Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga, helps us understand that the immune system is like a web that holds together our organs and all bodily functions. It’s the inner nexus of the body. Ojas is the term for immunity in Ayurveda and it loosely translates to “the fuel for health and growth”.
According to Ayurveda, we experience immune degradation from making negligent choices, disrespecting our senses, and living out of rhythm with our natural cycles.
These are considered the roots of disease in Ayurveda, one of the most time-tested medical models in the world. Here’s a brief summation of each:
#1: We make careless, negligent choices when we fail to listen to the body’s feedback. If you notice that your skin breaks out, you bloat, or have increased phlegm when you eat dairy but persist in eating dairy, even if you take enzymes to minimize its impact, you are ignoring the body’s communication and you will accumulate Ama (undigested toxins) in your body. Ama is like sludgy gunk in your very cells which impairs their functioning and that of the various organ systems.
#2: We disrespect our senses when we fail to honor what the body’s sense organs need. The classic example is pushing through fatigue only to fall ill at the end of a major project or the holidays. This manifests in smaller ways as well and has a cumulative effect. If your eyes feel tired and strained from looking at screens for too long and you continue to work through this discomfort, rather than resting your gaze or looking at further distances in nature, it may lead to headaches, and ultimately vision degradation. Your senses will dull which has profound implications as these are the vehicles through which we perceive our world.
#3: We live out of synch when we lose touch with circadian rhythms, seasonal shifts, and varied phases of life. A common example of this is ascribing to a “Night Owl” identity. We are diurnal creatures by nature and modern culture does not cater to these late-night routines. If you go to bed late you are stealing from your energy for the following day. It’s a hard truth to swallow for many but it is a truth nonetheless. Statistically, in Western culture, people report more fatigue and low energy during the day than at night, this is the reverse of our natural rhythms. A system in sync with the rhythms of the cosmos and the body will experience natural fatigue in the evenings as the body settles for deep restoration and cellular repair.
Tips for staving off illness and viruses during the seasonal shift:
#1: Dial-in your bedtime routine, identify a bedtime, set an alarm, reverse engineer it by going to bed 10 mins earlier until you hit your target goal which should be a minimum of eight hours for most people. Yep, you read that correctly. It’s recommended to get even more if you are in a time of change, high stress, or recovery. This is the most impactful habit to adopt. Give your body a fighting chance. This will improve your mood as well, which research has proven impacts immunity.
#2: Prioritize time for reflection and embodiment practices such as meditation, yoga, breathwork, and free form journaling. This can be a five-minute practice. Anything is better than nothing! Getting swept away in the to-do list leads to disembodiment which leads to vulnerability to illness and depletion. It’s like no one’s home to guard against intruders-keep at least a foot in the door of your home, i.e. your body. Collect the dispersed pieces of your energy, center yourself, return to YOU daily.
#3: Consume warming foods and drink through the use of seasonal items, think grounding roots such as sweet potatoes and parsnips. Also, incorporate the strategic use of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and clove. Drink copious amounts of warm liquids and tea. Building heat and promoting circulation is primary.
When the body is overburdened with Ama (undigested toxins) it naturally elicits a detoxification response via changes such as illnesses/viruses, to purge the accumulated toxicity.
As they say, the body keeps the score and it never lies. It is always seeking homeostasis and a return to wholeness.
Remember this and know that when you do fall ill, it’s actually your body seeking wellness and stability. Its job is to take care of itself. The above article outlines a few simple strategies for helping it along the way.
We only have one body, one plot of land to till. Tend to it well friends.
Interested in learning more about how Ayurvedic lifestyle practices can enhance your health and wellbeing? Looking for actionable methods to create sustainable habit formation in your life?