Sandra and I live in Michigan. We aren’t having blustery weather (at least not yet!) but there is no doubt that winter has arrived. As the song says, it’s time to “button up your overcoat.”
The effect of seasonal changes on the mind-body are beginning to be considered by modern medicine. However, teaching us how to transition from season to season has been an integral aspect of Ayurveda for thousands of years.
Even if you aren’t a student of Ayurveda you know that you instinctively and automatically make some seasonal changes. For instance, in winter you most likely enjoy heavier food than you do during the summer months. But do you make enough alterations in your lifestyle?
Oftentimes we are not aware of the many interventions easily available (and easy to implement) that we can utilize for our benefit. Ayurveda can help. This ancient system of natural medicine provides an instructional manual helping us to more completely understand the importance of seasonal lifestyle changes.
According to Ayurveda (and modern science) nature and the body exist on single continuum of intelligence. Natural intelligence (sometimes referred to as “consciousness”) is exhibited differently at different times of the year. Each of the five elements (air, space, water, fire and ground) has a time to be the “star.”
During winter the combination of air and space is “starring” and it’s our task to adapt. If we fail we run the danger of creating a fertile field for all types of physiological problems to occur. These problems can erupt either now or in the springtime.
In Chapter 3 of Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way: creating happiness with meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda we discuss the mechanics of how natural intelligence is imparted into our physiology. Gaining insight into these mechanics is immensely helpful in our quest to maintain balance during seasonal transitions.
Do you notice an increase in appetite during the winter months? Many people do. The digestive fire burns at its brightest during the winter months. Increased energy, vitality, and liveliness can also be side benefits during the winter months.
Problems occur during the colder months if our elemental balance becomes disrupted. Common problems are oversensitivity to cold, respiratory infections, insomnia, dry skin, indecisiveness, hyperactivity, and anxiety.
Ayurveda identifies three distinct types of depression and a mixed type. Each type is based on particular imbalances. Depression mixed with anxiety is the result of having the physiological balance of space and air out of whack. This can easily occur during the winter months.
Ayurveda offers many practical interventions to help us maintain our elemental balance. If we follow these suggestions we can avoid physical and emotional ups and downs. Healing Depression the Mind-Body Wayhighlights these suggestions. Today I’ll offer one significant intervention that is exceedingly helpful for the maintenance of physiological balance during the winter months.
The Abhyanga (Sanskrit for “Massage”)
Abhyanga is an oil massage with sesame oil.
The abhyanga has, according to Ayurveda, profound health benefits. Ayurvedic tradition maintains that frequent oil massage promotes softness and luster of the skin, lubricates the muscles, tissues, and joints, and increases their flexibility. Moreover, by stimulating the tissues in the body, oil massage is said to help keep impurities from accumulating in the system. Daily abhyanga is recommended but if you cannot do the abhyanga on a daily basis even two or three times a week will offer you significant benefits.
Different oils work for different constitutional types. But, in the cold of winter sesame oil works best for most people because sesame oil has particular properties that nourish and warm the body.
Although oil massage is considered, in Ayurveda, to be important all year long it is particularly important in winter. The soothing influence of warmth and touch on the skins’ many nerve endings has a calming effect on the elements which are predominantly expressed during this time of the year.
Abhyanga will benefit everyone at all times of the year, but it is particularly important in the winter. Apart from the benefits mentioned above abhyanga will keep the skin from becoming dry and cracked, a frequent problem when physiological balance is aggravated in winter.
If you maintain balance during the winter months you will transition into spring without encountering an excess of the mucus that triggers allergies and springtime colds and flus. Abhyanga is a helpful intervention for the maintenance of balance and the prevention of these springtime problems.
Albeit with different language, modern quantum physicists echo Ayurvedic knowledge. Modern science and ancient wisdom agree on the nature of the universe. But, only the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda gives us the practical advice necessary to roll with the seasons and keep our mind-body in balance. Pick up a copy of Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way. The information tucked inside its cover will help you to create and maintain perfect health and its by-product—-happiness!