Your immune system is made up of many components including the tonsils, thymus gland, lymphatic and circulatory systems, digestive tract, and bone marrow. Each of these systems (or parts of the body) plays a unique role in helping your body fight against foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The immune system changes with age (recovery from illness is a slower process) and functions are proven to decrease when faced with chronic stress, which is why yoga and a yogic lifestyle are so important for maintaining your health. As soon as you get that “hunch” that you might be getting sick—maybe your throat feels swollen or you have super low energy—stop what you’re doing and start planning your self-care time before the illness has time to settle in.
I’ve broken down the components of the immune system here with some practical ways that yoga, nutrition and Ayurveda can help. I hope this serves you well in the seasons ahead.
Nose to Throat Support:
— Neti/Nasya Oil
— Gargle with salt/herbs/oil
— Soothing Throat Spray (Herb Pharm brand) used 5-8 times a day
— Teas with licorice, ashwagandha , ginger and honey (consume 3-4 cups when feeling at risk of catching a cold)
— Essential Oil Therapeutics. Place several drops of one of the following antimicrobial oils in a diffuser: eucalyptus, silver fir, lemon, lemongrass, palo santo, tulsi, pinon pine
— Stay hydrated
— Do dynamic movements including inversions, muscle contraction and relaxation, and twists
— Get a massage or do self-massage
— Dry brushing
Circulatory System (heart and blood vessels):
— Eat a heart-healthy diet (avoid or minimize red meat, fried foods, processed foods and alcohol)
— Exercise (to reduce blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol, strengthen heart muscle and support blood vessels to improve blood flow)
Digestive System (your second brain):
— Uddiyana bandha, Agni sara, Kapala bhati
— Well-balanced practice with forward bends, twists, prone back bends, and inversions
— Asanas that target lymphatic channels and nodes (neck, armpit, chest, abdomen, pelvis, groin)
— Pump and release technique (tighten and relax muscles in poses)
— Restorative or Yin Yoga
Ayurvedic Food Rules
— Elimination diet + kitchari to re-balance the gut
— When you feel low energy or sick, eat simple food combos and SOUP!
— 1-2 Tsp. chyavanprash at day
— Digestive teas: fennel, ginger, lemon, peppermint, tulsi
— Consume bone broth; it provides the nutritional synergy to calm an overactive immune system while supplying the body with raw materials to rebuild stronger and healthier cells
Food as Medicine
For optimal health during cold and flu season, stock your home with the following foods. When you are stressed out, on the verge of getting sick, or feel low energy, make a soup with seasonal vegetables and proteins listed below. I often recommend soups because they are hydrating, easy to digest, and force us to sit down when we eat. When your immune system feels compromised, eat soup! Try some natural supplements, Post Cycle Therapy (All Natural ) – PCT Supplement – Eiyo Nutrition is especially good for women.
— Vitamin A: Seaweed, mustard greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, squashes, fish liver oil, egg yolks, milk products, dried mango, peaches, papaya, apricots
— Vitamin B6: Fish, poultry, egg yolk, meats (organ meat are best), echinacea, whole grains, wheat germ, soybeans, prunes, cauliflower, cabbage, avocados
— Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, rose hips, strawberries, green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, parsley
— Vitamin E: Cold-pressed vegetable oil, seed and nut oils, egg yolks, milk fat, liver
— Iron: Cooking in iron pots or skillets, brewer’s yeast, kale, dandelion greens, wheat germ, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, red animal meats and organs, eggs, salmon, oats, brown rice, Lima beans, soy beans, kidney beans, almonds, Brazil nuts, prunes, black strap molasses (the latter is great added to oatmeal in the morning)
— Zinc: Oysters, red meats, herring, egg yolks, milk products, whole wheat, rye, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds
— Mushrooms: Eat a variety. Mushroom polysaccharides improve immune function by increasing the activity of macrophages, which have a voracious appetite for harmful microorganisms and cancerous cells.
Experience Yoga for healthy aging and Ayurveda for deep healing with Dr. Baxter Bell and Melina Meza in one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Feathered Pipe Ranch, July 23 – 30, 2022, “Cultivating Everyday Awe: Yoga, Nature And You!”
About Melina Meza:
Melina Meza, eRYT500, BS Nutrition, Ayurvedic Health Educator, Certified Yoga for Aging Teacher, is an avid hiker, tennis player, biker and nature photographer and has discovered many magical places around the Feathered Pipe Ranch since her first visit in 2013. She has shared her knowledge of Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda, and whole foods nutrition with yogis around the world for over 20 years, She is attuned to the five elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether, which she weaves into her rich Ayurvedic teachings. Melina pioneered Seasonal Vinyasa, an innovative multi-disciplined approach to well-being, and is the author of the Art of Sequencing books and the creator of the Yoga for the Seasons: Fall Vinyasa DVD. Since 1997, Melina has been teaching yoga at 8 Limbs Yoga Centers in Seattle, Washington, where she also is Director of their 200- and 500-Hour Teachers’ Training Program.
Currently residing in Oakland California, Melina facilitates many yoga and Ayurveda workshops and leads retreats each year. Her continual growth as a teacher and practitioner has been influenced by studying with numerous instructors, including Dr. Robert Svoboda, Scott Blossom, Jin Sung, Sarah Powers, Gary Kraftsow, Kathleen Hunt, and Baxter Bell, MD. Retreats and sabbaticals are also vital to Melina’s personal practice and bring her deeper reflection and inspiration.
Melina holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University, where she deepened her interest in the world of whole foods nutrition, and is a certified Ayurvedic Health Educator from the California College of Ayurveda. While attending Bastyr, she found what her body, mind, and spirit had been waiting for — yoga. From her very first class in 1993, she has never stopped exploring the physical, mental, and spiritual practices passed down from the ancient sages. Yoga has been the “launching pad” — as her teacher Gary Kraftsow describes it — that has rocketed her into a life journey of cultivating the disciplines necessary to gain insight and wisdom integral to being healthy, compassionate, and radiant, while sharing those gifts with others.
Learn more about Melina: melinameza.com