Staying Balanced During Winter 

Ever notice that sometimes you feel happy energetic, creative and enthused?  And, other times, lethargic, unmotivated and blue.  I’ll be damned if I can figure out why?  There are just too many variable.  Is it something I ate, did I sleep more, did I have more yogurt that day, was my yoga practice active or passive, was it the phone call from a friend, hormones, time of year, age?  Who could ever figure it out.
Here’s a clue.  The medical system related to yoga is called Ayurveda.  It puts people into 3 categories based on specific characteristics.  Like the Chinese system with the 5 Elements, Ayurveda’s “doshas” are related to air and ether (Vata dosha), fire (Pitta dosha) and earth and water (Kapha dosha).  Each dosha is helped (pacified) or aggravated by certain foods, exercise regimens, work, and general lifestyle.  When the dosha is “balanced” the individual is healthy, relaxed (but not lethargic),  energized (but not wirey), engaged (but not annoying), and confident (but not an ass).  Everyone is a combination of 2 or sometimes all 3.  You can take a test here to get a clue as to your dosha.  Eventually, you’ll want to get a full analysis from an Ayurveda practitioner.

Here we are in winter. Each dosha is affected differently by the winter weather, especially Vatas and Kaphas. Those with a Vata dosha (air) tend to be cold, flighty, lightweight and active. Winter’s cold, windy and irregular schedules bother Vatas.  Kaphas (earth and water) are also aggravated by the wet, damp and cold winter. The Ayurveda system offers specific foods, herbs and spices to balance the Dosha and bring back that loving feeling.
Vatas can benefit by warming up.  Eat warm and cooked food, like soups, stews, hot cereals, hearty grains.  Avoid salads (uncooked), ice cream (cold), and crackers/popcorn (light/airy).  Favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes and avoid bitter, pungent and astringent foods.  Essential spices are cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt.  The daily yoga practice should include calming forward folds and restorative poses and grounding standing poses, like Warrior 2.  Don’t forget a long savasana.
Kaphas, because of the combination of water and earth can become heavy and cold.  They need to also be warmed up.  Eat foods that are warm and stimulating with ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Avoid cold and mucous producing foods foods like ice cream and cheese.  The winter can be hard on Kaphas who are prone to lethargy and depression.  They need to get up each day and do an active yoga practice (or any type of movement) to work up a sweat.

Regardless of your dosha, like the bears, get some extra sleep.  Include warm and nourishing foods in your diet.  Enjoy more time with family and friends and enjoy some quiet time with your favorite book.  Spring is around the corner.