Elemental Nourishment: Winter Self-Care

Winter asks us for nourishment, rest and clarity. It is a time for reflection, for going inward, for planting seeds.

As we journey within this dark season, we begin to slow our pace, and (hopefully) honor the nourishment and rest we have needed all year.

In winter the sky is cloudy and the weather is damp and heavy; life seems to slow down altogether. In Ayurveda, Winter is considered to be elementally cold and dry, and generally a season of Kapha. In order to create balance within ourselves throughout this season we need warmth and nourishment. This means we need to infuse warmth and nourishment into all aspects of our lives, tending to our wholeness -- our body mind and spirit.

For me, slowing down means taking more time to listen deeply to my body. To reconnect with my natural rhythms and to take more time to practice self love and self care. It means staying home and knowing when to say no. It means journaling more; planting seeds to gestate in the dark soil until the return of the sun. It means nights in front of the wood stove, a good book (or several!) and a cup of my favorite herbal tea. It means broth, soup, stew and all the warming nourishing foods I can eat. It means candlelit baths and aromatic resins. It means all things cozy and rejuvenate.

 

Nourishing Inspiration for the Winter Season:

 

1. Body Oiling (Abhyanga) with warm Sesame Oil:

Sesame oil is warming extremely nourishing to the nervous system and penetrates deeply into the tissues.Apply oil always following the path of the lymph towards the heart, rubbing the oil deeply into the skin.

Remember, a little goes a long way here!

By covering our body in oil in the morning, we are calming and grounding our nervous systems, bringing deep nourishment to the tissues of the skin. Taking a hot shower afterwards to seal in the warmth.

 

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2. Soak It Up:

A hot aromatherapy bath before bed can relax your mind and your muscles. Add 1 cup of Epsom salts and 5­ drops of pure lavender essential oil to your tub of hot water. SOAK away your day’s troubles. Lavender promotes relaxation and sleep and brings an overall sense of wellbeing. This can be done nightly just prior to going to bed to help wind down and warm the body before a good night's rest.

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3. Warming Herbal Teas and Decoctions:

warming and tonifying herbs are such potent allies for this season! Warming herbs and spices, also known as carminitives, help stimulate good circulation as well as bring warmth to the core, helping us to stay warm; not to mention they help facilitate healthy digestion and elimination too! Tonic herbs bring about deep nourishment, supporting our adrenals, nervous systems, our body’s vital reserves. They also support our liver and healthy detoxification.

 

Some of my favorites are:

Ginger

Cinnamon

Clove

Cardamom

Licorice

Burdock

Dandelion root

Chaga

Reishi

Astragalus

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For leaves and flowers I usually make a hot infusion by pouring boiling water over ¼ cup dried herbs, covering (to keep in all of those good aromatic & volatile oils from escaping!) and steeping for at least 20-30 minutes before drinking.

 

For roots and barks, seeds and berries I make a Decoction, which is a slowly simmered tea which extracts the medicinal properties from the plant material.

 

Decoction Recipe

 

1. Take 1 cup dried roots, seeds or berries and cover with one quart of cold, filtered water.

   (herbs that are ground or crushed will have more surface area and will extract more easily)

2. Slowly heat the water to a simmer and cover.

3. Allow to gently simmer for 20-45 minutes (or longer even up to 12 hours if you can!)

4. Strain the liquid into a jar and enjoy! Store any extra in the fridge for up to a week!

 

NOURISHING, IMMUNE BOOSTING CHAGA CHAI

My favorite way to make this delicious chai is to keep a weekly batch going on the top of my woodstove! It saves energy, keeps at a perfect simmer decocting my herbs low and slow for a long time making sure to get the most out of them and not to mention it’s such a lovely ritual to tend to the fire and my chai at the same time! If you do not have a wood stove, a crock pot or the stovetop will work too!

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Ingredients:

½ cup dried Chaga, or 15 grams (or just a big ol’ chunk!)

2 cinnamon sticks

1 inch of fresh ginger root sliced

⅓ cup burdock root sliced (fresh if possible but dried works too! Maybe 3 tbs dry)

3 tbs dandelion root (dried)

2-3 star anise pods

½ tbs licorice root

5-6 cardamom pods, crushed

3 slices of Astragalus root (dried)

Cover with 3 quarts of water and simmer on low for 12 hourss. enjoy often and refill water and re-simmer for 3-5 days

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I hope you will honor the slow tempo of the winter season, and find time to nourish yourself in the midst of this busy holiday season. Elemental nourishment allows us to find balance season by season, tending to our bodies minds and spirits accordingly. It reminds us that healing is elemental and balance can be achieved by deeply listening to where our bodies are at. May we honor the darkness of these days leading up to Solstice, and take time to deeply nourish ourselves.

With that I will leave you with a poem from one of my favorite poets

The Winter of Listening
by David Whyte

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.
All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.
What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.
What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,
what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.
What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.
Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.
Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.
All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.
All those years
forgetting
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.
All those years
forgetting
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.
And the slow
difficulty
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
otherness.
Silence and winter
has led me to that
otherness.
So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.