As the nights draw in and we start to think about our heating settings, our bodies have some adjusting to do too. For individuals with Vata dosha this time of year can be particularly challenging as the cold and the wind increases Vata in the body, this can lead to Vata imbalances such as dry skin, cracked lips, exhaustion and aching joints. Instead of retreating to your bed until next June (which I know can be very tempting) follow these simple tips to stay healthy and keep your energy up.
Remember if you are unsure about your symptoms/doshic imbalance or are struggling with anything else it's best to book in for a consultation for detailed and personalised support and treatments. Warm therapeutic oil massages are particularly fantastic at this time of year as the Ayurvedic oils go deep in your your tissues helping them repair and strengthen, the massage helps circulation and toxin elimination and the type of oil and technique are personalised for your constitution. Read more about the options in the massage section of this website.
1. Stay out of the cold!
I know this sounds obvious but we often push ourselves to keep going with our normal routine even if it involves going out in the rain and wind. If it feels wrong it usually is and specially if you have a lot of Vata or Kapha, making yourself brave the cold can be really negative for your constitution. Stay in the warm and wrap up, Kapha doshas try some indoor sports such as badminton, squash or more vigorous yoga styles (like Ashtanga) and Vata doshas rest up! Too much exertion is more likely to cause serious damage to your body at this time of year as it is already in a vulnerable state from the cold. Instead go for a bit of gentle yoga (such as Yin) or some freestyle dancing to keep your spirits up but make sure you warm up first! It's a shame that we often can't shift our whole working days around the season but if you are able too, go with it, turn in a bit earlier after a warm bath and wake up a bit later as it gets darker this extra rest will be good for your body.
2. Keep your feet warm...
Again, this might sound simple and it is! But a lot of us still walk around bare foot or with very thin socks on indoors or thin canvas shoes when ourdoors. This must change. We loose most of our heat through our feet and although a hot pitta dosha might be ok with this it's no good for Vata and Kapha imbalances. Invest in some slippers, thick socks and proper lined shoes or boots for outside, you won't be sorry!
3. Banish the salads...
Sorry salad and raw foods, your time has ended. Although in Ayurvedic medicine we generally don't recommend a lot of raw food anyway for a multitude of reasons, it's colder months in particular where this becomes very serious. Raw foods and dry foods bring in coldness and dryness to our bodies and this is extremely Vata increasing as Vata already has these qualities in excess. For Kapha the cold is also unwanted and can cause mucus and colds. Raw food is also harder to digest and when we are cold already, our digestive fire is lower so it might additionally cause some digestive problems and a lack of nutrient absorption (which leads to tiredness, deficiencies and can eventually cause more serious long term problems) it can also make us tired simply because our digestive system is using all our energy! Stick to wet warm foods such as stews and lightly spiced curries with rice and potato.
4. Warm liquid only!
Another thing that can massively increase our inner coldness is drinking cold water/other cold drinks. We may think that we are quenching our thirst but when our body is already cold we may not even be digesting the liquid and so our system and cells do not even receive it. It can also stop us properly digesting other things due to cooling down the digestive fire making it much less effective.
5. Rice porridge for breakfast...
My final tip comes in a recipe format. Rice is incredibly nourishing for this time of year as well as Vata imbalances in general as it is warm and wet increasing the earth and water elements in our bodies, providing stability, nourishing the cells and all of our organs. But be warned, not all grains will provide us with liquid even if they are cooked in liquid such as oat porridge, which is actually very drying, this is because of the way a grain absorbs liquid, rice holds the water making it accessible to our bodies when it's inside us, where as oats, buckwheat and quinoa just soak it up without giving it back to us. The gentle spices in this recipe help to warm up and rekindle our digestive fire and bring additional nutrients and the dates give the meal the sweet taste we may require for further stability and tissue repair. If your a busy person I suggest making a larger batch than you need and warming some up each morning. But taking the time to sit down and eat it is also really important for digestion!
Makes enough for 3-4
1 cup of short grain (preferably wholegrain) rice pudding rice
3 cups of unsweetened almond, coconut or soya milk
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of dry ginger or 2 inches of chopped fresh ginger
¼ tsp of crushed clove
½ tsp of cardamom pods crushed slightly
¼ tsp of turmeric (optional)
¼ tsp of coriander (optional)
A pinch of nutmeg
A grind of two of black pepper
1 heaped tbsp of coconut sugar or 2tbsp of maple syrup (optional)
A handful of chopped dates (optional)
Wash rice thoroughly in a sieve and simply heat all ingredients together in a pot with the lid on for around 45mins or until the rice is soft. Stir at regular intervals and add more liquid if necessary. If adding dates, wait until the last 10 minutes of cooking so they do not disintegrate too much or add when re-heating in smaller quantities. I also like to drizzle a little maple syrup on after wards with some soya yoghurt but these are both optional.