It’s no secret that self care is necessary for living in the modern world. Everywhere you turn, there are ads and memes encouraging it. But self-care isn’t new. Thousands of years before our self care slogans started popping up everywhere on the internet and yoga studios started popping up in every town, there were traditional practices meant to bring about good health derived from yoga’s sister science Ayurveda. Ayurveda roughly translates to the science of life. More specifically, it’s a science that recognizes the inherent connection between the mind and body and it offers daily and seasonal self-care practices that are designed to promote physical health and inner harmony so that individuals can reach their full potential.
A Seasonal Approach to Wellness
What is seasonal self-care? While we traditionally recognize four seasons, according to Ayurveda, there are 3 main seasons in nature: Spring, Summer and Fall/Winter. While fall is my favorite season, it only seems to last three weeks. Winter, on the other hand, lasts an eternity in Colorado, so this ancient wisdom was spot-on with its three season categorization.
Ayurveda also recognizes that people are part of nature and are considered to have a predominant type or dosha that is governed by these seasons. These types are known as Kapha/Spring, Pitta/Summer, Vata/Winter. We can become imbalanced in any of these doshas. However, because we have a main type, we have a tendency toward imbalance in our predominant dosha.
The 3 Types of Doshas–Ayurveda 101
The Spring or Kapha Type
Spring or Kapha type people tend to have a more endomorphic body type. Because of their sturdy build, they have a naturally strong immune system and good endurance, though they may struggle with weight due to a slower metabolism. Mentally, Kapha types are slow and steady learners, they have good long-term memory and are good organizers. They are gentle in spirit and tend to be very nurturing in their relationships when they are in balance. When Kapha is out of balance, the following physical or mental symptoms might appear: feeling lethargic or sluggish, weight gain without obvious reason, excess mucus or sweating, a tendency to struggle with change or dwell in the past, or an increase in stubborn or possessive tendencies.
The Summer or Pitta Type
Summer or Pitta type people tend to have a more mesomorphic body type. They tend to have a naturally athletic looking build. They often have a strong appetite and metabolism, skin that may be freckled or prone to sunburns, and bright eyes that are often sensitive to light. Mentally, they are quick to learn, are goal oriented, have leadership qualities, and are often naturally confident. Because of their heat, when Pitta is out of balance, the following mental or physical symptoms may appear: feeling hot, skin rashes of any sort, acidic stomach, short temper and irritability, impatience, resentfulness, increasing judgmental tendencies.
The Winter or Vata Type
Winter or Vata type people tend to have a more ectomorphic body types. They have a tendency toward low muscle tone and prominent joints, they often have dry skin that requires extra moisture, and might be noticed for irregularities–extra tall or short, irregular teeth, etc. Mentally, they are very quick in both thought and action, they are vibrant and creative and sometimes have a tendency to talk a lot when they are nervous. When Vata is out of balance the following symptoms may be noticed: Dry skin, brittle hair or nails, pain–especially joint pain, digestive problems–especially that cause cramping type pain, have a hard time feeling warm–constantly cold, anxiety and overwhelm, indecisiveness, feeling tired but unable to relax or rest.
5 Tips for Vata Season Self-Care
Winter is Vata Season, so even if you are not a vata type, these imbalances might be more likely. If you are a Vata type, there’s a good chance you’ll experience one or more of the imbalances, so it’s extra important that you implement some of these seasonal self-care with Ayurveda tips into your winter self-care regimen.
Tips for Balancing Vata Tendencies of Cold
1. Drink warm beverages & skip the caffeine or decrease the amount. Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning will not only help digestion, but it will also help to keep you warm. Continue drinking warm water or herbal teas throughout the day. Make yourself golden milk before bed (a mixture of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, coconut milk and honey). Drink chai instead of coffee–the spices in chai are warming herbs–perfect for winter.
2. Bundle up and stay warm! Always pack a hat and gloves. Wear scarves. Buy yourself a nice neck wrap that you can heat in the microwave or a hot water bottle. Slip one of these into your bed about 10 minutes before you’re ready to sleep for the night. Go to a hot yoga class. Take epsom salt baths as often as you can. Wear slippers around your house or wool socks to bed. Invest in some soft thermals to wear on hikes or sledding trips. Treat yourself to a new blanket scarf or warm gloves. It’s for your health!
Tips for Vata Tendencies of Dry
2. Self-Massage. Before getting in the shower, spend 2-3 minutes dry skin brushing to exfoliate dead skin cells and boost circulation. Next, use a small amount of oil, and give yourself a massage. Start with your hands and feet, then work toward your heart. Make circular motions on the joints, and longer smooth motions on muscles. As you massage, you might consider making it an active gratitude practice—thank your feet & legs for carrying you everywhere you’ve been! Thank your belly for digesting foods or carrying a baby. Let your body know that you aren’t interested in criticizing it anymore, that you’re choosing to act with love and gratitude for what it’s done and what it’s allowed you to do so far. This oil from Banyan Botanicals or the lymphatic massage oil from Lifespa are such a treat.
4. Eat salty, sweet and sour foods. Before you dive into a bag of sweet and salty popcorn or potato chips and pastries, let’s clarify these Vata-balancing tastes. Because we also want to focus on nourishing our bodies. Think of foods that have a bit of a natural salty flavor—like seaweeds and celery. Another choice might be nuts, which have a naturally sweet flavor; adding some quality sea salt will give you two of the three flavors. Other naturally sweet foods are winter squashes, carrots, and even beets. Root veggies have an added bonus of being energetically grounding–which is good for Vata types. Finally, consider adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to your meals or water to include the sour flavor.
Tips for Creating Calm
5. Relax. Go to a restorative or yin yoga class since these are more gentle and calming practices. Practice grounding yoga poses, focus on your feet. Start a daily meditation or breathwork practice. Breathing out for longer than you breathe in can help put you in a parasympathetic nervous state (which is also known as the rest and digest nervous state). Practice taking 5 deep breathes, with a longer exhalation before each meal and before bed. Take walks. Journal. Get a massage. Go to bed early. Take warm epsom salt baths. Let grounding vetiver and relaxing cedarwood be scents in your diffuser. Say no and stay home whenever you can. If there’s a slower, more gentle way to do a task, do it. Wear soft colors. Sleep in whenever you can.
May these self-care with Ayurveda tips boost your immune system, decrease the amount of worry or stress you might feel, keep you warm and nourished, and help you stay well this winter!