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Ayurveda Tune-Up: Staying Warm in Vata Season

No matter how much cold weather is embraced or despised, we inevitably prepare for its arrival by winterizing our lives. From our wardrobe to our cars and homes, we go through the motions to make sure these areas are holding in heat and running smoothly. Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga that outlines how to maintain balance between mind, body and environment) tells us to do the same thing with our health. 

Here’s the super skinny on Ayurveda: Our physical, mental and emotional characteristics are formed by a unique combination of the three doshas, or energies, which are derived from the five elements: vata (air, wind), pitta (fire, ether), kapha (earth). Every person has all three doshas, though normally two are dominant. Ayurveda provides us with lifestyle recommendations for our specific dosha mix and, when we pay attention to our make-up, we have the tools to be able to eliminate the root of a problem. From there, we can allow our bodies to heal themselves and be at their best. 

Awesome, right?! ☺

As far as our environment is concerned, we are knee-deep in vata season. The wind and air of vata dosha around us also creates wind and instability in our bodies, which leads us to an imbalance of vata in our bodies' systems. Since vata is associated with dryness, cold, roughness and movement, people with a predominant or out-of-balance vata will tend towards: 
  • Low body weight
  • Dry hair, nails and skin
  • Trouble sleeping or light sleep
  • Constipation, bloating, issues with other bodily functions 
  • Scattered thoughts

Imbalances aren’t awesome. But if we consider diet, exercise and our overall self-care regimen as things change on the outside, we can move towards balance with what’s going on inside.

Nom: Warm Foods

When the temperatures drop, we find refuge in warm places -- under quilts, in front of fireplaces, in a hot shower. By the same token, Ayurveda recommends we reflect that heat in our bellies. And we don't know about you, but wholesome, cooked foods sound so much better when it's cooler outside:
  • Begin your mornings with a filling breakfast, like hot quinoa or oats with coconut milk and flavor with your favorite spices -- a bit of cinnamon, ginger, or a hint of turmeric if you're feeling extra chilly. 
  • Sit down to eat meals regularly. Avoid skipping meals and take snacks in between as needed.
  • Cook lots of root vegetables, stews and soups, avoiding an excess of raw foods.
  • Add healthy, warming oils to your diet, especially if your joints tend to creak or crack more once it's cool outside.

Practice: Grounding Yoga

Now is the best time to hibernate and dive inward in our yoga practice to get a sense of where we are in the final weeks of the year so we can prepare ourselves for the year ahead. Most often, we feel stable and safe when our legs are actively rooted into the earth and that can be a great place to become introspective:
  • Take care of your strongest roots. Circle out your ankles and wiggle through your toes to generate fluid between each joint before placing your feet on the ground.  
  • Stay rooted into the toe mounds and heels of your feet in powerful poses like Crescent Lunge, Warrior I, Warrior II, Triangle, Extended Side Angle and Pyramid.
  • When your feet lift from the ground, imagine that they're pressing into an invisible wall. Drive the heels into that "wall" and flex the toes in to keep the legs aware.
  • Bring awareness to your inner organs with your favorite twists. In twists like Wind-Relieving pose where one leg is extended, focus on your extended leg. Imagine that you're standing on it and continue to ground through the toe mounds and heel. 
  • Take time for meditation and balancing pranayama, like nadi shodhana.

Care: Remember Yourself

In general, vata season ushers in cravings for serenity, stability and comfort. Following Ayurvedic rules of thumb on food and yoga practice, you can continue to take care of yourself with these recommendations to create dinacharya, or daily routine:
  • Get enough sleep (so simple, but so important!).
  • Drink hot lemon water in the morning to stimulate your digestive system.
  • Take 5-10 minutes in the morning to awaken your body with light movements, such as a few Sun Salutations or light circling of the shoulders, wrists, hips and ankles.
  • Break up your day with a short walk after lunch and/or after dinner.
  • Put down your cell phone/computer at least 30 minutes before bed.

Just as cars can't run if they don't have fuel and aren't serviced, your body definitely can't run its best if it's not taken care of. This "car" is the only one you'll own forever, so take some time to treat it like the prized possession it is: Fuel it up, have a look around the inside and keep it warm so it's ready for the year ahead.


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