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Ayurvedic tips for a healthy winter

The winter days are short and dark leading some to feel depressed. Lack of sunlight, gray skies and cold weather can make the days seem gloomy. The short daylight and relative lack of sunlight this time of year can cause depression due to vitamin D deficiency. 
Flu's and colds are prominent in winter as your body reduces blood flow to the respiratory system in cold weather, to retain body heat. Your lungs may be ill-prepared for sudden exertion after stepping outdoors. If shoveling snow causes you to breathe through the mouth, your lungs may cool down too quickly. If you feel cold, contracting pain in your lungs as you inhale, your lungs are too cold and especially vulnerable to respiratory infection. Instead, breath through the nose, and wear a scarf.
Don't make yourself sick, embrace the season's joy, ripe with surprises.

Pitta individuals welcome the refreshing cold air. However, they will notice their appetites are even more ravenous than usual. Be sure to eat on time to avoid getting hungry! 
If you've overstuffed yourself, you may find your Kapha is aggravated - with symptoms of thick mucus and nausea. 
Rich, fatty foods make the blood thick and sluggish which depresses metabolism and causes Kapha individuals to oversleep this time of year as well. The cold air, lack of exercise, and rich holiday foods invite blood stagnation. In winter signs of blood stagnation become prominent. Your skin may appear puffy and inflamed, especially on your arms and legs and anywhere circulation is poor. You may feel tired and sluggish both physically and mentally. This stagnation also further reduces immunity.
To get your blood moving again, try taking a hot bath at least once a week. Dress in layers and extra warm clothing.

Ayurvedic Routine for December and January
December and January are the prime months for overdoing anything and everything - holiday parties, homemade christmas cookies, etc.
To ensure that your gut is not working overtime while you sleep, don't eat after 8pm. Be sure to eat a warm breakfast before heading out into the cold. Sip hot water throughout the day as it is warming, hydrating and mildly cleansing. Keep some form of movement in your routine to prevent thick blood from stagnating and the dark days from bringing you down.
Rakta is Ayurveda's term for the red part of the blood. Ever notice that everyone looks pale in the winter? Cravings for red colored foods are your body's attempt to put some color back in your cheeks. These foods are also an important way to detox from too much celebrating. Red and purple color in food is rare and indicates an abundance of anticancer and antioxidant flavonoids. They increase the activity of the liver's detox enzymes, prevent tumor growth & reduce inflammation. Indulge in plums, pomegranates and cranberries.
Continue to cook up soups and stews. Well cooked greens like collards and kale offer mild bitterness. Adding them to your slow cooked stews and soups makes them easier to digest - especially for Vata types.
Kapha individuals should begin reducing dairy based desserts. Dairy's cold, moist and heavy qualities easily make you feel sluggish and provoke excessive mucus buildup.

Herbs for January
Cold temperatures slow down the heart and cause blood vessels to constrict. This makes skin appear dull and lifeless. It also causes a buildup of toxins. Holy basil steeped in a hot cup of water as a tea is a perfect January treat to warm up and restore healthy circulation. You'll feel warmed and nourished to the core.
Cloves are another strong vasodilator and move blood by pushing it to the surface of the skin. Cloves have an earthy feel to them and an acrid taste. Acrid taste, a combination of pungent and bitter tastes, disperses the accumulation of moisture and activates vitality (prana). Foods with acrid taste are generally warming. They get your blood flowing.
Curcuma is renowned for being both warming and anti-inflammatory. It cleanses, invigorates and thins the blood, making it ideal for cold months. 
Cinnamon and dried ginger continue to be supportive for warming up the blood (rakta).

For the Lungs
If your lungs feel painful or cold due to breathing in cold air, protect your lungs with cinnamon or black pepper. Use honey and cardamom to destroy mucus, soothe your sore throat.

Spicy and warming winter tea:
Ingredients:
  • Water
  • Fennel seeds: 1tsp.
  • Cardamom: 2-3 pods.
  • Black pepper seeds: 3-4.
  • Whole clove: 1.
  • Star anise: 1 pod.
  • Cinnamon stick: ½.
  • grated fresh ginger: 1tsp.
 
Boil the water with all the ingredients together for 10 minutes. Later serve yoursel as a herbal tea. Enjoy hot!
 
Dr.Ajith Chakrapani, ayurveda specialist in Thermana&Veda Ayurveda Centre

 

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