20 Tips for Balance at High Altitude
I was talking with a friend the other day about managing my Vata Dosha in the high altitude of the alpine, dry and windy environs of Golden, Colorado, where we live. I have been working hard, everyday this winter, to keep myself balanced; to keep the elements of Air and Space minimized in my life, as best I can. This was my first winter in Colorado, and I had no idea what to expect. I was taken quite by surprise!
I live at about 8,000 feet in the mountains above Golden, actually. It’s drier than a rice cake up here, and WINDY! It’s windy almost everyday. I’m not talking about breezy either! It’s so windy, we have to strap down the garbage can or else it will blow away. This is not something I heard when people spoke about how wonderful and sunny Colorado was. However, I wouldn’t have traded my winter in Colorado for what I would have encountered in Michigan, where I’m from! I’ll take SUN and warmth over gray skies for six months – any day.
Anyway, I have been very diligent all winter, doing practices prescribed by Ayurveda, to manage the polarizing aspects of these elements – to encourage the strengthening qualities, and to minimize the weakening aspects. I’ve still had a painful and irritable low back, inconsistent digestion, and occasional insomnia, despite my efforts, all season. To me, it is a relief that spring is coming, that’s for sure!
Meanwhile, my friend, who has much Fire in her constitution, actually has been having the opposite experience this winter. She thrives here, in the high altitude dryness and coldness of winter on the Front Range. She says her body never feels better than in this season. In fact, she’s already starting to feel the spring weather effecting her. She has an autoimmune disease, and the heat and humidity of summer really tick her Pitta Dosha off. We were laughing about how different we are, and how, if we were living in the correct environments for our Ayurvedic make-up, we might never have met!
This interesting exchange got me to thinking, about how different we all are, and how much our environments affect us. I started to reflect about how my body felt when I lived in Seattle, in Michigan, or when I visited tropical places like the Baja or Puerto Rico. If I were to be honest with myself, I might admit that I was a lot more comfortable and healthy when I lived in moist climates… I dream about it sometimes.
I am a high Vata woman living in the high altitude of Colorado. I love the landscape, the sunshine, the mountains, the recreation and activities available. But, when I look around me, I see a lot of other Vata people, very active, athletic, busy, nervous and might I just say it… deranged! There are a lot of people with crazy Vata imbalances everywhere. If I were honest, would I say I also love the people here as much as I loved them in the midwest, for example? I don’t know. I do know that I feel this hyper-speed vibration here in places, and I can easily get swept up.
I believe Ayurveda to be an incredible resource for those of us living in, perhaps, un-ideal climates and environments. When we tune in and reflect, take steps to finding mindfulness in everyday activities, we may just realize that we feel off.
The good news is we can make a change, and positively affect everyone around us – as Vata is the movement Dosha, it spreads like ripples out into our immediate spaces. When the expression of the element changes from it’s dysfunction or imbalance, to the higher frequency of it’s strengthening qualities, we have the positive effect. Kapha strengthened exhibits sweetness, devotion, serenity, love; Pitta is transformed to exhibit insight, illumination, intelligence, brightness of the eyes and skin; and with Vata we experience creativity, flexibility, and lightness of being!
So do yourself a favor, you Vata people, and your friends and family too – manage your Vata Derangements! I’m sure you’d feel better too.
Here are some tips for thriving in an high altitude environment that ticks off your Vata Dosha:
- Chew. Your. Food. (and turn off your phone!)
- Take hot baths – with grounding aromas like Lavender, Rosewood and Clove.
- Follow up with a castor oil compress on your low back.
- Wear scarves and long underwear. Stay warm and if you do get chilled:
- Drink hot beverages – Warm milk with cardamom, fennel, cinnamon and honey & clove.
- Go to bed early – don’t watch scary movies before bed. (Not even suspenseful ones!)
- Love on your feet! Get a pedicure every month, have someone rub warm sesame oil into your them.
- Morning Routine – try to make time for quiet, slow waking; avoid rushing out the door.
- Restorative Yoga – or Yin Yoga once a week. Find deep relaxation and soothe your nervous system
- Meditation – in the early morning when Vata Dosha is dominant – try it for 10 minutes.
- Eat lots of whole cooked foods, avoid cold leftovers and ice water.
- Sip water with lemon all day – dry bodies need extra hydration.
- Do abhyanga once a week – favor warming oils like sesame and olive.
- Sleep late and cuddle your sweetie once a week. Or your doggie.
- Drink your coffee after a big meal instead of on an empty stomach. (or try to quit for a bit)
- Avoid stressful situations, people, habits.
- Seek out sweetness in people, activities, foods, and cultivated thoughts.
- Get into nature and take a slow walk, drinking in it’s medicine.
- Ask for help with something.
- Mindfulness exercise: Feel sweet gratefulness seeping up through the Earth into your feet.