Here you will learn of ayurvedic practices that help you through the winter and when you feel under the weather. Coach Keya shares lifelong practices that she grew up with and still practices today.
With shorter days, longer nights, weaker sunlight, and drier winds from the Poles, the human body has to endure a harsher environment than it would like to. Winter dries up the body from the inside, and even externally. This is where Ayurvedic practices for winter can come into play.
"Ayurveda" is made up of two Sanskrit words: Ayuh, meaning "life," and veda, which means "wisdom," "knowledge," or "science." Hence, Ayurveda means "the science of life."
Ayurveda is an ancient way of life for people from India since time immemorial.
These wintertime symptoms indicate that traditional Ayurvedic practices may be helpful.
Do these symptoms show up for you?
Dry or flowing sinuses
Achy joints and muscles
Dry skin, hair, ears, lips, and joints
Bloating, gassiness, constipation, dehydration, and even weight loss
A wandering mind accompanied with feelings of restlessness, dizziness, or light-headedness
Feeling ungrounded or at a loss
Extremely cold hands, fingers, nose, or ears
Aches, pains, muscle spasms, or less flexibility
Here are 5 ways to combat the above wintertime symptoms, according to traditional Ayurvedic practices.
1. Use a Neti pot to drain your sinuses.
Warm eight ounces of water, add 1/8th of a teaspoon of sea salt, and two drops of sesame seed oil. The oil will help your nasal passages stay moist.
The water must be neither hot nor cold. Hot water will scald you, and cold water causes internal bleeding. So, a lukewarm temperature is ideal.
Check the temperature of the water by folding any finger and dipping your knuckle into the saline solution.
Tilt your head sideways over the sink and place the spout of the Neti pot in the upper nostril. Breathe through your open mouth.
Gently pour the saltwater solution into your upper nostril. The saltwater will flow out of your lower nostril.
After emptying the Neti pot through your nasal cavities, blow your nose completely. Repeat on the other side.
2. Get an oil massage using the abhyanga (long stroke) method.
There are many massage oils, but the ones made for Vata body types are easy to find in health food stores and online, such as sesame seed oil and mustard oil.
Abhyanga uses long strokes between joints from top to bottom, inside to out. When massaging your abdomen, use clockwise circular strokes.
Massage your face from bottom to top, except around your eyes.
Use your ring finger to massage above your cheekbones from the outside of your eye towards your nose. This helps you clean up the mucous collected inside your lower eyelids.
After you've massaged your entire body, rest for an hour before taking a warm shower.
3. Have a pre-bedtime routine.
When you give yourself time to prepare for sleep, you rest well. When you rest well, you wake up refreshed. And when you wake up refreshed, you have a better day.
Many ailments stem from a lack of rest and quality sleep.
Just as it takes you an hour after you wake up to prepare yourself and be productive during the day, give yourself an hour to wind down and go to bed.
Have a cup of warm milk with honey and turmeric an hour before going to sleep. You can also take the traditional herb ashwagandha, which can come in the form of capsules, tablets, tea, or powder dissolved in a warm drink.
Wash from your knees to your feet, dry completely, massage well with warm oil or Mahanarayan massage oil that you can get from a health food store or online.
Meditate for at least one minute before bed. Take a long, slow, deep inhalation, hold this breath in, and then exhale with your mouth. Repeat four times.
Now, breathe normally and count from one to five. With each count, take your attention to one part of your body:
Chest and upper back
Abdomen, middle, and lower back
Hips, thighs, lower legs, and feet
Neck, throat, arms, and hands
Face and head
Now, just notice your breath as you lay your head on your pillow and keep noticing your breath until you fall asleep.
4. Figure out a comfortable sleeping position.
Sleeping on your back allows you to breathe effortlessly. Laying on your left side allows you to breathe better and helps with digestion.
Sleeping on your right side hurts digestion. Sleeping on your chest and belly is an unhealthy practice, according to Ayurveda, as it restricts breathing and digestion.
Sleeping on your belly also hurts the liver, kidneys, and gall bladder from repairing itself and filtering the waste from your body.
