Ayurveda takes in many factors when working to create health and wholeness in an individual. One that plays a major role is the seasons. While the seasons affect each of us differently, due to our own unique constitution, each one has particular qualities. Ayurveda uses both herbal treatements and simple lifestyle practices to remedy the effects of each season.
Late fall and early winter is the time of year when Vata is most aggravated. Fall is dry, light, cold, windy, rough, and empty- all qualities of Vata. We can see this in the blowing cold winter winds that are present in our environment, and the leafless trees. Vata is responsible for such things as; governing movement, circulation, thought process, and helps with digestion. Increased Vata can show up as anxiety, irregularity in the mind and digestion, or arthritis to name a few problems.
Late winter and early spring is the time of year when Kapha is most aggravated. Winter is cold, cloudy, heavy, slow, and damp- qualities of Kapha, though it shares some qualities with Vata. We can see this as the days become darker, longer, and colder. Kapha is directly linked to our weight, the fluids in the body, lubrication of joints, our immunity, and our mental sense of stability and wellbeing. When Kapha becomes out of balance it can lead to weight gain, lethargy, sluggish digestion, and becoming more susceptible to colds and flus.
Here are some simple things you can do every day to keep your Vata and Kapha in balance as we head into winter.
· The most important thing to keep Vata in balance is to stick to a routine. Being regular will go along way with keeping Vata in balance and keeping you calm and centered during the winter season.
· Exercise 5 times a week for 30 minutes or more. Do not increase your Vata by being too vigorous or moving too quickly. Help to keep Kapha in balance, which has the qualities of heavy, moist, and cold, by sweating moderately. Think steady controlled heat in your practice. This will help counteract the sluggish energy of Kapha.
· The main home of Vata is in the Colon, so any Yoga asanas that compress or stretch the colon are very useful. Practice all forward bends, especially Paschimottanasana. You can also practice spinals twists like Matsyendrasana. Practicing a moderate pace Surya Namaskar is good for controlling both Vata and Kapha.
· To control Kapha practice Yoga asanas that help to open the chest, stretch the front of the body, and relieve congestion. Danurasana, Ushtrasana, and Pranamasana are very useful. Also practice Kapalabhati or Bhastrika Pranayama to clear toxins out of the body, stimulate the digestive fires, and remove excess Kapha.
· Practice abhyanga, warm oil massage, every morning. It takes only a few minutes and is one of the best practices for controlling Vata. Primary Vata people should use warm oil like sesame, Pitta people a cooler oil like sunflower or coconut, and Kaphas can use corn oil. If possible the oil should be warmed-up, not hot.
· Practice Nadi Shodhana, it will help to balance out the Doshas in the body. A few minutes of practice will induce a deep state of relaxation and peace. It helps to relieve stress, bring mental clarity, and focus. It is a wonderful technique for people who are feeling stressed, anxious, or tired. It brings the Pranas into harmony and helps to balance Ida Nadi, the passive channel, and Pingala Nadi, the active channel.
· Fight the sluggish properties of Kapha by cooking with warm spices, as long as they don’t aggrevate your Pitta (fire), such as ginger, cumin, black pepper, mustard seed and hing.
· Share your life with friendly, warm, and loving people. They can bring great joy, light, and comfort as we go into the darkest part of the year.