The thunderous rainstorms we have witnessed in the last few days have sent a clear message that the monsoon season is in its term finale and winter has begun to show its form in crisp cool weather.
Winter in Goa, however, tends to be cold and dry, which according to Ayurveda affects the Vata dosha, one of the three life energies that make up the constitution of a person’s body; the other two being Pitta and Kapha. There are various methods in Ayurveda that are prescribed the balance these three doshas in the physical body in tune with the cycle of seasons.
This centuries-old system has done well in helping Indians stay healthy throughout the year and can be equally useful in these modern times when allopathy has taken precedence over other forms of traditional systems of medicine.
In all the fanfare and gastronomic indulgence of Diwali in Goa, Hindu families have been practising certain generations-old healthcare rituals such as waking up at the crack of dawn on Diwali day and freshening up. After this, people imbibe the bitter juice of the Saptaparni tree (Alstonia scholaris).
This is followed by preparing a homemade body scrub/massage paste called utane or ubtan, which is made of channa dal, milk, almond powder, sesame oil, rose water and haldi (turmeric). This ubtan is massaged gently all over the body and left on for some time.
Later a mixture of milk with rose water is applied to the body to remove the excess oil and a bath is taken. This process moisturises and invigorates the skin and hair by promoting proper blood circulation in the body, combating the dryness that winter brings.
Dr Heramb Hattikar, who is an Ayurvedacharya (practitioner of Ayurveda) and Shalya Chikitsak (surgeon), tells Gomantak Times that in Ayurveda there are 6 ritus (seasons) categorised and there is a transitional phase between each ritu known as Ritu Sandhi.
During this period changes in the weather and environment can be detrimental to the human body. The inability to become accustomed to these changes causes health issues in the body. Therefore, to prepare for the coming season, as a way preventative measure, a person needs to adopt certain practices, giving up the old ones of the earlier season. Ayurveda suggests certain changes in the diet and lifestyle of an individual to stay fit in the winter.
During Diwali, people apply sesame oil application all over the body, which is known as abhyanga and ubtan (udvartana). This should be done regularly in winter to overcome the Vata dosha.
Winter is considered the best time to have rich food as the digestive capacity of a normal human is excellent. However, food intake must be in moderation. Fatty or oily food items, leafy vegetables, etc, are good in this season. This is why, during Diwali, people eat chewda, til ladoo, etc. “Our diet and lifestyle should synchronise with nature. That is most important,’ Dr Hattikar emphasises.
On Diwali day, we make our bodies warmer by following various practices. We light traditional diyas to generate heat in our surroundings as heat eliminates bacteria which thrive in the winter. Insects, too, increase in the environment and this practice of lighting diyas helps to keep them at bay.
Using the keen observation of one’s own body and understanding how it reacts to the changes in seasons, in tandem with following Ayurvedic principles, will improve immunity, digestion and vitality. To stay in perfect harmony with nature, one should observe the following:
1. As one’s appetite increases, one should eat food which generates warmth in the body. Hence food which is warm and cooked with a good amount of ghee in it; soups and stews that are sweet, sour and salty; hot cereals; and warm beverages should be consumed to pacify the Vata and Kapha doshas.
2. Abhyanga (oil massage), especially on the soles, head and ears, gives strength to various body parts. One can choose sesame oil or oil that suits your body's constitution. Having a bath with warm water later will complete the health routine.
3. The practice of Yoga will calm the body and mind, and keep you warm and fit.
4. Consuming turmeric milk, widely known now as ‘golden milk’, can help you boost your immunity and consequently prevent a cold or about flu.