Ayurveda provides a wealth of seasonal lifestyle practices or rituals known as ‘Ritucharya’ (‘ritu’ translates to ‘season’, and ‘charya’ to ‘guidelines’) to support us throughout the year, and ensure that we live in accordance with nature.
As the natural world begins to slow down, to shed and go inward—it gives us the opportunity to do the same, to let nature guide us through the seasons.
Our environment should always be the inspiration for how we live our lives on a daily basis.
Nature provides the foundation, and it is up to us to work harmoniously with her to compliment what is naturally abundant.
It is this flow, this dance, that allows us to live a balanced, effortless life, in tune with the natural rhythms of our environment.
Winter embodies a certain sense of stillness and introspection, plants retreat inward to preserve their lifeforce for spring, and many animals flock to protected lands. This is an opportunity for us to redirect our own energy, inward. Days become shorter and darker, cooler temperatures inspire us to gravitate indoors and explore creativity, connection and cooking wholesome, nourishing meals.
All seasons work together to provide balance and allow space for the intrinsic patterns of life to exist. Winter provides the perfect antidote to a long hot summer of action and intensity. It is a time for reflection, rest and respite. It embodies qualities of peace and harmony, but can also trigger oppressive sensations of heaviness, fatigue, lethargy and can leave you feeling isolated, alone and even depressed.
Every season possesses the energy to both inspire and encumber your sense of self.
It is through Ayurveda that we are able to identify and work to balance the elemental forces at play. By using Ayurvedic principles, to adapt our diet and lifestyle practices, we are able to access and utilise the intentions of each season, without being burdened by seasonally induced imbalances.
Ayurveda is an ancient tradition that is based upon the relationship between the mind, body, soul and emotions. Ayurveda factors in diet and lifestyle practices that work in harmony with the elements (doshas), as well as nature and the seasons. Ayurveda originated in India many thousands of years ago and can be translated as ‘The Science of Life,’ or ‘The Art of Living’. It possesses ancient practices for living a balanced and fulfilling life that doesn’t harm the planet.
The unique physical, emotional, habitual and energetic qualities of each of the elements—ether, air, fire, water & earth—combine to reflect the three doshas—Vata, Pitta & Kapha.
Ayurveda believes that every living entity — plants, animals, humans — are composed of these elements in certain quantities, as are all diseases. Each of the doshas are dominant throughout certain times of the day, seasons, phases of life and are unique to every individual’s constitution.
By working with the doshas, we are given the tools to balance, or neutralise, the effects of dominant elements in order to restore harmony.
VATA + KAPHA SEASON (WINTER)
Vata (ether + air) resembles dry, windy and cold physical qualities as well as flighty, ungrounded and irrational emotional attributes.
Kapha (earth + water) shares the attribute of coldness with Vata, but also embodies moisture in the form of rain and snow, as well as a sense of heaviness, dullness and fatigue stemming from its deep, earthy roots.
Generally, autumn and the beginning of winter possess stronger Vata (dry) attributes, while late winter and early spring lean towards Kapha (wet). To simplify this concept, if it is raining—Kapha is dominant. If it is dry—Vata is in abundance.
Vata’s light, ungrounded qualities can spark dryness (internally and externally), as well as feelings of fear, anxiety, emotional instability, forgetfulness and concentration issues, which may make it challenging to finish projects, make decisions, and commit to plans. You can also expect to experience dry skin and more hair-fall in early winter as we shed like the leaves on trees. On the upside, the season of Vata inspires creativity, connection and action.
Kapha’s damp, heavy nature can slow digestion weighing down the mind and body, which can result in increased congestion, constipation, weight gain, water retention, lethargy, procrastination, and depression. On the other hand, Kapha season promotes endurance, memory (this is a great time to take a course), meditation, introspection and self-healing.
Understanding the physical and emotional characteristics of each season allows you to harness your mental strength to overcome burdens and limitations and work harmoniously with what the environment is offering rather than fighting against it.
Each season pacifies or ignites certain energies within us, meaning that our systems can be thrown out of balance if we don’t take the correct measures to adapt with the season. As Kapha is dominant in the environment during winter, our lifestyle and diet should work to pacify its qualities, so that we can avoid an accumulation or aggravation of its qualities.
Ayurveda has many tools to support us during seasonal shifts. This support structure allows us to thrive, and live symbiotically with nature, plants and each other.
Ayurvedic Winter Lifestyle Practices (Ritucharya)
During winter you may experience congestion, oiliness or dryness, lethargy, depression and weight gain, so we work to overcome these symptoms through the following lifestyle practices:
- Indulge in a little extra sleep as the sun remains dormant longer than usual.
- Ease your way into the day with a meditation practice.
- Follow meditation with a warm oil massage over the whole body (Abhyanga) to promote circulation, spark Agni and balance all the doshas.
- Use a Neti pot to cleanse the nasal passage, reduce congestion, alleviate allergies and prevent the flu.
- Practice yoga, deep breathing, pranayama and mantra.
- Connect with nature and receive the healing rays of the sun.
- Engage in invigorating exercise to burn off the extra food required in winter. This will build internal heat, sweat to eliminate toxins and will allow us to move through the dormant qualities of winter.
- Create an eating ritual where you are completely focused on your meal, away from devices and technology. Take this time to express gratitude and allow your taste buds to connect with the life-giving properties of your food (prana).
- Cleanse the face & sinuses with a facial steam (Swedana).
- Prepare a large bowl of hot water with your choice of rose petals, chamomile flowers, fennel seeds, rosemary and 2 drops of essential oils such as lavender or rose geranium.
- Lean over the bowl and place a towel over your head so the steam can’t escape, with a gap of 4-6 inches between your face and the water.
- Keep your eyes closed, meditate and breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes.
- Gently pat your face dry with a towel and apply facial oil in an upwards motion on your skin.
Ayurvedic Winter Diet Principles
As the cooler weather sets in, our internal fire (Agni) retreats deep within, sparking our appetite and need for more substantial, nourishing, heating foods to fuel us over winter.
With our digestive capacity at its strongest, now is the time for…
- Hearty meals consisting of spices, oils, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds & nuts.
- Focus on curries, stews, soups and pies containing vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, radishes, spinach, asparagus, okra and other greens.
- Incorporate hot spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, mustard seed, paprika, cayenne and chilli.
- Utilise cooked grains like oats, barley, rice and quinoa to provide fibre and energy.
- All beverages (including water) should be warm to ignite Agni, keep digestive processes invigorated, cleanse the respiratory tract and improve circulation.
- Adopt a tea ritual and sip throughout the day. A good way to start this is with warm water and a slice of ginger.
- Remember to avoid anything cold or frozen (which will dampen Agni), as well as dairy products, as they emphasise congestion.
Staying in Balance
By understanding the attributes of the doshas we are able to recognise aggravations, and work to find balance through our daily diet and lifestyle practices. By consciously connecting with our bodies, we are able to feel and sense the effects each meal has on our digestion – whether it’s energised & revitalised or bloated & lethargic, and can recognise what does and doesn’t work for our innate constitution.
Begin to slowly observe how your body and mind feels after you eat specific meals and explore different forms of exercise/lifestyle practices. Give yourself the space to reflect and decipher whether these experiences have had a positive or negative effect on you and begin to reduce practices that aren’t aligned with your optimum wellbeing.
When living harmoniously with nature, our intuition is strengthened, we are able to live in conscious attunement with our natural habitat, whilst creating minimal impact on the planet.
Ayurvedic Diet + Lifestyle consultations provide you with an opportunity to uncover your dosha, harmonise any imbalances, and establish complimentary practices for each season.