I was recently putting together a list of Ayurvedic/Natural medicine Inspired winter season tips for my students at the Ayurvedic Institute. Inevitably this time of year I see students and faculty loose the battle against the cold and flu invaders.
Immunity from an Ayurvedic perspective is all about Ojas Tejas and Prana. These are the essence of health, intelligence and communication in the body. The terms are not so common, not yet even in the word of Yoga, a dear sister science of Ayurveda.
Prana of the three is the most likely to have been heard. It is the vital life force! Similar to Chi or Mana. It is the force or energy that maintains cellular respiration and communication. Potentially it is the bridge between the individual and the cosmos. It is the most subtle essence of Vata Dosha.
Tejas is the subtle essence of Pitta dosha and governs cellular metabolism and intelligence. On the most subtle level Tejas can be seen as the different colors of a persons aura. It can also be seen in the luster of the eyes.
Ojas maintains cellular immunity, it is the medium or filed through which the current of prana travels. It is the essence of Kapha Dosha. It is said to be seated in the heart.
So long as these three energies remain balanced that is to say their relationship is harmonious and none are deranged. If they area able to maintain this delicate balance, any aggravated dosha will not affect the tissues. Therefor keeping viruses and bacteria at bay. Their balance maintains immunity! You may experience symptoms due to the aggravated dosha but disease will not set in as long as this homeostasis is maintained.
Like the Dosha Ojes, Tejas and Prana can be depleted, elevated or displaced (meaning they are attempting to operate out side normal boundaries.) Symptoms and concerns will depend on highly on which of these is taking place.
For the simplicity and usefulness of this article I will share a few general tips to maintain healthy ojas tejas and prana.
Maintaining Healthy Prana
Allow fears and other emotions to be expressed in a healthy fashion. Creating a space for expansion rather than contraction.When fears and emotions arise take a deep breath and feel them expand out from your center as you exhale. Keep breathing like this until you feel less constriction or pressure, often we feel these sensations in our chest, gut or low abdomen. This helps to reduce the amount steroid hormone released into the system and helps the body return to a normal state of rest verses in that flight or flight frame of mind. If this cortisone release doenst get cut off the continouse release will cause an inflammatory response among other issues and there by reducing your immunity. Full deep diaphragmatic breathing will help open airways, infuse the cells with oxygen and eliminate toxins!
Additionally avoid smoking as this tends to dry out the mucos membrane and can create an atmosphere where cellular communication is poor. Be mindful not to overexert one self and steer clear of cold drinks or foods.
Enjoy a date a day, soaked in cinnamon and cardamon ghee, yummy!
Add pipali (pepper longum) to your spice arsenal.
Enjoy fresh seasonal and doshic appropriate fruits and vegetables. A steady rhythmic practice of Surya Namaskar will help prana to move and flush the system. Not to mention it increases the heart rate, tones and limbers all the muscles, tendons and joints throughout the body.
Maintaing Healthy Tejas
The health of Tejas can be seen vis the color, completion and luster of the skin hair and eyes. Because Tejas is the subtle essence of Pitta dosha and therefor also of Agni, Tejas can be treated by the subtle therapies of contemplation, mediation and mantra as well any oblation to fire. The traditional practice of Trataka (candle gazing) is an effective means of strengthening tejas system wide via the eyes. It also is an effective introduction to meditation. Tejas can also be addressed by simply kindling digestive fire and burning toxins. Fresh ginger tea, adding cinnamon, cardamon and garlic to foods and churnas such as Trikatu and Hingvastak will all help to increase digestive power and burn toxins.
Don’t overload. This applies to foods, stimulation and information. For proper digestion, absorption and assimilation of foods, thoughts, emotions and information we must allow some space, filling the pot to the brim so to speak will result in uncooked undigested substance.
Be mindful not to go back and forth between cold and hot temperatures. Keep the areas of the body where heat is lost well covered and cozy. Warm socks, and head covered usually does the trick.
Maintaining Healthy Ojas
Unhappy Ojas can be seen as fatigue, stiffness, repeated colds or infections, dehydration, congestion, high cholesterol and growths among others. On the contrary a beign with healthy strong ojas will not get sick often and is of a kind and loving nature.
Foods such as mango, pomegranate, ghee, dates, almonds, cashews and honey are all great for healthy ojas. They are sweet, building and nourishing to the tissue.
Gentle belly down back bends to open the heart and offer a little compression to all abdominal organs will support healthy Ojas. Postures such as bow (dhanurasana) and locust (salabasana) are nice options that can be modified for all levels.
Walking in the first morning sun and breathing fresh air will support healthy mind and heart both prime locations of Ojas. In the colder months we tend to stay inside more, sadly this reduces our exposure to the sun aka Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a key player in the immune system and its loss makes us susceptible to invaders.
Don’t over do it, listen to your body and don’t drag it around behind you! Rest read and relax this season to help promote healthy ojas. The colder months really ask us to hibernate and use the time “inside” to reflect on one self and life in general. This is a great time to ask your self questions such as What has life taught me this year.
Here are a few other personal practices to help boost and maintain immunity during the colder months which tend to increase cold and flu contamination.
One clove of fresh minced garlic take with One table spoon Manuka Honey. Manuka honey, produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush, is one of the most unique and beneficial forms of honey in the world. The nutritional content is up to 4 times that of normal flower honeys. Manuka honey has a considerably higher level of enzymes than regular honey. These enzymes create a natural hydrogen peroxide that works as an antibacterial agent.
Speaking of Peroxide… yup that right 2-3 drops in each ear for 5-10 minutes will help prevent a cold or flu. You will have to do one at a time and be sure to wam the liquid slightly.
Baking Soda Ginger Bath, 1/3 cup each added to bath water will help to draw out toxins, fever and sooth achy muscles.
Get Well Tea is a traditional blend of Ayurvedic herbs that supports a healthy balance between Ojas, Tejas and Prana creating a strong immune system. Click this link to visit the Ayurvedic Institute store where this and other wonderful products can be purchased.
Elderberry, used for its antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, to improve vision, to boost the immune system, to improve heart health and for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. Bioflavonoids and other proteins in the juice destroy the ability of cold and flu viruses to infect a cell. I love this Elderberry Syrup !
Osha Root is often called Bear Medicine, because Native Americans – taking their cue from bears – traditionally used to chew this Bear root to increase energy.
It is one of the best treatments for viral infections, either tinctured or chewed; it brings about thorough sweating and elimination of toxins, especially if used at the first sign of infection. For sore throats and bronchial infections the root in any form will sooth and anesthetize almost immediately, with expectoration. It opens up the sinuses, resolves phlegm and relieves coughing and wheezing. Osha contains silica which helps to explain its restorative action on lung tissue. My favorite form is candied Osha root.
Regular practice of Neti the technique of pouring warm water and sea salt through the nasal cavity, this cleanses the nasal passage where virus and bacteria tend to take hold. For a beautiful how to video click here During the cold and flu season I like to Neti at night to clean out the passage and Nasya in the morning. Nasya is the application of medicated oil into the nasal passage. This helps to create a barrier from any potential invaders.
I hope you have found this article useful. If you have any questions about the products or practices mentioned please contact me. I would love to talk health with you!