Winter officially arrives on December 21st, the day of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. In the winter, the axis of the earth keeps the northern hemisphere pointed further away from the sun, causing the sun to be viewed lower on the horizon. The last day of winter is the spring equinox (March 19th, 2014).
But is December 21st REALLY the start date of winter? That depends upon where you live. In Celtic countries, winter is said to be the time of year when the days are shortest. The season begins right after Halloween or All Hallows Eve. The first day of winter is November 1st while the last day is called Candalmas and is February 1st. In these countries, the solstice is a mid-winter celebration that honors the return of the light after the shortest day of the year.
In India, the seasons are quite a bit different and are calculated based on Vedic Astrology. India has six traditional seasons or "ritus." Based on the Drika Siddhantu system of understanding the seasons, each season lasts about two months. In order, the seasons are: Spring, Summer, Monsoon, Autumn, Pre-Winter and Winter. Both pre-winter and winter are cold. Pre-winter begins about October 21st and ends December 21st while winter begins December 22nd and ends February 18th. So, when translated into Western thought, one could think of winter, as defined by the Vedic system, as beginning on October 21st and ending February 18th. This once again leads to the conclusion that the Winter Solstice is mid-winter.
No matter what, December is cold and is the month in which vata dosha is often the most aggravated. At this time, moisture is bound up in the form of snow and ice in the mountains. As a result, the air is drier causing the skin to become chapped and rough. In addition, a large amount of life lies dormant. Trees have lost their leaves and most animals slow down or hibernate. This continues through January. The vata season begins to yield when the buds form on trees, the air begins to warm and the snows begin to melt. What you should do during this time depends upon your constitution and the nature of your imbalance. To keep it simple, follow these guidelines:
Vata Constitution or Imbalance: Take in the opposite qualities of the season. Since vata is cool, dry and light, take in more warm, moist and nourishing foods like hot root vegetable soups and warm grains with ghee and warm spices.
Pitta Constitution or Imbalance: Pitta dosha is pretty happy this time of year and enjoys the cool temperature. This naturally reduces any imbalances that are present. Just keep an eye on your vata dosha and don’t take in too much hot spice.
Kapha Constitution or Imbalance: You might be pretty happy this time of year too, as your naturally moist and heavy nature is reduced. However, the colder temperatures that lock in moisture may become a problem for you in the spring. As a result, reduce your intake of oils and increase your use of hot spices.
Happy Holidays, Om Shanti, Dr. Marc Halpern
Want to Learn More? This Holiday Season, pick up a copy or two of Dr. Halpern's Book, Healing Your Life: Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda. Great stocking stuffers for your loved ones, and sneak one into your own stocking to start the New Year off right!
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