Creating Warmth in Winter through Ayurveda and Yoga (part 1)

I like winter just as much as the next guy. Sure,the snow is pretty, white and fluffy…in the beginning. But when I was outside yesterday heaving the wet, slushy, heavy mess off my driveway, I felt less then cheerful.

Winter is an interesting season and not particularly my favorite. I’ve read all the new age philosophy spouting its virtues. It’s supposed to be a time of self renewal and reflection so that one can be reborn in the spring. You’re supposed to embrace its inward trajectory and move inward, perhaps cozying up on the couch with some profoundly meaningful book about life’s purpose. Hey, I have been known myself to utter these very same sentiments to students of Ayurveda and Yoga. “Get in there with the plants, they are your friends! Take their lead and nestle under warm blankets, like a seed hibernating in the hard winter earth! Take time to fortify yourself for rebirth in the spring when you will push brilliantly through the earth’s firm skin and emerge all fresh and new.” Right after I say that, an incessant, insidious voice from behind my brain whispers: “Yeah, its gray, windy and freezing cold outside. There’s snow to shovel and you may not see the sun for days. Even your dog is shivering! Go ahead, nestle.” I’m trying really hard to listen to my wiser yogi-Ayurveda-teacher-self this winter.

Ayurveda Teaches Us to Flow: Ayurveda teaches us to honor the earth’s seasonal cycles. It teaches us to cultivate a deep listening so we hear her motherly call, beckoning us to flow in unison with her. Ayurveda and yoga share their roots in the Sankhya philosophy. A basic tenant of Sankhya is the belief that we are all part of a greater whole and how the fluidity of the outer world, affects our inner world. When our inner world is in harmony with nature we become balanced and are able to express effulgent health, peace of mind and spiritual tranquility. When we ignore the rhythms of nature we become vulnerable to imbalance. Imbalance of the mind-body organism expresses itself as dis-ease, stress and cloudy perception. The sensitive student of Yoga and Ayurveda is wise to adjust his or her activities to flow with nature’s rhythm.

The Process of Manifestation: According to Ayurveda, the process of manifestation produces the Five Great Elements of Ether (atomic energy), Air (electrical energy), Fire (radiant energy), Water (chemical energy) and Earth (mechanical energy). The Five Great Elements are refined further into 3 biological organizations called doshas. The 3 doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha and are present in each individual in varying ratios and in the world around us. They govern physiological changes within the body and influence our state of mind. The Doshic Dance: The doshas are in constant play with one another in our environment according to the time of day, stage of life and season. As if in a magical dance through time, each dosha begins to build upon itself, reaches a crescendo and then surrenders itself to the others. The dance between the three offers a beautiful fluidity to our inner and outer lives. The wise individual carefully observes these cycles and aligns their actions to join the flow. When we ignore the natural flow of things; life gets difficult and your system will have to work harder to stay in balance.

Like Increases Like: Ayurveda rests on the concept that like increases like. Each dosha can be described by a set of qualities. Vata expresses itself through its dry, light, cool, subtle and mobile qualities. Pitta can be described as hot, sharp, spreading, and light. Kapha manifests as dull, cool, heavy, unctuous and stable. When one dosha is predominant in the environment we can become vulnerable to imbalance as the dosha will increase within us too. Vata is predominant in winter. Nature offers us dry, cool air and blustery, mobile winds. You can see her qualities in the lightness of snowflakes and in the subtly of the moon’s light on crisp winter nights. A careful ear will hear the Great Mother Earth beckoning for you to dance and in fact, you already are. You will find her Vata qualities in you too as you hydrate dry, cracked skin and kindle fires in the hearth to protect you from the cold.

To return to a natural state of balance Ayurveda teaches us to treat excessive qualities with their opposites. We take in the world though the 5 senses of taste, touch, sight, smell and sound. Choosing food, activities, sounds, sights and smells with warm, lubricating, soft and stable qualities helps to prevent Vata from becoming aggravated in an individual.

Creating Balance: Winter is a good time to enjoy warm, cooked, heavy foods. If you listen inwardly you will hear you body’s wisdom naturally guiding you to winters creamy soups and the sweet holiday cookies that pacify Vata’s cool, dry and light qualities. In fact, natures love is so complete and perfect, she grows the exact foods at the right times of year for our optimal expression of health. You will find her thoughtful care in the wet, heavy squashes and pumpkins she grows in the fall and the warm apple strudel your grandmother makes. Warm, pungent spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and fennel are excellent for balancing Vata this time of year. Cold, raw foods like salad or iced drinks are not ideal fare for the winter months. Astringent leafy greens are grown in the spring to dry Kapha’s unctuousness and provide fluidity and brightness that balances her wet, dull, stable nature. Juicy, cooling foods like cucumbers, peas and sweet corn and are grown in summer to alleviate Pitta’s sharp, penetrating heat. The cold, lightness of winter can be warmed with the heat of vigorous yoga Sun Salutations or through the light sweat produced while shoveling snow. The deep vibrations produced by string instruments and drums can help stabilize frazzled winter nerves. In the case of winter blues try firey rock music or sunny Beach Boys tunes. Ayurveda recommends a daily practice called Abhyanga which is the application of warm sesame or mediated oils to the skin, nose and ears to lubricate Vata’s dry nature. If you cultivate a keen eye you will see Mother Earth offering you warm colors of red, gold and orange through her leafy autumn display, designed to prepare you for the metamorphosis of winter. Duplicate these colors in clothing and decorating to add heat and light to short winter days. She offers scents to warm and stabilize winter chills through peppermint candy canes and hard woods roasting in the fire. Enthuse your limbic system with aromatherapy essential oils using the warmth of minty wintergreen or peppermint and through the stable, earthy aromas of sandal and cedar woods.

The Grand Mistress of Nature is calling you forth to join in her dance. As master seductress, she entices you into her rhythm so you will be balanced, full and shiny. Squeezes open your eyes, unplug your ears, and savor her bounty. Receive all she is offering and you will become intoxicated by her benevolent grace. From your embrace you will come to realize that separateness was only an illusion and you will return home to oneness.

Suzanne Wells is an yoga instructor and has been teaching in the movement arts for 25 years. She holds certifications in a variety of disciplines including Zumba,yoga and dance. She also is an Ayurveda Practitioner and Ayurveda Yoga Specialist. She is an freelance writer, poet and music aficionado and can be found most mornings, ushering the sun over the horizon in song.

Article Source: Creating Warmth in Winter through Ayurveda and Yoga (part 1)