I taught a workshop on Ayurveda, this past weekend and emerging from it, I am inspired. Not only was it amazing to be in a space sharing something I am passionate about, but I was also reminded about why this knowledge is so powerful and essential, especially today.
One of my students afterward, said, it’s sort of like “turning on a lightbulb of awareness.” And that’s just it. Ayurveda offers a really great lens through which you can observe your emotions and your actions. It offers a sort of pause button, like savasana does at the end of a really great yoga practice – and when you press that pause button – you can start to move once again from a place of consciousness and awareness. It’s that sense of doing things not on autopilot, but with presence and light so you don’t descend into normal habit patterns that may not serve you.
Ayurveda literally means, “The Science of Life” and covers all aspects of your lifestyle during your waking and sleeping hours. That’s a lot, I know, but if you can understand some key principles it is no longer that overwhelming. Yoga is Ayurveda’s sister science and one of the things the ancient Ayurvedic Sages or Rishis or wise men said almost 2500 years ago, is that Yoga is a great balancing practice for the Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Here are some simple everyday tips you can include in your daily routine – in Sanskrit we call this “Dinacharya” to gain balance and health; not sickness and overwhelm as we enter that annual vortex of chaos known as the holiday season.
1. Got rhythm?
If not, get into it with the sun. Sleep early, wake up early. Obviously we know this and obviously this is hard in the party season. But here’s something you can do. Sleep early on the nights you are not going out – know that you probably do need more sleep especially in the dark winter months of the northern hemisphere. In ayurvedic terms, there is less Agni or fire outside so our internal fire is also lower and we have to sustain ourselves more. You may notice that you may sleep a half hour to an hour more than you do in the summer, when things are the opposite both in our external and internal environments. You may notice that you are more energised and awake if you sleep earlier and you will sustain your energy levels more ease fully during the day.
2. Get Oily.
In the winter, things get really dry (unless you live in the Pacific Northwest rainforest as I do). But for most people, your skin dries up, your lips dry up and it is cold. Use warming sesame oil, just 1 to 2 tbsp, every morning and give yourself an oil massage or “Abhyanga.” Take a tablespoon of the oil in the palm of your hand and rub it in gently but firmly over your entire body, moving from the extremities towards your heart. This should not take you more than 10 minutes. This will rev up your circulation (and metabolism), stoke your digestive fire and help wake you up. Plus the gentle touch on your skin calms your nervous system down, helping you keep anxiety at bay. Forget about those holiday cards you haven’t sent yet. You’ll be able to get them written in a jiffy once you actually feel relaxed. Trust me.
3. Get in a Stew:
Eat yummy, stewy, deliciously warming foods. Ease up on the salads and raw stuff. Adapt your food to the season whether you call yourself vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or omnivorous. Stews and soups meld flavours of foods together and help to pre-digest the food, which helps our bodies to absorb the nutrients more easily without working too hard. This is a good thing, since in the winter, we lack vital agni, or digestive fire, that is more abundant in the summer, when there is more heat and sunshine i.e. external Agni. An easy way to think about this, is about the proliferation of life in the summer vs. winter. Think how easily juicy red tomatoes grow in the summer vs. the challenge of growing vegetables in the winter and you get the gist. Ps. Check out some of the recipes on Yogue here. Also the picture above is from one of my favourite food blogs Coconut & Quinoa and you can find the recipe here.
4.Everything in Moderation:
This is the season to eat sweet, heavy foods in a climate not too conducive to that, since it is dark, cold and heavy outside, which in Ayurvedic terms is the climate of coolness and heaviness or “kapha.” Think of the cocooning feeling a blanket of snow or the slow drip of rain provides. Yet, even though we know that our metabolic, digestive fire may not be at its highest in the winter, it is the holiday season. Enjoy the conviviality of gatherings and breaking bread together with loved ones, and don’t deprive yourself of everything. Yes, eat and drink, however in moderation.
Moderation is that sense of not letting the drink drink you, but of you drinking the drink. Moderation is tasting your food mindfully that you fully absorb every nibble of that delicious piece of pie and don’t reach for a second on autopilot. Moderation is not having to do a “cleanse” that starts on January 1st because you didn’t go overboard to begin with.
And mostly, nourish yourself not just with food but with all the sense impressions you take in. Enjoy conversations, enjoy the beauty and warmth of the winter season and yes, also enjoy the solitude and the sense of turning inward. It will all nourish you, emotionally and physically.
5. Get Outside and Move:
Walk around the block in the rain or snow. Snowshoe, ice skate, do yoga, an energising class or a restorative flow, run, ski, snowboard or hike. Do whatever you do, or don’t do normally, but do something for at the very least 30 minutes every day. Make it fun, make it part of your holiday rituals, spend time with close friends and family in an active way. Mostly, get those endorphins bouncing and know that you will spread more joy once you are more lit up on the inside.
We are off on some travels again this winter. I will try to post updates on this blog, photos and recipes and more goodness.