Learn easy Ayurvedic remedies that you can use to support good health and balance throughout the winter and holiday season.
The holidays come at the time of year when we should be putting the most emphasis on self-care and nourishment. Nature sleeps during the winter: days are short, plants go dormant, and animals hibernate. Winter is a time for storing up and settling down. If we take our cues from the natural world, this is an ideal time for taking stock of things—for looking inward, listening to our own needs, being mindful of our energy.
Ironically, the holiday season can be the most depleting time of year. We rush about, eating more than we need, making commitments to friends and family, and often sacrificing sweet, healing sleep for one more hour of merriment. The social and cultural pressure to give, give, give can leave us exhausted at a time when we should be replenishing for the year ahead.
The practice of Ayurveda and implementation of Ayurvedic remedies supports us in enjoying life’s pleasures—but doing so in moderation and with balance. Ayurveda’s regular wellness practice makes the body and mind resilient enough to process and digest the occasional sensory overload (like a second helping of holiday cookies).
As challenging as it can be, respecting your wellness needs during the winter months is crucial. If you allow your lamp to burn too brightly without restoring during the holidays, in a season that should be about renewal, you’ll be left feeling depleted. With a little mindfulness, you can enjoy the spirit of the season while still maintaining the vital energy that will carry you into the new year.
With that in mind, here are some easy Ayurvedic remedies that you can use to support good health and balance throughout the holidays:
1. Keep a Routine
The holidays tend to bring extra socializing, frequently with people we don’t usually spend a lot of social time with (e.g., co-workers and some family members). This can create a feeling of obligation to say yes to everything, which then leads to irregularity in meals, exercise, and sleep, which throws vata way off. Set aside thirty minutes for your regular home practice, and head out to your holiday gathering afterward.
2. Come to Your Senses
At some point we all give in to the excess that holidays encourage and end up way past our intake limit. This can exacerbate the fatigue that is already part of the increased darkness and lethargy of the season. Whether you experience that with food, drink, or even people, the holidays can bring sensory overload. But keep in mind that your senses are a gateway to subtle self-awareness, not merely perpetrators of instant gratification. Along with the tastes, take time to also celebrate the smells, the visuals, the textures, and the sounds of the holidays. The ayurvedic perspective of the senses is that each is a way for us to know our own nature on a subtler level.
• Smell is the most primal of the senses, and it relates to the earth element, which brings stability, structure, and a feeling of being at home. A great way to use the sense of smell to ground yourself is to add essential oils to your daily routine: Use a scented oil for your morning abhyanga (oil massage) or for on-the-go support, carry a small bottle in your purse or pocket and dab a little on your wrists, heart, and behind your ears. Excellent oils for vata season are vetiver, cedar, and sandalwood. Inhale deeply and feel your feet on the ground.
• Taste is the pleasure sense. It relates to water, which brings nourishment, ease, and enjoyment. Taste is a very tricky sense, as its mantra is usually “I want!” So, fine. What, then, do you actually want? What is the essence of your appetite? Ask yourself this question, and then take a few deep breaths. Instead of one more drink, perhaps you actually want to go home, or to have a one-on-one conversation that goes deeper than “Oh my God, aren’t the holidays crazy?!” The most nourishing component of taste is sweetness, and it might not always come in the form of a cookie. Taste each moment. Savor it.
• Sight, what we take in visually connects to the fire element: transformation, digestion, and power. Take in only what you need. There are a lot of commercials and emails and sparkly things vying for your visual attention, but in order to stay steady we have to moderate what we take in through our eyes. Enjoy the added flourishes at the grocery store and the holiday lights on the buildings. Remember that resting our senses is also part of what keeps them healthy and helpful. Give your eyes as well as your mind some extra rest. This is important.
• Touch connects us to our breath and to the air element, which rules movement and change. The mobility of the breath is a function of vata, so it is a very powerful point of focus for this season. We can shift a tremendous amount of energy by breathing intentionally. This is how we make room for ourselves amid the symptomatic jumble of activities induced by the holidays (or life). Ayurvedic remedies to connect us to the vata element include pranayama; to incorporate touch, place your hands on your heart and belly and feel the rise and fall of your vital energy.
• Sound, our capacity to hear, relates to the element of ether, which is both the space around us and the container of space. Make space to hear and be heard, especially when disagreement pops up. In excess, the drone of language can be quite disorienting, and increased socializing at this time of year can create a kind of congestion. Use truthful communication, self-expression, and creativity to balance out the chatter.
3. Give from a place of abundance
Even when we’re not filling our social calendars, there are still cards to mail, gifts to wrap, menus to prepare, and cookies to bake. We can’t do it all and also take care of ourselves. Celebrate your good intentions—but let yourself follow through on just some!
If baking cookies feels more like a chore than a celebration, considering letting go. The holidays are about more than just treats and gifts: the wellness you create by putting away the baking sheet and taking time for yourself will mean more and last longer than even the best holiday cookie.
More importantly, making food should be done with the right intention. Holiday treats are meant to be enjoyable. Ayurvedic remedies speak to the nourishment we take from food that is made with love. No one wants to swallow resentment.
Be honest with yourself about whether you’re preparing this food and these gifts out of joy, or out of obligation. If you find it’s the latter, what can you give instead? Maybe instead of cookies and toys, the best holiday gifts for you to give are love, attention, and kind words.
4. Get some sleep
It may be a cliché at this point, but it really is impossible to overstate the importance of a good night’s sleep.
When we sleep, we rest and digest. We heal and build ojas. If you’re on the holiday party circuit, it’s unlikely that you’ll be turning in early and prioritizing nighttime rest. Getting enough rest shouldn’t be about denial—anxiety about sleep shouldn’t prevent you from joining the celebrations that are important to you—but it’s good to be mindful of your sleep budget as you plan your holiday schedule.
If you know you’ll be out late celebrating, look for opportunities to bank some extra sleep ahead of time; on nights when you’re at home, consider forgoing some of your normal evening routines in favor of a quiet evening and an early bedtime.
The entire holiday season can be a beautiful meditation practice if we enter into it with these sorts of intentions inspired by the ancient wisdom of Ayurvedic practices and remedies. May we all enter into the season with the determination to be at ease, to be steady, and to stay close to our hearts and bodies.
Instead of making this season (or any season, for that matter) a series of obligations you’re struggling to meet, show up for yourself with a generous presence.
Remember: Our collective future begins with our personal choices.