Seasonal change is perhaps nature’s way of giving us the opportunity to make a few changes and avoid getting stuck in our habits and thought patterns. Each season allows us to readjust our daily routines to the changing rhythms of the environment, and to tune ourselves with them to stay healthy and keep growing.
According to Ayurveda, each season brings along different qualities (or gunas) that affect your environment and your physiology. Seasonal change may even affect your mood and attitude towards everyday chores and responsibilities, perhaps making you more open to new challenges, or more likely to retreat from the world and go inward. Both outward activity and inner growth need the support of the body, so we all need to take good care of our bodies to face the challenges and welcome the opportunities of seasonal changes.
Staying Warm and Active as Part of an Ayurvedic Regime
During the cold months, an important aspect that needs to be addressed is blood circulation. Air and space (ether) are the elements already more predominant in the environment as a result of the autumn season, when vata dosha gets increased. This excess of air and space, teamed up with the dry, cold weather, affects the circulatory channels, promoting imbalance. When the circulatory channels get overwhelmed by excess vata dosha, they tend to become overactive and dry. Cold temperatures also make the circulatory channels contract, creating an uneven distribution of heat in the body, obstructing the proper distribution of nutrients, and slowing down the elimination of toxic build-up. Kapha dosha also plays an important part in winter and early spring, as the water element increases in the environment, more so in certain areas than others, so we should always keep an eye on it to avoid the increase of mucus, congestive and respiratory disorders, and accumulating excess toxins.
Kindling Agni - the Fire Element
The digestive and transformative processes of the body also get affected by the cold, windy weather. The primary site of the digestive fire (jathara agni) is the stomach. Erratic circulation makes this digestive fire irregular, so sometimes it becomes very high and potent, and at other times it is too low. Agni (fire) is also present within each of the seven bodily tissues as dhatu agni and is in charge of the metabolic transformations of each tissue element. When agni is strong, food is digested properly and made available to every cell of the body. When agni becomes disturbed, food does not get properly digested, which in turn leads to the formation of ama (toxins) in the gastrointestinal tract. These toxins are then absorbed into the blood stream and spread throughout the body, accumulating and clogging tissues, channels, and organs.
So the disruption in circulation creates an erratic distribution of heat, nutrients, and life energy (prana) in the body; the improper distribution of heat blocks the activities of the digestive fire, which is the primary seat of agni in the body, and in turn, this may result in the imbalance of other regulatory agni sources in the whole organism. There are forty main types of agni present in the five elements, doshic subtypes, organs, tissues, waste products, and even cellular metabolism. In order to maintain overall health it is essential that the various components of agni are balanced. First and foremost, the best support for keeping agni strong and healthy is our own self-care through diet and lifestyle. Other supportive aspects of Ayurveda are herbal nutrition and regular Ayurvedic therapies, such as warm oil massage (Abhyanga) and Panchakarma.
Warm, unctuous, and freshly prepared meals, a steady routine, and an early bedtime will help lessen the effects of excessive cold temperatures, alleviate agni imbalances, and prevent the accumulation of toxins that lead to allergies, colds, the flu, and other respiratory and more serious conditions.
Since we all have an individual constitution, we will not experience imbalances in the same manner or at the same time. However, at the cellular level, the increase of vata and kapha dosha will affect us all, regardless of our predominant type. A predominantly pitta individual may experience severe kapha imbalances during the winter season as well, when the channels are clogged, so it is always a good idea to maintain an individualized regime while keeping an eye on the excess doshas in the environment.
How Winter Affects Each Dosha
Vata - A vata body type is more prone to be affected by the excess vata dosha in the environment. When the windy weather increases in any particular season, vata dosha is increased in the individual, so vata constitutions will be the first to experience cold hands and feet followed by a vitiated digestive fire, with an erratic appetite, along with overall weakness, also expressed as hyperactivity, insomnia, or mood swings. A vata pacifying diet that also avoids mucus forming foods is recommended, along with daily abhyanga (massage) with Blue Lotus Ayurveda® Vata Oil and nasya (nasal therapy). Vata individuals should always keep warm and “oiled up” inside and out, avoid drafts, cold drinks and raw foods. Calming yoga, pranayama and meditation are always recommended.
Pitta - Pitta individuals have a natural intelligence to receive agni from nature, which makes up their fiery nature. In the wintertime, because the blocked channels do not distribute heat properly, the body produces more pitta, or becomes pitta imbalanced. Higher pitta triggers sharper hunger and the desire for sweet foods. And hyperacidity may result, even in winter, if proper foods are not ingested. The result of eating food that is too heavy, clogging, and sweet in the winter is that in the spring, when the channels dilate and the energy circulates more freely, due to the warmer temperatures, the immunity becomes disturbed due to the release of accumulated toxins, and allergic symptoms appear. For pitta types, it is best to keep the channels open without heating them up. So a pitta pacifying diet is recommended, while keeping an eye on kapha aggravating foods, along with regular abhyanga (massage) with Blue Lotus Ayurveda® Pitta Oil, calming meditation, yoga and exercise.
Kapha - Kapha individuals tend to have low agni, so the winter is a specially challenging time for them. In addition to the clogged channels and low circulation, kapha body types may produce ama or toxic build-up much more easily than any other body type, which can give rise to several types of inflammation or auto-immune problems. In addition to a light and warm kapha pacifying diet, it is important to keep the channels open with regular abhyanga (massage) with Blue Lotus Ayurveda® Kapha Oil, nasya (nasal therapy), daily exercise, yoga and meditation to avoid sluggishness and the "winter blues."
Spice Things Up and Cleanse with Panchakarma!
In the wintertime, we all tend to indulge a little more with food. Given the holiday season, we also tend to become less active and add on unwanted pounds. Remember to add some more warming and digestive spices to your dishes and to your palate, to help support your metabolism to burn toxins faster and shed the unwanted pounds more effectively. We highly recommend to use Blue Lotus Ayurveda® Digestive Churnas for your specific dosha type.
Winter can be a challenging season for some, especially if you live where it tends to be very cold, or hard, or long. Yet the winter season also gives you a great opportunity to grow internally and spiritually. During the winter everything slows down, and nature seems to fold back in upon itself. It is the perfect season for nurturing yourself by going inward into your own healing space, and to spend time with your loved ones. Since winter is a vata and kapah season, it is also an excellent time to do Panchakarma and retreat from the world to renew your energies and get ready for the more active seasons ahead. It is a time to rid yourself of excess kapha and ama (toxins) that manifest as mucus, fat, allergies, and such, and to balance vata dosha in general.
The nurturing therapies of Panchakarma will keep you warm and clear, and ready for the challenges of Spring. If you cannot do Panchakarma at this time, you may try some of our Ayurvedic therapies and Rasayana Day Spa Packages to keep your immune system strong, or our new “One Day Panchakarma Sampler” and experience what Ayurveda can do for you this winter!
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Stay Warm, Stay Healthy and Enjoy the Holiday Season!
Tips for Staying Healthy Throughout the Winter and Into the Spring
- Add warming spices to your diet, or use our Ayurvedic Digestive Churnas regularly;
- Maintain a disciplined routine that incudes exercise, yoga and meditation;
- Do a Panchakarma retreat or experience Ayurvedic therapies regularly to keep vata and kapha in check;
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