Victoria Purcell discovers how the ancient Indian holistic medical system of Ayurveda can help you fine tune mind, body and soul this winter and all year round

We all know the benefits of diet and exercise for our health, but it’s easy to let it slide and opt for the sofa and biscuits instead. So a little guidance goes a long way. Ayurveda is the ancient Indian holistic medical system based around five elements: space, air, fire, water and earth. These combine to give rise to three bio-physical forces, which indicate our basic body type – Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth). The dominance of one or two of these makes up your body type, or Dosha, which governs the functions of mind and body.

‘It’s important to find your Dosha and live your life accordingly,’ says Dr Deepa Apté, who opened the Ayurveda Pura Spa on Greenwich Peninsula five years ago. ‘Your basic constitution can be compared to a hard surface – it’s solid and stable, it won’t change. Today’s constitution, your current state, is like a layer of dust on top. To wipe away that layer of dust and address the imbalances, Ayurveda gives us five approaches: food, herbs, massage, yoga and lifestyle.’

Dr Deepa Apté

Dr Deepa Apté

Dr Apté recognises adopting all five approaches isn’t always practical, however: ‘Not everybody wants to change their food, or has the time or patience for a massage. So it’s about looking into a client’s lifestyle to understand what will work best for them.

‘We place a lot of importance on massage, which is tailor made to address your body type. So if you have too much heat, or Pitta, in the body, then you will see those changes and feel calmer, cooler and refreshed. We use hot oil because heat helps to keep the digestive fire strong. The oil also helps to stimulate and strengthen the immune system and the heat opens up the pores to help the toxins come out. But it’s also about relaxation.

‘Ayurveda also gives a lot of importance to being in line with the season – go with it, don’t fight against it. So during the winter, the types of treatments, massages or remedies would be very different compared to spring, summer or autumn.’

Dr Apte’s tips for winter wellbeing

Warm oil massages
In the winter the skin gets cold and dry, so give yourself a five-minute self massage with warm oil. There are oils you can choose based on your body type – Vata oil reduces dryness, Pitta oil reduces the heat in the body and Kapha oil helps increase the heat in the body.

Herbal supplements
Add a teaspoon of Chyawanprash herbal food supplement to your morning tea, porridge or toast, or just eat it on its own. It’s high in Vitamin C, anitoxidants and nutrients and helps to strengthen the digestive fire.

Herbal tea
Have a ginger and lemon tea in the morning. Ginger has fire-like qualities to keep your digestive capacity strong and lemon has cleansing qualities to flush out any toxins in the body.

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