Ojas: Boosting Immunity through Seasonal Practices
The transition from summer to fall is a time to expect cooler days and nights, sudden cold bursts of wind and the accumulated dryness that comes with the beginning of autumn. These winds can stir up and transport viruses, bacteria, fungi and other infectious agents, so be sure your home is stocked with immune strengtheners ready when the need becomes more likely.
It’s a time to prepare for earlier sunsets and later sunrises and therefore an excellent time to implement your earlier supper and bedtimes, regular morning abhyanga (self-massage) practice, except on the menstrual flow (which is for rest), and carrying a handy shawl, socks, gloves, hat or hoodie.
It’s also a good time to switch to copper water bottles, which are eventually biodegradable, recyclable and sustainable. Copper produces a warming effect as it contacts various substances. Water is a ‘cold’ substance, and copper water containers help render the water molecules more ‘warming’ in thermal effect.
You’ll want to avoid copper water if you have inflammatory conditions; instead stay with boiled, filtered water in a stainless steel or silver vessel.
From the perspective of Ayurveda, the health of the seven tissue layers or dhatus which make up the human body are responsible for the state of our immunity and vitality. These tissue layers are Rasa (lymph), Rakta (blood), Mamsa (muscle), Medha (fat), Asthi (bone), Majja (bone marrow), Artava and Shukra (female/male reproductive tissue). Each layer respectively feeds the next eventually determining our immunity. The final essence of building these seven tissues is called ojas.
Ojas is a Sanskrit word meaning immunity, radiance, inner vitality, vigor, or life sap/juice. It’s the essential substance or essence of the body that protects and sustains us and determines our emotional, physical and mental health and happiness. A healthy baby is born with an abundance of ojas but the maintenance of excellent ojas throughout life comes from a consistent seasonal practice that honors the Ayurvedic principles of sustainable health and longevity. This is not something we can fake, manufacture or buy. It comes from a commitment to creating healthy habits, inner happiness, awareness and ultimately a balanced lifestyle. We build our ojas by mindfully observing these practices and nourishing our tissues properly, one layer at a time.
Adjusting our diet according to the seasonal routines and needs of the body and following the Ayurvedic guidelines for seasonal transitions, can prevent a build up of ama or toxins in the body. These deplete healthy tissues and lead to fatigue, low immunity and can eventually accumulate, advancing into disease. In Ayurveda there is no one-size-fits-all philosophy; as we truly are as unique as our fingerprints! When we listen to and learn from nature, we align ourselves with the wisdom provided; and by applying the timeless practices offered by holistic science, we discover increased energy and resistance to disease, tranquility, a cheerful outlook, mental clarity and emotional balance.
In Autumn, ojas is vulnerable as our agni- our internal fire- decreases and can leave us susceptible to the changes of the season and increasingly dry, rough and cold qualities of the atmosphere. The fall is a beautiful opportunity for re-committing to your regular *link*self-care routine. Following a consistent daily practice, brings a grounded energy to combat the mobile nature of this season and goes a long way in securing vital immunity for the winter ahead.
Autumn is the ideal season for cleansing and nourishing the seven tissue layers of the body; first removing ama (toxins) and then building ojas. Fall provides an ideal time to cleanse using the unique Ayurvedic method of a home panchakarma (my blog about my full on deep panchakarma in a hospital India coming soon!!!) cleansing period where you follow a mono-diet and herbal protocol followed by a restorative period, called rasayana or rejuvenation therapy. After cleansing be sure to eat warm, light and nourishing food and include rejuvenating herbs and fortifying tonics along with the appropriate daily and seasonal routines -this ensures you can keep colds, coughs and other respiratory ailments at bay and also boost mental and emotional wellbeing that the vulnerable transition from summer to fall may bring.
Toxins are everywehere and vitrually unavoidable in our modern lives, but especially if we have become depleted through the year from disturbed metabolism, mental stress, poor sleep, excessive work or indulgence and general prajnaparadha or ‘crimes against wisdom’ coupled with with potential overuse of pharmaceutical drugs and other intoxicants and a general lack of self care. All these factors cause toxins to build in our body and we need proper digestion and rest to get us back on track and to maintain and build our vitality.
