As the daylight hours start to shorten and the temperature begins to drop, you may experience a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) shift in your mood and emotions. The fall and winter seasons naturally bring a slower pace as nature goes into hibernation. But for many, this slowing also brings a sense of having the blues or feeling gloomy. This low-energy state is often linked to the limited light exposure during this time. From an Ayurvedic perspective, the limited light affects prana, the life force, and thereby creates a shift in our mood and energy levels.
Prana is the subtle energy that brings life to all beings and creation. It is associated with the breath, though it is not limited to the breath. Ideally, this life energy flows freely and rhythmically throughout the body, providing energy, vigor, health, and even joy. When prana faces a blockage or stagnation in the body, it begins to create trouble. Depending on the location of the blockage, you may develop local pain, a sense of uneasiness, mental anxiety, or other signs of reduced or agitated life energy.
According to Ayurveda, one major source of prana in our world is sunlight. The importance of sunlight on our health is well documented and recognized. Its subtle gift is the life force of prana, which it infuses into all creation, including plants and trees as well as animals and humans. It is a vital and integral part of our existence and our sense of well-being.
But what is one to do when nature must take its natural course, and we are left with limited hours of sunlight? Add to that dilemma our daily schedules, keeping us indoors at work and school during those precious hours when the sun is shining. Of course the natural answer is to maximize your exposure to light when possible. Take a walk in the sun during your lunch break. Keep the artificial light in your house and office as close to natural light as possible. But what else can one do to maximize the prana that is available and chase away those gloomy moods?
Here are some Ayurvedic tips to keep you feeling energetic, engaged, and healthy:
- Pranayama. These yogic breathing practices help to maximize your use of the prana available to you and also help the prana flow freely in the body without blockage or stagnation. There are numerous techniques which can be learned from an experienced teacher.
- Warm oil massage. This luxurious self-treatment is beneficial for all body types and can be used throughout the year. For this time of year particularly, it helps ground vata and bring a sense of calm. If your mood is affected, a massage to the head and scalp with Brahmi Oil brings clarity and energy to the mind while helping support healthy sleep patterns when used at night.
- Exercise. Moderate activity is known to help activate the body’s inner pharmacy, releasing mood supporting hormones and providing revitalization and detoxification. A healthy yoga routine can combine both the benefits of exercise and pranayama.
- Chyavanprash. This traditional Ayurvedic jam, based on ancient recipes, contains the health-promoting antioxidant effects of superfruit amalaki (also known as amla). Known particularly for its beneficial support of the immune system, it is a delicious addition to anyone’s regimen during this time of year.
- Vata pacifying foods. Consider starting to eat the foods that naturally feel warm and nourishing in the winter—especially hearty soups and cooked foods with moderate amounts of healthy oils. Think of the foods that are said to “feed the soul”. These will help feed the life energy and bring vigor.
- Greens. Nature’s way of storing the life energy is in the chlorophyll of green plants. If you find yourself lagging behind and need a boost, try adding some fresh cooked greens to your diet as another source of prana. If adding enough greens is difficult, try our high quality combination of greens in Everyday Greens.
- Ashwagandha. This powerful Ayurvedic herb helps both mood and energy by supporting the nervous system and grounding vata. In Stress Ease, ashwagandha is combined with the mind calming and clarifying effects of brahmi and the rejuvenative benefits of kapikacchu, along with other supportive herbs. This blend maximizes the body’s ability to handle stress and provides a natural source of energy.
If you are experiencing even a touch of the blues as the seasons change, give these Ayurvedic tips a try!