Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Nature is our guide in Ayurveda. We look at how nature changes with the daily and seasonal weather patterns, daylight and nighttime to see how we can best support ourselves physically and mentally/ emotionally to stay in good health.
Ayurveda believes our disconnect with nature causes diseases and imbalances in ourselves.
Our lives and environments are ever-changing and to keep yourself in balance it helps to look at the seasonal changes to know how to adapt.
Read all about the month of January to stay in good health!
P.S. This blog is based on Ontario, Canada weather.
The Holiday season is officially over. January is the calm after the storm. We breathe out and kick off our shoes. It is a month of restoring and recharging. We can sleep more and rest more to prepare slowly for the warmer and more active months to come.
There is nothing much to do in January so that is perfect. It is a time for contemplation, going inward, and setting new goals and intentions for the new year. Think about what you want to do this year, what are your plans, your dreams, plant the seeds now so you can reap in a few months when spring rolls around.
Winter solstice officially marked winter season and this means we are slowly moving towards longer days. Still, we will have long and dark nights to navigate in January. Be on the lookout for feeling low and depressed and not becoming too stagnant this month. This means we are moving more into the kapha part of the winter season.
"It is a time for contemplation, going inward, and setting new goals and intentions for the new year."
January is the coldest month of the year. Icy, snowy, damp, that is January weather. Temperatures below zero and dark nights.
Cold weather brings slowness. This can be welcomed after a hectic December month, but can also create a sluggishness and an urge to hibernate. Active vatas and pittas can benefit from this, but kaphas need to be careful as to not overindulgence in sleep and couch-hanging.
The cold weather also makes us....cold! Hot pittas will love it, but vatas need to keep layering up and sipping warm teas to deal with the cold. The cold makes kaphas stagnant and they need to make sure to keep moving to get their blood flowing.
We are slowly gaining back more sunlight, but the days still remain short and the nights long. Take advantage of the long nights and sleep longer and deeper to recharge and rejuvenate. January is a great month to restore and replenish for the warmer months ahead. We can reflect the slow and still weather pattern of January in our daily lives.
You will notice more moisture in the air, but vatas can still find it challenging to deal with the dry heat of our warm houses. A humidifier can help vata retain moisture in their skin.
"Cold weather brings slowness. This can be welcomed after a hectic December month, but can also create a sluggishness and an urge to hibernate."
The Three Doshas in January
Even though we are moving to the more kapha part of winter, vatas still have challenges in the coming months. The cold for one makes vata anxious and restless, but they can benefit from the slow and still qualities of winter in January. The cold restricts blood flow in the limbs and moves it to the core to keep us warm, this means cold hands and feet. Vatas need to keep warm from the inside out by eating warm and heavier foods and staying away from cold foods and drinks. Also, by layering up in their clothing.
The dampness of the winter weather can be welcome to vatas dryness, but they will still suffer from the dry heat of their homes. Doing abhyanga (self oil massage) helps moisture to stay in the body and is also an insulating layer to keep warm.
The best way to stay hydrated is to sip warm water throughout the day to replenish the cells deep within. Gulping down big jugs of water will only flush out the dry vata and deplete them even more.
Vatas still need a heavier diet in January to keep fat on their bodies and not deplete themselves. Warm, cooked foods like soups, stews, broths, and roasts are still perfect for vatas. Adding warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and salt will aid digestion as well.
Vatas need a lot of rest in January to replenish and recharge. They can benefit from calming breathing exercises and practices like Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra. They can still benefit from being outside to acclimatize to the cold weather and to build good immunity and resilience.
The hot pittas can still enjoy the crisp air of the winter weather and benefit from the slow pace and stillness of this month. They need to rest and relax in order to recharge for the warming months of the year.
You might have overindulged a little during the Holidays and can benefit from a 3-day kitchari cleanse or a lighter diet for a few days to lower inflammation in the body and get your digestion back into balance. January is a great month to cleanse the blood slightly. Cutting back on fried foods, alcohol and sugar will benefit pittas.
But pittas appetite will still be high in January and they can still benefit from the heavier foods of this month to stay strong and healthy.
If you love winter sports, this is the time to enjoy them and have some fun!
"You might have overindulged a little during the Holidays and can benefit from a 3-day kitchari cleanse or a lighter diet for a few days to lower inflammation in the body and get your digestion back into balance."
The first months of the year are kapha time of year, which means the natural qualities of kapha are present in the seasonal weather. Solidly frozen ice, cold temperatures, dampness, slow pace, and stillness. Kapha is the steady and sturdy dosha, just like winter.
Too many of the above qualities can bring challenges for kapha. The cold temperatures will make kapha sluggish and stagnant. They are likely to oversleep or nap in the afternoon which only increases the stagnation. This can cause a feeling of depression and it becomes hard to break this cycle.
Movement is always the answer for kapha. Physical movement to get the blood moving and break the cycle of stagnation. But also mental movement as in, get out of your comfort zone and start a new project, meet new people, and find a new hobby. This is great to beat seasonal depression and keep active.
