Extreme winter is the time when body constricts inwards like a closed fist/lotus flower, due to less/un availability of Sun’s light and heat. Constriction literally means creation of wrinkles in the body. So when blood vessels/channels get wrinkled, they result in slower/obstructed circulation of blood (in Ayurvedic language where nothing goes Vata goes, so when less of blood circulates due to wrinkled/shrunk body, it increases Vata in the system). All this leads to the following:-
(a) Stagnation of blood and therefore food in the blood vessels.
(b) A sluggish metabolism resulting in urge to sleep and rest more.
(c) Drier skin due to difference in temperature on the surface of the body and core of the body.
(d) Urge to eat more and heavier food (much more than your physical activity/need) as more blood stays in the core thereby increasing our digestive fire (called as Jathargni in Ayurveda) which further stagnates in the blood leading to creation of toxins.
(e) Holding onto thoughts as food (Kapha in Ayurveda) stagnates in the mind thereby creating OCD/stubbornness in extreme cases.
(f) And most importantly surge in immunity related diseases due to stagnation of food (anything that stagnates becomes toxic).
Thus following must be done to keep health in balance or say keep our body and mind open like an open fist/lotus
(a) Do Bhastrika and Kapalbhati Pranayama/Kriya on daily basis to push blood towards peripherals. This must be done in the morning after a good night sleep as sleep closes our body.
(b) Do Yogasanas as Asanas stretch our body thereby undoing wrinkles in the body and normalizing blood flow. Focus more on that part of the body which is lower on blood. In today’s world most of the people are Vata minds (Astrologically this is because we are living in Rahu’s age) with imbalance. Which means when blood is lesser in upper body in comparison to lower leading to one overeating apart from denting one’s health especially mental. So the twelve basic postures of Sivandanda Yoga are excellent for stretching and pushing blood in the upper body for Vata minds.
Of course one must learn to customize Yogasanas basis one’s constitution and should perform them during initial stages under the guidance of a holistic Yoga expert who understands Ayurvedic concepts of Vata Pitta Kapha.
(c) Sun provides heat which triggers a chemical called glutamate in our body. This chemical is equivalent to electricity/power in our body and is called as Pitta in Ayurveda. So when Sun dims in these days, we must eat more veggies/grains/pulses/spices with higher potency like horsegram (chana daal), sesame, sweet potato, carrot, millet, ajwain, fresh ginger, asafoetida, warm soups, so that we have enough strength/electricity/power in us. Please understand that pungency’s job is to stimulate this electricity in the body. So potency is like wattage (how much power one stores) and pungency is like voltage (how much power one pushes). Thus it is quite logical that we need more pungency and potency in winters and less during summers and that is why we should have hot and pungent spices during winters and cold and less pungent during summers.
*** Since rains bring sudden dip in temperature, one must taper off from cold spices to hotter ones with the onset of monsoons else cold potency foods/spices will reduce circulation and create Vata and health issues. This is the reason that as a thumb rule one should start consuming a bit of chawanprash. Likewise while mint is astringent, cold, bitter and is wonderful for combating sour, hot and overly expanding/heating properties of summers, Asafoetida is bitter, pungent and warm which works opposite to mint and helps in expanding the body when sudden cold sets in during monsoon. Please remember these are guidelines and one must learn to look inside self to adjust different tastes on as and when basis. For example, even excess of Asafoetida during monsoons can over increase Pitta and create excitement and irritation or other health issues.
One also needs slightly more sourness to keep our blood vessels stretched during winters e.g. tomatoes which are sour, warm and pungent. Chyawanprash is excellent for this weather as it sour, warm in potency and mildly pungent to gently keep spreading heat in the body and mind. Remember excess of any of these tastes can be overly stimulating, heating and counterproductive. So don’t go overboard and consume all hot, sour and pungent foods in all meals.
(d) Heat is not only required from inside the body but also from outside the body especially when channels are closed inwards leading to more storage of heat inside and less of it reaching the surface. So stay warm, wear enough warm clothes, bask under the Sunlight, use oil based heaters if necessary especially in case of extreme cold, stay indoor during nights. Do massages in the morning with warm almond/sesame oil or medicated oils like Ksheerbala (a mix of sesame, milk and herb called Bala to provide wholesome nourishment of milk). Also put a few drops of warm oil in nose (Nasya therapy) as inhalation of cold air reduces blood circulation from upper respiratory tract including brain and head. Thus Nasya helps in keeping winter headaches at bay. Time of the massage matters a lot. So, morning massages help us to open our body like an opening fist/lotus. Post massage, one must go for warm water shower as it helps the heat to further open the body and increase peripheral circulation. Oil before the massage ensures that heat of the water doesn’t dry up the skin. Instead of using usual soaps which are full of harmful chemicals that are absorbed by our skin, go for mud based soaps which will remove extra oil from the skin thereby avoiding closure of pores on the skin which are necessary for it to breath. In fact, this is the logic of Panchkarma (a rejuvenating therapy of Ayurveda).
(e) Do not fall prey to vasodilating foods as foods which dilate our blood vessels create more imbalances in our body as the side effect. Alcohol is sour, hot and vasodilating. So while it spreads more blood in peripherals due to sourness and provides heat thereby giving immediate relief from cold, it also reduces blood from upper body due to gravity. And thus it makes upper body prone to infections including COVID apart from denting one’s wisdom due to less blood reaching the brain. Yes even alcohol has a special place in Ayurveda as medicine for certain constitutions/conditions (that too in very low concentrations) but it cannot be used in general unless one understands their working. Same goes with onion, garlic, tea, coffee, chocolates, broccoli. They are strong vasodilators so avoid them. Instead enjoy warm vegetable soups, spices like ginger, peanuts etc. as discussed above.
*** Dont go overboard on anything. Excess of everything is bad. Follow the middle path and to understand what is middle path, understand how body works and most importantly listen to your body through meditation.
*** Avoid non seasonal vegetables/fruits e.g. bottle gourd/watermelons in winters even if they are available in market. Nature has created everything for a reason. So if one has overdone on hot foods, then use antidotes or balancers like Radish which is cold, astringent and mildly pungent.
*** Goes without saying that we must learn to taper off from this winter regime as we shall proceed towards summers and adopt the reverse strategy when body opens up and more blood in flows towards peripherals and less towards core. So no massages, no bhastrika, no kapalbhati is needed during extreme summers else it will further weaken our digestive fire during summers. Yes, those who stay in air conditioned environment may need it.
*** In Ayurvedic terms, this phenomenon of stagnation of food/blood due to wrinkles vessels is called as Vata pushing kapha.
Astrologically it happens when Saturn and Jupiter are very close to each other which is so during current times that too in Saturn’s zodiac meaning high Vata. This is further compounded by the fact that Northern hemisphere of the globe is passing through cold phase due to Sun’s presence in 9th zodiac (by Vedic Astrology) and 10th zodiac (by western Astrological definition since western zodiacs are 23 degree ahead of Vedic ones). This is one reason that colder countries are experiencing more surge in COVID-19 cases.
Also check this blog for deeper understanding AYURVEDA FOR BLISSFUL SUMMERS
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