Friday, January 20, 2017

Beat Winter Lethargy with Ayurveda

by Dr. Leena Athparia, ND

Have you every wondered why it’s hard to feel energized in the winter? Do you make excuses to avoid the gym or to avoid stepping out?

There are certain reasons why you might be feeling lethargic and slow in the winter. According to Ayurveda, an ancient system of wellness, the forces and principles found in nature also exist in humans.  For example, when it is cold outside, you feel cold more easily.  If you pay attention to your body, you will notice that you feel different during the various seasons. You might notice that health issues resurface more in one season than another, or you might notice that you feel more energetic in the spring than in the summer.

Ayurveda outlines three fundamental energies (doshas) that govern the outer environment and influence one’s physical and mental constitution: vata, pitta and kapha. In the winter season, kapha is dominant, characterized with these qualities: cool, slow, heavy, stable and soft. These qualities exist in nature but also within you, influencing your body and mind. You are more likely to feel the qualities of accumulating kapha during the winter which may manifest in different ways such as: difficulty getting up in the morning, low energy, low mood and other concerns.

 Signs of Kapha Excess :

  • Lethargy: Do you have difficulty getting out of bed?
  • Dullness: Do you feel like watching TV all evening?
  • Lack of motivation: Do you make excuses to put off exercise?
  • Cold: Do you need to wear lots of layers?
  • Cravings: Do you crave sweet, salty, oily, creamy or heavy food, or bend towards emotional eating?
  • Weight gain: Do you put on weight more easily in winter?
  • Low mood: Do you feel more down, depressed or sad in winter?
  • Respiratory or sinus issues: Do you have a tendency towards coughs, colds, sinus infections?
If kapha isn’t addressed, it can accumulate and lead to more serious health concerns. Think of it as a leaking faucet – one drop can go unnoticed, but once the bucket is full, it overflows and spreads. This same analogy happens in the body as well. When the first signs of imbalance are noticed, you need to act on it before it turns into a more serious health issue.

 Tips for Balancing Kapha :

Winter is the time when you need to play a close check on kapha. The good news is that if you take care of balancing kapha, you can prevent winter lethargy and minimize health concerns such as weight gain, low mood and lack of motivation. To restore balance, kapha management is centered around the qualities of warming, drying and lightening. Read below for more tips. 

  • Eat a kapha balancing diet: To beat winter lethargy, avoid foods that are heavy, cold, damp and hard to digest (deep fried food, dairy) and include warm foods that are easier to digest (soups, broths, grilled veggies). Flavours that are spicy, bitter and astringent can help you feel lighter and more energized in winter. Some examples of spices that you can include in your cooking are: turmeric, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, black pepper, thyme, cloves and cinnamon. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to learn more about a customized diet for you in winter.
  • Stay active: Schedule exercise daily - ideally early in the morning to move the stagnant quality of kapha. If you find yourself making excuses to put it off, join an exercise or yoga class that you can commit to, or make a plan with a friend to go together. Once you get moving, you will feel more flexible, energized and you will feel good about it. If you can get moving outdoors, you will have the added benefit of sunshine to boost your vitamin D levels. 
  • Wear bright colours: Winter colours tend to be dark and heavy (brown, grey, black). Notice how you feel with the clothing you are wearing. Adding bright colours into your wardrobe can help you feel more energized and motivated. How do you feel in yellow, orange or red? If you're hesitant about making a bold change to your wardrobe, try adding a splash of colour such as a scarf, a tie, socks, a hat, etc. 
  • Get motivated: This is a good time of the year to start a new project or hobby to help you get motivated. Find something that you are excited about. This is also a great time of the year to plan for the upcoming months and book appointments. For example, putting off your appointments with excuses such as "it's too cold" or "I'll wait until spring to detox", may be further adding to your lethargy.  If you plan your appointments now, you will feel more committed and motivated to stepping out.
  • Declutter: You might be putting off your cleaning until spring, but winter is a good time to change things. You may want to change furniture around to create more space in your home. This helps cut through the dullness you may be experiencing, and remove old baggage from the past as you start the new year. 

Wellbeing, according to Ayurveda, is a delicate balance between the body, mind, spirit and the environment. If your constitution is dominant in kapha, try making some changes this winter and you will notice more energy and vitality! A kapha diet and lifestyle should be lively, full of energy and stimulation - this is the time to beat winter lethargy, start exercising, wearing bright colours, adding spices to your food and staying warm.

If you have tried the above tips and are still struggling with health issues such as low mood, weight gain, lack of motivation, it is best that you work with your naturopathic doctor to identify your imbalances and treat them. What you should eat and when you should eat, along with daily routine suggestions and therapies, can all be customized based on your unique constitution. Maintaining balance is essential to feeling healthy and enjoying the winter season!


Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with specialized training in Ayurveda and can help you identify your constitution to guide you on a customized health plan – whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness. Please contact Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905-940-2727 to book an appointment.