By the beginning of February, those who live in northern climates have reached their peak of Vata aggravation. Months of cold, dry, windy weather results in an increase of those same qualities within our physiology: dryness, coolness, movement and quickness. Once our Vata becomes imbalanced we can start experiencing problems sleeping, aching joints, emotional instability, less mental clarity, dryness of the skin, increased sensitivity to the cold weather and a low frustration level.
With months of cold weather still ahead of us, this is the time to adopt a diet and daily routine that will help settle Vata. One key to balancing Vata is regular routine—eating and going to sleep at the same time, for example. Going to bed early on a regular basis is actually one of the most powerful tools available for balancing Vata.
You may find yourself thinking more about food than you did last summer. When the cold, dry weather of winter begins to aggravate Vata dosha, we naturally crave hotter, more unctuous foods that help counter this effect. An increase in appetite is also the natural result of the cold weather—it tends to cause our digestion fire to increase. As long as you don’t eat more than you can easily digest, large portions at meals can help keep Vata in balance.
One very important point is that the food we eat in the winter should always be warm. Never eat or drink ice-cold food or beverages. Oil is our friend in the winter. Using olive oil and ghee in our meals will help counter the drying effects of Vata.
Along this same line of thinking, daily oil massage with sesame oil is particularly helpful in the winter. The warm, unctuous quality of the oil is the perfect antidote to the cold, dry qualities of Vata. If you are Pitta by nature, you may prefer coconut oil or olive oil, as sesame oil is naturally heating. Ideally you should heat your oil before applying it. Letting your bottle of oil float in hot water for a few minutes will bring the oil to a nice, soothing temperature. Try to keep the oil on for a while before jumping into the shower or bath. 10 minutes letting the oil soak into your skin is ideal.
Vata imbalances often lead to constipation. Remember to drink plenty of warm fluids during the day. Drinking two glasses of warm water when you wake up can help stimulate bowel functioning. Hot water with black salt can also be helpful in this area.
It is easy to find oneself becoming sedentary during the colder months. Be sure that you incorporate Yoga or some kind of gentle stretching exercise into your routine, as well as other comfortable and easy exercise. Don’t strain or over-do in your winter exercise routine. Spring is a much better time for vigorous exercise, as that is the time when Kapha is increasing and we naturally have more strength and stamina.
If you find that diet, lifestyle and self-massage are not helping, it may be that your Vata imbalance has gone deep into the tissues. In this case Panchakarma, the traditional rejuvenation treatments of Ayurveda, are recommended. Panchakarma removes Vata from the tissues by using various herbal decoctions and oil preparations in combination with specialized treatments to treat the root of the Vata imbalance.
For more information on Ayurveda consultations and Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site: