Is your skin cracked and feeling rough like sand paper? How about cold, dry hands and feet, and even an overall sense of dehydration in the body that’s uncomfortable and even painful?
For example, if you tend to be more constipated this time of year, dry and cold qualities can be the culprits.
According to Ayurveda the qualities of dry and cold are associated with Vata Dosha (Air/Ether). Early winter is also associated with Vata Dosha which means those qualities increase, both in our environment, and in our bodies this time of year.
The good news is that you no longer have to suffer without knowing what to do.
Here are 4 tips for pacifying the cold and dry qualities of Vata for winter season. Try these and your skin, hands, feet and digestion will thank you!
Avoid Ice Water
I cringe anytime I see someone drinking ice water, but especially in winter. Think about it. What type of drinks does your body crave this time of year? Chai tea, hot chocolate and warm cider, to name a few. No one comes in from the cold wanting to down a tall glass of ice cold water. No! You want a mug of something warm that feels cozy in your hands and soothing as you sip it.
It seems obvious (I hope) when I tell it this way. Still, folks continue to put ice in their water in the winter. When you do that you’re putting out your digestive fire and keeping your body from effectively digesting your food. That can lead to digestive distress and your body not getting the benefits of the healthy food you’re eating.
Increasing cold quality in your body can also lead to constipation, and no one enjoys that.
Instead, drink warm water throughout the day to stay hydrated and keep your digestive tract moving in the right direction. 🙂 According to Ayurveda, warm water is more hydrating because it absorbs more easily into the body’s tissues. It’s best to sip warm water so you keep your digestive fire strong, and adding lemon not only makes it taste better, but it also boosts digestion.
Avoid Salads and Raw Foods
The other thing that makes me cringe is when I see folks eating salad in winter. The qualities of Vata include dry, rough and cold. What are the qualities of salad? You got it. Dry, rough and cold.
As mentioned above, when these qualities are in excess in the body it can lead to poor digestion, constipation, skin that feels like sand paper, gas and bloating. Fun!
Instead, nourish your body with warm, cooked foods like soups, stews, stir fries and casseroles.
Ayurveda suggests cooking with high quality oils to keep your tissues well lubricated. Oils such as organic and unrefined sesame oil, coconut oil, olive oil and ghee (clarified butter). Cooking with high quality oils helps to lessen dry quality.
Warm oil massage
One of my favorite daily routines for fall and early winter is warm oil massage. This isn’t a massage where you work out knots or spend a lot of time kneading muscles. Ayurveda calls this type of massage Abhyanga (oil massage) and it’s meant to be practiced using long strokes with the intention of hydrating the skin and moving lymph. When your skin is hydrated and supple it does a better job of protecting your body from your environment. It’s also a powerful practice in self-love.
My favorite oils for this time of year are Vata Massage Oil and Mahanaryan Oil (good for muscles and joints), both from Banyan Botanicals. They also have a video that teaches how to perform the massage.
One of my clients had this to say about it:
“I hadn’t been doing the oil massage, to me it just felt like a lot of things to do in the morning. However, I had been having some patches of dry, flaky skin show up since Monday, so per your recommendation, I decided to try it.
I was a little unsure about it, I was worried about the mess, or about doing it wrong, but I just decided to try it. Almost as soon as I started I had an all over awareness of how sweet and kind it felt to be gently massaging my body and skin, how caring and loving it was. This gentle, soothing, warm oil massage felt so luxurious, and caring, and comforting, it just felt like such an indulgent (in a positive way) thing to do for myself. I was skeptical about it, but now I’m so glad I did it.”
If you’ve never done it before I understand that it may seem overwhelming and even weird. I invite you to get out of your comfort zone and experience what my client experienced.
Stay Warm: Wear Socks and Gloves, Layers and Blankets
This may seem like a no brainer, but when I was growing up in Canada I liked to emulate my Dad, who now I understand is very Pitta (Fire). He would walk around the house in winter in his shorts and bare feet, and still does. We kept the house pretty warm, but looking back I realize that my feet were never warm, I just developed a high tolerance for cold feet (or so I thought). I also loved winter sports like alpine skiing so I had cold feet a lot as a kid.
Later in life my acupuncturist was adamant that I start wearing socks in the house, and then Ayurveda also taught the same principle. According to Eastern medicine it’s super important to keep your feet, hands and entire body warm this time of year. Invest in awesome wool socks and gloves, wear hats, be sure to layer and keep blankets and throws handy around the house. As I sit here typing this I have a wool blanket covering my chair so I stay warm.
This little bit of knowledge and practice has made a huge difference in how I feel and how I experience winter. In the past I would get really cold hands, feet and butt 🙂 But now my temperature is much more regulated and I suffer less!
The oil massage will help with circulation and keep warm will help retain some of that heat.
When you look at it, these tips are common sense, but because we’re not taught to understand the cues that nature gives us, we continue with diet and lifestyle habits that hinder our health and wellbeing. If you’re ready to suffer less this winter I invite you to join my Winter Wellness Circle. It’s an 8 week program I’ve designed that gives you both the knowledge and practices to live a healthy and thriving winter season in mind, body and adventure. Click here to learn more and register. Registration closes December 31st.