Winter is an excellent time to build up immunity and practice some self-care, according to ayurveda. With conscious attention to your lifestyle you can burn Ama, the substance that increases your vulnerability to seasonal ailments, and increase Ojas, the substance that enhances your resistance.
This will result in strong health, great energy and resistance to seasonal diseases.
Ayurveda holds that three factors of digestion: Agni, Ojas and Ama play a key role in preserving good health and immunity.
When Agni, the digestive fire is balanced, the food we eat is converted into abundant energy and healthy tissues. As the intelligence of the body transforms our food, it creates seven layers of increasingly refined tissues. The final product of this process is called Ojas.
Ojas is the finest essence of life that permeates the tissues and orchestrates the millions of physiological processes that take place in the system. Ojas has a key role in strength, vitality, happiness and immunity. When digestion is strong and Ojas is plentiful, the body burns away impurities and the immune system functions smoothly.
When Agni gets weak, inadequately digested food particles accumulate and turn into what ayurveda calls Ama: internal toxins that cause different problems. One sign of Ama is when you are not hungry at mealtimes and you feel heavy and lethargic after the meal.
Here are 10 easy ways to boost that immunity this winter.
10 Simple Lifestyle tips for boosting immunity in the winter
1. Eat warm, nourishing foods.
Favor things that are naturally sweet (whole grains, milk, fruits, nuts), enjoy warm soups and stews. Use fresh, organic ingredients whenever possible.
2. Avoid leftovers.
Leftovers, canned and processed foods, ice-cold foods and beverages, fried foods, cakes and sweets should be avoided because they create more Ama. Limit the intake of alcohol, sugar and white flour.
3. Spice up your food.
Anti-oxidant spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander, turmeric, ginger and black pepper enhance your Agni and burn Ama. Cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, basil and asafetida will provide warmth from the inside.
4. Cultivate good eating habits.
A regular routine facilitates strong digestion and helps to tame Vata, that part of ones constitution that is especially aggravated during winter. Something warm for breakfast keeps you balanced throughout the morning. Lunch should be the main meal of the day, close to noon when digestion is strongest. Have a lighter dinner, preferably between six and seven, at least three hours before going to bed. Don’t snack on junk food; if you are truly hungry, eat a handful of dried fruits and nuts or a stewed apple.
5. Give yourself a massage each morning.
Do Abhyanga, the ayurvedic self-massage with sesame oil every morning, followed by a warm bath or shower. This is one of the best ways to increase Ojas and reduce Ama.
6. Increase your digestive efficiency.
To increase Agni, sip hot water or ginger tea during the day. Cook with ghee or sprinkle some of it on your food at every meal. Ayurveda advises having cheese and other heavy dairy products like yogurt and cream for lunch when Agni is at the peak of its strength.
7. Get adequate sleep.
Rest gives an opportunity for the body’s self-repair mechanisms to clean up Ama. Ample Ojas is produced only when you go to bed early, before 10 PM if possible.
Enjoy your body being alive, let it produce those bliss chemicals! Regular activity keeps your Agni lively and increases your vitality.
Scientific studies show that Transcendental Meditation® relieves stress and increases resistance to illness.
10. Try ayurvedic herbs.
Ashwagandha, tulsi and amla are great immune boosters, and so are the numerous traditional formulas. (To avoid hazardous chemicals buy only from companies that sell certified organic products.)