With the ushering in of the fall season comes the increased vulnerability to colds, flu, allergies and more. What seems to accompany that are the ads, signs, announcements and urgings everywhere you look and listen to get the flu shot... After all, Big Pharma has a profit to make and I was recently appalled to see a discount on groceries offered if you got your flu shot. How manipulative and misleading! I urge you to think twice about putting a vaccine in your body that is not guaranteed to combat all strains of the flu. Not to mention, the additional ingredients that are unnatural and toxic, while ignoring and depleting your own body's intelligence that knows how to fight illness if we simply provide the right support. Unfortunately, as versed as I am in Ayurvedic practices during these transitional times, my own immunity became lowered and I caught a cold. ; ( While I am rarely sick, I had to heed the message to take a little more down time, get back to some practices from which I have fallen off course, and cultivate a little more discipline in the self-care arena. During times of transition (like now) we do become more vulnerable to illness, so it is a perfect time to re-commit to self care. When we do get ill, it is a message, whether it's a cold or cancer, high blood pressure or heart disease. To think of it as anything but a message is ignoring nature and ignoring your own innate wisdom that speaks to us in ways that are intelligent and encourage and sometimes force us to heed its message so we can respond in a loving and compassionate way.
Immunity can be cultivated and supported. Here are some basic practices to put into your life at times of transition, especially into the colder, unpredictable Vata season:
Use a Neti Pot! This wonderful Yogic practice lubricates, warms, and cleans the soft, sensitive tissue in the sinuses. This is a practice where warm saline water is gently poured into one nostril and allowed to flow out of the other. You can follow with some nasya oil that helps keep allergens out and protects the mucus membranes from dryness that invites pathogens to set up house and wreck havoc.
Start your day with a cup of hot water with ginger, lemon, and honey. And if you're fighting an illness as I am at the moment, add some turmeric and cayenne pepper for a real boost of metabolism, warming, and detox. This practice has been miraculous in helping me move towards healing more rapidly and has done wonders for the residual cough as well. Honey has natural antibiotic properties and vitamin C and ginger help to kindle the digestive fire (Agni) to digest whatever experiences life hands you.
Stay warm and protect yourself from wind and cold. Feeling cold is not only uncomfortable but can lower your immunity and make you more susceptible to illness.
Consume warmer, heavier and oilier foods and beverages like soups, stews, quinoa and oatmeal. Do you really feel like eating ice cold salads and beverages when it starts to get colder? Use olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil and avocados to lubricate the physiology inside and out especially if you notice your skin feeling drier as the weather gets cooler.
Take even more time to meditate and go within. It is a time to hibernate and become more quiet and contemplative as we continue into the season of darkness and the Divine feminine. Take a break from thinking to connect with this beautiful, creative, and intuitive aspect of your Being.
Do Yin Yoga! This practice is a beautiful and contemplative way to access that Divine feminine, receptive and quiet energy of creativity, wisdom and pure potentiality. It teaches us about receiving as well as about relationships which are vital in helping us feel love, community, compassion, understanding and joy - not to mention the deep levels of the bones and connective tissue on which this practice works.
Bring a yoga practice into your life if you don't already have one. Even 15 minutes on the mat to deep breathe, meditate, stretch, and connect with your Self. The strength, balance and flexibility you cultivate there will translate to the strength, flexibility and balance you notice in life. Just because you don't have time for an hour long class, doesn't mean you can't do it daily or at least every other day. I do it in the kitchen, in a grocery line, at my desk and consciously breathe in the car. It's a great way to take a break from anything and reconnect with yourSelf.
Favor sweet, sour, and salty foods and warming spices like ginger, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
While we still eat all six flavors at every meal, favoring those three will balance Vata and create Sattva or harmony, purity and equanimity in the mind and physiology.
Take vitamin C and immune boosting herbs like Guggulu, Ashwagandha, Guduchi and Amalaki.
If you feel like you are coming down with something; a scratchy throat, headache, runny nose or body aches, try Inner Defense and let the highly antimicrobial essential oils help you fight whatever is ailing you so you don't succumb to illness. Remember to also take time to rest which is the most helpful thing you can to to head off illness.
Turn off the TV and especially the news, and especially before bed! Reduce external chatter that only contributes to internal chatter and turbulence. What are you really missing - the debates? Reality TV? You will be better off not listening to the epitome of turbulence and absurdity.
Cuddle more! Human touch is more vital to health and wellbeing than we realize. Look at your relationships and see where you might extend a softer more compassionate approach, Where might you be wasting time and energy in disagreements and ego-based conversation and drama? What would it be like to let go and see the Divinity within yourself and your partner and share time just Being.
And speaking of cuddling.... Get to bed by 10-10:30 PM! Let your evening routine be quiet, relaxing, and inspirational as you prepare for restful sleep. After 10:30 there is that danger of getting a second wind, so head that off by being in bed with lights out before hand. 10 PM - 2 AM is Pitta time and is used at night for cleansing and detoxification. It's harder for the body to do this when you are awake and at your computer working.
The fall & upcoming winter season doesn't have to be wrought with illness. And if you do happen to catch something, use the opportunity to take needed rest, eat great food and get back on track with your health promoting practices. Illness is a cleansing and a message. Viewed like this, you can go with the flow and end up feeling better than ever from heeding the messages from your body, mind and spirit rather than resisting them by taking medications and continuing your practices that got you there to begin with!! To your good health!! ; ) xo
For more tips come to my monthly Yoga Tune Up this Saturday 08 October at 10 AM!
Dr. Joanna Carmichael is an RN, Dr. of Metaphysics, Divinity, Interfaith Minister, Ayurveda Practitioner, Spiritual Teacher and Founder & CEO of the Kalyana Centre in Narberth, PA