Have you ever been in a situation in which you wanted to keep the window open, but the person you're with wants to leave it closed? Or maybe it's the other way around? Given how those who live in the northern and eastern part of the United States have all been experiencing the same extreme, bitter coldness this winter, that debate has likely been put to rest; most people living through these cold days and nights can probably agree to leave that weather outside. But even though the weather is extreme, we're still reacting to it in subtly different ways.
The ancient tradition of Ayurveda exists as a medical system we can use to improve and maintain our health. As a natural, holistic system, it teaches us how our bodies -- much like the world around us -- are made up of elements like earth, fire, and air. But what this tradition also teaches us is that each of us has a very specific combination of these elements in our body. This individual constitution is determined by the relationship of what are known as doshas -- three different energy types that govern different aspects of our physiology. The reason why some of us want the window open and some of us want it closed is because our individual relationship of the doshas dictates how our body reacts to the world around us.
Though each person experiencing this harsh winter may be dealing with a lot of cold these months, our individual constitutions lead us to have different reactions to it. This blog will provide you with an account of how you may respond to this weather as based on your own individual nature.
Respond to Airiness With Moisture
If you feel particularly sensitive to cold weather, you may have a lot of what is known as Vata energy. This energy type is associated with the air element. People with a lot of Vata energy are likely to be thin with delicate frames and prone to dry skin and light sleep. These people are the most susceptible to cold because their constitution -- like the element it is based on -- reflects the coolness of a breeze. Adding cold weather to the cool airy nature of a Vata-based constitution can lead to even greater dryness -- this is what happens when we're out in the cold and get patchy skin and chapped lips.
Those with a lot of Vata energy will benefit from reversing the dryness of this season. This includes moisturizing outside and lubricating the inside of the body through the consumption and application of natural oils like sesame oil, the consumption of ghee (clarified butter), and the use of Vata-balancing herbs like nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. As people with Vata-dominant constitutions will be most affected by the cold weather, they must take the most care of themselves to avoid any long-term health issues.
Respond to Heat with Calmness
Those who seemingly gain the most relief from the cold are those with a lot of Pitta energy. This is the dosha primarily based on the fire element, and as such leads to indications of excessive heat in the body. People with a lot of Pitta energy are likely to have a medium build with a muscular frame and are prone to irritated skin and profuse sweating. These types of issues might seem a laughable prospect in the midst of an intense winter, but those with a lot of Pitta energy are most sensitive to the manufactured heat that often accompanies such cold weather -- and the irritation that comes from being cooped up and sedentary during a snow storm. When outside in the cold, people with dominant Pitta constitution will be relishing the weather and enjoying the comfort the cold brings to the excess heat they produce. These are the people you want to be hugging you if you have a Vata-dominant constitution.
By staying indoors where the excess fire could rage and create overheating, those with this type of constitution will benefit from practicing calming exercises like meditation and soothing yoga postures. It's also beneficial for people of this constitution type to take cooling substances like white basmati rice and cow's milk, and to limit their intake of spices to cooling herbs like coriander, fennel, and a small amount of cardamom.
Respond to Congestion with Heat
Those who are most likely to hole themselves away during this and other winter months are those with a lot of Kapha energy. This dosha represents the earth element, and people with a lot of Kapha energy are likely to have a fuller build with thick frames. They are prone to having oily skin and gaining weight as well, which is actually great for warding off extreme cold weather. However, people with this predominant dosha type will also likely feel the most congested by the cold weather. Kapha energy's grounding in the earth element leads to its building up of bodily strength, but when in excess can lead to too much building in the form of congestion. This buildup is most likely to take place when people of this constitution shut themselves inside and remain sedentary during the shorter, colder days of winter.
One of the primary ways to combat the excess buildup of moisture in the body is to burn it off with activity. This winter, those with a lot of Kapha energy will benefit from remaining physically active -- even if they remain inside. They will also fare better than those with a lot of Vata energy, but not as well as those with a lot of Pitta energy.
Regardless of your individual constitution, and even regardless of the time of year, you will benefit from exploring your individual constitution and how your lifestyle choices affect your health as a whole. And as the cold winter continues on, with this knowledge you will be able to respond to it with greater balance.
Even if that window stays closed until April.
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