This Winter Keep Your Vata Happy

This winter, British Columbia is feeling more like the rest of Canada. It is colder and dryer than usual, hence it is important to keep yourself warm in order to fully enjoy it. Winter is actually the season when the digestive fire is strongest. The body requires more fuel to stay warm and healthy in the winter months, and the cold weather forces the fire element deep into the core of the body—stimulating the digestion. Our bodies therefore crave a more substantial, nutritious diet at this time of year, and you will likely find yourself needing larger quantities of food.

In general, you’ll want to focus on eating warm, cooked, unctuous, slightly oily, and well-spiced foods. Drink room temperature, warm, or hot beverages and avoid smoothies, or chilled drinks. You can increase heat and circulation while promoting clean and clear respiratory passages (in case of flu or nasal congestion), by drinking a tea boiled for five minutes with ½ teaspoon each of ginger root, cinnamon, and clove. Also, teas made with combinations of coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds help strengthen the digestion and can be taken after meals. Hearty, warming vegetables like radishes, cooked spinach, onions, carrots, and other root vegetables are encouraged this time of year, as are hot spices such as garlic, ginger, and black pepper. Cooked grains like oatmeal, barley, brown rice, or kitcheri make a perfect winter breakfast, and lunches and dinners of steamed vegetables, whole wheat breads, and mushy soups and stews are ideal. Legumes should be well cooked, well spiced, and garnished with a dollop of ghee so as not to aggravate vata. If you eat them, winter is also a great time to enjoy eggs (especially poached or hard-boiled) and meats like chicken, turkey, rabbit, and venison. And while dairy is best reduced in the winter months, a cup of warm/hot, spiced milk with a pinch of turmeric, ginger and nutmeg before bed can help to encourage sound sleep.

Here’s my favorite oatmeal recipe to start the day making Vata dosha happy.

  • Use organic steel cut oats for a nuttier taste; salt, ghee (optional), fruits, nuts and spices.
  • For 2 persons use 2/3 cup of oats for 2 cups of water
  • Boil the water, then add a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of ghee, and the oats. Add dried fruits: mangoes, raisins, apricots or figs to the mix and slow cook for 25 minutes.
  • Do some yoga or meditate while it cooks.
  • *If you use fresh fruits (berries or other precooked fruits) add them after.
  • Just before serving add some almonds, coconut, sunflower seeds (or your favorite nuts), as well as cinnamon and cardamom to taste, and 1/8 of a teaspoon of turmeric powder.

Bon appétit and have a beautiful day!

This article is an excerpt from Nathalie Keiller’s chapter on “Food as therapy, and improving your digestive fire (agni)” in her Ayurvedic Training: From Theory to Daily Practice.


Nathalie has been a meditator for more than 20 years and has taught Deep Meditation since 2005. Her meditation practice started in 1991. From then her inspiration in sharing the experience of inner peace led her to deepen her studies. She was transmitted the knowledge to teach this meditation technique between 2001 and 2005. Believing that continuous learning requires a commitment to teaching, she is enjoying the path under the guidance of her principal teacher, Denis Cléroux, senior instructor since 1973, formally trained by a great master. Her passion for learning and sharing the depths of meditation is the core engine of her life and vocation.

Nathalie has also been a Hatha Yoga practitioner since 1997. She has been teaching it since 1999, right after she completed her first Teacher Training Course at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashram. She later completed many Teacher Training Courses (achieveing R.Y.T 500hr Yoga Alliance Certification): in the Ashtanga tradition with David Swenson in 2001, in Viniyoga with TKV Desikachar in 2003, as well as in Anusara from 2006 to 2010. More recently, in 2011, she began studying Yin Yoga and added this approach to her offerings. Yoga asanas bring to the body what meditation practice brings to the mind.

Nathalie’s next course at Semperviva can be found here 
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