Back in the fall, I posted that Autumn is Vata Season, which is true, but so is winter! Cold, dry and windy conditions characterize Vata, hence both seasons being Vata (cold and wet Spring is Kapha, while hot and humid Summer is Pitta).
I am a Vata (but hardly underweight despite this dosha's qualities), and personally I've been spending the last month trying to lose weight, by eating foods with Vata qualities and exercising more, but both these tactics are simply increasing my Vata. My skin is dry, my digestion is terribly unhappy, I'm staying up late, and wearing drab colours, and have been catching colds. So I am realizing that despite my weight-loss efforts, I am going to switch my focus to Vata-pacifying practices to help these issues. It's quite possible that as my digestion remedies itself, maybe the weight-loss will come more easily anyway!
No more coffee, toast and salads, and time to switch to soups, stews, hot tea and stewed fruit! Foods that nourish and balance the body in the cold, dry, winter season are the sweet, sour and salty tastes. It's best to eat less of the astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes in winter, although all six tastes should be present in meals. Warm, home-cooked, soothing foods cooked with easy-to-digest oils such as Ghee or olive oil are ideal, avoiding deep-fried and leftover food, and cold or ice-cold foods which douse the digestive fire.
According to Ayurveda, immunity is connected with the digestion. When digestion is strong and appetite is good, then immunity is strengthened, and whatever weakens digestion, weakens immunity. Immunity-boosting foods include fresh, organic, easy to digest, pure and wholesome ingredients including fresh, organic milk and yogurt, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and ghee (clarified butter). Digestion-enhancing spices (such as ginger, cinnamon, cumin and coriander) should be added too foods while cooking.
Warm baths with oils, moisturizing skin from head to toe, engaging in calming meditation while gazing at the warm light of a candle, and a gentle yoga routine, all soothe the mind and body. Avoid stress, walk away from arguments, don't worry about the small problems which are ultimately insignificant. Draw on the love of Kapha with all things moist, and the fire of Pitta with all things hot and spicy, and the Vata in all of us will feel balanced and supported.
For an excellent article on boosting your immune system during winter, visit this Maharishi Ayurveda page.