The current buzzword during the Covid19 pandemic is ‘immunity’. As an Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor, I am deeply committed to your good health and am glad to share some tips to improve immunity, our armor against diseases.
To understand immunity and the disease process, consider a room where there are 5 people and a strain of the common cold virus. 2 people remain symptom free, 2 catch a cold and a 5th not just catches a cold but develops an aggravation of an auto-immune condition like asthma. It is our own immune response that determines our resilience here.
What is immunity?
In all forms of medicine immunity is classified as natural and acquired. In Ayurveda, immunity, also called Vyaadhiksamatva or Bala (strength) is defined as preventing unmanifested diseases and reducing the strength of those already manifested. This is translated from Charaka Samhita, a Brhat Triya (root text) in Sanskrit, ‘Vyaadhiksamatvam vyaadhibalavirodhitvam vyadyutpadapratibandhakatvamiti yavat’.
Ayurveda classifies immunity into three types, Sahaja which is correlated to natural or genetic immunity, Kalaja, related to the time, season or age (for instance, immunity reduces with age and that explains why we are worried the elderly during a pandemic) and Yuktikruta or acquired immunity. The good news is our immunity can be improved.
Healthy immunity is correlated with good Ojas; a dynamic process which involves immunity, resilience and vitality. Ojas is the end process of digestion, metabolism and creation of tissues or Dhatus. A healthy Agni (digestive and metabolic fire) is therefore key in determining our Ojas. It is the life force in us and circulates through the body to a cellular level giving us the ability to resist and recover from diseases. When our Agni is impacted, Ama or toxins accumulate and make us susceptible to diseases.
What can improve our immunity?
1. Immune boosting herbs especially at this time; turmeric with a pinch of black pepper, ginger, tulasi (holy basil), Amruth, Amalaki, Chyawanprash and Shakti drops are some of the herbs that can improve our immunity. Order this Immunity Kit now! Sip herbal tea like ginger or CCF Tea (Cumin, coriander and fennel seeds, 1 tsp each boiled in 6 cups of water for about ten minutes, strained and had hot or lukewarm – this is a tridosha pacifying tea that pacifies all energy principals).
2. Reducing stress – WHO classifies stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century. While ‘fight flight’ is an adaptive and healthy response, chronic stress leads to increased production of stress hormones that reduce the lymphocytes in the body and suppress the immune system. Incorporate destressing practices like slowing down, connecting with nature, creative pursuits, meditation and better lifestyle choices.
3. Improving our Lifestyle (Vihar) – Vihar is one of the three pillars of health as defined in Ayurveda. It involves a regular routine aligning with circadian rhythms, avoiding excesses, following a good, balanced daily regimen or Dinacharya (with recommendations that are helpful at all times and particularly now like drinking warm water with lemon and honey in the morning, Oil pulling and Pratimarsha Nasya or daily Nasya with Anu Taila at this time), being mindful of the appropriate seasonal regimen or Ritucharya, connecting with a higher purpose (Brahmacharya, synonymous with Vihar is defined by Sri Sri, the founder of Art of Living as connecting with the consciousness or Brahman) and living a sattvic lifestyle (with truth and clarity). Sattva is a Guna or quality of the mind and can be improved through meditation, a light diet, enough sleep, the company of good people (Satsang) and Service.
4. Nutrition (Aahar) – Support your Agni; diet is the second pillar of health in Ayurveda and involves nutritious food, liquids, breath and sensory perceptions. A good nutritious diet boosts immunity; likewise, a poor diet can reduce our immunity. Avoid incompatible food, eat regular warm, cooked, easy to digest meals with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. When we eat junk, polyunsaturated fats, fried and processed food, cold food, sodas or have too much sugar or alcohol we inhibit phagocytosis (the destruction of pathogens by the white blood cells) and suppress our immunity. Ensure you hydrate enough and have room temperature or warm water. Regular mild cleansing helps as well.
5. Sleep (Nidra)– According to CDC 1 in 3 people are not getting adequate sleep and sleep is the most healing mechanism of the body, the third pillar of health in Ayurveda. Avoid sleeping late and try to sleep for 7-8 hours; try having golden milk a few hours before sleeping. In a UCSF study on sleep where the common cold virus was injected in the nostrils of healthy people, it was found that people who slept 7 hours were significantly less likely to fall sick than people who slept 5 or 6 hours.
6. Exercise – Exercise or Vyayam is a good way to improve digestion, enhance our Agni and boost Ojas. Exercising outdoors has the added bonus of connecting us with nature and getting essential Vitamin D.
7. Yoga and breathwork – A regular practice of yoga and breathwork can significantly reduce inflammation and enhance immunity. There are many pranayamas one can do like alternate nostril breathing and full yogic breathing and there are multiple independent, peer reviewed studies about the efficacy of SKY breathing meditation as taught by the Art of Living in improving vagal tone and enhancing immunity. To find out more here are the details of a free online mind and meditation session.
8. Meditation – Meditation is one of the most powerful ways to enhance immunity. One study conducted by the University of Wisconsin showed that meditation may be more effective than exercise at preventing a cold and flu. They also found that if you do get sick, meditation effectively reduced symptom severity. Another study found that compared to non-meditators, those with an established meditation practice had higher levels of B lymphocytes and natural killer cells—cells the body uses to protect itself from foreign invaders. One study found similar benefits even in new meditators.
9. A positive frame of mind or Sattva Bal helps in combating diseases. Nurture positive relationships, wisdom and self-awareness to bring this shift.
10. Resources from Art of Living at the time of Covid-19 – The Art of Living community is working hard to provide support during this current crisis.
Published by Anuradha Gupta
Anuradha Gupta is an Engineer, MBA, writer and Ayurvedic Wellness Practitioner. She has a corporate background and volunteers for Art of Living and other nonprofits. You can find her on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.
This content on the Sri Sri Tattva blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any links to third party websites is provided as a convenience only and the Art of Living blog is not responsible for their content.
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