According to ayurvedic lore, different doshas are dominant in different seasons. Late fall and winter is the time when the qualities of Vata strongly increase. Vata, which governs movement and information flow in the body, is said to be the leader of all the doshas. When its balance is disrupted, the other two doshas have a tendency to follow. Therefore, it is very important for everyone to pacify Vata during these months.
When Vata is disturbed, typical symptoms include cold hands and feet, dry and cracked skin, coughing and dry nasal passages. One might experience bloating, flatulence and a tendency for constipation. Too much Vata in the mind causes racing thoughts that make it hard to fall asleep. Further Vata aggravation might give rise to fear, worry, anxiety and tension headaches.
The cold, dry, light and constantly moving qualities of Vata can be pacified by the opposite qualities: warmth, rest, oiliness and heaviness. Below are some simple but very effective tips for taming restless Vata. Even if you incorporate just a few of these, you will experience more calmness, stability, strength, a better immune system and more joy in life.
1. Get enough rest
Rest is the most excellent way to keep ever-moving Vata at bay. Therefore, make sure to give your body those 7 or 8 hours of sleep, so that it can recharge its batteries. Besides quantity, quality is equally important. According to ayurveda, early to bed and early to rise will definitely make you healthier and happier (which in turn gives you a better chance to grow in wisdom and enjoy your wealth). If you go to bed when peaceful Kapha is still around, ideally at 9 PM but no later than 10, you can fall asleep more easily, your rest will be deeper and the restorative processes of the body can fully kick in. The result is more vitality and an overall stability of the nervous system.
2. Find the time to relax
At least for 20-30 minutes a day, do something that stops the constant flood of stimuli that assaults your nerves all day. Turn off the TV, get up from your desk and do yoga, meditate or take a short walk.
3. Adopt a regular routine
Following a regular daily routine brings stability into life which is so vital for ever-moving Vata. Pay extra attention to eating three regular meals a day, don’t skip meals (especially breakfast) and don’t subsist on snacks.
4. Stay warm from the inside out
Mothers are right when they want to protect their children from the cold air and dry wind. Ayurveda advises you to keep warm from the inside too. Drink warm herbal teas or warm milk with some cane sugar and warming spices like ginger, cinnamon or cardamom.
5. Nourish you body
In winter, the metabolism is stronger and your body has a natural capacity to burn heavier foods. Include more whole grains like rice, quinoa and amaranth in your diet. Forget raw salads; cook your veggies and make nourishing soups and stews: beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins are great choices. Favor sweet, sour, heavy fruits, such as oranges, bananas, and grapes. Sweet dried fruits like raisins, dates, prunes and figs are also excellent, and if you soak them overnight they are more digestible. Add more oil to your food, olive is the best. A moderate amount of ghee (clarified butter) does wonders to your digestion, lubricates your joints and nourishes your eyes and nerves. Nuts provide calories and protein. Milk and all dairy products pacify Vata.
6. Pamper yourself
Abhyanga, the ayurvedic self-massage with warm sesame oil is a wonderful way to balance Vata, strengthen the immune system, and increase general well-being.
Winters does not have to be a time of peeling skin, fraying nerves, and restless nights. You do have the power to compensate for the Vata aggravating effects of the season. Most of these tips will server you well not only in the winter but for the rest of the year. Don’t wait until it’s too late.