Often when our bodies and minds are exposed to the cool, dry air of winter, we are left with dry skin, colds, coughs, stress, and fatigue. By sticking to the warming and nourishing diet and lifestyle suggested by Ayurveda for the winter, it actually becomes a perfect time to build upon your current health, strengthen your relationships and focus inward!
Hearty Food & Warming Spices Improve Cold-Weather Digestion
Ayurveda calls for slight changes to your diet each season to help your body thrive. In the winter, it’s important to pile your plate with warm, nourishing foods that help build your immune system and inner strength. This is because your digestive capacity (otherwise known as agni) is in its top condition during the winter, so heavier and more nourishing foods like oils and root vegetables are easily digested and used for energy more efficiently than in other seasons.
For improved digestion, your winter diet should include hot soups, clean proteins, and organic vegetables roasted in healthy oils such as walnut, olive, and coconut. A cup of warm water or tea first thing in the morning followed by a nourishing bowl of warm oatmeal is a great way to start the day and fire up your digestive system. Lunch and dinner could include warm chicken soup or wild caught salmon. If you’re in the mood for veggies, stick to flavorful lentil dahl or hearty squash soups. Be sure to keep the fire going in your digestive system all the way through dessert with warm stewed fruits. Ayurveda tells you to be mindful to stay away from cold salads and sandwiches this time of year, as these will only work with the weather outside to dry your body and douse your agni. Try your best to avoid non-organic foods, leftovers, processed, packaged or canned foods!
Herbs and spices are an important part of cooking throughout the winter months. Stick with heating herbs and spices that will boost your agni and make you feel warm inside. Try cumin, turmeric, and cayenne for savory dishes or even tarragon and rosemary, which are especially good on roasted root vegetables. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try sprinkling a little cinnamon or ginger on baked apples. Better yet, sip on a cup of chai tea next to the fire, which includes several warming spices like cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg.
Supplements: Chyavanprash To Fight Colds, Turmeric To Fight Cough
There are some incredible supplements that have been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda to boost the immune system and strengthen the lungs to prevent against sickness during the winter. Chyavanprash, for instance, is actually a delicious herbal jam that builds body tissue to prevent against colds. It’s made from amalaki, the most vitamin C-rich fruit, and about 30 Ayurvedic herbs that prevent against colds, stress, and exhaustion. Chyavanprash can be spread on toast for a nourishing breakfast or stirred into warm milk for a pick-me-up during the day.
You can also try Trikatu, which is a supplement made of ginger, black pepper, and long pepper. These warming spices allow Trikatu to dry up mucous channels, and it is often taken with honey to soothe sore throats.
Homemade turmeric tea is also often used as an antibiotic and can be easily made with ingredients already in your kitchen. Simply boil a cup of water with a half teaspoon of turmeric and a splash of coconut milk for a nourishing drink that prevents against respiratory tract infections.
This tip may be obvious, but you don’t get as much Vitamin D during the winter so make sure to optimize your Vitamin D levels through supplements and UV lamps to ensure your immune system stays strong. In addition, be sure to bundle up when you go outside—the extra layers are your first defense against winter’s chilly winds and will help all the other Ayurvedic practices take full effect.
Feel Like Hibernating? Meditate Instead
Beyond food and supplements, Ayurveda suggests several things for a healthy mind and spirit throughout the winter season. Meditation, as most know, is important year-round for maintaining a healthy mind and spirit, but the serenity of winter helps us dive even further within our souls. Unlike the spring and summer, which are full of energy and movement, nature rests during the winter. It’s a prime opportunity to tap into your introverted side and explore what you can learn from the quiet. Schedule extra time to sit in stillness.
Warm Yourself With Vigorous Yoga Flows + Sun Salutations
Also, try to incorporate a vigorous yoga flow into your day to align your mind and body. It is important to stay active during the winter to bring heat to your vital organs. Since we often don’t get enough sun in the winter, practice a yoga sequence with plenty of sun salutations to awaken yourself both physically and mentally.
Go See Zoolander 2, Take A Warm Bath, And Moisturize!
Additionally, you can counter the gray winter weather by cultivating lightness and humor in your relationships. Invite joy into your life by snuggling up for a funny movie or going out to a comedy show. Not only will these fun activities fight off the winter blues, they will also support you energetically and help establish warmth in your relationship.
That being said, winter is also a prime time to slow down and appreciate life’s quiet moments. Don’t try to rush anything and take this time to embrace a slower-paced life. If traveling, avoid rushing and prepare ahead of time to create time for rest in between the chaos. Balance out humor’s energy with quiet nights sipping on warming merlot punch spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and cardamon (full recipe here). Indulging in a hot bath or massage is also a great way to relax.
Wintertime is a very drying season, and your skin tends to bear the brunt of the harsh winds. Keep your skin soft and smooth by massaging it with warm, moisturizing oils such as almond or sesame. For even more luxurious benefits, follow your massage with a hot bath infused with calming lavender essential oil.
Revisit Your Longterm To-Do List
Lastly, winter is a perfect month to set some goals. Taking time to ‘clean house’ and figure out what’s working and what’s not will improve your life ten-fold. Because you have more time to rest, you will be more likely to listen in to your inner guide and really make changes that will last!
Ayurveda allows you to cultivate a lifestyle that is constantly supportive of you, your health, and your needs—even in the coldest months. Unlike many lifestyles that allow your body to become overwhelmed with poor diet, stress, and stressful environments, Ayurveda seeks to create a life where these things are not a concern. Rather than waiting for your body to get sick so you can fill a prescription, focus on creating balance that wards off sickness from the start.