When sleeping on your side, use a body pillow to lay your right arm and right knee on it. This keeps your shoulders and hips aligned through your sleep time.
5. Do yoga.
There are many yoga postures that help balance the elements within you during winter.
Yoga done on an empty stomach when you're not feeling hungry is ideal for your mind and body. Remember to smile — it helps make your yoga work harder for you, making the practice more effective.
Palm-tree Pose (grounding exercise).
Stand with your back a few inches from the wall. Find a spot across the room and breathe while focusing on the spot. Keep your feet hip-distance apart, toes pointing forward. Inhale long, slow, deep breaths.
When you exhale, visualize your breath leaving your feet through its four corners.
Slowly curl your toes upwards and notice how strong you feel in your body, standing tall like a palm tree.
Tree Pose (balancing exercise).
After the palm-tree pose, as you are feeling rooted to the earth, lift your right foot and place its sole on your inner left thigh. Your gaze should continue to be focused on the same spot as in the previous posture.
Join your hands in the Namaste posture in front of the center of your chest. Breathe! Smile!
Imagine roots from the left foot growing into the earth. You are strong like a tree.
Slowly bring your right foot down and return to the palm-tree pose. Bring your hands down to your sides.
Repeat with your right foot on the floor and your left foot on your inner right thigh.
Forward Bend (releases the stagnant energy from hip flexors).
From the palm-tree pose, with loose knees, gently bend them, minimally. Rest your palms on your thighs.
Inhale long, slow, deep breaths. While exhaling, slide your palms down your thighs, knees, shins, and if possible, all the way to the front of your toes.
Maybe you can touch your toes or the floor in front of it. Flexibility comes with practice.
This is a gentle posture. Remember to keep breathing normally. Hold this forward bend for two to three inhalation and exhalations.
Inhale and bring your hands to your thighs, and lift your chest to be parallel with the floor with an exhale.
Inhale, bring your hands to your lower hips, while exhaling bring your chest up, and straighten your neck and look to the front.
Squat (strengthens your lower body).
From the palm-tree pose, with your feet slightly apart, bend your knees to squat. If this is your first time, put a chair in front of you and hold on to it to train your legs to get into position.
Your feet can be hip-distance apart or a bit wider if you need it to be comfortable in your squat.
Place a folded blanket under the heels as needed for balance. If you have knee problems, place a rolled washcloth behind each knee. Join your hands together in the Namaste posture in front of your chest.
Grounding well through the four corners of the feet, notice the pelvic floor widening on inhalation and gently narrowing with the exhalation. Stay in the pose for one minute.
Remember to smile — it makes holding the posture easier.
Gently raise your body back standing tall in the palm-tree pose.
Staff Pose (strengthens your spine).
Sit on a folded blanket or two on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. If needed, put a rolled towel beneath your knees.
Use your hands to internally rotate the upper right thigh, then the upper left thigh, and notice how this aids in grounding you in the position.
Place your fingers or flat palms on the floor next to your hips and press the floor while lifting the chest. Stay in the pose for one minute. Breathe and smile!
Spinal twists (great for anger management).
You can do this seated or standing. Inhale and exhale two to three times to return to your body and prepare for this pose. Slowly straighten your spine and sit or stand tall.
Imagine your upper body has two imaginary lines running perpendicular to it. One separates the thoracic region from your abdomen and the other separate your head from your upper body.
There are three steps to this posture:
Lift: Make your body seem tall.
Turn: The lower half of your upper body to your right; your chest is at forty-five degrees to your hips. Pause. Breathe. Smile
Twist: The (thoracic region) upper half of your upper body to your right; your shoulders are now at 90 degrees or higher to your hips; your neck has turned to its maximum capacity, and you can see the back of the room. Pause. Breathe. Smile.
Now, slowly turn your head and neck back to the side of the room, untwisting the upper half of your upper body. Pause. Breathe. Smile.
Gently unturn your body back to the center, your shoulders are now facing the front of the room like your hips. Relax. Inhale. Exhale.
