Why Bother with a Seasonal Routine?
Ayurveda considers a seasonal routine an important cornerstone of health, year around. Balancing the nature of your local climate with lifestyle choices that offset the potential for seasonally-induced imbalances is one of the simplest ways that you can protect your well-being. But keep in mind that the seasons vary widely from one place to another, as do the qualities that they engender.
Beginning to observe your environment from this qualitative perspective empowers you to respond to both daily and seasonal fluctuations in your local climate. The truth is that many of us adopt seasonally appropriate habits already, without even being conscious of doing so. For instance, summer is a time when we often enjoy salads and watermelon in abundance, both perfect antidotes to the heat and intensity of the summer. Whereas by October and November, we’re often baking delicious pumpkin breads and dining on hearty, grounding soups—foods that naturally subdue the dry, light, and erratic nature of the fall.
By making diet and lifestyle choices that counter the effects of each season, you can better maintain your internal sense of equilibrium throughout the year.
You need Winter Sun
While most of us are taught to fear the sun, moderate sun exposure is a must. As the days grow shorter and cooler and we’re less likely to be outside, we are getting dramatically less day-to-day sun, which can affect our health and our mood.
Not only is sun important for the production of vitamin D, an essential nutrient that helps to fight inflammation and protect us from cancer, research has found that exposure to the sun in appropriate amounts offers numerous other health benefits.
These include enhancing the mood and boosting energy levels through the release of endorphins, treating skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis, relieving the pain of fibromyalgia and inducing nitric oxide, which helps to protect the skin against UV damage as well as promoting wound healing and offering cardiovascular protection.
Even during the winter, it’s important to get outdoors. Just ten minutes a day will give your body the message to make more vitamin D, and it’s likely to boost your mood too.
you need a Supportive Winter Diet
Winter is actually the season when the digestive fire is strongest. The body requires more fuel to stay warm and healthy in the winter months, and the cold weather forces the fire principle deep into the core of the body—igniting the digestive capacity. Our bodies therefore crave a more substantial, nutritive diet at this time of year, and you will likely find yourself eating larger quantities of food. A supportive winter diet will be aimed at pacifying kapha without increasing vata or visa versa and, for many, appropriate winter dietary habits actually come quite naturally.
In general, you’ll want to focus on eating warm, cooked, slightly oily, well-spiced foods, favouring a balance of the sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Drink room temperature, warm, or hot beverages and avoid iced or chilled drinks, if possible.
You can increase heat and circulation while encouraging clean and clear respiratory passages by drinking a tea boiled for five minutes with ½ teaspoon each of dried ginger, cinnamon and clove. Teas made with combinations of ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper or coriandor seeds, cumin seeds, and fennel seeds encourage strong digestion and can be taken after meals. Hearty, heating vegetables like radishes, cooked spinach, onions, carrots, and other root vegetables are generally well received this time of year, as are hot spices like garlic, ginger, black pepper, cayenne, and chili peppers.
And while dairy is best reduced in the winter months, a cup of hot, spiced milk with a pinch of tumeric or dried ginger and nutmeg before bed can help to encourage sound sleep and should not be overly congesting. It is best to reduce or avoid cold, damp foods, excessively sweet foods, overly heavy or oily foods, and frozen foods.
you need a Supportive Winter Lifestyle
In general, you’ll want to cultivate a light heart and a sharp sense of purpose this winter in order to counter the cold, grey weather and the seasonal tendency toward melancholy and loneliness. Invite warmth into your mind, body, and relationships, and create frequent opportunities for fun and laughter. Try to avoid rushing. Instead, make a concerted effort to embrace a slower, more relaxed pace through the winter months. This is a great time to engage in meaningful relationships and to socialise, but balance your social self with some quiet time, reflection, and stillness. After all, the slow, heavy qualities of the winter months offer a rare opportunity to retreat and check in with ourselves.
Maintaining a predictable routine will help keep vata in balance this winter and kapha will benefit from keeping things fresh and a bit unpredictable, so do your best to strike an appropriate balance for yourself. Certain parts of your day—like the times that you rise, work, eat, and sleep—can easily be consistent from one day to the next, while other times of day can provide for some variation and spontaneity. Start your day with a short but invigorating morning routine. It is generally appropriate to sleep a little later in the winter, but you will feel fresher and more motivated if you are up by about 7 a.m
Winter Exercise for everyone
Exercise is one of the best ways to support optimal physical and mental health through the winter months. If vata is predominant in the atmosphere—with dry, cold weather, and increased isolation—you will want to favour a slow, gentle, and strengthening exercise routine. If on the other hand, kapha is the more influential force at any given time—with heavy, cloudy weather, and rain or snow—you will want to push yourself physically, increasing both the duration and intensity of your work-out. It’s important to listen to your body this winter. If you’re feeling overextended and stretched, favor vata-pacifying types of exercise like walking, tai chi, or gentle yoga. If you’re feeling sluggish and heavy, give kapha a bit of a push with a more vigorous workout—perhaps a bike ride, a jog, or a challenging hike, snowshoe, or ski. Either way, the best time to exercise is in the morning, from 6–10 a.m. If that doesn’t work with your schedule, you can exercise in the evening hours, from 6–10 p.m
Winter Yoga - An invigorating and expansive yoga practice this winter can be massively supportive of your overall wellbeing