It seems like everyone I know has been sick in the last few weeks. With the weather yo-yoing up and down, playing games with our immune systems, its no wonder colds and flus have been rampant. Moving into the cooler season, we become prey to colds, flus, allergies, and dry skin… and this really cramps our style. Don’t you hate the ever so glamorous tissue-chaffed red nose?
According to Ayurveda, our bodies and health work in synergy with the external environment and stress on our immunity is high during this time of year because there is increased “Vata”. Vata is “air energy” and when we are surrounded by the qualities of Vata (windiness and cold weather) we also become more Vata ourselves. This energy governs dryness and lightness as well as the lack of groundedness and substance and moisture in our tissues. High vata translates into dehydrated skin, weight loss, compromised muscle quality and a compromised immune system. So, here are a few tips for protecting your body against the assaulting autumn weather and mitigating Vata.
1. Eat Moist Foods – One of the best ways to balance our bodies is through our dietary choices. Vata pacifying foods are heavy, moist, oily and warm and should nourish and hydrate the body to decrease the depletion and dryness that this energy creates. Soups and stews are perfect for this, and those with a good dose of healthy fats are also excellent moisturizing our bodily tissues from the inside out.
2. Oil Up – Nourishing our skin externally combats the dry, air energy of Vata as well as protects and lubricates our internal organs. Tummy oiling is especially good as it moistens our G.I tracts as oil is absorbed deeply through our skin tissue. Oiling the head and hair is also excellent at this time of year as it prevents flakey scalp and is also said to be grounding for the mind. Many traditional Ayurvedic treatments for disorders involving the nervous system use sesame oil because it is considered to be the best oil for pacifying Vata.
3. Avoid High Impact Exercise – According to Eastern Medicine, it is important to follow a fitness regime that aligns with your body type and the outside weather. While high impact and intense cardiovascular exercises are poplar for losing weight and strengthening the heart, they can be depleting during the fall transition. During taxing Vata weather, we must preserv our energy and opt for slower paced, toning activities. More relaxed Yoga styles such as Hatha are ideal, and complimented by soothing pranayam (breathing exercises). Fitness programs during Vata weather should lessen stress on our bodies and minds to alleviate pressure on our immune systems.
4. Take a Ginger Bath – Acclaimed Ayurvedic physician, Dr. Vasant Lad, says that one of the best remedies for a weak immune system is a ginger bath. To do this, simply add ½ cup of ginger powder to warm bath water. If your skin does not feel sensitive to this, add another ½ cup before sitting in this concoction for 20 minutes. You will feel a tingling sensation as the ginger encourages healthy blood flow and you may even cough up mucous if your lungs are congested. Soaking in an infusion of this immune-supporting spice warms the body against Vata cold and purges dampness. This can be done daily during times of extreme depletion.
5. Meditate – An overactive mind taxes our bodies and lowers our immunity. The connection between our thoughts, feelings and physiology is very strong and our emotional state influences our overall health. Stress in particular, dehydrates our tissues as our kidneys are located beneath of the adrenals. The kidneys are governed by Vata and also regulate water metabolism. When our adrenals are overstimulated from distress, this also stimulates our kidneys and dehydrates our bodies. Meditating daily helps to manage stress and remain grounded. The fall also brims with Vata energy, as it is a hectic, fast-moving transition time with back-to-school and back-to-work. Make sure to meditate during periods of high stress; while they are often when we are the most time-poor, they are when we need it most to maintain balance.