I know that many resist winter. Maybe even quite dislike it. Even if you are a winter lover, it is quite easy for our body and mind to get out of sync during winter. This shows up with heaviness, sluggishness, lack of motivation and physical complaints too including dry skin, poor circulation, constipation, dehydration and insomnia.
Those of you that know me well or work with me know that I love drawing on the teachings of Ayurveda – the Science of Living known as Yoga’s ‘sister science’. What I love about Ayurveda is that it draws on working with the seasons, working with nature, uses ancient wisdom and knowledge and is all about establishing or re-establishing balance. It is when we are in balance that we have good health.
So for good health in Winter there are some key ways we can find this balance in our own bodies, to sync us with Winter rather than fighting against it.
These are tips and tools that I use in Winter and I have found it makes a huge difference to my digestion, immune system, skin, energy, motivation and headspace.
- Start your day with Tongue Scraping. Before you do anything else – well maybe after the toilet – scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper (I use a copper one) which removes any build up of toxins (called Ama in Ayurveda) and gives an indication of toxins accumulated in your body and gut. (Thick white gunk is not so good. The more you tongue scrape the lighter and clearer it will get). It freshens the breath, and is said to clear the residue of previous meals which can lead to the craving of that taste. For example, if you ate pizza – scrape your tongue to re-set your tastes!
- Drink warm water with lemon juice and/or ginger or even just water by itself to start hydration for the day, promote elimination (super important for your health to get this happening every morning), and if you have lemon it will kick start your digestion by stimulating stomach (called Agni in Ayurveda – digestive fire).
- Move your body before breakfast. Do 10-20 minutes of exercise to get your circulation going, warm up and lubricate the joints, compress and pump your lymph system (immune system), and get digestive fire building. This also helps to kick start elimination for the day if the water didn’t cut it! This technique will really help you with your energy and motivation even on cold wintery days. Examples include; walking/running/circuits/pilates/yoga/weights as these are all weight bearing.
- Dry Body brush before or after your shower to stimulate circulation and remove dead dry skin and then follow this up (I prefer after shower to as to not send all the oil down the drain) with self massage with oil. Oils favoured in Ayurveda are Sesame Oil, Almond Oil and Coconut Oil. Take your time especially in winter and focus on the joints. This benefits your circulation, lymph system and stimulates touch hormones, and is a beautiful way to provide your own sense of touch which grounds us, nourishes and nurtures us.
- Eat simple, easy to digest warm foods, slow cooked foods, soups, broths, porridge, as these are easier for the body to digest in winter with less digestive fire. This will keep you feeling light not heavy but still grounded. You will then be able to metabolise and absorb more from your food and avoid digestive problems. This style of eating will hydrate you, nourish you, not weigh you down and keep you warm.
- Drink warm drinks not cold through the day. Warm water, herbal teas are ideal. This will enable healthy digestion, sooth the nervous system, relax the digestive tract and help with elimination by keeping hydrated. Keep your warm fluids up! Cold drinks are very taxing on our body.
- Turn the temp down on the shower! Make sure your shower is not too hot as this hot water wreaks havoc on our skin.
- Increase fats in your diet to moisten your skin from the inside out. I personally use coconut oil and butter liberally in cooking. Olive oil to slow low temp cook and drizzle. Cream and full cream milk. Greek Yoghurt for breakfasts, desserts and snacks. Coconut Cream and Milk for curries. Lots of avocado. Skin and fat in meat. Don’t be afraid of fat – but more of this in a future blog as this is really important.
And finally, Embrace winter and all of it’s joys – slowing down, resting more, sleeping more, doing less. This is a time for your energy to re-build so you are ready for the busyness of Spring and Summer! For Esperance locals, did you read the article on Hygge in The Esperance Tide Magazine? It was so great for tips on how to embrace winter and create a comforting and cosy home! What can you embrace this winter? Slow cooking, cosy evenings in front of the fire, reading a book, board games with the family?…..
Enjoy trying these tips and tricks drawn from Ayurveda which can really make a huge difference to your body, your weight, your health, your mind and emotions. Remember simple things that you do everyday are what make the difference, not what you do every now and then.
If you would like to learn more there are so many wonderful resources available. I love Yogahealer Cate Stillman’s work, Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda by Sahara Rose and Dr Suhas Kshirsagar book Change Your Schedule Change Your Life.
This information is general in nature. If you would like to learn more or be treated by a professional Ayurvedic practitioner please pursue this, particularly if you have and serious or chronic health conditions.