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Balancing Practices to Welcome Winter

Balancing Practices to Welcome Winter

Cannabis + Wellness Column

Balancing Practices to Welcome Winter

By: Rachael Carlevale

Senescence (the biological aging and deterioration that life moves through) highlights the qualities of Winter – dry, airy, and cold. These elements also represent the “vata” season according to Ayurveda, the ancient science of life. This time of transition, when the trees lose their leaves to remind us of the beauty of letting go, is a time for slowing down, grounding, and finding balance. Practicing a seasonal ritual with opposing moist, earthy, and warm focuses will help balance our physical bodies, stable our minds, and soothe our souls.

We can protect our health and wellness by empowering ourselves with vata balancing practices as we approach the Winter Solstice. These sacred ritualistic practices birthed our understanding of how to work with herbs, foods, yoga, time, and most importantly, prana, the vital life force, our breath. Imbalances of vata may appear as nervous system-related and include symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, fear, and nervousness.

For these reasons, one may want to up their CBD intake to combat vata aggravation and soothe the body, and mind. Mental dullness and inertia are amongst the tamasic qualities that Ayurveda views cannabis as; however, selecting the right genetics, and consumption methods like combining cannabis with sattvic herbs and foods (like ghee) can help bring balance to the dulling qualities.

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How can we create and maintain vibrant health as we adapt to the changing season? The following recommendations may be applied:

  • Daily Routine: Try to do the same things at the same time of day including the time you get up in the morning, exercise, eat, work, play, and rest. Establish a sacred morning ritual that inspires you to start the day with intention – pull a card, keep a gratitude journal, meditate. As the temperatures begin to drop, slow down, and cater your schedule to meet your self-care needs. Rise with the sun, and take your time to start your day with intention. You may also want to dress in Winter whites. Adequate sleep will ensure your body regenerates and restores for the winter season. Go to bed at the same time every night, and create a sanctuary for your dream time.
  • Exercise: The times between 6-10 am and 6-10 pm are the optimal vata time for movement. Yoga, hiking, walking, and Tai Chi are all excellent forms of gentle movements that support vata energy. Keep your yoga practice grounded with poses like tree pose, sun salutations, cat-cow, warrior I + II, and child’s pose. Maintain a steady pace, and focus on the foundation of your pose.
  • Skin Care: Winter is an extremely drying time of year, so moisturizing, and revitalizing our body’s largest organ (the skin) is crucial. Dry brushing, brushing the skin with a firm bristle brush (or coconut husk) from the toes to the head helps to unclog pores, detoxify and exfoliate the skin. Abhyanga, a warm self-massage applied with oils all over the body has many health benefits including moving stagnant energy, releasing toxins, lymphatic drainage, increases circulation, releases endorphins, and brings calm to the nervous system. Cannabis or hemp infused oils like sesame, avocado or coconut oil can be used depending on your Doshic needs.
  • Breathe: Pranayama – Breathing practices: Try Nadi Shodna, (Alternate Nostril Breathing) to find deep balance. The word Nadi means ‘channel’ in Sanskrit, and Shodna means ‘purification’. This breath will help to purify your mind, body, and spirit by bringing equilibrium to the brain, improving respiratory function, and clearing sinuses. To practice the breath: Place your right thumb on your right nostril and hold. Inhale through your left nostril. Close both nostrils and hold your breath. Open the right nostril and exhale out. Inhale and repeat as you alternate between the left and right nostril. Notice if there are any blockages from one side to the other. The left side, the Ida channel, represents the feminine energy, cooling, lunar essence. The right side, the Pingala, represents the masculine energy, the warming, solar essence. Notice what arises for you without judgment, and rest in a simple meditation afterward.
  • Seasonal Eating: Now is the time to warm up with hot soups and stews, local vegetables including winter squash, pumpkin, and beets. Add hearty fruits like cooked apples, citrus, and mango to your diet and avoid drying foods (like dried fruit), raw, frozen, and cold foods (that includes ice cream!) at this time of year. Warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, garlic, turmeric, and ginger will aid in the seasonal transition. Lots of avocados and oils like ghee and sesame are balancing for the Winter dryness as well. Vata season requires deep nourishment, so this is not the time to practice fasting.

Simple adjustments in your everyday choices can help protect your well-being. Try incorporating these ritualistic approaches to your life and notice to ease and peace you can create in your life. Remember to – like the leaves of autumn past – let go of what no longer serves you this Winter, and you will surely be living your best life all season long!