Ah, the winter solstice — that long period when the night is longest, and light is dimmest, where the energy around us shifts from dark to light. It's an exciting marker in nature that many cultures have celebrated throughout time as a way of honoring renewal and rebirth. In Ayurvedic tradition, this special season goes by a different name: Uttarayana — but what exactly does it mean?
With temperatures dropping, days being the shortest of the year, and darkness having taking up much space each day; allow yourself to give some extra moments for self-reflection during this phase of Uttarayana so you can clearly understand the new emergence during this transition.
THE WINTER SOLSTICE, UTTARAYANA, AND DAKSHINAYANA IN AYURVEDA
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of holism that views nature (Prakruti) as a living, breathing aliveness, which we all interact with in our day-to-day lives. Every season has a unique energy, vibration, and set of qualities that we can work with to optimize our health, well-being, and alignment of life.
This later Winter Season in Ayurveda marks the beginning of a time of growth, new beginnings, and a shift back toward the light. It marks the move slowly through the winter coldness and then towards springtime when days become brighter and warmer, flowers begin to bloom, and birds start chirping. These 6 months are what we call Uttarayana Kala.
Meanwhile, the opposite season of Uttarayana is called Dakshinayana — or the Summer Solstice — corresponding to the transition from summertime into winter. During Dakshinayana, days become shorter and cooler, and nature begins to take a much-needed break from the heat of summer.
WHAT DOES AYURVEDA RECOMMEND FOR THIS CHANGE IN THE SEASONS?
As with many holistic traditions, Ayurveda recognizes the importance of seasonal shifts, and makes specific recommendations to help us transition into new rhythms. This is the Science of Rutucharya.
For example, during Uttarayana, Ayurveda recommends practicing introspection and self-care taking care to pacify Vata Dosha by ways of using the daily ABHYANGA OIL or implementing a complete dinacharya, with things like our MAHA AYURVEDA KIT, focusing on tasks and activities that allow us to slow down and connect with ourselves, and feel this transitory time.
Ayurveda also suggests that we take some time to be mindful of how our environment impacts us, be conscious of the type of food we eat (especially warming and grounding foods) and pay attention to our emotions. Additionally, Ayurveda recommends daily Yoga, Meditation, and Pranayama practices to help us balance our energies and stay connected to the grounding earth energy.
HOW CAN WE BEST ALIGN DURING THIS NEW EMERGING UTTARYANA TIMING?
As we move through the Winter Solstice and into Uttarayana, it's important to remember that it is still a time of transition — one that is filled with both darkness and light. As such, it's essential to be mindful of our decisions and actions during this period to align with the newness of this season.
Practically, ensure you get adequate sleep, eat nourishing foods, and engage in regular exercise. Take time to reflect on what you want to see manifest in your life and create intentions accordingly; this will help guide you through the transition and make the most of the emerging energies of Uttarayana.
WHAT NOT TO DO?
During this winter season the qualities of cold, dry, mobile and rough are all at play. This is absolutely not the seasonal time to eat raw or cold foods (salads, smoothies, ice cream) or to cold bathe (please no!). If you would like a few suggestions of how to best move through winter with grace, check out our recent blog here.
By following these simple guidelines, you can help ensure that you are making the most of the new energies of Uttarayana and that you are in perfect alignment with these new seasonal shifts and the internal rhythming of our inner environment. May this be a season of growth, self-reflection, and renewal!