Happy 2017, yogis! Winter is here, and we are known for our long and snowy winters in Canada, so this time of year can be a bit extreme for people who feel that they have to hunker down for three months (if we’re lucky) before they feel warmth again. However, others welcome our coldest season with faces up to catch snowflakes from the sky, and eagerly look forward to winter each year.
Knowing about your body and your personal constitution is an important step for maintaining balance while navigating through our country’s highly variant climate. This is why I love Ayurveda so much. The principles used in Ayurveda help you to find balance for your body’s unique needs, and place an emphasis on the changing of the seasons as a time to change various things about your routine to maintain that balance.
Ayurveda operates on the principle that opposite energies can act as medicine to fix imbalances, and views everything (from food, to the seasons, to personality traits) through the lens of three main energies: vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata is made up of the elements of air and ether, and thus has their qualities of coldness, lightness, dryness, and movement. Pitta is comprised of fire and water, and is characterized by heat, intensity, sharpness, and oiliness. Kapha is made up of earth and water, and is cool, stable, slow-moving, and dense.
For more on Ayurveda, click here to review the first post I wrote on Ayurveda this year, and to discover your dosha, or your personal constitution, you can take Banyan Botanical’s free quiz online by clicking here.
Winter in Ayurveda: Embracing the Kapha Season
The earth and its creatures were preparing for this season in the fall by shedding leaves and gathering food stores, and now the world lies dormant and sleeps under a blanket of snow. The stillness and quietness of this season can feel isolating and even depressing for some, but it also gives us an excellent opportunity to focus inward and recharge.
Winter is a season of predominantly kapha energy with vata influences. Kapha’s energy is that of earth and water – slow, stable, heavy, and grounded. This gives individuals with a balanced kapha constitution a very even nature and the ability to sustain their energy over long amounts of time. Winter is a great time to cultivate these aspects of your personality by embracing the themes of the environment around you.
None of the Ayurvedic doshas is good or bad inherently, but knowing when you are in balance or out of balance is integral to maintaining health and tranquility. Therefore, embracing the kapha energy that surrounds us in winter can be extremely beneficial, so long as you watch out for signs of kapha imbalance such as:
Mental: Lethargy, drowsiness, depression
Digestive: Uncomfortable full feeling in stomach, lack of appetite
Respiratory: Sinus/throat congestion, head colds
Physical: Weight gain, feeling of weakness, swollen lymph nodes
For a more in-depth description of signs of kapha imbalance, click here. It is also good to keep an eye on vata in the winter, which can be the culprit of dry skin so many of us experience in winter month. For a more in depth description of the vata influence on this season, click here to read Banyan Botanical’s full article on vata imbalance.
Finding Balance in Winter
Using Ayurveda as a tool, you will begin to notice your body’s patterns and changing needs each season. Regardless of your constitution, here are some general guidelines for maintaining balance this winter season:
- ♦ Maintain a lighthearted attitude and give yourself some direction by setting goals or organizing time to be social to counteract the heaviness and melancholy of the environment.
- ♦ Embrace the season’s slower pace and make time for quiet self-reflection – balance time with friends with time to just be still.
- ♦ Find a balance between routine and spontenaeity to balance both vata and kapha – check in with your needs to find the balance that works for you. For example, keep your eating and sleeping schedule consistent, but try a new yoga class!
- ♦ Eat warming, hearty meals, and use plenty of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and turmeric, although all spice is tolerated better than usual in this season.
- ♦ Cover your extremities from the cold when you go outside, and choose warm, bright colours to bring you cheer such as red or orange.
- ♦ Adapt your exercise routine to the weather – if there is more vata (dryness, wind), favour more grounding, gentle activity; if there is more kapha (snow/precipitation, overcast skies), up the intensity and length of time you exercise for. This can be a great time of year to really push yourself while exercising!
- ♦ Exercise or do something active in the morning to help battle sluggishness.
- ♦ Similar to general exercise, practice yoga based on whether you need to balance vata (by moving more gently and slowly) or kapha (move faster and generate inner heat). Practice yoga poses that help increase metabolism, such as twists, spinal rolls, and cobra, and ensure that you hold poses long enough to challenge yourself.
So there you have it yogis. I wish you a balanced and peaceful winter season, and a great start to 2017!
All information in this article is summarized from https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/.
Photo credits to: https://wallpaperscraft.com/tag/snow/downloads/2560×1440, http://www.thepaintershandbook.com/winter-wallpapers-hd-backgrounds/, https://www.wallpaperscraft.com/download/winter_snow_sunset_grass_100557/1920×1080.