Find balance even in the midst of Christmas Chaos with Ayurveda
Autumn-Winter - The Great Rejuvenator
As a Vata-Kapha baby, who craves the warmth and sun, moving beyond the playfulness of Halloween into the depths of winter can feel a bit bleak sometimes! Once the beautiful Autumn leaves blow themselves away leaving the trees bare, we can feel the cold, wet, kapha-increasing qualities of winter take hold and, if we are unable to let go, it is easy to feel sad and lament the waning sun.
Yet, inside the cold and dark is a seed of joy - when winter is revered for its subtle gifts, rather than being just a "cold season" it can be a deeply rejuvenating time of year, if we give way to the natural desire to rest, hibernate and reflect we can discover a deep and powerfully healing stillness. Winter is the perfect time to draw inwards, to contemplate on what has gone before and lay plans for a new year, gather with what loved ones we can, in any way we can, keep warm and embrace the reflective silence.
A little excitement is just the medicine!
That said - thank god for Christmas! Although meditation and reflection are key processes in the annual cycle renewal and rejuvenation, there's only so much of that we need! As we move from a rested Autumn into Winter, our environment evolves into more piercing cold, initiating a change in our internal qualities from greater vata dominance to kapha. The gathering cold and dark, plus our lack of movement, warmth and excitement can ultimately aggravate our internal earth and water elements if we are not prepared, making make us feel, heavy, bored and low in energy and mood - particularly during lockdowns!
Luckily, Christmas - and a natural change in our seasonal foods - arrives just in time! As the official start of Winter, Yule or the Winter Solstice heralds the longest night and shortest day, meaning that, although the weather will continue to be be much colder form some months, the days will begin to grow longer and it is a time for much celebration! Winter festivities, no matter which one you enjoy, have been customary for thousands of years and are the perfect remedy for the soul! In the cold and dark, enjoying roaring fires, sparkling lights, fun with loved ones, delicious feasts and much revelry is just what we need to wake up and shake up the mind, mood and energy and give us the strength and joy needed to see us through the (brrrr) chilly start of the new year. BUT - the secret is to get it right: the right foods, the right drinks and the right herbs to keep kapha harmonised - yep you got it, those warming spicy aromas of cinnamon, red wine, orange and rosemary are just what we mean!
Watching the plate change
Just taking a moment to delight in the memories of Christmases gone by - the sights, sounds and most of all smells - I find, at this time of year, I most marvel at mother nature's wisdom. Just as we are starting to feel heavy from our weeks of rest and months of heavy vata-pacifying stews, things begin to change. When eating seasonally, we will see our plates move from sweet autumn pumpkins and squashes to lighter, more bitter vegetables such as swedes, cabbages and sprouts - a key player in every Christmas dinner! By including these in our diet over winter we begin the gentle detoxification process that will continue until spring, helping us slough the layer of winter fat we naturally acquire as protection during the winter months. Also, come Christmas we will be stocking our cupboards with warming kapha-pacifying herbs, fruits and vegetables such as cranberries, rosemary, garlic and bitter orange - all to keep those internal fires burning, keeping us warm and bringing equilibrium to rising kapha - how incredibly clever! When done right our diet helps us fully embrace the season and ensures we feel calm yet energized, reflective yet positive, and bubbling with potential!
Honouring self and season
To help you get the absolute most out of this wonderful festive period I have created the very best top tips to keep you not only cozy and warm but feeling energized and excited for the year to come!
1) LISTEN TO YOUR MIND AND BODY We know, it's so easy to overdo it right now (so much yummy goodness!) but what if we told you that that the root cause of nearly all illness is improper digestion? Boo - I know party pooper right! But, we promise, it doesn't have to be hard work looking after your Agni. Just go a little slower, eat and chew consciously and with reverence. Tune in to your gut. Select the foods that feel right for you not just what you "should be cooking". Stop when you feel full. Say "maybe later" on snacks if you're not hungry. Choose the smallest piece of dessert. By eating the right foods at the right time and in the right way, we honour and revere ourselves and our digestion giving greater abundance, health and energy, making you feel great and ready for face time number 5!
2) EMBRACE GRATITUDE
Its cold, its dark, it's lockdown 3.0. It's not the easiest of Christmases, we'll admit it! BUT for most of us we have warm homes, loved ones on zoom, gifts, incredible food and some time for rest. What incredible fortune to have these! If we are able to grieve and set aside our losses and fully welcome our fortunes, like we would welcome a guest at Christmas, the situation may not feel so bad. With rising kapha, positivity may feel a lot harder than usual as Tamas (heaviness, negativity and feelings of darkness) are higher, but by setting yourself some intentions for each day, getting up and out in nature and embracing the gifts available you will not only avoid eating that entire box of celebrations, or falling asleep in front of the tv again, but will encourage a lighter brighter lens on life!
3) DRINK HERBAL TEA Eating more than usual is inevitable come Christmas but it's possible to negate some of the effects by keeping hydrated with herbal tea and hot water. Water is crucial to ensure effective functioning of mind and body - and even more so when the wine bottle gets opened - but it also helps to move food through the gut, break down fats and ensure adequate moisture in the gut to keep things moving all the way. Also, drinking hot water/herbal tea will also help to purge the body of toxins ensuring we still have energy left for new year! We highly recommend Coriander Cumin Fennel tea, lemon and ginger or Yogi Tea's Echinacea which doubles up as an immune booster too! Better make that a LARGE mug of tea - sip and feel the roast potatoes melt away ;)
Now, you know it's true (even though you'd never admit it) when you mum says "Lets go for a post Christmas dinner walk, it will help us digest". Yes at the time, this may sound like the worst idea in the world as your favourite Christmas film is just starting and you are beginning to feel the first grips of the food coma. But it's true, exercise - even just 30 minute a day - is scientifically proven to boost digestion as well as improve mood and energy levels, and getting a dose of fresh Christmas day air is just what you need to wake you up before the family all play virtual charades this evening! So whether its yoga in your best Xmas jumper, throwing that cheesy candy cane dog toy for the pooch in the park or taking that reluctant walk with your mum, get yourself outside - you will feel a world of difference!
5) AYURVEDIC HERBAL HACKS TO KEEP AGNI BURNING Spicy tea: Sip hot spicy tea as often as possible, it will prevent any of the festive feasty foods from getting "stuck" and creating ama (ginger, peppermint, cumin or fennel are the very best for indigestion)
Go nuts on the herbs and aromatics: Rosemary on the turkey, parsley in the stuffing, garlic on the roast potatoes, cinnamon in the wine! Grab them all and get experimenting! Herbs and spices increase agni, help digestion, keep you warm, boost lymph flow and improve mood - also taste EPIC!
Trikatu: If you have tried the first 2 and are still feeling really heavy and full you can try using Trikatu (which means 3 pungents) and is made up of ginger, black pepper and long pepper. Great for bloated kapha's and vata's - pitta's go easy or maybe just try fennel tea.
Let them eat soup (or nothing): If you have lots of feasts planned this year, try to just have soup in between them - or even nothing at all (fasting) - to help let your digestion catch up and prevent the build up of toxins (ama) that will make you feel heavy and sick.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy Christmas and new tier (I mean year!)
Faith and the AyurLife team xx
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