It is essential to have a lifestyle that evolves with the changing seasons to promote overall health and wellbeing. Ayurveda recognizes this, and that’s why we have the concept of Ritucharya, where each season has its specific guidelines that can help keep the doshas in balance.
In Ayurveda, the winter season covers two phases called Hemant Ritu (Mid-November to Mid-January) and Shishira Ritu (Mid-January to Mid-March).
Hemant ritu is the first half of winter. It is a very pleasant time because pitta dosha, which was aggravated in the previous season (Indian autumn), is alleviated. Our digestive fire (Agni) is healthy and balanced, but vata dosha (Wind element) tends to get disturbed in the winters. Therefore, following these recommendations can help in navigating the season:
1. Choose the right flavours: The recommended diet in hemant ritu is vata balancing. Such a diet has more sweet, sour, and salty flavours. These include grains, rice, all forms of dairy, ripe fruits, honey, sugarcane products, sesame, and healthy fats, including ghee.
2. Favour warm foods over cold: Vata enjoys warm dishes, so a wholesome winter diet would include soups, stews, and one-pot meals. Spices like ginger, long pepper, cinnamon, and turmeric are good in this season. Amla juice or warm lemon water on an empty stomach is particularly good for this season. But care should be taken by those who have digestive or blood pressure issues (Amla can lower BP, and lemon can aggravate gastric issues).
3. Be moderate with fasting: Ayurveda discourages practicing fasting, eating raw foods or salads, having cold foods or beverages, as they aggravate vata in this season.
4. Exercise regularly: Hemant ritu is also when the human body is the strongest in all seasons. This makes it a good time to practice more strenuous exercises or challenge yourself a little by starting a new exercise routine.
5. Practice moderation in exercise: Vata can get disturbed by too much cardio or aerobics type activities. Therefore, make sure that your workouts are diversified and include grounding and strengthening activities as well. You can complement your exercise routine with massage therapies to balance vata dosha.
6. Get some sun: Afternoon sun exposure also helps in mitigating vata as well as kapha and keeps the bones and joints healthy and nourished.
The second half of winter is called Shishira ritu, and in this season, Kapha dosha starts to accumulate. Agni is still strong, and so is our strength, but it’s a little lesser than Hemant ritu. Dietary and lifestyle recommendations remain mostly the same. But here are a few extra tips for the colder part of winters:
1. Since kapha is sluggish and cold, you can balance it by staying warm, avoiding cold exposure, taking warm water baths, and following a vigorous exercise routine.
2. Overeating or sleeping during the day is discouraged as both can aggravate Kapha.
3. Jaggery is a good sweet alternative in this season, but should be used in moderation
Winter is that time of the year when the human body is at its strongest. Even our digestive fire or Agni is powerful as the body tries to retain heat. Therefore, this is when we can indulge in strenuous exercises and eat nourishing food with healthy fats. So, stay warm, stay active, and eat well to make the most of this season!
(The writer is a yoga and Ayurveda lifestyle specialist, and founder of Yoganama)