Approaching Health in the New Year
Winter Wellness Through an Ayurvedic Lens
By Gretchen McNelis
It is 2021! Congratulations! You made it! We all deserve a pat on the back now that the long haul we have called 2020 is over. 2021 will start with its share of bumps, I am sure. Yet, I cannot help but have a real sense of hope for this coming year. The beginning of the year finds us smack in the middle of winter. In the natural world, things have slowed down, retreated even for the season. Light is shorter, dark is longer. Keeping in sync with the rhythms of the planet, winter is for long slumbers—a time to rest and reflect, to hold space and process. And what a year behind us to process! COVID-19, fires, distance learning for most families, financial and political stress. We have all felt it. Ayurveda is the ancient, traditional medicine system of India. The oldest continuously practiced branch of healing arts is known to us. One of Ayurveda’s foundational principles is keeping in time with the seasons, in both diet and lifestyle. Ayurveda in depth, becomes very personalized to an individual’s unique body composition and personality. The following are winter health tips accessible to all body types (referred to as your dosha) and personality types, no matter where you fall on the spectrum.
With the downtime that naturally comes with winter, this one offering extra with COVID-19 restrictions, the introspection at times can feel heavy. Self-care has been vital all year; starting 2021 will be no different in this area. Getting 7 to 8 hours of good rest is essential, as well as an energizing morning routine. Consider starting your morning off with warm lemon water. Yes, before caffeinating. If your digestion is sluggish, add some bitters. If things are not digesting and moving too fast for you, add some mint or ginger. Bitters will help hydrate you, is a vitamin C boost, and helps prime your digestion for the day. Add a pinch of sea salt for some added electrolytes after sleeping.
In winter, the body is busy spending more energy to keep itself warm. Go for warm, cooked foods that are well-spiced to help with winter digestion. Healthy fats like coconut oil, grass-fed ghee, and olive oil are super nourishing to the cells. Heartier vegetables such as cabbage, beets, squashes, onions, and braising greens are winter go tos. Use warming spices in the kitchen. At the end of this article, I will include a simple recipe for an all-purpose ayurvedic winter spice blend to incorporate these spices into everyday meals. Reach for warm teas and milk over cold beverages. Always eat with leaving a little room for digestion in mind and have an earlier, lighter dinner. In Ayurveda, digestion is peak mid-day. Lunch should be the largest, most substantial meal.
Working out in winter can seem unmotivating at times. Gyms are also restricted. However, you do not need a gym to get moving. Depending on where your body, heart, and mind is, there are plenty of indoor and outdoor winter home workout options. A brisk paced walk is an exercise that is instantly available to the majority of us. A bodyweight HIIT workout with just you, your body, and a floor can be helpful. Yoga can offer a range of experiences, from beginner to advanced vinyasa flow to restorative yoga to move lymph and calm the nervous system. Restorative yoga is an excellent choice for evenings or when you are feeling a lot of emotions. When you need an emotional pick me up, as well as a physical boost, turn on some music and dance it out! Not only is it fun, but studies show dancing improves the mental outlook, releases endorphins, and can torch calories in half an hour.
Loving ourselves through good nutrition and lifestyle habits that reflect our inherent roots in nature will help get us through the winter and set us up for a beautiful spring season. I look forward to witnessing the days getting longer and the first blossoms of spring make their appearance for 2021, to seeing new, green growth in our wounded but so resilient Redwood forests. May 2021 be a year of collective healing for all the Earth’s “tissues” and living beings.
4 Minced Garlic Cloves
Diced Sweet Onion
Bell Pepper, Color of Choice, Diced
3 Diced Celery Stalks
32 oz Chicken Bone Broth
4 Cups Water
2 tbl Apple Cider Vinegar
15 oz Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
2 Cups Fresh or Frozen Green Beans
Sea Salt and Pepper
2 Bay Leaves
1 Bunch Fresh Thyme, Taken Off Stems
1 Bunch Oregano, Chopped
1 Tbl Winter Warming Spices (See Below)
2 Cups Shredded Green Cabbage
In a large soup pot over medium heat, add avocado oil and sauté onion, bell pepper, and celery. Add minced garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add bone broth, water, and cider vinegar. Add remaining ingredients. Turn heat to low and cook for another 15 minutes or until cabbage and green beans are tender. Remove bay leaves and season with sea salt and black pepper. Enjoy
Winter Warming Spices
2 tbl ground cumin, fennel, and turmeric
1 tbl ground fenugreek, coriander and dried basil
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp sea salt and black pepper