Ayurveda means science of life and has been practiced in India for over 4,000 years. This ancient system of natural medicine identifies a life source which is attributed with maintaining health and wellbeing; this life force is known as prana and according to Ayurvedic Practitioners, prana is the interaction of our life with the environment, stressors, diet and lifestyle, & can either optimise or reduce this life force.
According to the Ayurvedic medicine tradition of the tridoshas: Kapha, Vata, Pitta, the seasons have a natural effect on the body and the strength of the individual is enhanced and/or maintained by adopting suitable dietary and lifestyle techniques according to the season.
The external environment (season) can contribute to an accumulation of traits/characteristics of the corresponding dosha. For example, Kapha increases when the weather is wet and cold, Vata increases in dry, windy, cool conditions in Autumn, and Pitta increases in Summer. So cooling conditions and food are best utilised in Summer, while Pitta aggravation and warming foods are best when Kapha or Vata aggravation is dominant.
During winter there is a natural accumulation of Kapha and Vata due to the cold, wet and damp weather so it is important that effort is made to ensure that you compensate for this natural accumulation by off-setting this Kapha and Vata dominance by keeping warm and dry, and including warming foods in your diet.
It is important not to overeat, the result will be a dampening of Jaoharagni, the internal digestive fire, and Kapha functions best on small meals. Drink tea made of cinnamon, turmeric (Golden Milk), nettle and ginger to tonify and ease the accumulation of Kapha. Chai tea is fantastic for the Winter period. Maharishi Ayurveda Kapha tea is great as a wake up brew and eases lethargy and congestion, it contains ginger, cloves, pepper, cardamon, tumeric and saffron. A great winter desert or breakfast idea is stewed pears with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. This is highly nutritious and warming over the colder months. Some general nourishing foods for all dosha types during winter are: sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, beetroot, spinach and green peas.
According to the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is important over winter to tonify and support the stomach, spleen and kidneys. It is also traditionally known to keep the triple warmers ‘fired up’ during this period. Keep yourself in warm clothes made of natural fabrics, adequate warm bedding (no electric blanket please) and ensure your kidneys are kept warm to prevent cold and damp from disturbing or blocking your Qi.
TCM warming foods are: Red Meat, eggs, chicken, fish, root vegetables, garlic, onion, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon. Japanese culture also eats a diet high in warming and nutritionally dense food over this period. Miso soup, tofu, gyoza dumplings, udon noodles, egg noodles and teriyaki marinated meat dishes are consumed to maintain warmth and nutrition of the digestive system and overall wellbeing. The use of green tea provides antioxidants and L-theanine which is naturally occurring, and contributes to the relaxing, yet stimulant effect, that is produced after tea drinking.
Top Diet & Lifestyle Tips for Winter
o During Winter refrain from harsh detox regimes. Use ‘soup days’ which are highly nutritious & give your GIT a break from heavier foods over Winter.
o Drink Golden Milk, Chai tea, Ginger, Manuka honey & lemon tea, YEP tea.
o Purchase fruit and vegetables that are ‘in season’ from your local organic market to make it easier to practise seasonal eating, aim for the warming options to enhance winter health.
o Gentle Yoga practice such as Sun Salute is a dynamic and heating practice which is perfect for Autumn and Winter. Backbends, flowing asanas and standing poses are energising and warming.
o Warm baths, saunas, wheat bags, house heating and extra blankets are all beneficial to reduce Kapha and Vata.
o Use Dry skin brushing & ‘aromatic dressing’ massage to keep your skin in top condition.
o Choose warm food & drinks (water) over cold or frozen food, no drinks straight from the fridge during winter.
o It is important to remain hydrated and keep up the exercise over Winter. The artificial heating can be extremely dehydrating and the reluctance to drink water is a combination that results in dry flaky skin over the body, dry heels and flaky scalp. Practice dry skin brushing to aid circulation & skin health.
o Include Omega 3 in your daily diet to encourage hydration, immune, skin and circulatory benefits.
o Increase foods rich in Vit D (salmon, sardines, mackerel, egg yolks), to maintain vitality and immune system over Winter to prevent lack lustre complexion, cold and flu, and sluggish mental outlook.