Dr Vishal Bhalla BAMS. Adv. Dip Naturopathy, Ex-Secretary AAA
Ayurvedic medicine emphasises the importance of seasons for health maintenance as they have a natural effect on three vital energies or tridoshas. The rationale behind it according to traditional texts is that the strength of a person is enhanced when suitable diets and routines are adopted according to each season. To achieve this level of health, one must have knowledge of the qualities of the seasons and their influence on Three doshas. The doshas have a natural tendency to be accumulated during seasons that share their qualities and once they have accumulated more than a limit they tend to be imbalanced and manifest as illness or symptoms.
So it makes sense to know to do the right thing as per season to keep your-self in balance and fit. Currently we are in the winter months in southern hemisphere and we can all relate these changes in our bodies with some careful observation and application of ayurvedic principles. Therefore this article will outline the winter season routine as per ayurvedic texts.
The winter season is the season of VATA vitiation and is known as the Hemanta ritu the months of early November to early February are winter season in northern hemisphere and May through late August in southern hemisphere.
Winter season the ayurvedic rationale
The rationale behind Vata vititation is after the Fall or autumn atmospheric Air starts getting cooler and eventually becomes similar to the properties or gunas of Vata as mentioned in Ayurvedic texts dry cold quick light mobile and rough . This exactly replicates the winter season outdoor climate, so when the outside is like Vata it is bound to have similar effects on vata dosha within our body hence Vata gets easily affected, on the other hand the coolness in the weather is enough to douse the aggravated Pitta from autumn hence pitta is alleviated. On the other hand the progression of winter also leads to dampness and sluggishness perfect for accumulation of kapha towards the late winter months
But early winter is the season of repair and construction so the digestive fire begins to kindle due to potentially increased vata state and thus the digestive power of human beings possessing good health (strength) is enhanced due to the restraint caused upon it by the cold wind, so much so that it is capable of digesting any foodstuff irrespective of its heaviness and quantity. However, when it does not get proper fuel, the digestive fire affects the nutritive fluids, resulting in the vitiation of Vata having cold quality. So we can easily relate now why we enjoy food in winter.
Nature of doshas as per season in winter: Vata is vitiated, Pitta is alleviated Kapha is accumulated most unsuitable for Vata dominant body types.
Allowed & recommended Ayurvedic procedures in winter: Most panchkarma particularly Vasti, Abhyanga (oil massage), Shirodhara
- Vata pacifying diet is recommended favouring sweet, sour and salty tastes
- Food should be well cooked and easy to digest. It should be served warm and with ghee
- Foods that are oily, heavy & are with sweet, salty Rasas e.g. fermented by products of milk : cheese, yoghurt, cream & condensed milk also sugar cane preparations like brown or raw sugar, jiggery Guda, molasses are advised as digestive fire is very strong.
- Dry fruits with preparations & products made out of them like pakas, modakas with herbs like methi, ashwagandha chawanparash.
- New shali rice ( red and brown variants of rice ) and tender meat of young animals & birds preferably roasted with fermented herbal wines and honey
- Dry food such as popcorn, raw vegetables and nightshades [i.e. eggplant, potatoes and tomatoes] should be minimised.
- Keep away from frozen foods and ice drinks as it will aggravate Vata.
Herbs & spices
Most warming herbs and spices are balancing to Vata dosha though very drying spices such as chilli, mustard seed and black pepper should be taken in moderation.
- Meals should be accompanied by plenty of warm liquids, a good tea for pacifying
- Vata dosha is made with equal parts of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom.
- Alternatively chamomile or liquorice tea or hot water is excellent.
- Hot or warm milk is best before retiring to bed.
- Ayurvedic Preparations promoting vitality and ongetivity as per age are best indicated.
- Persons seeking extra growth, rejuvenation and vitality can have desired foods in this season. (CS Sutra 6/42-43).
Activities Problems that can occur in winter are due to Vata vitiation and kapha accumulation
- Vata-kapha associated disorders,
- Vata disorders such as stressed, anxious, fearful .
- At risk of Facial paralysis, hemiplagia, stroke in people with risk factors
- Asthma exacerbation associated with cold wind in atmosphere leading to Vata upset
- Cracked feet, lips and dry chapped skin
- Fever with chills ( Flu like symptoms )
- Coryza ( runny nose ) Rhinitis allergic or non-allergic
Activities best done in winter
- Daily massage with sesame or mustard oil before bath and then performing utsadana with warm, aphrodisiac fragrant herbs and then bathing in a warm water tub/bath.
- Applying oil on head daily & having frequent sun bath when not windy.
- Having regular Ayurvedic sauna bath swedana
- Residing in warm places like basements and houses with fire places
- Wearing dark colors satins, silks, warm clothes and other soft fibers and using warm linens and blankets to protect body.
- Covering head, hands,legs and neck with woolens
- Enjoying the company of preferred partners and performing coitus as per desire in moderation and capability is indicated as an ideal life style in winters. All of the above mentioned activities are aimed at protecting a person from vata and cold
Things to avoid or contraindicated in winter
- Moving out doors in cold as vata may be vitiated
- Consuming drying stale and cold foods can further aggravate vata
- Food in less and measured quantity is also not advised Pramitahaar
- Vata dosha is specifically increased by too much jogging, cycling, exercising and by working too hard. However light activity is not contraindicated to keep vata balanced
- Rushing to be on time, long hours of study.
- Staying up late at night
- Too much loud rock music or noise will aggravate Vata.
- Excessive talking, shouting, crying and laughing will also do the same.
- In order to decrease vata we need to cease over activity and this includes driving and flying
- Excessive sexual activity also aggravates Vata. are aimed at protecting a person from vata and cold