We are almost at the winter solstice and the temperature has most definitely dropped some. It’s the season of comfort food and keeping cosy indoors. So as we plunge into the deep mid-winter, what can you do to stay happy and healthy?
Ayurveda teaches to move with the rhythms of the Earth – the apparent cycles of day and night or the seasons are really just the rhythms of the Earth moving in space. The Circadian Rhythm is the cycle that tells your body when to sleep, rise and eat, and regulates many of your physiological processes. Everyone feels ‘better’ during the summer, waking earlier and enjoying longer days. As the colder months approach you feel a natural decline in energy levels and, like much of nature, you want to hibernate. Your attention-span is reduced and you feel you have little time to do all the things you want in a day. This can lead to a lack of routine as you struggle to keep up with work requirements and everything else on the to-do list. So how do you find balance in a season that’s signified by fluctuation and change? The key is to find a routine that will help you stay centred and energized. Ayurveda suggests a series of self-care rituals to be performed at the same time each day to provide structure to the unstable qualities of Vata. This can reduce unwelcome weight gain as well as lowering your risk of catching a cold, giving you the energy to get out and about and not feeling guilty about all those hot chocolates!
As you may well know, here at One for All we’re particularly passionate about Ayurveda. According to this traditional medicine system of India we’re now in Vata season, meaning everyone is experiencing an increase in the Vata dosha despite what your overall mind-body type may be. Along with sticking to a routine, Vata can be balanced through diet, for example, by increasing your consumption of good fats, using warming spices such as fennel and ginger, embracing protein-rich foods such as quinoa and mung dal and eating plenty of seasonal root veg. When tossing up which root veg to go for, I tend to favour sweet potato as the sweet taste is very grounding and therefore Vata-balancing. Jesse is not a sweet potato fan, so I hide it in homemade veggie burgers!
Although we’re fans of hot cooked food all year round, now is the time to really embrace the comfort of a warm belly. So get a pot on the stove with some of these family favourites!
- Chai tea: we prefer traditional freshly made chai. Making your own chai provides immense satisfaction and makes the house smell really yummy! Just boil up some cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and peppercorns in some rich black tea made with heavy milk, add an optional sweetener of some kind, and there you have it – it’s difficult to resist a second cup.
- Curry: who doesn’t love a steaming hot curry on a cold day? Another opportunity to get those root veg in as well as the sweet taste with some paneer or coconut cream. You can find loads of masala recipes online and experiment with different protein options such as tofu, lentils, quinoa and dal. You could even make your own curry powder mix to put in a jar and use again and again.
- Mung dal soup: delicious and easily digestible, soup is perfect on a cold winter’s night. Split mung or mung dal is a super speedy way to get a nutrient-rich, low-calorie meal. Add chopped seasonal veggies for extra vitamins and minerals and broken rice noodles to feel fuller for longer.
- Binge on ginger: whether you’re going for sweet or savoury, now’s the time to indulge in this winter warming root. Mince it, grate it or slice it and you can literally add it to anything.
- Herbal hotties: hot drinks should be the preferred choice over iced or chilled drinks. Cumin, coriander and fennel tea encourages strong digestion, especially when taken after meals. You can also increase heat and circulation as well as encouraging clean and clear respiratory passages by drinking a tea of dried ginger, cinnamon and clove.
On top of a warm diet, a dynamic and expansive hot Yoga practice can be extremely supportive to your winter wellbeing. Yoga is an excellent exercise and spiritual practice to incorporate into your daily routine – perfect for balancing Vata! The best antidote if the cold weather is making you feel unmotivated and lethargic is to get your body moving; building up your inner heat and invigorating your breath. Yogic breathing exercises encourage you to use more of your lungs’ capacity and the Alternate Nostril Breathing practice is especially balancing in cases of high stress or anxiety – common indicators of Vata in the mind. And then, of course, closing your Yoga practice with a long, extended Savasana is the ultimate opportunity to bathe in the warmth of the infrared heat!