Repeat on the other side.
Being deliberate while lifting, turning, twisting, and pausing in-between each move strengthens your spine and allows your body to release pent-up emotions in the form of lactic acid within back muscles.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (improves circulation, lymph drainage, and relaxes your heart).
Lie as close to the walls as possible. Allow your feet to walk up the wall to the highest spot possible. Keep your feet up and your upper body (back, neck, and head) on the floor.
Stretch your arms out to the sides, giving your chest muscles room to expand and your heart to relax.
Close your eyes gently and notice your body breathing. Keep your feet up from five to 20 minutes up at an angle of 75 to 90 degrees to your body.
You can place a pillow or two under your buttocks to give a further incline to your hips compared to your middle and upper back. This helps with draining your lymphatic system thoroughly.
Corpse Pose (integrates all the energies of your being into your body and returns you to a complete balance).
From the Legs-Up-the-Wall pose, bring your hips and legs down to the floor. Straighten your spine. Put rolled towels, blankets, or pillows beneath your knees. Cover your body and lie still.
Keeping your body warm will bring you much comfort.
Use an eye pillow, rolled towel, or any eye cover to go deeper into relaxation. Stay for five to 15 minutes (or longer) in this pose.
6. Do a one-minute meditation.
From your lying position, bring your left hand to the center of your chest (your energetic heart center). Take your right hand to your abdomen.
Notice your body expanding and contracting, rising and falling as you breathe. These movements are both physical and subtle.
Slowly roll over to your left side. Take your right hand and place it on the floor slightly ahead of your left elbow away from your body. Push the floor with your left hand and the left elbow and lift your body from the floor.
Sit on a rolled blanket or pillow in a cross-legged position. Do a one-minute meditation.
With each inhalation and exhalation, allow your body to relax. Thank yourself for gifting yourself with the time to align your mind with your body and do your yoga.
7. Enjoy a healthy and balanced diet.
Eat a nutritious diet including the following foods:
Warm food, cooked in healthy oils.
Sweet, salty, and sour foods.
Whole-grain wheat, rice, oats, semolina, quinoa, couscous, and bulgur wheat.
Yellow and green moong beans and lentils.
Vegetables like asparagus, artichoke, fennel, zucchini, okra, cucumber, etc.
Milk, butter, cream, and sour cream.
Fresh cheese (mozzarella, paneer, and cream cheese) and yogurt drinks (like lassi) — but only during the daytime.
Ghee, olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, and mustard oil.
Nuts and seeds (roasted or soaked).
Spices like coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric, saffron, fennel, cinnamon, etc.
Sweet, ripe, and juicy fruits, like soaked raisins, grapes, papaya, mango, kiwi, melons, dates, etc.
Fish and poultry — but only in the daytime.
Avoid or minimally consume foods like:
Light, dry, and raw foods.
Cold food and drinks.
Food with pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes.
Barley, millet, corn, buckwheat, and rye.
Large beans like pinto, kidney, and black beans.
Salads that include raw vegetables, potato, Brussels sprouts, red radish, mature eggplant, peppers, cauliflower, and cabbage.
Salt in moderation only, as well as chili, cayenne, and other hot spices.
Unripe or dry and sour fruits such as guava, cranberries, persimmon, and banana.
Butter made from nuts, undiluted yogurt, sour cream, avocado, and root vegetables (except for carrots).
Deep-fried foods and heavy desserts.
Start small — even adding one Ayurvedic practice this winter will help.
Some concepts of Ayurveda may be familiar to you and some may be brand new.
There's no need to rush into the practice. Just pick one thing and do it for a few days before adding another item from the regimen.
Remember, the idea is to love yourself enough to say "no" to what's hurtful and "yes" to what's helpful to your body during the cold days of winter.
If doing what helps you is good, then avoiding what hurts you is better.
Keya Murthy is an accredited hypnotherapist and certified trainer in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). If you would like to learn more, you can send an e-mail to [email protected]. To stay updated on articles like this and more subscribe to her newsletter.