Navigating the world during a pandemic can really heighten your awareness of your immune system. Before COVID-19, your immune function was probably low on the list of things at the front of your mind (if you are not immuno-compromised).
From an Ayurvedic perspective, supporting your immune system is a balance of many aspects of your health and physiology. And while the use of supplements might be useful for some, cultivating a robust and healthy immune response is something we can tend to everyday through our actions and lifestyle.
A Daily Routine of Cleansing & Nourishing
The Ayurvedic daily routine (known as dinacharya) is the cornerstone of self care and wellness in this tradition. There are many suggested practices for morning and evening, so many that sometimes it may feel overwhelming.
However, the art of dinacharya is not in how many practices you take on, but rather focusing on the intention of your actions. Everyday, we need to tend to the body with a little bit of cleansing and a little bit of nourishing. This daily maintenance helps us stay more balanced, mitigating the accumulation of too much toxicity at the same time bolstering our strength and resilience.
Tongue scraping, neti pot, steaming, sipping a cup of warm water, and dry brushing are all examples of more cleansing type actions. Nasya oil, body oiling, drinking a cup of freshly spiced chai, a soothing breath or relaxation practice, and well-spiced cooked meals are all considered actions of nourishment.
The Trinity of Immune Function
While the immune system is quite complex, I like to focus on the following three things: good digestion, flowing lymph, and bolstered deep vitality (known as ojas).
Good digestion is a key indicator of good health in the Ayurvedic system, as the state of our digestion really determines how we metabolize energy, extract nutrient value from our food, and burn up toxins and pathogens.
The lymph system is really the sewage system that collects the “trash” that circulates through the body. A stagnant or blocked lymph system is an inefficient system and it’s more likely that toxins and pathogens will stay in the body to cause problems.
Ojas, the term used for our reserve of deep vitality, is a key component that acts as our “buffer” against stressors on our system (physical, bacterial, viral, mental, emotional, etc). When ojas is plentiful, we feel strong, resilient, capable, energized, and steady. When ojas is compromised, we may feel tired, stressed, depleted, on edge, or weak.
The Good News & The Middle Path
The good news is that many of the daily routine actions support these systems, either directly or indirectly. And by putting in a little bit of time each day, we create a cumulative impact on the system that supports our health. It’s not terribly complicated, but it doesn’t mean it’s always easy to start a practice or stay committed.
It also doesn’t help when there is a strong cultural voice that promotes a more extreme “indulge/cleanse” lifestyle routine where we practice yoga and then immediately follow it with cocktails. Or eat less healthy foods most of the year and then do a juice cleanse for 2 weeks.
These extreme swings can also tax our vitality and compromise the good function of our digestion and lymph. This highlights a key concept of living an Ayurveda-inspired lifestyle: the middle path is one of moderation.
It doesn’t mean we can’t indulge on occasion or that we have to live like renunciates. On the contrary, it asks you to prioritize the actions and things that are most life-promoting for you and honor that. To give yourself the best care you can with love, compassion, dedication, and discernment.
Feel free to use the following questions to prompt your own self-study to support your self care toward immunity.
- In what ways do you swing with extremes?
- Are there habits in your daily life you know to be hindering?
- What actions do you currently take that are supportive to your sense of wellbeing?
- Are there foods you eat that you know are not good for you?
- Do you drink enough plain water throughout the day (not other beverages)?
- Do you find yourself more in a state of stress/exhaustion/depletion or ease/contentedness/stability?
Some Actions To Take
- Scrape your tongue before brushing teeth
- Steam your sinuses
- Sip a cup of warm water before your morning beverage/meal
- Oil your nostrils with Nasya Oil
- Stimulate lymph circulation with a Sugar Scrub practice
- Disengage with technology 1 hour before your ideal bedtime
- Dim your lights and light a candle to soothe your senses
- Oil your feet to calm your nerves and relax your muscles for better sleep
- Mist your pillow with an inviting scent to ease you into rest
- Enjoy a spoonful of Chyawanprash herbal jam
- Diffuse a balancing blend of essential oils
- Mist your environment to refresh your space
- Wear your favorite aromatherapeutic blend to support your mood
- Practice deep breathing, meditation, or deep relaxation to ease your nervous system
- Find an outlet for creative expression (drawing, painting, crafting, music, photography, etc)
- Get out in nature (walk around your block, stand barefoot in your yard, hike through the woods)
Self care isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice. It will look a little different for each of us. Learn to listen to your unique needs and figure out how to best respond in the moment. As you build this skill of listening and responding, you will build a strong sense of trust in yourself.
The Ayurvedic term for health is “swastha.” The essence of this word means “to be established in self.” In many ways, it means that we are aligned with our true nature, in tune with our consciousness, and grounded in our truth. By cultivating swastha, we naturally are in a state of good health, immunity, resiliency, and grace to better handle the illnesses that come our way.
Wishing you well and wishing you swastha!
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