Winter health tips from Ayurveda
Written by our friend Sarada from Organic India
There is a simple yet fundamental Ayurvedic (traditional Indian medicine) principle that ‘like increases like’. This basically means that the qualities we experience in our environment, our food and via our other senses are increased or reflected in our body and mind. For example, during winter, our environment becomes colder, damper, heavier, and perhaps slower. The days become shorter, with more dark hours. The corresponding effect on our bodies is that we too feel colder, carry a little extra weight, feel like sleeping in, or perhaps feel just a little lazier. The extra dampness might be reflected in increased mucous leading to colds and congestion.
Winter can also be a time of dryness; think windy, cool, dry air. This also translates in our bodies as coolness, dryness of our skin and tissues and feelings of being scattered.
In order to maintain balance during winter, we need to promote the opposite of these qualities. So instead of cold, heavy, dry and scattered, we need to promote warmth, lightness, oiliness and groundedness.
A good winter routine will help keep your immunity strong and your body and mind feeling more balanced, more grounded and less scattered, heavy or dull. These are the seven things I’ve learnt from Ayurveda that really are my go-to tips for a winter wellness routine:
- Keep yourself warm
It sounds obvious, but I really didn’t used to do this as well as I could have. Keep yourself toasty-warm by covering up your kidneys, chest, neck and feet. Embrace that cosy scarf, wool socks and tuck yourself in at night!
- Eat nourishing, warm food
Notice how you feel like eating heavier food over winter? Fortunately, our digestion is the strongest at this time of year, but we don’t want to overeat or eat too much heavy food, so go for warm, cooked, slightly oily, nourishing wholefoods to really satisfy that winter hunger. Think porridges, soups, slow-cooked meals, curries, root vegetables and light grains (for example rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat). For your cooking oil, ghee is an amazing Ayurvedic superfood that is super nourishing and increases digestion, absorption and assimilation of food. It also supports our immune system and lubricates our tissues. Bonus: it slows the aging process and calms the mind.
- Drink Tulsi tea
One of the best things about winter is hot cuppas. Winter is peak tea-drinking season for me. Instead of filling up on heavy milky and caffeinated drinks all day, I love to also drink Tulsi teas. Tulsi is known as Holy Basil and has been used for thousands of years in India for healthy stress-response, natural detoxification, increased stamina, endurance and energy. As an adaptogen, it helps the body adapt to environmental, physical and emotional stress. As part of my morning routine I get my digestion ready for the day with a cup of ORGANIC INDIA Tulsi Ginger tea and then take a range of Tulsi Teas to work with me to sip on throughout the day. This not only keeps you warm and hydrated but is so great for your digestion and for keeping you regular. It is light, warm and promotes balance – an essential for winter.
- Warm sesame oil massage
This is a game changer for me. Get yourself some good quality cold-pressed black sesame oil and heat it up for a self-massage. You can gently heat it up on the stove and then generously massage into yourself as many times a week as you can manage (even once per week is wonderful). Make sure you’re sitting in a cosy warm space to do this, and follow up with a nice warm shower. This will nourish your tissues, expel toxins, make your skin supple and glowing, calm your mind and nourish your nervous system, helping you feel more grounded.
Sleep is a vital part of our routine all year round, but in winter we naturally seek a little extra sleep as the nights lengthen and the sun rises later. As part of my nightly routine, I unwind after dinner with a warm herbal tea that will help prepare me for a good night’s sleep. Tulsi Sleep is my favourite at the moment.
- Dry brushing
Winter can be a bit of a sluggish time for the body, so our body’s natural detoxification channels can also be a little slow. Our skin is our largest organ, so to help our body to keep things moving and to ease the load on our liver, dry brushing can be a great addition to your winter routine.
And of course, another great way to reduce the qualities of cold, heavy, slow and scattered is to move. Create some warmth, lightness, movement and groundedness by doing regular exercise. It doesn’t have to be anything too crazy – just regular movement until you raise a sweat. Yoga, Pilates and walking in nature are my favourites.
Ayurveda is all about living in accordance with the rhythms of nature. There is an art to this that I am really loving learning about. So let’s embrace winter and keep ourselves nourished, cosy, warm and glowing.