According to Ayurveda, October thru February marks vata season with characteristics of creativity, lightness and enthusiasm. Within these months, the cold weather along with the holidays can be challenging at times with lots of travel, shopping, sweets, and celebrations with family and friends. When the holiday travel comes it brings up the mobile, irregular and fast qualities of vata. Air travel in particular exacerbates this through the dry and incredibly ungrounded and fast nature. It can result in symptoms such as insomnia, dryness, constipation, anxiety, gas, bloating, aches and pains and more. Therefore we have to educate ourselves with Ayurvedic practices to help us find balance and remind us that we have the power to cultivate simple Ayurvedic meal plans and routines into our lives.
1) Drink warm/hot water: This simple practice of drinking hot water throughout the day will help to stoke digestive fire, improve digestion and prevent the channels of the body from constricting as a result of the colder environment
2) Eat warm, cooked, moist, well-oiled and well-spiced foods: Cooked grains, root veggies, soups, stews, warm milk, oils, and ghee are all great examples. The cold temperatures cause the external channels of the body to close off, forcing body heat inward. This action causes our agni (digestive fire) to increase. Therefore, we may experience a bigger appetite and an increased capacity to digest some of the heavier, nourishing foods. Our bodies need it right now so be sure to cook with appropriate spices to help the breakdown of these heavy foods. Great options are cumin, fennel, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and turmeric. Increasing our internal intake of oils and ghee is especially beneficial during this season.
3) If traveling, when you arrive at your destination, eat a warm, cooked, grounding meal prepared by yourself or a loved one: This practice is a simple one to help you feel “rooted” and to cultivate the earth element. Earth has the opposite qualities of air and ether, which get very aggravated by travel.
4) Do self-massage (abhyanga) with warm sesame oil daily, especially before travel: This practice is one of the most important for Vata season and will go very far in helping to protect against the aggravating cold, dry and light qualities of Vata. Use more oil than usual and be sure to also place oil on the scalp, soles of your feet, and in your ears and nostrils.
5) Take the time to meditate: The holidays provide a wonderful opportunity for us to “count our blessings” and be present and mindful of the many gifts that have been bestowed upon us – nourishing food, community, family, access to resources, safety, etc. But without mindfulness, it can easily turn into a time of sensory overload, excessive indulgence, eruption of challenging patterns and relationships, and stress. Maintaining a meditation practice while traveling and/or spending time with loved ones and family is one of the most powerful habits to help you stay present, calm and grounded during this time.
We here at Santa Cruz Ayurveda hope these tips help support you during this holiday season. May you be peaceful, happy and healthy during this holiday season and beyond.
Many Blessings, Santa Cruz Ayurveda