This time of year certainly has many gifts to bestow upon us - holiday cheer, the warm and fuzzy feeling of being curled up by the fire, quality time spent with loved ones, time off of school and work, and space for reflection on the year gone by. Yet, with the holiday season, may also come a more hectic pace of life with additional items rapidly accumulating on your to-do list; quickly turning this joyful time of year into increased feelings of anxiousness, irritability and overwhelm. If you can relate to this scenario, then your mental landscape may be showing you signs that vata (anxiousness), pitta (irritability) or vata and pitta doshas together (overwhelm) are being pushed out of balance.
We think that PAAVANI’s Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist, Laurel Odom, said it best when she explained that “the extra pressure of the holiday season can create stress and contraction in the body and mind”. Thankfully, Ayurveda has some simple tips to help keep cortisol levels (your body’s main stress hormone) at a minimum so you can stay open to the heart-centered energy that makes this time of year so magical.
Here is a list of our favorite Ayurvedic rituals to keep you feeling merry and bright this holiday season:
Meditation & Yoga Nidra (Guided Meditation)
If you have a consistent meditation practice already incorporated into your day, stick with it! We find that the best time of day to meditate is first thing in the morning, before daily demands sweep you away from this stress relieving practice.
If you do not already meditate, we recommend the practice of Yoga Nidra to get you started and also help you cope with the stress of the holidays. Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation that can be performed later in the day to help you build mindful awareness, deeply rest the mind and body to an equivalent of four hours of sleep, and promote feelings of blissful equanimity. For more information on Yoga Nidra, please explore this article on the Ekhart Yoga website.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
Our favorite pranayama (yogic breathing technique) for soothing the nervous system and calming feelings of anxiousness, overwhelm and irritability is hands down Nadi Shodhana. Also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, Nadi Shodhana is a tridoshic pranayama, meaning that it balances all three doshas- vata, pitta and kapha. To learn more about Nadi Shodhana and to see how it is done, visit our Pranayama Blog.
Vata Balancing Yoga
Yoga postures that promote a connection with the earth help to stabilize us both mentally and physically. Standing postures held for at least 5 breaths, seated postures, and of course, restorative postures are all considered balancing to vata dosha. Call upon these 5 poses recommended by yogi and athlete, Clyde Hampton Jr., to get you through the holiday rush with grace and ease.
Walks in Nature
Never underestimate the power of immersing yourself in nature. Silence your phone and instead connect with the harmony of the natural world. Visually experience the beauty that surrounds you. Tune into the sounds of the world: the birds, the wind through the trees, the waves crashing at the shore or the crunch of snow under your feet. Breathe deeply and take in the aromas around you- the scent of pine trees, damp leaves, salty air or the replenishing smell of eucalyptus or juniper.
Diet & Herbs
Favor Warm, Grounding, Naturally Sweet Foods
We don’t know about you, but we are definitely enjoying some cookies, sweets and alcoholic beverages this holiday season despite the fact that too much refined sugar can leave us feeling depleted, frazzled, depressed and craving more. Thus, we encourage anyone looking to indulge, to mindfully select which refined sweets to say yes to and most importantly to enjoy without guilt! Additionally, when deciding which holiday dessert to make, we suggest opting for naturally sweet foods like stewed apples, dates, oatmeal and sweet potatoes, which can all be used as alternative ingredients in many of your favorite treats (think sweet potato pie with a date and nut crust). Plus, these types of sweet foods have the added benefit of grounding, warming and nourishing your body from the inside out without possessing the negative side effects.
Looking for a new take on the traditional Ginger Snap? Check out our blog dedicated to this holiday cookie and learn about refined sugar alternatives.
Incorporate your Vata Spice Blend
In the month of December, we are well into vata season which means that vata type digestive issues can readily manifest. Things like feeling bloated, experiencing flatulence, constipation and having an invariable appetite are classic signs of a vata disturbance in the digestive system. To support your belly, sprinkle our Vata Spice Blend onto your dishes, use it as a seasoning as you cook and, most importantly, enjoy it as a churna before each meal. To learn more about our Vata Spice Blend and Ayurvedic churnas, click here.
Replace Coffee with Golden Milk
If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed and/or irritable, we hate to say it, but you might want to consider skipping your morning cup of joe. Coffee can actually increase your blood pressure and increase the level of stress hormones in your body. If you simply cannot go without, we suggest only consuming one cup of coffee per day, preferably in the morning hours rather than in the afternoon or evening, and adding a ½ teaspoon of Golden Milk powder into your coffee. The Golden Milk can help to reduce the acidity of the coffee, aid in optimal digestion and soothe the nervous system.
Rejuvenate with Ashwagandha
To keep you feeling energized, strong and peaceful, we recommend the king of Ayurvedic herbs, Ashwagandha. This adaptogenic plant medicine has been used for thousands of years to bolster the body’s ability to cope with stress, replenish the tissues of the body and support mental health and resilience. Nerd out on Ashwagandha with our blog, The Many Benefits of Ashwagandha: the King of Ayurvedic Herbs.
Wind Down by Candlelight
Put the phone down. Close your computer. Power off the tablet. Switch off your television. One to three hours before bed say goodnight to your screens. These simple, transformative actions support mental health, calm the nervous system and prepare the body for rest. Dimming artificial lighting in your home will also support your body and mind. We suggest the warming, healing and soothing glow of our Trataka Ghee Candle to be lit prior to bedtime to get you ready for your beauty sleep. Remember to blow that candle out though before you drift off to sleep.
Melt into a Coconut Milk Bath
After a long day of holiday shopping, wrapping gifts, food prepping, working, child rearing or animal tending, carve out space for self-care! One of our favorite Ayurvedic evening rituals is to draw a warm Coconut Milk Bath. This vegan, milk bathing ritual smells divine, feels like silk against the skin and will ease muscle tension, relax the body and quieti the mind.
Love Thyself with Self-abhyanga
Although Ayurvedic medicine traditionally recommends performing a self-abhyanga in the morning hours, we sometimes like to do this practice in the evening. A self-abhyanga is a self-massage technique that uses warm Body Oil to lubricate and nourish the skin. Ayurvedic Body Oils, like the ones we make at PAAVANI, have the added benefit of containing the fat soluble properties of herbs which help to support the nervous system and mind. When performing a self-abhyanga in the evening, we recommend doing slow, mindful strokes that will calm the mind versus invigorating, quick massage strokes that a morning self-abhyanga entails. Learn more about self-abhyanga and its therapeutic benefits here.
The Golden Rule of Self-care
We trust that you have superhuman abilities, but when it comes down to it, you are still human. There is only so much time in a day and holiday season, so please remember that it’s okay to say no. Overcommitting to events and gatherings is an easy thing to do, especially during this time of year, but a great way to remedy this issue is by creating personal boundaries. Block out time in your calendar, within each week if possible, to have a free day where you are not burdened by work nor social obligations. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself to do more than it is willing to do. Remember, self-care is a priority, it isn’t selfish. When you etch out time for you and your well-being, you are able to show up in the world well rested and as your best self.
May this list of Ayurvedic self-care tips make navigating through the holidays more easeful. May it also remind you to always take care of yourself even in the hustle and bustle of this festive season. To you and yours, have a nourishing and joyful end of the year!