Finding Balance in Winter
by Baljit Binning
According to Ayurveda, or the science of life, an over 5,000-year-old system originating in India that integrates mind, body, and spirit, all living things are composed of five elements: space, earth, air, fire, and water. In humans, there is usually a predominance of one or two elements, and this combination constitutes one’s dosha, or biological tendencies. Doshas fall into three main categories: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. At times, we can experience an accumulation of one dosha over another, which can be referred to as a dosha imbalance, and there are steps we all can take to bring balance back into our lives.
While we typically think of seasons as spring, summer, fall and winter, Ayurveda divides the year according to the most prevalent dosha during that period. The fall and early winter season are considered Vata times, as Vata is the combination of the elements, air and space. Kapha, comprising water and earth, makes its appearance in the later part of winter. And summer is a Pitta season, marked by fire and water.
If you live where winter will soon transition into spring, you are experiencing the Kapha season. Kapha is usually the coldest part of the winter when nature is frozen and solid and, during this time, individuals can experience an over-abundance of this dosha and feel lethargic, depressed, and congested.
Kapha predominance during this time of year requires a shift in lifestyle and diet. Here are a few tips on how to balance the Kapha dosha.
- Get Moving. One of the best ways to counter Kapha’s slow, sluggish feeling is to get moving. Breaking a sweat by going for a brisk walk, run, or even using Swedna, or steam bath, can help relieve congestion and increase circulation.
- Get to Bed Early. Ideally, try to be in bed by 10:00 p.m. This will ensure that your sleep is deep and restful.
- Wake up Early. Arise at 6:00 a.m. when the air is light and more alive.
- Perform a Daily Abhyanga, or Self-Massage. Self-massage helps to increase circulation. By using stimulating scents such as eucalyptus, sage, and rosemary as part of this self-massage, you enliven the senses.
- Eat Warm Meals. Adding warm meals, soups, fresh colored vegetables, whole grains, lentils, and dahl to your diet will help you stay balanced during Kapha season.
- Spice it Up. Create meals that use pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Adding pungent spices to your recipes will help increase your agni, or digestive fire, and help eliminate mucus and phlegm. Agni-increasing spices like black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, clove, and ginger, aid in increasing your metabolic rate. Drinking ginger tea throughout the day will also help keep that digestive fire burning.
- Practice Yoga. Doing yoga postures such as sun salutations, fish, locust, boat, bow, lion, camel, and inversion poses help open the chest, relieve congestion, stretch the throat, and drain sinuses. Additionally, spending 30 minutes in meditation after your yoga practice will calm the senses and settle the mind.
- Use Herbs. Herbs such as triphala and ashwagandha can be used to aid digestion and help in the elimination of toxins while boosting immunity.
Whatever the season, understanding that doshas play a role as nature moves effortlessly through its rhythms can help prevent any unnecessary ailments. Using Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation as tools can help create balance, overall wellbeing and vitality all year long.