Simple Ayurvedic tips for the Winter months
Winter, Mother Nature’s slowest, coldest season is here. It’s not news that change of weather is a leading reason for ill-effects on the body and mind, other than irregular diet. This new seasonal regime or Ritucharya means making changes to our diet and lifestyle as the body experiences a slow and inward movement of fire to adjust to the weather outside.
The winters or Hemantha Ritu begins roughly from mid-November 15 and extends till mid-January. It is Visarga Kala or Dakshinayana Ritu, which means the Sun moves south (Southern Solastice). In Dakshinayana, the winds are not very dry fierce, moon is more powerful than the sun and the heat of earth is reduced by clouds, rain and cold wind. Unctuousness is in the atmosphere, sour, salt and sweet tastes are predominant, so the strength of person actually enhances during this period and its best season to improve ones’ immunity.
There is Prasama of pitta dosha, meaning Pitta alleviates and hence Vata and Kapha dosha undergoes chaya (mild increase) during Hemantha. Due to the cold atmosphere in Hemantha ritu, the Jataragni (digestive fire) becomes powerful and if person doesn’t consume the right food, the agni generated inside the body may lead to emaciation of body tissue (dhatu pachana) leading to aggravation of vata dosha.
Diseases like cold, cough, psoriasis, dry skin, arthritis, depression, viral fever, etc are common during winter. The body is vulnerable to these diseases when our immunity is low. As said earlier, Hemantha ritu is the time to enhance one’s immunity. Ayurveda Acharyas have outlined certain diet and lifestyles which helps to boost immunity in winter season if followed regularly.
Following these regimens keeps winter disorders at bay.
- As the agni would have increased in the body, it is recommended to include whole wheat, fresh corn, black gram, milk and milk products, vegetable oils and sugar cane products in their daily diet.
- Dishes which are sweet, sour and salty can be relished in this season. These foods are high in calories and help release sufficient energy to maintain the body’s metabolism and temperature. They also supply adequate nutrients required to increase the immunity level.
- Consuming sour fruits like amla (Indian gooseberry) is beneficial as it provides ample Vitamin C which helps fight common cold and cough. Consuming citrus fruits like Orange, Lemon, Tangerine is also recommended.
- Eating nuts and dry fruits (in limited quantities) including Almonds, Cashews, Pistachio, Walnut, Hazelnuts, Dates, Apricots, Prunes, Raisins will provide required vitamins, natural oils and provide essential nutrients to keep the body warm.
- Spices like Black pepper, long pepper, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, ginger, asafoetida, mustard seeds helps in proper digestion and elimination of toxins.
- Root and leafy vegetables along with pulses which are heavy for digestion such as carrot, sweet potato, spinach, amaranth, green banana, fenugreek leaves (Methi), Mint leaves, etc.
- Freshly cooked food that is warm needs to be consumed as it enhances circulation and improves digestion.
- Fish, chicken, sheep, goat, pork, seafood can be consumed once or twice in a week for those who are non-vegetarian.
- Always drink warm water during the winter months as it helps the body maintain a normal temperature. Even a slight drop in body temperature can invite a virus attack. Warm water aids easy digestion of food. People suffering from arthritis and joint pain are more benefited by consumption of warm water.
- Massage your body with warm herbal oil and take bath in warm water. Sesame oil infused with herbs like Bala (Sida cordifolia), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) help to prevent flaring up of skin diseases in winter season. Dry skin and psoriasis can be prevented by regularly massaging the skin with oil. Use hot water for bathing and washing purpose.
- Gargling with warm salt water or with decoction of Triphala mixed with Saindhava lavana regularly prevents throat infection.
- Cover yourself with warm clothes from head to toe. Cover, especially the head, ear and feet. Use ear plugs to avoid the cold air from entering inside.
- Keep the house warm and moist with room heaters and humidifiers.
- Keep your hands and legs immersed in hot salt water for 20 minutes before sleeping. This helps to heal cracks and gives good relaxation.
- Exercise for 45 – 60 minutes to keep yourself fit.
- An Ayurveda rejuvenation therapy that includes Abhyanga (Massage), Sweda (fomentation), Udvarthana (Powder massage), Shirodhara is beneficial for better relaxation.
- Meditation in a warm place will relax mind and keeps away winter depression.
- Taking steam inhalation with just plain water relieves congestion and nose blocks
- Go to bed early – a minimum of 8 hrs of sleep is required and late nights are not advisable.
Following these diet and life style for Hemantha Ritu will help you cope with the winter.
Recipes that will boost your energy during winter:
Soak nuts (Almond/ pista) and dried fruit (Date/ Raisin) overnight or for at least three hours in milk/water and blend till chewy. Now add cardamom powder and saffron. Though the dates are already sweet you can add sweeteners according to taste.
This drink can be consumed any time in day or night. It is a good nutrition supplement too.
A season favourite, all you need to prepare this is:1 kg fresh carrots, 1 ½ litre milk, 500 gm sugar, ¼ tsp powdered cardamom, few flakes of saffron, 1 tbsp ghee.
Peel and grate the carrots. Put milk and carrots in a heavy saucepan and boil till it gets thick. Once it starts thickening, stir continuously. Add sugar and cook till it further thickens. Add ghee, cardamom and saffron. Continuously stir on low heat till the mixture collects in a soft ball. Serve hot.