It’s this time of the year again. Everyone is sneezing, has a sore throat, is coughing, and has joint pain.
Besides not going outside, wearing a mask, and washing your hands every 10 minutes, there are other ways how you can protect your body from getting sick. Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system from India, has a lot of great suggestions that can strengthen your immune system.
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What is Immunity in Ayurveda?
In Ayurvedic terms, we have a good immune system if we have good digestion, a strong Agni (digestive fire), a healthy liver, and an endocrine system (according to Dr. Vasant Lad). When we have good immunity, we have good Ojas which are basically healthy tissues.
Ojas are the end product of digestion and give the body strength, vitality, and immunity. That is why immunity is also linked so closely to our digestion and liver function. If they don’t work properly, your Ojas can get depleted or are not of high quality.
How can I improve my Immunity?
Now that we know what impacts the immune system, we can introduce lifestyle practices, diet and yoga poses to promote good immunity and high-quality ojas.
Lifestyle practices for Immunity
Ayurveda offers a lot of routines that can help you to strengthen your immune system.
- Sleep 7-9 hours every night: sleeping enough is probably the most important thing you can do. I recommend you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even on weekends). If you have trouble falling asleep at night, make sure to follow the 321 rule. Last meal should be 3 hours before bed, last work 2 hours before bed, turn off screens 1 hour before bed.
- Reduce stress: I know, we cannot avoid stress but we can learn to manage it. Find ways to reduce your stress level with meditation, breathing exercises, going for a walk, talking about it, spending time with loved ones, watching a fun movie, etc. whatever helps you.
- Stick to a seasonal routine: You don’t need a long morning routine but I recommend that you define 3 to 5 things that you want to do every morning and night. You can adapt this routine to the season. For me, the most important things are to scrape my tongue, drink a huge glass of water and go for a walk.
- Move daily: No, you don’t have to hit the gym daily. However, I recommend that you move daily. That can be walking, cleaning, yard work, housework, yoga, strength training, and running. All of it counts. A good measurement of movement is your step count. Try to get to 7,000 steps per day. I also list some yoga poses for you below.
- Create a mindfulness practice: This will actually help you with points #1 and #2. Again, you can do whatever works for you here. You can start a meditation practice or do pranayama every day. Other ideas are painting, chanting mantras, yoga, Kundalini yoga, singing, dancing, and Qigong,… The possibilities are endless.
- Clean your senses: This can be important when the flu or a pandemic is going around. Here is what you can do: use a tongue scraper to clean your taste buds, use a Neti Pot to clean your sinuses, and use oil in your ears and nose to moisturize them. And of course: wash your face, your eyes, and your hands.
Diet & Herbs for Immunity
Here are my tips to improve your immunity with diet and herbs:
- Eat seasonal and regional food: It is even better if it is organic. Seasonal food includes bacteria that help us to strengthen the immune system.
- Eat warm and cooked food: This is easier to digest and nutrients can get absorbed easier.
- Think about a seasonal cleanse: I do a Kitchari fast twice a year to give my digestive system a break.
- Include healthy fats in your diet like ghee or olive oil. They moisturize your whole body and keep your skin healthy.
- Drink plenty of herbal tea and warm water: It keeps us hydrated and can support digestion.
- Use warming and ojas-building herbs like turmeric, ginger, garlic, ashwagandha, pippali, or chyavanprash (herbal jam)
Yoga for Immunity
All movement is great for strengthening your immune system. But there are a couple of poses that I like in particular.
- Twists: Seated Twist, Chair Twist
- Strengthening Poses: Warrior Poses, Plank, Side Plank
- Balancing Poses: Warrior III, Tree Pose
- Inversions: Shoulder Stand, Headstand, Downward Facing Dog
- Relaxing Poses: Legs up the Wall, Forward Bend, Savasana
You can try this Immunity Booster Yoga class with me on YouTube (it’s free!).
I hope these recommendations will help you to stay healthy this year!