How to Feel Nourished and Balanced in Winter 

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Lately I’ve found myself much less ready to crawl out of my warm covers in the morning and almost too ready to crawl into them at the end of the day.

It’s the first week of Winter here in the Southern hemisphere and I feel the hibernation instinct kicking in as the days get shorter and temperatures drop… I also see myself kicking and complaining in protest.

I’m a summer baby. I love the heat and I’ve been slightly obsessed with living an endless summer life for the past 6 years by traveling to or living in warm destinations when the weather gets cold.

But after talking to a friend about how much she loves cold weather and getting cosy this time of year I stopped to ponder why I resist it so much… and I realised a lot of it has to do with not wanting to slow down.

I love getting outdoors every day at the crack of dawn, going on weekend adventures with friends and almost every week I come up with a new project or idea I want to pursue. In other words I love being active. I’m comfortable being active, and winter makes me want to slow down…which makes me feel uncomfortable, even guilty.

If I simply want to wrap up at night and watch a movie or start my day slowly with a cup of tea I sometimes think, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I feeling so slow?” But the truth is nothing is wrong, except my perspective.

One of the most important lessons I continue to learn from my studies and dedication to practicing Ayurveda and Yoga is that when we align to Nature’s rhythms we thrive, and when when we resist Nature’s rhythms we struggle.

Well, this insight into my distain for winter was a real revelation in being misaligned with Nature’s rhythms…and I know I’m not alone. Our culture by and large is much more comfortable with being active and teaches us that self worth and success come from productivity.

But if we listen to Nature instead of modern culture (which is massively out of sync with the natural world resulting in an epidemic of lifestyle disease, mass destruction of biodiversity and rapid decline in natural resources)…if we instead listen to the rhythm of Nature, we see that in Winter she is singing to us all a lulu by of slowing down.

In Winter numerous plants go dormant and farmers allow the fields to lay fallow, knowing that this is a vital period of rest to prepare for Spring, the season of productivity. Many animals and insects hibernate or rest for the same reason.

It only makes sense that we would need to do the same! To pulsate between productivity and rest, this is the rhythm of Nature. 

If the fields never lay fallow the soil eventually becomes depleted of all nutrients and won’t support any production at all.

I’m starting to shift my perspective on Winter, and honour it as a time of resting and replenishing my inner soil, so that come Spring I have ample mental, physical and spiritual nutrients to “spring” out of bed and enjoy all the activities and innovating my heart desires.

Aligning to nature’s rhythms is one of the most important concepts of living a yoga lifestyle, but so is the continuous, daily pursuit of balance.  

Winter is considered the Kapha time of year according to Ayurveda, which means the heavier, moister elements of water and earth dominate. 

This natural heaviness lends perfectly to resting, but can also lead to an imbalance of too much water and earth — heaviness, lethargy, depression, mucus, weight gain.

So, to truly let Winter nourish us, we must let ourselves drop into the natural heaviness of the season in a balanced and mindful way.

Take Action: Feel Nourished and Balanced by Winter

  1. Give yourself permission to slow down. Feel good about going to bed earlier, resting, reading, drinking copious amounts of warm tea and introverting. Use the darker evenings as time to self care, take hot baths and do self oil massage. This is the time for it. The long sunny days will be back soon enough with all their activities and socialising.
  1. Stop eating like it’s summer.  I am also a serious salad lover, but Ayurveda teaches us that eating cold, raw food in the Winter can throw our bodies into a serious imbalance. Instead we’re better nourished by warm soups, cooked veggies and spices. When I don’t adjust my diet to match the season I can really feel it. Check out this quick Ayurvedic food guide for Winter. More on this in my next blog.
  1. Exercise and heat the body in the morning. While we want to allow for slowing down and resting, we also want to avoid stagnation (remember, it’s all about balance). It’s very important to do heating exercise in the winter to counter balance the cold and tendency toward depression. Increasing the circulatory and respiratory system will also boost your immunity and keep you more resilient to seasonal colds and excess mucus. I find starting slower, warming the joints and muscles, then increasing intensity works best in Winter.

Share with us some of your favourite ways to find nourishment and balance in winter! 

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Know thy Constitution

by Morgan Webert

Recently, my Ayurvedic teacher Cate Stillman, made one of those so obvious it’s profound comments. She said, “The more we understand our constitution the more we can collaborate between what we want to do and what we’ve got to do it with.”

In the West we don’t often talk about our constitution, our intrinsic doshasnature or the basic material we’re made up of in relation to creating our life. And yet, we wouldn’t imagine building a house without knowing what kind of material was available or best to use.

Thinking like this is very practical and very logical, and that’s one reason I love Ayurveda; it encourages us to understand the simple material we’re made up of and learn how best to use it in the process of building our lives.

And make no mistake, we are building this life, one breath and choice at a time. With a greater understanding of ourselves, especially at the most simple and subtle levels, we make more informed choices and breaths that support us in creating a vibrant and happy life.

So what are we made of?! 

Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system of India, recognizes that every living thing is comprised of the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. The system also observes that as these elements manifest into form they tend to group in three particular ways called the doshas.

The fist dosha is called Vata and is a combination of ether and air. The second dosha is Pitta and is a combination of fire and water. The third dosha is Kapha and is a combination of earth and water.

Because we contain all five elements within us, all three of the doshas also show up in everyone one of us, but each person will have their own unique ratio of these elements and doshas.

three-doshasThis unique combination is called our prakruti or constitution. Most people have one dominant dosha and this shows up in our personality, body type, digestion and lifestyle. Knowing what is most and least dominant in you is such an important step in knowing how to build a happy and healthy life.

To continue with the house metaphor, we wouldn’t build an open air Balinese thatched roof house in Alaska lest we freeze to death. Along the same lines, a person with mostly fire in their constitution will likely end up feeling irritable, over heated or get heart burn if they eat too much chili and spend too much time in the sun.

Building a life with balance

When we feel good, most likely we’re making choices that balance our constitution, and when we don’t feel good mostly likely some aspect of our life is causing an imbalance. The imbalances are called our vikruti and it’s just as important to identify how you’re out of whack or what’s easily tipped off balance in order to change or prevent it.

Over the next few weeks in class and in this blog we’ll dive deeper into the three doshas and how they show up in our body, mind and society.

In the mean time go take a test online to find out what your constitution is. Tell us what you found out and how it’s making you think about yourself differently or if it supports what you’ve known intuitively!

Here is a quick and accurate dosha test, should only take a few minutes, but there are a bunch out there so if you have the time try a few and you’ll get even more insight into what you’ve got to work with to make the life you want.