November 28, 2018

Curing the “Winter Blues”—the Ayurvedic Way.

We had our first snowfall in Michigan today.

And, though the nights are already darker and the weather much colder, the snowfall felt like our official initiation into the change of seasons.

During this time of the year, a lot of people (myself included) can become a little depressed and a little too tired. It’s cold, and all we want to do is relax in the comfort of our home with our heat on and our Netflix ready. Our Western lifestyle is based on convenience, and in winter we find ourselves wanting nothing but convenience, which can lead to a disconnect with Mother Nature. 

It’s through the Eastern perspective that I found the missing link to cultivate that connection.

Ayurveda is a life science that utilizes the qualities of nature to bring about harmony (or disharmony) in our lives.  It discusses how the world is made up of three “doshas” that are constantly intermingling in nature and within us.  These doshas are “vata,” which is airy and dry, “pitta,” which is fiery, and “kapha,” which is cold and wet. When we study Ayurveda, we can attempt to balance the inner and the outer by adapting practices and routines that move in sync with these intermingling relationships.

In Ayurveda, winter is affiliated with the qualities of kapha. It is damp, cold, and heavy, and everything moves just a little slower. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and, when we can move in the ebb and flow of nature within the seasons, our own journey to health may become a lot easier.

So, if we’re looking at this from an Ayurvedic perspective, winter is a time of rest, joy, family, and receptivity. The cold and darkness drive us to seek inner warmth, which is why it is a good time to start a spiritual practice, as well as take more time to relax with those we love. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and when we indulge in too many kapha qualities or tendencies we can become unbalanced. In winter, this looks like depression, such as those “winter blues,” and it explains why many of us feel lethargic, sluggish, lazy, or tired. We aren’t taking time to balance out these qualities that are already quite potent in mama nature.

So, as with everything in life, it’s all about balance, baby.

If it’s cold and wet, what do we need? The opposite. 

In the midst of your hibernation, here are a few things you can do to keep your body healthy:

1. Eat warming foods

Not surprisingly, cold smoothies do more damage than good over the colder months for many reasons that I won’t get into in this article. During the winter, stick to warming foods like roasted vegetables, oatmeal, soups, and stews. These are also what our body craves, so trust your body’s intuition when it comes to eating. 

2. Avoid dairy

From an Ayurvedic perspective, we avoid dairy because of the amount of mucus and congestion it creates in our body. We’re already congested in the winter, so let’s not add to it. 

3. Exercise

Exercise is a great way stimulate digestion and remove toxins from the body. In winter, the cold causes the body to take heat from where it’s most needed (our vital organs), and exercise helps to counter that. We need to find movement of a pitta nature (fiery/sweaty/heat-inducing). That may be why you crave hot yoga in the winter. 

4. Drink warm water

Specifically, drink warm water when you first wake up, if you can remember, as a way to kick-start digestion.  Feel free to add ginger. Again, all of these will feel innate if we’re paying attention. 

5. Reflect to create

Though this is a kapha activity, it is a beautiful way to celebrate the quiet solitude of winter through creativity and the art of dreaming. Take time to rest and reflect in a sacred way on your past year, as a way to plant seeds and create intentions for the next one. 

Though the Ayurvedic perspective may be new to you, it makes sense to me.

I am allowed to utilize this time of hibernation and rest, but am also responsible for not getting too tied into it. 

When I look at the seasons from an Ayurvedic perspective, it makes it more sacred, and when we make things special our whole life becomes more special—so why not try it?

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