual. Instead of keeping a busy pace by drinking extra amounts of coffee, give your body what it needs whether it is skipping a workout, an earlier bedtime, a warm bath, or some time away from your electronic devices.

Maintain your routine

  • Vatas do great with a set schedule and increasing their sense of habit to help their bodies heal and minds unwind.
  • Kapha individuals benefit from having an organized routine as well, specially when this dosha is provoked and feels congested and unmotivated. Under these circumstances, having the discipline to stick to your daily goals might feel really difficult. A daily routine can help you stay on track and mitigate this Kapha disposition.
  • Kapha dosha also requires a bit of freedom and improvisation during the day too. Allow yourself some time to play to break the monotony.
  • Eat your meals at roughly the same times every day to regulate your digestion and elimination cycle.
  • Shorter and darker days can affect your circadian rhythm. Therefore, take in the sun’s energy and light every morning, without sunglasses, for 5-30 minutes to push your sleep schedule earlier.

Move your body intuitively

  • For Vata bodies or a Vata type of winter, 30-40 minute, slow-paced, gentle workouts that focus on strengthening and stretching are best (see Fitness Guide for Vata Dosha).
  • Contrastingly, kapha individuals and winters call for long, invigorating, and challenging workout routines (see Fitness Guide for Kapha Dosha).
  • Above anything else, listen to your body and follow the workout intensity and frequency that feels good to your body.
  • Exercise during the Kapha time from 6 to 10 AM.

Other ayurvedic tips for winter

  • Winter brings shorter days, more darkness, and yes, less color. The lack of light can intensify the common winter blues and even influence us physically. Hence, dress in bright, happy, and vibrant colors like reds, yellows, and oranges.
  • Color therapy is a powerful healing strategy that can be applied to our diet too. Choose lively, colorful foods with deep green, purple, orange, yellow, and red tonalities.
  • Since winter can increase dryness, maintain your skin and joints moistened and lubricated with medicinal oils that are right for your body type.
  • Avoid napping during the winter months or if you are Kapha aggravated.

Ayurvedic tips for winter

The right diet

Complement your life-style efforts with a warming, moistening, and grounding anti-Vata dietary program if the atmosphere is cold and dry, or if your body feels Vata. Favor meals that feel nurturing, succulent, and heavy.

On the other hand, follow an anti-Kapha protocol if this winter feels watery and damp or if your dominant dosha is Kapha. Favor meals that are warm, light, and slightly dry.

Cook well your food with appropriate spices for winter, and make sure that most of the six tastes are present to prevent cravings.

FREE anti-Vata meal plan

FREE anti-Kapha meal plan

Winter detox

Starting this season with my Ayurvedic New Year Cleanse is a wonderful way to purify your body and get rid of the toxins accumulated throughout the year.

Kitchari cleanse is a wonderful way to purify your body and get rid of the toxins accumulated throughout the year.

Kitchari, one of the meals included in this reset plan, is a very satisfying dish, easy to digest, helps you flush toxins, and promotes overall health and wellness.

It takes you only about 25 minutes to make Kitchari. The simplicity it adds to your body, by exclusively eating a few easy-to-digest foods, is incredibly restorative.

Learn how to cook a Tridoshic Kitchari in the video below to support all your family in this season transition OR cook a Kitchari for your specific dosha.

Avoid

  • Iced or chilled drinks.
  • Raw foods, sushi, and cold soups.
  • Processed, congesting foods, and sugar.
  • Getting too cold.
  • Eating when nervous, anxious, afraid, or depressed.
  • Working out after the Kapha time (6am to 10am).

Grounding winter meditation

Incorporate comforting and tranquil winter meditations into your morning routine. Ideally at sunrise, honor the precious early rays the sun emanates while calling upon relaxation and peace. Breathe deeply and journal your thoughts.

Select a few principles from this Ayurvedic Tips for Winter guide and consistently practice them in the upcoming weeks.

They will help you feel balanced and healthy during the cold season.

Happy healing!

Monica Gisella xx

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