Is it just me, or is everyone getting colds and the flu right now?
I remember expecting to get sick year after year because that was the reality I was living in. Every winter, I would get awful colds and coughs that would last weeks. I spent a fortune on every conceivable remedy and would sometimes resort to antibiotics but nothing seemed to help. But as I learned about and incorporated the immune-boosting practices of Ayurveda into my health regimen, I rarely get sick, even in the winter. When I do catch a cold, the illness is much less severe and lasts just days instead of weeks.
Ayurveda, “the science of life,” is a holistic system of medicine that originated in India about 5,000 years ago. This system offers many natural remedies and lifestyle practices to build strength and immunity. One of the key differences between Ayurveda and modern Western medicine is that it focuses on how to nurture and enhance vibrant health instead of simply addressing the symptoms after you get sick. I share many of these Ayurvedic practices with my clients, and below I share some favorites that have helped me and my clients stay healthier and stronger throughout the year, especially during the fall and winter months.
Use nasya oil (it's oil for your nostrils)
The nose is the gateway to the brain and consciousness and allows prana, or “life force energy,” to enter the body through our breath. When excess fluids in the nasal passageway, sinuses, head or throat block this delivery, it can result in mental or physical illness. Nasya oil is a great remedy to help clear up congestion in the nasal passages resulting from sinus infections, colds and allergies. With daily use, it can also help to prevent these conditions, as well as alleviate tension in the mind, reducing stress.
Eat chyawanprash, an herbal jam
Chyawanprash is an herbal jam that was formulated 5,000 years ago in India by the Rishi, Chyawan, who wanted to create the perfect food for human beings. It has over 35 different herbs, spices, and botanicals that help boost immunity, restore balance, and strengthen the body. In India, people of all ages take it in lieu of a multi-vitamin. One of the all-star ingredients in this formula is amla berries, the antioxidant-rich fruit which has one of the highest concentrations of Vitamin C of any food. I love the taste and quality of Lotus Blooming Herb's Chyawanprash and take it every morning with my tea.
Avoid “amagenic” foods
"Ama" in Ayurveda means toxic buildup. Poor dietary and lifestyle habits, stress, environmental toxins, and weak digestion can all lead to ama in the body, which blocks the flow of energy and natural purification processes of the body. This creates an environment that is ripe for the growth of bad bacteria and viruses and can lead to weight gain and illness. To keep your immune system healthy and ward off illness, it's best to reduce or avoid amagenic foods such as refined sugar, processed foods, fried foods, animal protein, and dairy.
Rest and meditate, especially if you don't want to
The number one thing your body needs when you’re ill is rest. However, getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night will support your system in detoxifying and rejuvenating all year long. In addition, studies have proven that regular daily meditation can improve immune function. Meditation creates a more positive state of mind and relaxed state of being that have been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory genes, increase antibodies, reduce anxiety and improve cognitive function.
Simply sip hot water
Drinking warm water throughout the day is a simple, yet powerful Ayurvedic practice that helps to improve digestion, boost metabolism, and support the detoxification of ama in the body. Here is how to do it.
Honey and ginger
If you’re already feeling congested, mix up this herbal paste that will help to break up congestion: one-third teaspoon ground ginger and one tablespoon raw honey or manuka honey. Take two to three times per day. For a cough, substitute the ginger for one-quarter teaspoon ground cloves.
Sun salutations (surya namaskar)
Also knows as Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar is a set of 12 asanas that help to warm up and stimulate the mind, body and spirit. Doing this yoga practice on a daily basis will help to improve circulation and flexibility, enhance detoxification and boost overall immune health.
Ayurveda always incorporates practices to strengthen the mind, body and spirit because it understands that we are more than just our physical body. Try some of these practices if you're feeling under the weather, and stick with them for a week or so. You'll feel relief in no time.