Winter's low temperatures, wind, and bitter cold can leave skin feeling dull and especially dry. According to Ayurveda, yoga's sister science and 5,000-year system of natural healing, the winter season is governed by vata dosha.
Because the microcosm of the body is directly affected by what's happening in the macrocosm of nature, as the cold, dry qualities of vata increase in the atmosphere, those same vata qualities accumulate within the body.
Ayurveda encourages prevention of excess vata dosha accumulation by combating the cold, dry, windy winter with opposite qualities in diet and lifestyle, including filling up on warm, moist, grounding foods and replenishing the skin (and other body parts) with warm oil.
Want silky, soft skin and a tranquil mind all winter long? It's totally possible by weaving these simple holistic practices into your weekly self-care plan:
1. Spiced Milk
Swap out afternoon caffeine on a cold winter day for this deliciously nourishing spiced milk and feel its rejuvenating effects. In a small saucepan, bring the milk and spices to a low boil for five minutes. Pour into that cute holiday mug in the back of your cupboard, find a comfy seat, and delight in the sweetness!
- 1 cup organic milk (or your favorite vegan alternative)
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- Pinch cardamom powder
- Pinch black pepper
- Stir in ½ teaspoon of ghee (organic clarified butter) to help with winter constipation and keep the digestive tract lubricated.
- Add a dash of nutmeg at night to support sleep.
- Try 1 teaspoon maple syrup after milk has already boiled if you are craving something sweet.
- For a protein boost and extra nourishment, toss 2 pitted medjool dates and 8 peeled organic almonds into the boiling spiced milk. Scoop them up with a spoon and enjoy the yummy chewiness.
Precautions: Avoid spiced milk when fighting a fever, cold, flu, sinus infection, or during pregnancy.
2. Daily Oil Massage (Abhyanga)
Prevent dry, cracking, rough winter skin with a daily warm oil massage. Right after you shower, apply 1 ounce of warm organic oil to your skin. Rub in well like a moisturizer, making circles over joints and long strokes over long bones.
Daily massage not only leaves skin radiant and supple but helps enhance circulation (great for cold hands and feet!), settles the nerves, and calms the mind. It's the perfect body-mind remedy for the cold, stressful winter months, and it supports good sleep and reduces tension.
Choosing oil: Head to your local health food store for organic, cold-pressed oil. Try naturally warming sesame seed oil or a neutral-temperature oil, such as almond or sunflower seed.
Precaution: Avoid oil massage if you have a fever, cold, flu, or are pregnant.
Cold wind outside and dry heat inside often irritate and dry out the sinuses. Breathe comfortably all winter by hydrating the mucus membranes with nasya oil, which is specifically designed for the sensitive nasal passages.
Either apply it on its own or after using a clean neti pot with purified warm water and salt to cleanse the sinuses of excess mucus; put a drop of nasya oil into each nostril and rub gently. Take in a few slow, deep breaths to soak up the nourishing oil and aromatherapy. Nasya is also a great travel companion for cold, dry flights!
Choosing oil: Nasya oil is usually an organic sesame or sunflower oil base, infused with stimulating herbs to energize and refresh the mind, such as eucalyptus, peppermint, or lemon. For more mental relaxation, try a nasya oil with calming herbs like lavender, sandalwood, or rose. Prefer shopping online? LifeSpa.com and Banyanbotanicals.com have excellent selections of high-quality oils.
Precaution: Avoid nasya oil during nosebleeds and sinus infections.
4. Castor Oil
To support extremely dry, cracking heels or exceptionally rough elbows, massage those spots with organic castor oil. Daily application during winter can help heal cracks and smooth out stubborn roughness.
Precaution: Use only on overly rough/cracked spots. Avoid full-body castor oil massage, as it's too heating for a full-body massage, and as a natural purgative, and can trigger unwanted deep cleansing and purgation.
5. Coconut Oil
Strengthen and nourish hair all winter long with a simple coconut oil head massage. Dab a bit of organic coconut oil onto fingertips and massage scalp to enhance circulation and nourish the roots. Then, apply a bit more oil and massage a light coating through the hair, giving attention to the tips. Enjoy the silky shine.
Larissa Hall Carlson, E-RYT500 Kripalu Yoga Teacher and Ayurveda expert at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health guides yoga retreats, directs Kripalu Yoga Teacher Trainings, and provides Ayurvedic consultations across the country. She is passionate about empowering and encouraging people to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature through the time-honored teachings of yoga, Ayurveda, and mindfulness. Larissa has been featured in Yoga Journal, More, Elephant Journal, Spirituality & Health, InStyle, and Yoganonymous.
Learn more from her free resources at www.larissacarlson.com and follow her inspiring posts on social media @LarissaHCarlson.