In the beginning of a new year, we often set up goals, withdraw back to ourselves, to our health and state of living. As winter creates more imbalance in the body, the best way to start, is to build the awareness around our lifestyle and diet, exercise mindfully and maybe use a detoxification program to release toxins from our guilty Christmas food pleasures. Why not to start with Ayurveda?
During the last decade, Ayurveda gained more and more ground in the West. As a complete holistic medical system, it aims at the prevention of illness rather than the cure itself. Modern medicine certainly has an important place. Ayurveda doesn’t dispute that. But like many holistic therapies, the emphasis is on healing, restoring and maintaining balance. The Ayurvedic theory of creation discusses factors that interlink, including: the body, the mind, the soul or consciousness, the five elements (ether/space, air, fire, water, earth). These factors are complementary to each other and equally important in every person.
Originated in India more than 4000 years ago (in Sanskrit means ‘‘the science of life’‘, ‘ayur’=life and ‘veda’=knowledge), Ayurveda addresses every part of human life and puts it into the context of our environment. Diet and lifestyle choices are crucial in both preventing or creating a disease, that is why Ayurveda encourages us to change unhealthy choices before disease develops, instead of waiting until we get sick.
According to Ayurveda, health is a perfect state of balance amongst the body’s three fundamental energies called doshas (vata, pitta, kapha). Ayurvedic principles hold that each person has a particular pattern of energy – an individual combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics, therefore the treatment is aimed at restoring balance of these basic constitutional factors (doshas). Medicinal plants, massage therapy, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation and lifestyle choices are ways to works towards that.
Ayurvedic massage is one of the best ways to encourage the flow of energy in the body and the release of toxins. It can benefit those suffering from headaches, migraine, respiratory illness including asthma and bronchitis, insomnia, anxiety, tension, depression, weakness, circulation conditions, backache, sciatica, sprains and injuries, as well as simply rejuvenating a tired and weak body. In Ayurveda, oleation or oiling of the body is very important and is recommended for most dosha types on a regular basis.
Winter remedies and tips
Every season is connected to a dosha and winter is the one where vata is mostly aggravated. Individuals with excess Vata usually experience a stronger imbalance during this season.
Try to wake up not later that 7am. After brushing your teeth and scraping your tongue, do 10-12 Sun Salutations and yoga asanas such as Locust, Boat, Bow, Camel, Fish to help open the chest,massage the organs, stretch the throat and relieve congestion of the chest followed by right nostril breathing, which promotes circulation and heat. Internal oleation is important twice a day with sesame oil, especially on your hands and feet. Have a hot shower after the massage and a herbal drink made of ginger, cinnamon and clove.
• Avoid cold food and minimize your intake of raw food, vegetables should be steamed if possible. Always have seasonal vegetables, especially root ones.
• Avoid drinking water during and after meals, you can have ginger and lemon tea instead.
• Wear warm clothing and always wear a hat, as 60% of the body’s heat is lost though the head.
• Soups would be beneficial for lunch using ghee if the taste is not too strong for you.
• Avoid sleeping during the day as it will slow down metabolism and reduce the gastric fire.
• Cold and dry weather can cause muscle aches. Magnesium is the best mineral for the contraction of the muscles. Eat more green vegetables, peas, beans, nuts, seeds.
• Avoid eating after 8 pm and have an easily digestible meal for dinner.
• Avoid sugar, lots of dairy, fried food and yeast. If you use honey, remember never to heat it as it will become toxic.
• Keep a moderate room temperature, never too cold or too hot.
• Beneficial herbs for winter are ginger, pippali, turmeric and Chyawanprash, a herbal jam rich in vitamin C that will boost your immunity.
• For the wine lovers, warm red wine can be beneficial during winter. You can add cinnamon, fennel, cumin, clove, cardamon, nutmeg and black pepper. This will improve circulation.
Ayurveda says ‘‘we are what we eat’‘, adding to that I would say ‘‘we are what we digest’‘. Keep a food diary and favor anything that makes your digestion active.
Listen to your body, mind and soul and keep the love within you and the others.
When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.