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Ayurveda for Winter

Updated: Jan 15

Ayurveda supports us in adapting to seasonal changes, aiding our body in maintaining homeostasis by helping balance the excesses of the current environment. Using diet, lifestyle and herbal medicines, we can introduce what is needed, avoid what would aggravate, and stay strong and healthy in the process.
Diet = what, when and how you eat.
Lifestyle = everything from sleep to exercise to purification to spiritual practice, play and sex: what, when and how often.
Herbal Medicine = combinations of plant and animal products to prevent or treat imbalance.


In Winter we're dealing with cold, heavy, a little dark and wet. In excess, the cold and wet create mucous, heaviness and stagnation. If we don't address this accumulation now, it will likely lead to sluggish digestion, clogging of the subtle channels respiratory illness now and spring colds and allergies later.


One of the best ways to melt the excess kapha (mucous) is through heat. Cooking with pungent spices, those which make your nose run (and all your subtle channels dilate), increase warmth and circulation and cut through mucous. Spices like garlic, onions, ginger, chilis, black pepper and turmeric fit this bill well.  


Try Cinnamon tea to warm you and relieve excess mucous from your head. 1/4 t. cinnamon and ginger powders with a pinch of clove is nice. If you like honey, add a little once your tea has cooled. (If you're dealing with acidity, skip the cinnamon tea and enjoy a cup of mint tea instead).

You can also fill your thermos with slices of fresh ginger root, or Tulsi-ginger-turmeric tea bags or add some lemon or lime to your hot water to stay warm, hydrated and support immunity.


The foods growing in your environment will tend to be balancing for the season in which they're growing.  I recommend noticing what's fresh in the produce department and eating seasonally as much as possible.

Avoid or reduce cold foods (including cold water), raw foods and dairy products, and those foods with too much sweet taste, especially in the form or refined carbohydrates. (If your digestion is strong, you may be able to handle a salad at room temperature with lunch). Eat steamed, or sauteed veggies and soups instead.

Enjoy probiotic support through miso broth instead of yogurt. Heavy smoothies with too many ingredients are too heavy to be digested well. Green juices, served at room temp or warmed slightly work well. Add fresh ginger root if you like it.

Eat the bulk of your food while the sun's high in the sky, 2 or 3 meals each day at regular times. Avoid snacking between meals on anything except whole fruit (cooked apples and pears are nice this time of year) or a cup of tea.

Enjoy an earlier, lighter dinner, and an intermittent fast between supper and your first meal the following morning. 10 - 14 hours is a nice range for women. Most women can go 12 hours comfortably. Let your appetite be your guide. This practice, closing the kitchen after supper, done in accordance with your capacity, is one of most effect ways to reduce excess in your system and strengthen your digestive function.


Exercise is an excellent way to support circulation and warm and strengthen your body. Exercise just to the point of breaking a sweat is an especially effective way to gently purify and bring more lightness to your body. 

Exercise at least 3 x a week, preferably in the morning. Ayurveda recommends exercising to 1/2 your capacity rather than to exhaustion.This is easy to do if you pay attention to deep, rhythmic breathing through your nose (here's a 12 minute practice I like).

Enjoy a brisk walk, a swim, lift weights, or practice sun salutations, but only do so to the extent that you can maintain nose breathing. This will help you stay in your true range of capacity, which means you'll enjoy the benefits without the excess muscle soreness later. The stimulation will also help move emotional stagnation and help you feel brighter this time of year.


Saunas and hot baths are also great for gentle purification through sweating. A cold or cool water rinse between sessions of sweating, or at the end of your bath will help balance the effects of the heat and move warmth back to the core of the body. 

If you tend towards congestion in the mornings, use your neti pot. To do so, warm purified water and add a 1/4 tsp. non iodized salt, and snort it, or pour it through one nostril and let it run out the other. Give a gentle blow out afterwards to release any leftover water in your sinuses. This will clear excess mucous and other pathogens hanging out in your sinuses.


For dry nasal passages from indoor heat (most of us alternate between mucous and dryness), Alternate neti pot with nasya. Here's a good one most people like. The oil lubricates and nourishes while the camphor opens passages. The herbal blend support mental calm and clarity. Here's a sheet showing how to give yourself nasya,

Yoga and Pranayama this season might include -- 3 - 5 rounds of warming bhastrika pranayama, 45 x each round, with relaxed breathing between rounds keeps lungs warm and dry. A longer round of kapalbhati (active exhale, passive inhale) will clear your head. Prone backbends like shalabhasana and dhanurasana stiumulate and open the stomach channel and lungs. Passive or active chest openers are good for supporting the lungs. Sun salutations are good for building heat. Remember that all asana should be practiced with rhythmic nostril breathing throughout to gain the benefits without over working or causing constriction within.

Restorative asana only when you're on the first 3 days of your moon cycle, please.

All of us benefit from a restorative practice each week, and 20 - 30 minutes of yoga nidra most days. Restorative yoga and yoga nidra are nourishing/building practices, supporting immunity and rebuilding reserves lost through emotional stress, overwork, illness, lack of sleep, etc.


If you already have tonic support for the winter, you're good. If not, here are some general recommendations. For specific considerations, reach out to a practitioner.

Chyavanprash is an herbalized jam made with herbs and spices to support healthy immunity and full of vitamin C. A tsp. each morning plain, or in warm water is a wonderful support for most.


These are general recommendations that work well for most people, AND you may need to customize them to your unique nature. If something doesn't work for you, don't do it. Reach out to me if you'd like to customize this advice to your unique situation.

Ready to get strong and healthy this winter? Reach out to me to get on my calendar for a FREE Clarity Call, and we'll discover together what your body needs, and how to get there.

Here's to a happy, healthy winter.



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