While technically it is fall here in Chicago, according to Ayurveda, November marks the beginning of the Winter season. Between November and February, it's recommended we eat more soups, stews, fat and protein. Cooking veggies (rather than consuming them raw) during this season is also important. During these colder months, we can focus on foods that taste sweet, sour and salty. Foods that contain at least 2 of these tastes will be balancing and more easily digestible. Preparing foods that are well cooked with oil will also balance you during this drier time of year.
This is the time to focus on root veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, white potatoes and turnips. As well as squash, brussel sprouts, avocados and pumpkins. And warming foods like ginger, chilis, onion and garlic - which for me are an amazing base for almost any dish! Enjoy fruits like bananas, papaya and grapes and all of the citrus: grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes. Cooking with warming spices like cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamon, black pepper and ginger and herbs like rosemary, basil, tarragon and thyme. Serve your veggies with split yellow dal (kitchari is wonderful this time of year) or tofu and enjoy oats, quinoa, rice and wheat during these months. There are many exciting combinations to put together from this list that will help you feel satiated, grounded and well balanced. I have some suggestions for you linked throughout this article. What are your favorite foods this time of year?
As I listen to the blustery wind and observe the red and golden leaves blowing off the trees and down the sidewalk, I find myself reflecting on how positively agitating that sound once was for me. Several years ago I lived in an apartment near the lake where my window faced the alley and next to that alley was a very tall building. In the fall, it was a virtual wind tunnel. The sound of that wind positively filled me with anxiety and agitation. I could not get relief from that sound or the feelings it provoked in me. Between the wind and the colder, darker days, I absolutely loathed this time of year.
It’s no coincidence that I found Kundalini Yoga in October (of 2007!), the month where I historically began to steel myself for the winter by staying indoors, isolating myself. It was not an enjoyable or peaceful way to live. As I began my Kundalini Yoga journey, I gratefully noticed immediate shifts. The darkness was not as bothersome. I went out in the evening regularly for classes. I felt more relaxed, not as sad or alone.
As I continued on my journey, I was introduced to Ayurveda and learned that this time of year has the qualities of the Vata constitution or dosha, meaning it is a windy, cold, dry season that can aggravate those parts of me. Understanding this, I began to support myself with new tools, which have allowed me to embrace the beauty of this season, rather than resist it. Simple things like sipping hot water throughout the day, eating well cooked veggies prepared with olive or sesame oil, consuming seasonal foods especially root vegetables, hot peppers, ginger and squash. Enjoying sweet treats like warm apple crisp and fruit pies. Taking time to massage my skin with warm sesame oil before I shower. Running regularly, breathing through my nostrils to ground myself and keep a calm and steady pace. Engaging in suspension of breath pranayam meditation. And slowing down, focusing on walking more slowly, eating and drinking more slowly and being intentional in my thoughts, words and actions.
Using these tools, which I have incorporated slowly, over time, have contributed to a calmer mind; improved digestion; happier feelings; a deeper level of satisfaction with my life; a stronger sense of self, self-love and compassion; enhanced well-being; feeling connected with others; enhanced, more loving & understanding relationships; a deepened spiritual connection; an open heart and softer, more comfortable skin. I am a more open, loving and compassionate person because of these tools and my dedication to practicing them. And for this I am beyond grateful.
And the journey continues… Wahe Guru.
I have struggled with my digestion since I was a child and over the years, my digestive challenges have manifested in different ways. Learning about ayurveda and how to prepare my food and eat ayurvedically have helped me to enjoy my meals and digest them more easily. Two of my biggest takeaways from ayurveda is enJoy my meal and to chew my food, chew it well, chew it into liquid.
Right after I became vegan, I had an appointment with an Ayurvedic Practitioner to learn how I could optimize my digestion which had been poor most of my life. A recommendation he made that I continue to follow is to sip hot water throughout the day. Boiling water makes it tri-doshic which means it is appropriate for all constitutions. It also helps to stimulate the digestive fire or agni, making digestion of food and nutrients and more thorough and efficient. My teacher says: sipping hot water for the first month cleanses the cells in the lower half of the body, in the second month, you cleanse the cells in the upper half of the body and in the third month you cleanse the entire body.
Ayurveda recommends boiling water for 10 minutes and pouring it into a thermos to sip every 30 minutes throughout the day. Before I go to bed each night, I boil water and fill my 32oz Hydroflask, closing it tightly. In the morning, the water is hot, but drinkable (there's nothing worse than burning your mouth first thing in the morning!). I keep my flask next to me and sip on it throughout the day. Admittedly my sips can be more like glugs at times 🤷🏻♀️. I feel best when I drink 2-3 full Hydroflasks each day. I have maintained this practice for the better part of 3 years and I feel hydrated, my skin is less dry - especially in the winter, it warms and soothes me and it's inexpensive and portable. If you are traveling, bring your empty bottle to the airport and ask a cafe to fill it with hot water for you. Any kind of travel, especially flying, can be so dehydrating. It's nice to have hot water to sip to keep things flowing and keep the immune system strong.
In warmer months and when my running ramps up, I keep up with the hot water, but supplement with room temperature water. I begin my day with hot water, and have room temperature water during and after my runs, then return to the hot water sip after I eat and am feeling rehydrated.
Are you interested in taking a hot water challenge? Try it for 3 months and see how you feel. Let me know in the comments below.
I am an animal loving-Vegan runner, I practice and teach Kundalini Yoga and I love to cook and eat flavorful plant-based food.