Whether we like it or not, the new year is a time to reassess what may not have gone smoothly last year, and what changes we can make in the coming year. According the Ayurveda, winter is the time of Kapha - when the elements of earth and water are at their peak. This often manifests as lower energy and less motivation.
Making changes towards wellness will help you move forward into to the new year with clarity and motivation. You might make resolutions and then fight yourself for not being able to stick to them. Rather than making a bunch of resolutions at once, try changing one thing for a month and focus on making it a part of your life. Below are a few tips to help inspire you to make realistic goals going forward.
You can think of Ayurveda as being a lifestyle, rather than a "diet". As you incorporate these lifestyle suggestions into your life, you can make Ayurveda a part of your life, rather than something you "should do".
1. Understand your Constitution
Before jumping to conclusions on which diet is the fad, you need to understand your constitution (your physiological and mental makeup) so you can better understand what your body needs. A diet that works for one person, may not work as well for you. According to Ayurveda, the 3 doshas not only exist in nature, but in your body. Once you understand which dosha is dominant in your system, you can get a better idea of what you need to do to bring balance - in terms of diet, herbs, exercise and more.
There are many online quizzes that can help you identify your dosha balance, however to get a more accurate assessment, it is best to see a qualified practitioner: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/prakriti-quiz/
2. Eat According to your Constitution
What is "eating healthy"? For one person it may mean avoiding junk food, for another it may mean eating a low-fat diet, or for another it may mean eating a raw food diet.
But what is healthy for you? Once you understand your constitution, it is much easier to know what kinds of foods are more suited to you. For example, Vata dosha types may not do so well on a raw food diet which is cooling in nature. Instead they feel more grounded and nourished with warming food such as soups and stews. Kapha dosha types don't do well with much fat in the diet as they gain weight easily however, Vata types tend to do better with healthy fats such as ghee or olive oil.
When you know your constitution, you can eat according to your dosha type. Banyan Botanical's has good resources on Ayurvedic diet:
Vata Pacifying Diet: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/vata-pacifying-diet/
Pitta Pacifying Diet: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/pitta-pacifying-diet/
Kapha Pacifying Diet: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/diet/kapha-pacifying-diet/
Instead of trying to change your diet 360 degrees, try making small, realistic changes that you can do to consciously change your eating patterns.
3. Improve your Digestion
Once you know your constitution and have more clarity about which foods support your body type, you shouldn't overlook the digestive system. You may be eating a healthy diet and taking multivitamins - but are you really digesting and absorbing it?
According to Ayurveda, the concept of agni relates to your digestive fire - your capacity to digest and process not only food, but emotions and experiences. Agni can be dampened by stress, poor eating habits and so forth. Strengthening agni can improve your digestion and help you make the most of everything you are eating. Herbs such as ginger are excellent for supporting digestion, as are lifestyle habits such as sitting while eating and eating meals at regular times.
4. Address Health Issues as They Manifest
Don't wait for your health issues to get worse before you address it. Ayurveda and other systems of health use tools to help identify imbalances in the body before they manifest as disease. Minor issues that are persistent, such as aches & pains, weakness, irritation, restlessness can indicate deeper issues that can bubble to the surface. If you wait until the issues become diagnosed conditions, it may take more intensive treatment to treat. Practice daily self-care (dinacharya), balanced eating and work with your naturopathic doctor to maintain health.
5. Start moving !
Are you making unrealistic goals for exercise? Going to the gym and giving up in a few days?
First, assess your daily exercise habits and see what are obstacles to being active. Once you have a realistic idea of where you are at, see where you would like to be. Break it down into steps that are realistic, create a plan and go with it.
Maybe you want to get off your bus one stop earlier and walk to work everyday. Maybe you want to join a yoga or dance class if you find it difficult to be self-disciplined, or sign up for a walking group. Staying active has many benefits: it improves your circulation, keeps you warm, and helps release endorphins which help you feel good.
Choose 1 or 2 tips that you can start with this month and integrate it into your daily routine. If you need some motivation or customized guidance, work with your naturopathic doctor or ayurvedic practitioner to help you move forward in the new year!
Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with specialized training in Ayurveda and can help you identify your constitution to guide you on a customized health plan – whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness. To book an appointment with her, please write to her here: Dr. Athparia