The primary goal of Ayurveda is to bring us into balance, both with internal forces (like natural tendencies, habits and constitution) as well as with environmental qualities. As the seasons change, ayurveda recommends adjusting daily routines, foods, even your yoga and meditation practice, so that you can remain balanced in different circumstances.
A steady routine is the most important practice to balancing vata, the quality of movement which, when provoked, causes symptoms of anxiety, sleep disturbance, tension and stress, digestive distress and other disruptions to our bodies' regular healthy function.
Routine means waking up and going to bed about the same time each day, eating meals about the same time, and going about your work and activities in the same sort of pattern. It may sound boring, predictable, or even impossible, but our bodies work so much better when there is a dependable, reliable pattern.
Because winter tends to be a time for moving slower, shorter days and less outdoor activity, it can be a good time of year to develop a sustainable routine. And mornings (before your day gets derailed) are often the best place to start incorporating a routine.
Winter is a time of quiet, dark, wet, cold and sometimes wind, and ayurvedic recommendations for morning routines favor activities which are light, soft and warm, to help balance the seasonal changes.
As you are putting a new routine in place, start small. Don't try to do all 9 of these things right away every morning just because it's "Best." Incorporate one or two that appeal to you, and when those become a habit that is working for you, add one or two more. Sustainable change happens at a slow, steady pace.
Steps to A Daily Winter Routine
1. Wake up with the sun.
It is generally recommended to wake up a little later in winter, since the sun rises later. For pitta and vata constitutions, waking between 6:00 and 7:00 am is recommended. For kapha, wake up at least an hour two before sunrise, 5:00-6:00 am, to get the body moving well before the heavy kapha energy that predominates from sunrise to mid-morning makes it difficult to get going.
2. Set an intention.
Before getting out of bed, take a moment to set the course of your day with a positive intention, prayer, mantra or a visualization. You may already have a practice you can incorporate. If not, try just taking a moment of gratitude for something that is working in your life or brings you joy.
4. Drink some warm water.
A few sips of warm water, perhaps with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, is the best way to wake up your internal system and "kindle" your digestive fires. Try sipping some warm water before racing to the coffee or tea, to see if it gives you the clarity you crave without the caffeine.
Regular digestion is crucial to health, and ayurvedic texts recommend going to the toilet for a bowel movement at the same time each morning to establish or maintain regular elimination.
6. Get Clean.
Shower, or at least splash some clean water on your face, brush your teeth and floss, and brush your hair so you are ready for the day ahead.
7. Movement (Yoga Poses or other Exercise)
A gentle yoga practice or a morning walk is recommended. There's no need to sweat a great deal. Just get the major muscles and joints moving early in the morning so your body is recharged.
8. Pranayama, Meditation, and/or Prayer
Spend some time in quiet reflection, with a grounding, quieting practice of yoga breathing, meditation, prayer or something like journaling will give your day an intentional direction.
Eat a nourishing, balanced meal to give you energy for your day. Plan your morning routine so that you have enough time to eat without hurry and you can enjoy your meal without distraction.
In the winter, breakfast should be warm, and perhaps a little heavier than in the warm months. Oatmeal or other cooked grains are a good start, especially if you add warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and clove. Try to avoid sugary cereals or baked items.
Take a moment before eating to give thanks, to appreciate your meal and the opportunities the day before you brings. Directing your mind toward gratitude lifts the spirits and the rest of your day will be framed with this positive thinking.