It’s the kind of dampness that seems to settle in around October and doesn’t leave until April. Some days it feels like the chill is penetrating your very being and warmth seems like a lofty goal instead of an achievable state. This cool dampness can make you feel sluggish and for many it can also get you down.
Fortunately Ayurveda – the sister science to yoga, has some tips on following your intuition, practicing certain yoga poses, fighting the heaviness of winter and allowing you to celebrate this beautiful and festive season.
You can’t control the weather but you can control what you do, how you react, what you eat.
In our house, all winter long, we start our day by lighting a wood fire. The actual process of lighting this fire is healing and warming. Stoking this literal fire has the metaphorical effect of stoking our own fires within. Not of all of us agree with wood fireplaces or have them in our homes, but similarly you will intuitively wake up and start the warming process, turning the heat up, making a warm drink. This is the type of intuitive activity Ayurvedic medicine says you should listen to and adhere to throughout the day.
This scientific backbone to yoga is over 10,000 years old and encourages a life intimately intertwined with the natural world and the forces of nature, including the change of season. This science says the alternation of day and night, the rhythmic yearly cycles of temperatures and daylight—affects us all.
Being in tune with nature, you can also be more in tune with your individual constitution, or prakruti, which is comprised of three subtle energies: vata, the energy associated with wind; pitta, the energy associated with fire; and kapha, the energy of earth and water.
Winter is kapha time.
With the dampness of kapha, we are more susceptible to mucus type illness (like colds) so throat opening yoga poses are your friends. Here's a list of postures that invigorating and help to warm the kidneys and clear phlegm.
1. Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara): This invigorating invocation to your yoga practice helps build heat in the body.
2. Fish Pose (Matsyasana): This supine backbend/inversion opens the throat and chest.
3. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana): Open your chest with this backbend.
4. Boat Pose (Navasana): Light your internal fire.
5. Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana): This supported inversion helps with stagnation and circulates blood and detoxifies lymph nodes.
7. Breath of Fire Pranayama, also know as kapalabhati breathing, a practice that builds internal heat and eliminates mucus from the respiratory tract. These are rapid, sharp exhales, passive inhales, and a snapping of your lower abdomen.
Try a hot yoga class and even if you don’t like a warm room, dress a little warmer for your practice, particularly for your Savasana.
Add warmth to your body with your food. You can still eat raw foods, but try raw soups, where food is not necessarily cooked but warmed. Add cayenne to your warm water in the morning, or ginger or both combined with a little lemon.
Add warming spices to your food, like cinnamon to your oatmeal or a couple sprinkles of chili flakes to your meal.
Just being aware of kapha tendencies in winter will bring you more aligned with your present state and you will be able to adjust accordingly. Enjoy your warm bath at night, rub yourself with sesame oil after and snuggle a little tighter in your bed. All of sudden your winter will become sweeter and less of an endless cold cycle you can’t snap.