We all want abundant health, clarity and energy, but know precious little about how to attain and maintain the desired goals. For all of its technical marvels, medical science offers precious little in guidance for living healthfully. It offers a stream of frequently conflicting advice, and can’t even agree upon a definition of what the term “health” means. The average person turns to the Internet for answers, and finds no shortage of pills.
Fortunately, there is a science that addresses fundamental questions of health in a manner that has held up throughout thousands of years of use – India’s Ayurveda. Ayurveda translates into “Science of Health” or “Science of Longevity”. Although their method of investigation was different than the scientific method we learn in grade school, they were every bit as rigorous, systematic and methodical in their observations as the best scientists of today. The proof lies in the fact that their essential premises have not needed revision since their inception in the days before writing was invented. By contrast, science textbooks need to be revised almost yearly, as old erroneous hypotheses are continually discarded in favor of new ones, which will in turn end up in tomorrow’s dust-heap.
Although Ayurveda has developed excellent methods of diagnosis and treatment of disease, its primary focus is on maintaining shining health. Its guiding insight is that health relies on maintaining balance and harmony between the “inner world” of the body/mind and the “outer world” of nature and the cosmos. As nature is continually changing as we pass through the seasons, one of the most important aspects of maintaining health is to adapt the diet and lifestyle to the season at hand.
For those who know a little Ayurveda, winter is a season of kapha. That means that the cold and damp of winter can aggravate kapha, leading to increased respiratory infections, weight gain, and extra production of phlegm. We’re all familiar with these problems. Here are some ways to keep them at bay:
Sleep later. In general, Ayurveda is in agreement with Ben Franklin’s advice of early to bed and early to rise. During the long, cold nights of winter, it’s considered OK to sleep in until seven, as the sun doesn’t rise until after seven o’clock.
Warm oil massage. Massage is a wonderful practice any time of year. Using warm sesame oil counters the tendency of cold to settle into the muscles and joints. Warm oil massage followed by a hot shower or bath is best.
Drink warm water. Here’s a practice that runs counter to our taste for ice water. Warmth relaxes the digestion, sparks the appetite, and helps move the bowels.
Sun Salutations. For those readers familiar with yoga, sun salutations are a great way to increase circulation and warmth in the body. If you’re up for it, a dozen repetitions is a great way to energize yourself and get ready for the day. Forward and backward bends to open the chest also encourage the movement of excess phlegm.
Nasya oil. A few drops of nasya oil in each nostril helps dissolve water and dispel accumulations of fluid in the head. This helps bring light and clarity, which can help with the winter blues. We have some nasya oil if you’d like to give it a try.