During the transition of seasons, weather changes can affect our health and wellbeing because as these elemental changes occur in Nature around us, the doshas in our bodies are being disturbed. Thousands of years ago, Ayurveda recognized the effects of doshas. More specifically, what imbalances or ‘vikruti’ of doshas can do to our bodies and mind. Some changes, such as winter to spring or spring to summer, bring about good effects. Whereas, autumn to winter has detrimental effects on our health. In order to benefit from the good effects and protect against bad effects, Ayurveda prescribes a seasonal regimen or ‘rhutucharya’ for reaching balance by synchronizing the body and mind with Nature. This tuning in with Nature is a very important aspect of holistic health in Ayurveda.
As most of us experience many different ailments, such as the common cold and/or cough as well as the flu, during the months of November through February (ie ‘flu season’), an Ayurvedic seasonal regimen, ‘rhutucharya’ is exactly what we need to combat getting sick because rhutucharya specifically aims to align our diet, daily activities, and behavior with the changing seasons. Prevention of disease is at the heart of Ayurveda, unlike modern medicine whose approach to disease treatment is symptomatic.
Typically, as we go from Autumn to Winter (Nov – Feb) weather changes are:
dry and hot to dry, cold and windy to wet and cold (maybe windy)
Just like the ‘Air’ in the environment, Vata dosha increases gradually inside and out, causing increasing dryness, coldness, roughness, and mobility. Some folks will experience more of its effects than others depending on their dosha composition.
During this time, it is very important we balance Vata by following these balancing activities:
- Eat warm, unctuous, cooked foods like soups, stews, daals. Grains are heavy and grounding, which is the opposite of Vata, so use whole grains as much as possible, such as wheat, rice, barley, amaranth, and millet. Eat seasonal vegetables and root vegetables. My favorite root vegetable is the Japanese sweet potato and yam. Warming herbs like fresh ginger and garlic are excellent to enhance flavors in your food. Use all warm spices like cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, dry ginger and bay leaves to season your food.
- Try to do daily self-massage with warm sesame oil before you shower in the mornings. This is extremely calming to the mind and body as oil is best medium to pacify Vata
- Use oil drops in ears and nose frequently. The best time to do this is around bed time. You can also rub ghee in your nose at night to reduce dryness because dry mucous membranes are easy targets for allergens.
- Maintain proper sleep hours to allow Vata to rest.
- We often undermine effects of mother nature so make sure to bundle up with warm clothes when stepping outside and cover your your ears, head and chest if it’s windy.
- Stress and anxiety are the biggest emotional factors that throw Vata out of whack mentally and physically. They contribute to causes of many terrible diseases and therefore it’s of utmost importance to acknowledge patterns of stress and anxiety to manage them as naturally as possible. Meditate, do yoga or any activity to help you control stress and anxiety. Life happens, but our responses have to be modified to not affect us.
Then, as we proceed into the winter months (Dec – mid-Feb), it’s wetter and colder outside giving rise to Kapha in the environment as the water element increases, causing Vata to decrease a little for the same reason. These are natural responses of nature. The rise of Kapha in the body produces effects like congestion in the nose and chest, loss of appetite, and possible heaviness in the body since Kapha elements, water, and earth, are considered heavy.
The flu is a combination of Vata and Kapha. When Vata from the previous months is unbalanced and untethered it starts freezing Kapha. Thus, Kapha symptoms become more severe accompanied by headaches, more congestion in the chest or nose, body aches, and malaise. But, if we were able to maintain Vata balance in the previous months, our transition in Autumn to Winter months would be more manageable because controlled Vata won’t have much of its drying, freezing effect on the already increased Kapha in the Winter. Therefore, the management of Vata with the above-mentioned suggestions is very important to fight the flu!
Below are Kapha balancing activities.
- Bitter, pungent (spicy), and astringent tastes pacify Kapha. Avoid greasy foods. Some dry grains that are good in Winter months are barley, sorghum and millet. Warm salads and stews with warm spices are good to eat. Eat leafy vegetables cooked as they are bitter and Kapha pacifying. Use honey as it is astringent in taste.
- Body massage with oil or putting oil in ears and nose should not be done on rainy or cloudy days.
- Follow advice #4, 5, 6 from the Vata balancing activities list above.
Here are some home remedies if you fall under the effects of the weather:
- For sore throat:
- Make a paste of fresh grated ginger mixed with turmeric and honey. Lick this paste every hour or as needed.
- Gargles with warm salty water. Add turmeric if feeling pain.
- Roast 1/2 tsp of turmeric and swallow it followed by little hot water.
- For congestion, try inhaling steam from a pot of hot water. Cover head and pot with towel to direct steam to face. To make this more effective, rub some oil mixed with a pinch of salt all over throat and face before inhaling.
- Drink hot ginger tea with little ghee in it to soothe throat and chest.
- Rest, rest, rest to allow Vata to pacify
- For severe issues either see your doctor or refer to an Ayurvedic Practitioner for more potent herbal remedies.
Coming up “Ayurvedic Regimen for Seasonal Transition: Winter to Spring”