If you’d like more information on how to cleanse safetly and effectivly for your needs, please consult Jessica or your local health care practitioner for personal recommendations and guidance.
13 Immune Boosting Tips
- Eat light, warm foods. Salads and uncooked foods should not be consumed at night and ideally not at all in the fall and winter months-as they may cause digestive distress, such as bloating and gas.
- Include warming carminative spices in your foods such as cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, turmeric, black pepper, fenugreek, a pinch of asafoetida (hing)
- Stay hydrated but avoid drinking anything cold, because cold drinks (and foods) will reduce the digestive capacity. We must avoid diminishing the digestive fire (agni) as it is quintessential for boosting our immune system and any disturbance or imbalance in our metabolism can compromise the immune system’s response.
- Avoid heavy, difficult to digest sweets and fried foods. Enjoy nourishing root vegetables, broths and soups. Get your sweet taste from naturally sweet fruits and vegetables- ideally local and in season!
- Do daily dry brushing to maintain a healthy flow of lymph and to remove dry dead skin.
- Daily self massage ritual in the morning with warm oils such as sesame or sunflower or a combo of them helps to cleanse your body from toxins, relive your mind from stress, boost your immunity, keep skin conditions at bay and nourish the tissues; by increasing blood circulation. The Sanskrit word for oil is Snehana– which also translates to love! This practice daily enhances a feeling of love and wellbeing.
*How to give yourself an Abhyanga massage: Do at least once a week. Use an equal proportion of sesame oil and sunflower oil heated in a double burner. Massage your body, long strokes on the long bones and round on the joints towards the heart and wait for 20-40 minutes before taking a warm water bath or shower.
- Carry a roll on essential oil applicator with an anti-bacterial/viral such as Wellness on Whyte custom blend “I am Immune” to apply to the back of your neck (vertebrae C7) and on your pulse points.
- Enjoy warming and energizing exercise such as active yoga, cycling, walking, hiking and swimming. These enhance circulation and build strength.
- Take a warm bath in the evening with epsom salts and a couple drops of warming essential oils such as ginger, eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, cedar, pine, juniper, basil.
- Allow yourself space and time for meditative reflection, inner contemplation and pranayama breathwork practice. The positive effect of it on your immune system resilience adds up to a lot over time and keeps your immunity boosted through any season. Please seek the guidance of a professional to safely practice pranayama techniques. Consider attending a Yoga Retreat to dedicate an entire week to cleanse, rest, rejuvenate and immerse yourself into a life-changing process of group learning by living experience.
- Explore including Ayurvedic rejuvenative herbs in your diet, taken as teas or tonics such as: ashwaghanda, turmeric, triphala, amla (Indian Gooseberry), tulsi (holy basil) and chyavanprash (an Ayurvedic formulation of rejuvenating herbs plus honey and ghee). All these are available at your health food store or online at various Ayurvedic herbal suppliers.
- Implement earlier bedtimes and regular routines of eating, sleeping and exercising. Make sure to get enough sleep, but also avoid oversleeping; which can create a heavy toxic state of the mind and body- inviting disease.
- Practice simple breathing techniques at sunrise and sunset. Pranayama- extension or control of the breath’s key role in the Ayurveda is to clear your body and mind, but in doing so it also pumps a fresh dose of oxygen into your system. Oxygen plays a vital role in improving the functioning of your brain and also the strengthening of your immune system. Please practice techniques undert he guidance of a professional.
Here’s to building and sustaining an abundance of hearty ojas!
COPPER DRINKING WATER BOTTLES
One of copper’s properties and actions according to ancient Ayurveda is for ‘lekan’ or ‘scraping of toxins’. These distinctive bottles are durable, stylin’ and helpful for digesting your daily water intake. The bottles produce copper ionized water, which is warming to the gastrointestinal tract, and therefore helps metabolize undue toxins in the gut, to help boost assimilation of nutrients and intestinal immunity.
In Edmonton, you can purchase these bottles at the SATTVA School of Yoga