WINTER is governed by the elements of water and air

Welcome to The Great Balancing Act, at its best!

Winter is where we find heavy and dull kapha at one end, and light, excitable vata at the other end.

Winter is dominated by the element of water. However, air is still tugging at our shirts from autumn and continues through to the depths of winter. We have Vata on one side of the scales and Kapha on the other. We want to clear Kapha without aggravating Vata - no small feat!

There’s a fine line when balancing Vata and Kapha because they are opposites. One is heavy, the other is light; one is dry, the other moist; one is about movement, the other is slow to move. This is what we deal with as we move through winter, and it explains the focus on rest and reflection, and drawing in scattered Vata energy.

The sun is low in the sky, the leaves have left the trees, and creatures have gone into hibernation. The low temperatures keep us inside, withdrawn from the world. Winter is a time of storing energy rather than expending it.

The blood has moved to the core of the body where it can generate the heat required to maintain proper function. This sees a return of a healthy appetite, so foster it with hearty, grounding food choices.

The tastes of winter are spicy (pungent), salty, and sweet… but keep it moderate. Focus on protein-rich meals that warm and nourish body, mind and soul.

The cold quality of winter has a hardness about it, so draw on all things soft and comforting, with an added spicy, pungent element to keep Kapha in check. Think bright, cosy, blankets; wood fires and belly laughs; chicken soup with black pepper; warm nutmeg milk before bed; sleeping in till 7am and rising to a stimulating yoga sequence.

This is what winter is all about…clearing Kapha while nourishing Vata.

The fire element has receded for now, so we can begin to introduce pungent foods without aggravating Pitta (accept in cases of high Pitta and excess internal heat).

Ground and nourish with warm foods that are slightly spicy.

Bitter greens should be reduced as the bitter taste is cool to the body. Take leafy greens such as kale or spinach in soups or stews, where they can be balanced out with warming combinations and spices.

Fruit should be moist and heavy such as bananas, dates and figs, or stewed or baked apples with a little ghee, and spiced with cinnamon and cloves.

Grains like wheat, cooked oats, brown rice and quinoa bring heartiness to a meal, and warmth to the body.

Increase protein, either in the form of meat (most meats are good in winter –red meat is best at this cooler time of year, if you eat it); legumes such as mung and tofu; and eggs.

Nuts too, are best suited to the cooler months as many of them create heat in the body. They are a great source of protein but tend to be hard to digest, so don’t go too nuts with them!


Wake at 7am, stretch the body gently, and slowly and mindfully get out of bed.

Swish some warm sesame oil in the mouth for 3-5 minutes, spit into a bin (rather than the sink), and then massage the gums with your finger.

Drink a cup of warm water to encourage a healthy bowel motion.

Self-massage with warm organic sesame oil to balance the cold. Have a warm-hot shower and rub the oil off at the end with a towel.

Practice pranayama - kapalabhati (frontal brain cleansing breath) or bhastrika (bellows breath). These practices create heat, remove sluggishness, and flood the body with prana.

Put a few drops of nasya oil in each nostril.

Practice stimulating yoga postures to clear kapha. Good choices include vigorous sun salutations (up to 12 rounds); strong backward bends that expand through the chest such as the fish (matsyasana), the camel (ustrasana), and the wheel (cakrasana) to stimulate the kidneys and lungs.

An ideal breakfast would be a small bowel of oats, barley, or rice, with honey, cinnamon, and cloves.

Take organic chywanaprash to strengthen immunity and reduce kapha.

Lunch and supper should consist of wholesome grains, fresh vegetables, and lean proteins. Avoid too many wet, damp, and cold foods that are overly sweet.

Drink spicy warm teas such as fresh ginger, throughout the day. A moderate amount of dry, warming wine in the winter is said to encourage circulation.

Before bed, settle in with a cup of warm spiced milk.


Note: All herbs can be ordered from Sattvic Goods and Services (in Australia) or Banyon Botanicals (USA).