Opening the day with nourishing activities and warmth through heated foods and liquids counteracts the naturally cold, dry and airy qualities of the vata dosha. And this warm feeling will linger if you consume steamy beverages and comforting meals throughout the day. Hot water with lemon and herbal tea blended with spices like cinnamon, ginger, rosemary or chicory gently stimulate internal heat. Avoid caffeine, though--the deceptive pick-me-up over stimulates the adrenal glands and nervous system, keeping us trapped in the body's stress response, depleting our reserves and ultimately wearing us down. (As an alternative, savory herbal coffee provides richness without the depleting caffeine buzz.)
In addition, choose foods that are warm and of the earth. These characteristics are inherent qualities of seasonally available produce--nature's antidote to winter's pitfalls. Winter delights include root vegetables (which provide a grounding effect) and squashes (great for soothing the empty and airy qualities of vata). And a hot bowl of soup is a surefire way to lubricate and comfort dry and cold vata.
Eating mindfully, slowing down and enjoying your food all work to balance and ground vata through counteracting the dosha's frenetic nature. Ways to do this: Pause, look at your meal, and savor the aroma of the food; turn off the television if you're alone; and with company, take pleasure in the companionship. Ultimately, just enjoy the moment.
Massage provides another opportunity to counter a vata imbalance. While Raichur raves about the positive effects of professional massage, she also advises self-treatment at home as a regular maintenance program. "Vata resides under the skin, and massage is a powerful means to ground, nourish and nurture yourself."
Even five minutes of daily self-massage can make the difference between exhaustion and revitalization. In addition to the oil feeding and lubricating dry skin, the strokes stimulate the immune system by getting the lymph moving. Massage also energetically strengthens the boundary between you and the outside world, which helps prevent burnout. Reinforcing this boundary and developing the relationship you have with yourself are the key benefits of self-massage.
It doesn't take a lot of time, and self-massage is easy: Pour a small amount of high-quality organic vegetable oil into your palm, rub your hands together to warm the oil, then begin by massaging your scalp and earlobes. Then, using gentle strokes, pinch the muscular area between the sides of the neck and outer shoulders (a pressure point to relieve tension). Moving down the rest of your body, use long, slow strokes on your arms and legs and incorporate circular movements around the joints. Massage can be both energizing and relaxing; the dual effects arise from its ability to calm the erratic vata dosha and reduce stress.
Having a set routine, eating seasonal food, and engaging in regular self-massage may be the best gifts you can give yourself when demands are high. Instead of stress, you'll experience vitality that will not only comfort you this season but also support you all year long.