In New England right now, it’s freezing and snowing heavily. You can feel that cold all the way down to your bones. There is nothing like a bone chilling polar vortex to make us feel creaky, lethargic, unfocused, and old. Luckily, Ayurveda, the oldest continuously practiced health care system in the world, outlines helpful recommendations for staying warm. Staying warm in the winter translates to feeling more energy, more relaxed, more focused, healthier, and yes, even younger. Sign me up!
1) Oil thyself! Ayurveda recommends a daily practice of abhyanga, or self massage with a high quality, nourishing oil. In addition to feeling good, daily self massage detoxifies the body’s tissues, increases circulation, calms the mind, and enhances immune function. It also reverses the aging process and is fantastic for keeping your skin young, supple, and glowing. As we age, our skin becomes dry and malnourished. Feed and moisturize it from the outside with high quality oil regularly, and you will be thrilled with how wonderful your skin looks.
Simply take some high quality oil, room temperature or warmed up for an extra special touch, and systematically rub it into your skin all over your body. Use circular motions over the joints and long strokes over the long bones of the arms and legs. Try to get into all the joints of the feet, toes, ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders, and as much of the spine you can reach. All that oil will be soaking into the hands as you go, but you can also give them some individual attention around the cuticles and on the fingers. Don’t forget your nostrils! They tend to get dry and crack in the winter, allowing germs to get into your body. Just use your pinky finger to lubricate the nasal passages. You can find a great Nasya (nostril) oil from Banyan Botanicals (as well as other oils).
Oiling is best done in the morning, either before or after your shower. If you do abhyanga before, the warm water of the shower will help the oil penetrate into the skin. Just don’t try to wash it off. Only use soap where necessary (i.e. not on the arms and legs). If you oil after the shower, be sure to use minimal oil so it doesn’t rub off on your clothing. Either way, your skin will feel luxurious all day long! In the winter, oiling in the morning makes you feel like you’re wearing long silk underwear. Lastly, it is really nice to give yourself an oily foot massage before bed. Put on your old socks, and let it sink in all night long.
The quality of the oil you use is important. We recommend cold-pressed (or expeller-pressed), organic, oil in a glass bottle.
- Sesame is a nice oil for all body types, just be sure it is not toasted (unless you don’t mind smelling like a stir fry!).
- Coconut is wonderful for the skin but is preferable during the summer months, unless you tend to run hot.
- Jojoba is also a great option and is most similar to your natural sebum.
For the face and neck, we recommend either jojoba or borage oil. Heavier oils can be too thick for facial skin. Experiment to find out the best options for your unique constitution.
2) Winterize your diet. In the winter, we need to balance the cold and dry air with grounding, warm, hearty, protein rich, moist meals. Soups and stews with root vegetables and clean protein sources are especially perfect! Spices are not only delicious, but have many health benefits including warming you up. Ginger, cinnamon, curry, turmeric, salt and pepper are all warming spices. Bring it all together with a spicy chili with crumbled tofu and beans or a kitchari. Check out our easy homemade Chai Tea, with warming spices.
3) Be strong! Muscles keep you warm, so use them several times a week with a workout of your choice. The best workout is the one that you’ll actually do. Find something you enjoy, and just do it. An invigorating hot Vinyasa Yoga practice combats the cold from many angles; it gets your body feeling more supple and fluid, it challenges and builds muscle, it gets you warm and sweaty, and the soothing pace calms the mind. Oftentimes humidifiers are used in hot yoga studios, so everything gets hydrated as well.
Stay warm and be well!