How is your Agni? (Ayurvedic winter tips)

In Ayurveda, the aim is to live in harmony with one’s self and our environment so understanding the laws of nature as explained in Ayurveda will help you find greater balance in your health and life. Each one of us has a different make-up or constitution of the 5 elements and dosha’s (vatta, pitta and kapha). In winter it is known that Kapha is predominate and this commonly translates as excess mucus.  With Kapha there is a tendency for stagnation and therefore stimulation is good.

A basic principle of Ayurveda is “like increases like”, so if there is a predominance of a quality such as Kapha in winter, the opposite qualities are used to reduce it. In winter that means making sure you stay warm, eating food that is light, cooked and easy to digest, staying active and minimising food and activities that are heavy and moist.

Ayurveda talks about the fire (Agni) which governs digestion, assimilation and transformation. The cooking pot is the stomach and Agni is the fire that burns and metabolises. It is important that this digestive fire burns strongly, particularly during winter, otherwise we will not receive all the nutrients and energy from our food and we can become drained, lethargic and develop digestive ailments. Yoga is a great way to look after the body and keep the digestive fire burning strongly.

Here are a few tips that will keep you warm;

  • Avoid cold, heavy damp foods such as ice cream, yogurt and cold drinks. During winter I will even prepare warm water in a flask and sip during the day, also drinking warm water first thing in the morning is very beneficial.
  • Cold milk is hard for the stomach to digest. Warming it, or even diluting with water or soy milk will aid in digestion. Try it with some warming digestive spices such as cinnamon and ginger.
  • A build-up of mucus is often associated with poor digestion caused by overeating or eating an excess of heavy foods. An occasional day of light fasting is ideal – maybe some vegetable soup.
  • Eat mainly cooked food that is easy to digest – raw food such as salad is cold and harder to digest in winter. It’s also the time for moderate amounts of chilli and garlic to add some extra heat to the body
  • Stay active – move during the day and avoid afternoon naps which increase the Kapha qualities in the body
  • Drink hot beverages – hot water by itself is great or ginger tea is a great way to prevent mucus build-up and maintain a strong digestive fire. Herbal teas are also great.
  • Keep the mouth and tonsils clean by scrapping the tongue in the morning before eating and drinking, and gargling with half a teaspoon salty warm water before bed.
  • It may sound obvious but dress warmly when going out. Keep the feet and head warm to avoid loss of heat and even try wearing some warming colours like red, black and orange.