The Essential Bath
A warm bath makes a comforting end to a winter day, especially if you rub your body with warm sesame oil first. It is warming and good for all constitutions in cold weather.
Essential oils make a nice addition to a bath any time. Add 3 to 6 drops of undiluted essential oil to the water just as you are climbing into the tub. Jasmine and rose are good choices for vata and pitta; sage is good for kapha. Eucalyptus is great for winter coughs and colds (and for aches and pains); peppermint, for nasal congestion and fatigue.
If you don’t have the time to immerse yourself completely, treat your feet to a soothing soak. Use a dishpan or other container large enough to hold both feet at once. Fill it with enough hot water to cover your ankles, and add a few drops of essential oil.
If your feet tend to get cold in the winter, treat yourself to a traditional mustard bath instead. Add a heaping tablespoon of mustard powder and soak your feet until they are bright red. It will stimulate circulation in your feet and help clear a congested head. A handful of ginger powder, some freshly grated ginger, or even a few drops of ginger essential oil will have the same effect.
If cold, windy weather is sucking the moisture out of your skin and you find yourself feeling desiccated, try this simple moisturizing mask.
Take half a cup of plain yogurt and mix in a quarter cup each of fine oatmeal and crushed dried chamomile flowers. Apply thickly on the face, neck, arms, and hands and relax for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse off the mask with warm water and pat your face dry. Follow with a generous application of pure aloe vera gel. This mask moisturizes and smoothes away lines of fatigue, leaving your skin fresh and soft.
First get rid of any “oldie moldies” lurking in the refrigerator. Then stock it with squash, yams, shallots, garlic, tofu, immunity-enhancing shiitake mushrooms, and some culinary herbs (e.g., parsley, lemon thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, tarragon) and cook up a warming stew. Or make a simple lemon-scented acorn squash by rubbing squash halves with some olive oil and lemon-scented thyme. Place it on a baking sheet in a 375˚ oven for 30 minutes. This quick, grounding dish will make a welcome addition to a winter’s meal or an earthy snack to boost your energy on a cold winter day.
With a mug of peppermint or chamomile tea. Both are warming and fine for all constitutions. But when a throbbing head cold has you in its grip—nostrils blocked, the throat clogged with mucus, breathing difficult—what you want is anise seed tea.
Crush a tablespoon of anise seeds with the end of a wooden spoon, pour on one and a half cups of boiling water, and allow it to stand for at least five minutes before drinking.
The yogis have always known what research is now proving: negative thoughts contribute to ill health, whereas an optimistic outlook boosts the immune system. It is much easier (and a lot more fun) to be flexible, compassionate, kind, generous, and forgiving. Yet we all have our gray days, especially in winter. So when your spirits are sinking, dab a handkerchief with a few drops of lavender, lemon balm, or bergamot essential oil and take a surreptitious sniff when you need a boost.