As we transition into the new year, so many of us made a resolution to start a ‘detox’, lose the holiday weight, stop drinking and get back into the gym, or increase our yoga practice. How many of us actually go through past the first few weeks or even the first few days successfully? So many people fail to complete a detoxification cleanse in January. We are often not mentally prepared and let’s face it, there’s still plenty of indulgences lurking in our cupboards. But do not fear as changing our diet drastically during the winter months is not conducive to our overall health and actually the ideal time to go through a detoxification programme is in the Spring, so plenty of time to plan and prepare you cleanse.
Ayurveda encourages a seasonal regimen to support our well being over the winter months. Winter is cold, damp, heavy and cloudy and dominated by the elements of water and earth. It is a time when nature retreats and it’s a time for rest, storing, strengthening and preparation. So our body, mind and emotions are optimised when we mirror and balance ourselves the way nature intended. This means that the winter is also a time for us to retreat, internalise, be grounded, nourish and increase strength.
Our Agni (digestive fire) is at its strongest during these months, hence the tendency to feel increased hunger. Therefore, the quest to lose weight can have an adverse affect on our metabolism at this time as we may starve our body of essential nutrients and deplete our strength.
Without radical dieting, we can adopt methods to pacify winter ailments such as fatigue, mental confusion, digestive problems, aches, pains and persistent cold while giving ourselves time to prepare for a deeper cleanse and weight loss in a more suitable season. Winter is essentially a Kapha and Vata period and here are my ayurvedic tips to get you through the winter blues:
- Avoid Kapha-aggravating foods that are cold, damp excessively sweet such as refined sugars, fried, leftover or cold foods saturated fats, and heavy dairy.
- Eat foods that are naturally sweet, sour and salty by taste to help pacify Vata dosha ans strengthen the body, such as soups, stews, hot teas and stewed fruits.
- Favour foods that are wholesome, fresh, cooked warming and easy to digest for example carrots, tomatoes, figs, dates, cane sugar, nuts, seeds, seasonal root vegetables, wheat, gram flour, rice barley, rye, milk products, ghee and olive oil.
- How about a warm bowl of quinoa porridge to get you started in the morning with ingredients such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, ghee and honey.
- Immunity is connected to digestion and when digestion is strong then immunity is robust, so drink warm/hot water and digestion enhancing spices such as ginger, turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon, clove especially first thing in the morning which is the Kapha time. Strengthen your immune system with Chywanprash, a jam packed full of immune boosting herbs.
- Good news, Ayurveda says that a glass of red wine or mulled wine can be beneficial in winter.
- You can indulge in a cup of warm milk in the evening before bed with spices including cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, fennel, nutmeg and black pepper
- Opt for regular massage with warming oils to prevent coldness in the body and joint aches and pains and hot or steam bath
- A little extra sleep can be beneficial. Arise at 7a.m. and take plenty of exercise to keep lymph moving and prevent congestion
- Stimulating exercise (such as sun salutations) in the morning Kapha time and sexual activity in the evening Kapha time is encouraged
- Take exposure to sun when possible
- Engage in calming meditation