It is finally starting to feel like winter outside with wind and snow. In Ayurveda, a traditional medicine that translates to mean “the science of life,” winter is the Vata (air and ether) time of year. This time of year can cause an increase in stress, anxiety, constipation, flightiness, dry skin and overwhelm, not to mention it is the Holiday Season bombarding your nervous system with flashy lights, advertisements and travel. When you stress your nervous system, it increases the release of cortisol which can cause weight gain. Ayurvedically speaking, stress is caused by an increase in Vata (air and ether) and has qualities that are cold, mobile, dry, light, and rough. That means to make up for so much air and ether qualities during the winter season you can increase the use of the opposing qualities warm, grounding, moist, heavy and smooth. Here are 3 simple tips you can use to incorporate these nourishing qualities into your winter food and lifestyle to calm your mind and nervous system.
3 tips for reducing stress this Winter:
Healthy Oils – Internally, ghee (clarified butter) is an amazing oil that helps nourish and repair the nerves. You can use ghee as if it was butter while cooking. You can buy it in the store or make your own ghee with salt free butter. Other healthy oils to use are Olive Oil and Sesame Seed Oil, and Avocados are a great source of healthy oil.
Warm Grounding foods – Grounding foods are just what it sounds like, vegetables that grow in or close to the ground. Roots, Tubers, Squash, Potatoes and Carrots help counteract the airy quality of winter with their grounding earthiness. The winter is a great time of year to cook your food. Your digestive fire is naturally lower during the winter and cooking food makes it easier to digest. Think along the lines of soup, warm veggies, oatmeal and tea during the cold weather. Don’t be afraid to simmer your salad or start making more cooked leafy greens like kale and swiss chard this time of year.
Abdominal Breath – In this fast paced world you may find yourself doing shallow breathing, which can cause you to start breathing faster and activate the sympathetic nervous system causing you to stress. Abdominal Breath is a breathing technique that focuses on breathing fully into the lungs and calms the nervous system. 3-5 abdominal breaths before eating allows a buffer between what you were doing before eating and allows you to be present with your food and more aware of when you are almost full, and then after eating, to set a buffer before running off to the next task. Some of my favorite times to use abdominal breath are while driving, standing in line, and when dealing with stressful family members.
Have a wonderful and healthy winter!
Niight Wind AHP, RYT is the owner and practitioner at Earth Ayurveda Clinic www.EarthniightStudios.org She teaches Yoga and Ayurveda workshops throughout the country. In her private Ayurveda practice she helps clients overcome IBS, find weight loss and sleep better. Niight is an avid trail runner and founder of Yoga Coaching for Runners Program in Fort Collins, CO . Start your new year calmer and healthier with the Free Ayurveda Sensory Cleanse.