As I sit in a shrinking patch of sunlight, it feels very clear. Just as Jon Snow once announced: winter is coming.
It’s so important that we adapt to the seasons, alongside nature. This means mixing up our daily habits, food choices and even sleep routines. Winter is a season of rest and reflection – the perfect time for an Ayurvedic retreat at home or otherwise, to bring a real focus to our health.
Like its sister science (yoga), Ayurveda gives us plenty of guidance, including a natural principal that ‘like attracts like.’ This means that during winter, kapha and vata doshas (learn more here) tend to flare up – mirroring the dark, cool and dry months of the season. When this happens, our digestive fire is impacted and general immunity can be compromised. The good news is Ayurveda gifts us plenty of remedies. Ultimately, each of us has the ability to profoundly change our own health and wellbeing. That’s something worth remembering, and celebrating. So, here are some tips for creating your own winter Ayurvedic retreat (from the comfort of your own home!).
DIY Ayurvedic Retreat: Food
First thing’s first. Day one of your DIY Ayurvedic retreat can start (and end) with a glass of warm lemon water to aid digestion.
Next, choose a warm and nourishing breakfast to fuel your day, lubricate the body’s tissues and feed your digestive fire. We suggest porridge, or a light soup.
Throughout the day it’s important to limit (or avoid all together) vata foods, like salads or cold drinks. Instead, swap them out for hot herbal teas.
It’s natural to have an increased appetite during winter, which means what we’re choosing to eating is extra important. The goal here is to choose foods (and drinks) that will minimise congestion and strengthen immunity. Why not draw up a seven-day meal plan for your Ayurvedic retreat?
Some warming spices to start including are:
- Black pepper
You’ll also want to increase your intake of soups, stews and grains (think quinoa, rice, oatmeal) – as well as cooked root vegetables (like turnips, carrots, rutabaga). If you can, stick to foods which are actually in season. A good daily serving of healthy oils (like ghee, coconut and avocado oil) will also be beneficial.
What’s an Ayurvedic retreat without yoga? For winter, are top suggests are Asanas (yoga poses) that will encourage a natural opening of the chest, throat and sinuses. For your at-home Ayurvedic retreat, we suggest adding (one or all of) the following into your daily routine.
- Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara). As well as being the perfect start to the morning, this sequence (as the name suggests) will bring plenty of heat to the body. You can find a helpful guide here.
- Fish Pose (Matsyasana): this asana will open up the throat and chest.
- Locust Pose (Salabhasana): this will open the chest, and strengthen back muscles.
As well as the asanas above, we also recommend doing one-three minutes of pranayama. For the winter months, it will be particularly helpful to try out Kapalabhati (the breath of fire). This simple exercise will build internal heat, as well as support the respiratory tract. Sounds good to me!
Sleep and sunshine
Sleep routines differ quite vastly for each of us, but it is worth remembering that winter does invite us to hibernate that little bit longer. If possible, try to wrap up your night with soothing activities (no crime thrillers!), then go to bed a little earlier than you usually would.
If you’re having trouble breathing, investing in a warm-mist humidifier can help by clearing your sinuses, while you sleep. Ayurveda also suggests using a neti pot daily, in order to moisten nasal passages.
This may not need saying… but soak up as much sunshine as you possibly can. As well as boosting vitamin D, sunlight can help to relax stiff muscles, combat seasonal mood disorders, as well as encourage a healthy sleep cycle. If there’s no sun in sight, you can always try light or colour therapy! Both can work wonders.
Wishing you a wonderful DIY Ayurvedic retreat. If you want more inspiration, tips or the feel of a shared yoga retreat which draws from Ayurvedic principles… you know who to call!
Nisha is a freelance writer and Vedic astrologer, based in the magical Byron Hinterlands. As well as running her candle business, her life and loves involve: yoga, gardening and all things esoteric. You’ll find her out in nature, or curled up at home with a good book. Happy Buddha is one of her most treasured places on earth (and indeed where she met her fiancé!).