Thriving in Winter: 7 Ayurvedic Tips from Pamela Higley, AYS

Winter is my favorite time of year, but for many it is not. Winter brings colder, damper, and darker days, which is not always a motivator to be active and engaging; we may be experiencing a lack of motivation to do much of anything, frankly.

Inviting just a few self-care practices into my daily routine helps me to stay focused and healthy during these gloomier months. I do this through the practice of Ayurveda, a sister science of Yoga that has been practiced for thousands of years and teaches us to live in rhythm with nature.

In Ayurveda speak winter is ruled by Vata and Kapha. What does this mean in English? Well, it means a whole lot of moist, cold, and windy weather is whirling around. This energy impacts us both physically and mentally. Physically, you may be feeling cold and sluggish; you may even have dry, rough skin. Mentally you might be feeling anxious and fidgety, or you could be experiencing forgetfulness and a lack of motivation.

Here are a few nurturing and healing practices you can invite into your daily routine to help:

Wake by 6am or a smidge earlier if you can. The hours between 6 and 10 am and pm are the Kapha time a day, so if possible, wake before 6am – 5:50am would do the trick. Creating a Sankulpa, or an intention for your day can help as well. This could be a word, a phrase, or an idea that you are inviting into your life. Take a moment to breath in the new day and set your intention before getting out of bed.

Drink a cup of hot water with lemon. This will get your digestive fire moving in the morning, also know as agni. It will also help you eliminate easier.

Use a tongue scraper. If you do not have a tongue scraper you can use a spoon. Ama are toxins that our body produces when out of balance and over night while in rest. It’s often present as mucus and as the coating we sometimes find on our tongue. You know? The funky whitish brown stuff. By scraping the tongue every morning – about 7 passes with the scraper – we are removing excess ama and bacteria.

Move. Practice a few rounds of Syura Namaskar/Sun Salutations or any other form of movement that creates heat. Circulation is essential this time of year and even heating pranayamas, or breath controls, such as Kapalabhati are beneficial. Here is a link for instructions and more about the practice.

Get out into nature. Try to get out into nature for at least 30 minutes every during. This is the time of year when days are getting shorter so taking advantage of the natural sunlight is very important for our physical and mental health. This can be a particularly good mood booster and a daily dose of vitamin D.

Eat warm whole foods. This is not the time to eat raw. We want to invite in deliciously cooked foods that are in season and as local as possible. Now is the time to eat foods that are cooked and notorious for us and incorporating foods that are pungent, bitter, and astringent is especially important. Spices such as black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, curry, and sage will add flavor and heat. Eat grains such as barley, basmati rice, or millet. Drink warm water or hot herbal teach throughout the day. Some great teas for this time of year are cinnamon, ginger or licorice. Avoid raw, cold food or drink.

Oil your feet. This is especially helpful if you are feeling anxious or have a hard time settling down for sleep. Oiling the feet with warm sesame oil at night helps you to anchor and slip into rest.   

By adding a few of these practices, or all, into your daily routine, you’re sure to stay vibrant and anchored this winter.