November is here! This is the time of the year when we gather in warm homes with those that we love the most, to feast and to begin preparations for the coming holiday season, as well as the hibernation period of later Vata Season that follows.
In nature, this is the time when bears go into a phase called ‘hyperphagia,’ when hey begin consuming excess amounts of food to store as fat and prepare for the long hibernation period that awaits them.
Similarly for humans, this is the time of the year when our appetites peak and agni (digestive fire) begins to burn stronger. We naturally (and healthily) will accumulate and store some fat, which is in fact necessary to fortify the body as protection against the incoming cold weather and to provide lubrication against Vata Season’s dryness and lightness.
Restriction, or Langhana practices at this time, like fasting or juice cleansing, are very much contra-indicated for most individuals and can actually lead to sickness and a weakened immune system. Appreciate and welcome a little extra fat storage, knowing that it will be your warm cocoon throughout the winter and that it if you continue to live ayurvedically and in alignment with the seasonal rhythms, any excess fat will be shed easily and naturally come spring.
The warmth of hearty, plentiful meals and an abundance of loving connections and socialization is exactly what your body, mind and heart will need to endure the challenges of the darker and shorter days that are on their way.
The weather will soon become very cold, bringing with it damp snow and the need to keep doors and windows closed until spring. This means that your homes and offices will be filled with dry, recycled and recirculating air. It’s important at this time to ensure you keep internally lubricated by drinking warm liquids, running a humidifier, and using medicated Nasya Oil (ayurvedic nasal oil) to avoid developing a dry cough or dry and irritated nasal passages.
It is also important to spend time outside in nature daily–to breath in fresh air–as being indoors will expose you to 5-10x more pollutants, increasing instances of respiratory illness.
Vata individuals are the most at risk at this time. The qualities of lightness, spaciousness, dryness and cold that characterize Vata dosha mean that these people need to be extra conscientious to take care during November. Add onto this the sudden drop in temperatures, the premeditated fragility of their immune systems and the chaos of the pre-holiday season, and those with vata constitutions can become sick quite easily. Before the common cold or any kind of viral infection sets in, vata individuals may experience dryness and itchiness of the skin, a constant chill that they can’t shake, tight and constricted muscles, constipation, gas and bloating, dry mucus and a dry cough.
Vatas can support themselves by drinking hot water with lemon, ginger and honey (added after the water is cool enough to touch). Daily Abhyanga oil application is the most effective way to encourage and maintain lubrication from the outside in. Keep natural lip balms on hand to protect your lips from cold and wind. Work Nasya Oil into your morning and nighttime routines to protect against cold winds entering the nasal passageways and the brain, to promote lubrication of the colon (the nose and large intestine are connected), and to avoid inhaling excess pollutants that fill the indoor air. Don’t skip meals and strive to eat at the same times every day. Favour foods that are warming, nourishing and heavy. Take time to ensure that you get a full night’s rest, getting to bed no later than 10 and rising at 6.
Learn more about the powerful effects of regular abhyanga application for Vata dosha.
PITTA & KAPHA INDIVIDUALS
This time of the year will be significantly easier for Pitta and Kapha individuals. Pittas will benefit from the colder weather and the shortened daylight hours, forcing them to chill and to wind down after the intensity of summer. Their voracious appetites will need to be satisfied with dense, heavy and grounding foods. They should exercise regularly, but avoiding anything that is exceedingly strenuous.
Kapha individuals can fall into imbalance by over-eating at this time and sinking into a pattern of sloth-like habits. They can also suffer from the long hours of darkness and slip into seasonal depression. They can find balance by forcing themselves to go outside into the sun every day at mid-day, to visit tanning beds and saunas often, and to practice vigorous exercise or several rounds of Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) every morning, bringing themselves to a light sweat.
This is not the time to being adopting a low-fat diet. In fact, Ayurveda recommends that you crank up your intake of healthy fats, like sesame oil, olive oil, butter, ghee and nuts. Think heavy, nourishing and sweet.
Hearty wheat and grains will also support and ground your system, as well as root vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash and beets.
Spiced milks, like our Golden Mylk, are nourishing and comforting and will support you in slipping into a deep sleep every night. Add a dollop of honey once the milk has cooled to make this an even more powerful sleep tonic.
Integrate coconut oil and coconut butter into your diet to lubricate the joints and the bowel. These ingredients can be so supportive, building and delicious for pre-holiday baking as well.
Play with spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla etc. Infuse these into your baking, your cooking and your teas. These heating spices will ignite your digestive fire and support you in digesting the denser and richer foods that are required this month.
Wish soups, stews and broths are ideal. If you are currently eating meat, now is the time to indulge in homemade bone broths.
Most can benefit from naturally fermented foods such as pickled garlic, sauerkraut, miso and umeboshi, and if you re going to rink alcohol, then select a spiced wine, which will all help to pacify vata, enhance agni, and break up the congestion of ama (waste).
Mostly, everything should be taken warm and well cooked. This is not the time for raw, rough and cold foods. And be sure to prepare and cook everything with love, attention and presence to ensure your meals are imbued with the energy of gratitude and calm.
As previously shared, Kapha-types need to follow the above guidelines with caution and restraint. Too much fat and too many hearty meals will increase Kapha dosha and throw them out of balance.
Herbs that will be supportive at this time are ashwagandha, brahmi, turmeric, triphala, bala, bhringaraj, tulsi, etc.
So from the beginning of November until New Year's Day, follow these suggestions and reap the rewards of a life lived ayurvedically and in-tune with nature!