TIPS FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY CHRISTMAS WITH AYURVEDA
Summer fits me so well that every year I wonder how I'll ever make it through Winter. But when the month of December arrives, I love it. One year I spent winter in Cape Town and it was then that I realised how much I missed the chance to play into each of the dramatic seasons I was used to in London. As we near Christmas, which can demand a lot of energy, we're also entering a natural time of year for turning inwards, tuning into nature and listening to our bodies. It's a period of reflection, introspection and hibernation.
As the 5,000 year old 'Science of Life', Ayurveda describes this time of year as having the energy of 'Kapha'. We've moved from the fast, dry, rough, stimulated space and air energy of Vata in Autumn and early Winter into the water and earth energy of Kapha - a time of heavy, stillness necessary before the world springs into action again for the juiciness of Spring. We talk about hibernating, cuddling up to or checking in on loved ones, reminiscing about the year gone by, feasting to see us through the harsher environment. Whatever our 'dosha type' we can feel the cool, heavy, moist energy of Kapha influencing this time of year.
Ayurveda in winter is all about keeping warm and nourishing our bodies with warming, cooked foods and heaps of aromatic spices - think of all those spiced chutneys and puddings and a belly warming curry. A home cooked meal with loved ones is a time to cherish and nurture our bodies. I've put together my top tips for a happy, healthy and COZY winter.
1) LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Ayurveda suggests that the root cause of illness is improper digestion. By eating the right foods at the right time and in the right way whenever we can we are looking after our 'Agni or 'digestive fire''. It doesn't have to be complicated. This means taking time over eating a meal to enjoy it and chew it thoroughly, eating in the rhythm of the day with an early light supper and your main meal at lunchtime, and eating foods that make YOU feel good. Check out the dosha test to see which dosha is usually dominant for you which can you help indicate the foods and lifestyle habits that serve you best.
2) THINK POSITIVELY
Baby it's cold outside, it's dark outside and maybe you're not able to join your family at this time of year or maybe you've just had too much of them! This is a time when we might end up feeling down in the dumps and excess of parting, rich food and the expenses of this time of year can take our catatonic Kapha state to absolutely down in the dumps. Left to your own devices when you're on your holiday from work you might find yourself lying in late and then glued to the telly until...late. Some positive routine and structure to your day, making sure you get outside to connect with nature and some positive affirmations will help harmonious living.
3) STAY HYDRATED
We all know that drinking sufficient water is vital for our body to operate in an efficient way. In Ayurveda, hot water is used to help eliminate toxic substances (or Ama) from your body, keep the body warm (remember to keep that Agni hot rather than dousing it with iced water - or even room temp at this time of year!). Keep a thermos at your desk to remember to sip along - a nice eco way of not constantly flicking on the kettle!
4) SLEEP SUFFICIENTLY
In short, eat early to head to bed early to rise early to get a good nights sleep. We are all creatures that are governed by light. Naturally we would sleep early if we didn't have artificial light stimulating our minds and bodies - technology is a good thing but we have to be conscious that we balance it out! At this time if year when there is naturally less light we would naturally find ourselves sleepier and wanting to sleep more - unless of course we've got bumper Christmas specials, movies and social engagements keeping us wide eyed and bushy tailed!
5) AYURVEDIC TRICKS TO KEEP YOUR DIGESTIVE FIRE STRONG
Chutney: Whether cooked with spices or chopped and served fresh, chutneys and pickles help to stimulate Agni and therefore promote digestion (just what you need after your christmas lunch). Some are quite sweet and some are quite sour, but it’s a combination of both within a meal that Ayurveda recommends to cover two of the Tastes.
Sweet: Add some black pepper to your puds! Try the chai spiced plum compote from East by West that I love to serve with chestnut pancakes in the cooler months and my coconut pudding in the warmer months. Chai spices include xxxx and the all important black pepper that really brings out the flavour as well as stoke that Agni!
Savoury: Ginger and cumin are great at any time of the year but in the cooler weather amping them up really helps to energise. Cumin is an excellent digestive & stomach aid. Its pungent warmth dries excess fluid so that you feel lighter and more clear. Not only does ginger increase digestive fire, it also whets the appetite and improves assimilation of nutrients.
Port party vibes - I swear by making a strong fennel seed infusion if you're feeling a bit bloated, blocked up below of the food just wont move past your belly - sounds fancy but baically just boil up a tbs of fennel seeds in a cup of water, strain and sip slowly to help ease out the excess