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Winter warmers

My last blog was all about yoga practises to keep you healthy this winter and I promised you some non yoga winter warmers for this blog – which I would like to point out, do not involve alcohol (!!), as some of you suggested! And no, you can’t dress up a hot whisky toddy as medicinal!

As we know, winter is a wet, cold and heavy season and this can lead to swellings and an increase in mucus (yuk!), so holistically speaking, to stay healthy in winter we need to counteract these qualities. We discussed last time that our yoga practise should include invigorating postures, that boost circulation, warm the kidneys and open the chest, balanced with plenty of stillness and rest. There’s also plenty of “lifestyle” choices we can make too.

Refined sugars, wheat and dairy products are all mucus forming foods, so it makes sense to limit these during the cold season. Avoid cold foods and drinks too. I know that many of us start diets in January, but your body will really not thankyou for feeding it salads (and in my opinion is why so many of us are then tempted by treats – we want / need comfort food!). Winter is a time to really nurture your body with warm porridge for breakfast and nourishing soups and stews, made with root vegetables, lentils and pulses. Mung beans are fantastic for clearing mucus from the body. Include some spices in your diet too to warm up a sluggish system. Try cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. Oh, and according to Ayurvedic medicine, an occasional glass of wine may be beneficial in winter!

We also need more sleep in winter. We naturally want to hibernate. Go with it. If you can, allow yourself to sleep in a little bit longer or get to bed earlier. Try to take time out to relax in the evening (you can make an exception to go to yoga class though!) and make the most of the still winter energy.

It’s also important to get out in the day light too. Even if we don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) many of us feel down in the winter and the lack of natural light is a major part of this. It can be difficult to get outside during the day, particularly if you work full time and the weather can be off putting, however the sunlight affects our pineal gland which naturally boosts our mood and energy. Interestingly gazing at a candle (tratak) can have the same effect. We also need vitamin D, which among other things lifts our mood and energy levels and helps boost the immune system. The best way to absorb vitamin D is from the sun through the skin, so in the cold weather when we are all wrapped up and avoiding being out in the fresh air our vitamin D levels can become depleted. Another great reason to get out in the fresh air. Do speak to your GP, though, if you think you are low in vitamin D or feeling depressed.

One of my favourite winter treats is to massage myself with a warming body oil, such as sweet almond oil or sesame oil (the later is particularly good if you feel the cold or suffer with stiff aching joints).

Don’t forget my other favourite practise too… salt water nasal washing (jala neti), to clear out all those nasty germs and mucus! If you do fall foul of a cold try a steam inhalation. Apparently steam vapour, if 110F or higher, will kill cold germs and help to reduce inflammed tissue at the infection site.

Hope this gives you some ideas of how to nurture yourself this winter and if you have any tips of your own, please do let us know. Take care and stay warm Ix

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