During winter, our strength is increased because the cold constricts our skin capillaries. The heat doesn't dissipate as it does in other seasons and agni, the digestive fire, is much stronger. If we don't take care to eat heavier foods and larger portions in winter, the increased digestive fire starts to consume our tissues. This is particularly dangerous in the case of elderly people, whose tissues can't build up as well as they used to. The vata, or bodily wind, helps agni digest the tissues. So it's important to eat warm, well cooked foods and to make use of the three tastes that calm vata--sweet, sour and salty. At Alandi Ashram, we make big jars of kimchi in winter for a sour, salty and warming condiment and eat miso soups. We bake winter squashes and use sweet potatoes, yams and squashes in our soups and dals to bring in the sweet taste.We also enjoy warming antiviral teas like tulsi tea and ginger tea.
On winter mornings, calm vata with an abhyanga (oil massage) using oil medicated with vata-soothing herbs such as ashwagandha and bala. Recommended oil blends are Ashwagandhadi tailam or Ashwagandha Bala Oil.
After the long winter night, you will probably have a keen appetite for breakfast following your yoga or morning exercise. Take a warm, nourishing breakfast such as oatmeal with toasted almonds, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Other ideas are uppama, Spicy Quinoa Breakfast Burrito, Spicy Scrambled Eggs or Kitchari.
The ancient Ayurvedic texts recommend chicken soups or meat soups in winter, meat curries, sweet wines, cordials, urad dal, semolina dishes, milk products, and use of ghee and oils like mustard oil and sesame oil. Some readers might be surprised to see meat and liquor being recommended, although there is no doubt these are heating foods. In subsequent blogs we will explain more about how and why to use or abstain from these foods.
Avoid drafts, making sure your house is well-insulated. Wear warm boots, thick sweaters and cozy socks and use warm slippers indoors. Wool and cotton blankets are recommended. And keep warm beside the one you love. The Ayurvedic texts recommend sexual activity in winter, when our strength is increased. So cuddle up to your honey--and remember to practice safe sex!
Alakananda Ma is a Certified Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic andAlandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is well known and highly respected in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.
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