|By: Ki Kosut|
|The rhythm of the winter solstice is slow and inward. It is a sacred time for reflection and repose. The slowing down allows the body to build Ojas, which is the subtle energy of Kapha.|
The winter solstice is the jump board, which ignites the growth and repair mechanism allowing us to build our annual Ojas. It is a time to stay indoors in the evenings, enjoying a warm cup of spicy organic yogi tea by the fire, after a day’s work.
The fall and the early winter are the seasons of the Vata dosha. Vata is associated with the end of the life cycle, as happens in the fall when the leaves begin to fall off of the tree and food is harvested and the fields go fallow. Vata begins to accumulate when the season becomes dry, but the weather is still warm. As the temperature drops and the weather becomes cooler, but is still dry, Vata aggravates, such as in late fall and early winter.
As the weather becomes warmer and rains return, the weather becomes damper causing Vata to alleviate. During the time of Vata aggravation, the individual is prone to conditions of dryness, which may lead to dry skin, constipation and anxiety. Nurturing and nourishing foods and routines becomes a must to maintaining balance.
The Kapha Dosha is thought to accumulate in the later winter months., when the weather is cold and damp. Kapha aggravates when the individual is then exposed to warmth. For this reason, Kapha is considered to aggravate in the spring. To understand this, you must consider the qualities of Kapha. Kapha consists of the elements of earth and water, and thus is the most solid of any of the doshas. During the cold, damp winter, the Kapha dosha accumulates, but does not flow causing our digestive fire to instinctively retreat within. When spring arrives and the weather begins to warm, the Kapha dosha aggravates and begins to flow like the melting snow on the mountaintops.
During this time individuals are prone to conditions of Kapha vitiation, such as mucous production in the lungs and upper respiratory system. For this reason, the Kapha time of year is thought to be late winter and early spring. Kapha then alleviates when the weather is warm and dry, as in late spring and summer.
The winter is thus shared by both Vata and Kapha doshas, with Vata dominating the earlier part followed by Kapha. Due to these external cold forces, our digestive fire retreats inwards, just like the earth’s energy is withdrawn back into herself for protection and renewal.
The body’s response to the outer environment during these winter months is well understood in Ayurveda. The outer atmosphere is erratic, cold, windy and dry during the earlier winter months, reflecting the unpredictable nature of the Vata Dosha, followed by the more solid, cold and damp nature of the Kapha Dosha.
Controlling the impulsive nature of this erratic dance, requires grounding, nurturing and predictable routines. Dinacharyas or daily routines will become your best friend, and allows one to build inner strength much like the hibernating bear.
Indulge yourself with daily massages of warm sesame oil to nourish the myoskeletal system, followed by asana practice focusing on Sun Salutations and grounding postures such as forward folds and extension postures which are also recommended to stimulate both kidneys and lungs. Nasya oil applied after practice can help dissolve Kapha accumulation in the head and morning headaches.
Drinking warm water throughout the day will also aid in decreasing kapha accumulation as well as assisting the digestive system. Triphala is an herbal remedy that is safe and effective in the treatment of mild constipation.
This is a time to feed your body warm nourishing foods, especially as the Agni or digestive fire increases, causing increased hunger. The three fortifying tastes for this season are sweet, sour and salty with mild spices. Warm oats, barley, as well as cinnamon, cloves and raw honey are some of the wonderful foods to enjoy during this season.
Pranayama such as Anuloma Viloma is great to calm the mind and prepare the body for Sthira or stillness as you practice your daily meditation, connecting to the nectar of Divine consciousness.
As the season comes to a close, we can experience the sandhi or joint between seasons, which is when the body becomes most susceptible to disease. Panchakarma is recommended to help alleviate the accumulated doshas, whilst helping the body transition to the new demands of the upcoming season.
As we learn to dance gracefully with the rhythms of life, our own life path is revealed peacefully and we can glide on the waves of nature, embracing the ebb and flow leading to accomplishments of dharma, artha, kama and moksha without attachment or fear. This is the loving dance we share with the Divine, as it embraces us on our life path towards liberation.