An Ayurvedic Winter Part 1

The holiday season is here!  The cycle of the year turns toward winter with a gentle blanket of snow dusting the Appalachian mountains. As the days and nights turn cold, we invoke the warming joy of this season of giving, in addition to, making space for the internal pull towards winter hibernation. Ayurveda has much wisdom to share about navigating the changes within and how to create internal warmth to balance Jack Frost’s chilly winds. In this post, we will explore lifestyle, dietary, and herbal  recommendations from the traditional texts that can apply to our current times to help you create Ayurvedic balance during the winter season.

The winter season is named Hemanta in sanskrit, the ancient language that codified Ayurvedic teachings. Fortunately,  the Appalachian climate here is similar to the northern Indian mountainous zones and we can directly apply much of the advice to the particulars of our own season. The ancient texts , like the Ashtanga Hridayam – one of the classical triad, offer us advice on how to modify our daily routines and lifestyle according to the seasons. 

Ayurvedic winter routine

The doshas that predominant in the winter season are Kapha and Vata. This is evidenced by the cold, rough, and alternating dry/wet, mobile/static qualities of our temperamental season in the mountains. The Ashtanga Hridayam (Su. ch. III, 7-17) speaks about the inherent strength we have during this season and the boost in our digestive power as agni, our internal fire, moves deep within us in response to the cold weather. Holiday feasts and festivities, however, can test this strength and the cold weather can dissuade us from venturing out to exercise, to kindle our metabolism and burn off the extra calories.

Here are some of the top lifestyle recommendations for creating balance this winter season:

  • During this season of the dark, as the nights grow longer in the approach of Winter Solstice, deep, longer sleep is encouraged, try to retire to bed a little earlier (by 10 pm) and wake up just a touch later (by 7 am).  
  • Begin you day with Kavala (commonly known as oil pulling) to detoxify your digestive organs.  Swish for 5-10 minutes with sesame oil, which is rich in Calcium to strengthen gums and teeth.  
  • Begin your day by balancing the dry, rough, cold qualities of winter with a warm oleation or Ayurvedic self massage, known as Abhyanga. Click the link for detailed information on how to perform an easy and effective routine. Recommended oils for winter season should be warming and grounding, like herbalized Vata oil or Sesame oil.
  • Following your self Abhyanga, take a warm bath or shower, to allow the pores to open further to receive the oil and wash off any excess oil.
  • Following your Abhyanga with a Steam saunas, if available, are an excellent way to boost the warming effects and absorption of the oil.
  • Consistent and more vigorous exercise should be performed. Winter is the time to step up your training schedule with a consistent, upbeat yoga practice or adding another day in your cardio fitness program.
ayurvedic massage therapy
ayurvedic exercise

An interesting note, In the texts we see reference to wrestling and deep tissue massage, as well as, sun exposure for winter season balance.

  • During winter season, adorn yourself with warming colors like red, orange, yellow, or white.  Snuggle up in heavier, warm, and cozy layers and don’t forget to cover your head, ears, neck and hands.  
  • Finish your day by oiling the crown of your head and soles of your feet with a little warm sesame oil to ground your energy and prepare for sleep.  
  • Follow with karna purana (oiliation of the ear) by filing each ear canal with warm sesame oil.  Karna Purna drives out accumulated Vata dosha, resulting from cold winter winds invading the space in the ear canal, thereby relaxing the mind and calming the central nervous system promoting a long, deep winter’s sleep.  
  • Stay turned for Winter Foods for Ayurvedic Balance, the subject for the next blog: An Ayurvedic Winter part II

Thanks for reading! Stay warm and keep the inner flame kindled. Wishing you and your loved ones the peace of the winter season