Another thing that is important to keep kapha healthy in January is to watch out for isolation. When kapha is not feeling their best they tend to isolate and deal with it on their own, they don't want to bother anyone, but this means they spiral further into a black hole of depression. Making sure you have a support system and stay connected to your loved ones is important to get through the darker months.
The dampness of the January weather can create sinus and lung problems for kapha in the form of excess mucus or walking around with a runny nose all winter. Kapha naturally has a lot of water in their body and this can be balanced with dryer foods and again, keeping active to sweat out some of this water.
Hot yoga and dry saunas are great for kapha to release some of the water and keep them warm at this time of year.
Kaphas can still benefit from a contemplative practice in January to release stress and find peace within themselves. Stress is the number one reason to hold on to excess weight and it can be a challenge for kaphas to regulate their weight.
Weightloss in the New Year
January is actually a great month to start to update your diet and exercise routine. This is not just a marketing technique to sell diet programs. If kapha doesn't get active in January it can actually be the start of weight gain, that is why it is important to be mindful of this and look at your diet and lifestyle to see if you need to make any changes.
The downfall of this is that we can often start extreme diet and exercise programs that aim for short-term quick results and that do not work for the long term. This actually creates more harm, since we put back on the weight and we change our metabolism which makes it even harder to lose weight after this. A much more sustainable approach is to start setting healthy and attainable habits that lead to changes and progress over time and actually benefit the body and mind.
Routine and lifestyle
The Holidays have uprooted our routines and January is the perfect month to get back into them. Especially our mealtimes might have been off by late brunches and early and long dinners. Getting back into a normal routine of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner will guarantee more balance in your food intake and digestion as well.
Your sleep routine might also have had some interruption due to later nights with the family and perhaps some alcohol intake which can disrupt sleep. January is a great month to catch up on sleep. Being outside for a good amount of time in the winter makes for a great sleep at night. Getting to bed by 10 pm and rising with the sun gives us ample time to restore and recharge our batteries.
Another thing to make sleep better is to have your dinners a bit earlier, preferably before the sun sets. This way digestion won't interfere with your sleep.
Since there is not much going on in January in terms of social events, this is a great time to get into new hobbies, read new books, or play that new family game. Get inspired by your new goals for the new year and start setting healthy new habits to reach them. Whether they are health-related or in other areas of your life.
The New Year is a great moment to start with new and inspired intentions to keep your mind motivated and active. Again, be aware of not setting unattainable goals and jump into a new diet and exercise program that promises you quick results. We need to move away from this type of thinking and realize that anything of value takes time and effort to cultivate. That is actually the beauty of it and will give meaning to your life.
Ayurvedic Diet for January
What is available is always depends on where you are in the world. Your best bet is to check your weekly farmers' market or subscribe to a newsletter of your local farm to stay updated.
The months leading up to the new year have been all about insulating the body with heavier meals that contain a good amount of fat and protein. For vatas and pittas this is still a diet that they can continue in the new year. Kaphas can move to a lighter diet with more bitter and pungent tastes. Bitter will help cleanse the blood and pungent will get their blood moving. Great to keep kapha in balance.
Wintertime is actually a time of no harvest. The ground is frozen solid and covered with snow. Mother earth is in hibernation! This means we lean on harvest produce from the fall which mostly includes root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, rutabaga, and so on. Onions and leeks are readily available and give a great sweetness to our soups, stews, and roasts.
We lean on animal products and beans and legumes for our proteins and butter and lard for our fats. We now know that fats like butter and animal fat do not make us actually fat, so don't be afraid to use these products in your diet.
January is great for ferments! Since we don't have many vegetables available we can lean on canned goods that we prepared in summertime. Well, that is what we used to do back in the day. But we can still benefit from this. Kimchi, sauerkraut, mustard, kombucha will give heat and moisture to the body. Adding a small amount to your meal will help you digest your heavier meals better as well. These ferments will cut through the fat and protein.
Anything red is great to add to your menu, like cranberries, red cabbage, pomegranates, this will help boost our blood and keep it healthy.
Cabbages are in season and are a great addition to your diet. Braise red cabbage with apple and vinegar, make your own sauerkraut, or use Chinese cabbage in your stir fry.
Apples and pears are the fruits for the winter season. Stewed apples with cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and cloves make for a great breakfast. Or what about pear crips! Apples and pears are sweet but have an astringency that aids elimination.
Adding pungent spices to your meals like cloves, ginger, red pepper flakes, turmeric, and cinnamon invigorate the blood and bring colour to your cheeks.
Even though winter is not necessarily a time of abundance of the land, there are beautiful foods available to get you through the winter healthy and balanced.
I created a 14-day program to help you escape the diet cycle, find food freedom, and improve your health.
This program will help you improve your self-talk, set healthy habits that actually stick, and learn about a diet for your unique body that will help you improve your health and lose weight (if this is what you want).
This is a program designed for sustainable and long-term results, it is not a quick fix, lose weight fast program. Losing weight is a byproduct though!
*Always consult your physician before making adaptations to your lifestyle and diet.