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There are many Ayurvedic practices that can help you stay healthy throughout the winter months. The best part? Several of these quick and easy techniques can be done in the shower, so they don’t make a big mess. Here are my 6 best tips for avoiding bugs and feeling your best this winter.
Make a turmeric paste.
Turmeric, which is harvested in the fall for the winter, is an immune-boosting spice. (1) Just take equal parts organic turmeric powder and raw honey and mix it into a paste. At the first sign of feeling run-down, take 1 tsp of the paste every two hours until you’re feeling better. To make the formula more potent, mix 16 parts turmeric to 1 part black pepper and make a paste with equal parts ghee and honey, and you’ve got a pretty amazing remedy.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has many studies showing its stress-mitigating properties. (2,3) An adaptogen is an herb with overall nervine tonic benefits – energizing the body when it needs it during the day, and calming overactive nerves for easy and restful sleep at night. As holiday stress can be immune-compromising, Ashwagandha is a great herb to keep on hand. Take 500 mg of the whole organic root three times a day after meals.
Give yourself an Ayurvedic self-massage every day.
The skin is the largest organ of the body that is home to up to a billion microbes per square centimeter, and is turning out to be more important than originally thought. The skin has more than 20 million sensory neurons exposed to the environment that are aggravated by air, weather, stress, travel, clothes, and more. (4) Applying oil to the skin can calm these neurons significantly. Oiling the skin every day helps keep the skin microbiome healthy, which in turn supports our immunity and the active communication between the skin microbes, the environmental microbes, the gut microbes, and the function of the whole body. (5, 6) Learn how to do abhyanga here.
Start a neti + nasya routine.
According to Ayurveda, the delicate skin of the nasal passages and the Eustachian tubes of the ears require lubrication to stay healthy, balanced and protected in the colder months.
Nasya is the practice of lubricating these passages with a special herbalized oil referred to as nasya oil. This practice is especially important after neti, or Ayurvedic nasal irrigation, which does a remarkable job of clearing out debris in the nasal passages but can often leave them dried out. When the skin gets dry, it reacts by producing mucus, which is a breeding ground for bacteria. This is where nasya oil comes in to soften and protect the newly cleaned nasal passages.
The cervical lymph, which houses the majority of the immunity in our ears, nose and throat, also benefits from the lubrication provided by nasya. When using nasya to lubricate the cervical lymph, it is recommended to tip your head back, put a few drops into the nose and then sniff sharply so as to feel the oil reaching the back of your throat. Learn more about the dynamic duo of neti and nasya here.
Put oil in your ear.
The classic Ayurvedic therapy for the ears is an integral part of a healthy daily routine. It is called Karna Purana – where herbalized oil is dripped into the ears and the ears are then thoroughly massaged. (7)
Putting a few drops of warm oil in your ear at night lubricates the upper Eustachian tube and the cervical lymph nodes in the neck. Your lymphatic system carries your immune system. You want to keep the nodes lubricated so the glands are more effective at clearing any unwanted congestion that might accumulate. Learn step-by-step how to do ear oiling here.
Start oil pulling or swishing.
In a healthy mouth, certain microbes play a critical role in upper respiratory health, breath smell, healthy gums and teeth and the first immune response for the entire body.
Microbes, such as Streptococcus mutans (the main contributor to tooth decay) and the harmful yeast Candida albicans, seem to flourish in the mouth – particularly in the presence of sugars and starches. These bad bacterium and fungi, when allowed to flourish, can cause a plethora of health concerns specifically in the heart, arteries and brain.
Oil pulling has been shown to create a saponification or detergent effect that deters bad bacteria and plaque, while supporting healthy gum tissue as a barrier against bacterial exposure to the bloodstream. (8,9,10,11) Learn more about oil pulling here.
*Republished and reinvented with permission from Yoga Journal 2016.*