The focus of Ayurveda, the ancient East Indian science of self-healing, is to support optimal health with fresh air, nature, healthy food, enjoyable movement, and a clear mind & heart. These are all the elements that also help us maintain a strong immune system with Ayurveda in COVID 19 pandemic times. This immune strength serves both ourselves and others.
PREVENT THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS
We each experience different conditions. The top priority is to prevent the spread of the virus through skillful behavior. Secondly, healing Ayurveda in COVID 19 pandemic, as in any time, supports immunity by bolstering individual needs. We also need to create healthy community, in the midst of self-quarantines.
With Ayurveda we assess three doshas, our unique combination of biological energies inside, and then work with opposites to bring them back into balance on an individual level. At the same time we work together as best we can to resolve challenges. We practically focus to prevent the spread of the virus while strengthening immunity at the community as well as individual levels. How can we do this?
NERVES AND IMMUNITY
A key dynamic occurring in Ayurveda in relationship to the current COVID 19 pandemic has to do with the dosha Vata. Vata is light, cool, dry, flexible, curious – and panicky when out of balance. If you’re finding yourself (reasonably) working with fear or worry, from an Ayurvedic perspective it’s Vata you have to calm. Creating conditions of safety, security, and warmth as much as you can, help settle Vata. Overstimulation aggravates Vata. You easily might need more time in nature and less on the Web. Ayurveda in COVID 19 world conditions is about wisdom.
Vata interacts with our vital immunity, what is known as ojas in Ayurveda. Ojas is more than physical immunity. It is that deep core sense of unflappability that is not easily swayed by upsets, changes, what have you. As Vata increases, ojas shrinks. Yes, this is the rub. The more anxious we become, our defenses – physical, emotional, mental, social – go down. Nurturing ojas also helps bring Vata back into balance. A hot cup of soothing almond milk is win-win. It builds ojas and calms Vata. A good night’s sleep, ditto. (As you keep up your elbow bumps and your hand-washing and your virtual hugs…)
SLEEP IS IMPORTANT FOR IMMUNITY
Fatigue related to inadequate sleep has a major impact on ojas and immunity. About half of us in this country are blood type Os. Type Os need a good amount of exercise to be able to get a decent night’s sleep. Trading in a half hour or more in front of the computer, smart phone, or TV in exchange for a vigorous walk in nature can make a difference in how deeply you sleep. Try this for a full week if you dare.
Western research shows that ironically, just as we need to relax most, the relaxation-enhancing mineral magnesium gets dumped out at greater rates in our urine. One way to balance this is a mild dose of magnesium glycinate or chelate, 100 – 400 mg at bedtime to relax muscles and mood. (A word to the wise: it can be laxative as well as relaxative.) For more about Ayurveda in COVID 19 prevention, including ways to enhance sleep and immunity, read here.
WHAT’S AN AYURVEDIC DIET LOOK LIKE?
Each of us has all three of the three biological energies or doshas within us, Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Vata is cold and dry, Pitta’s hot and oily, Kapha is cold and damp. Ayurveda balances with opposites. Yet how can any diet work well with all these different qualities? By being tasty yet prudent. Eating Ayurvedically is not the same as hitting your local East Indian buffet. Ayurvedic cooking relies on generous amounts of veggies, fruits, grains, legumes, with a well-chosen blend of spices and modest amounts of nuts, seeds, and dairy . Very spicy, rich or deep-fried foods are minimized when balancing all three doshas and building immunity. Here’s a simple cooked dish to try. Below, find some spring inspiration for further explores on your own.
THE DOSHAS AND STRESS
In Ayurveda in COVID 19 we look at the bigger picture, what climate we live in, the season, the weather. Across the planet humans will face different conditions, and so our optimal solutions will vary. Here in North America, spring is arriving. The biological energies of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha are shifting in our external environment. The cold damp (Kapha) winter melts into warmer (Pitta) conditions. At this cusp near the Spring equinox, we can more easily let go of excess toxins, weight, and waste, and move into a healthier balance. The warmth of spring and Pitta helps us do this. This is a time, yet again, to go easy on the spicy and fried foods.
The introverts among us are likely to sigh in relief at all the public closures. The extroverts could easily experience them as yet another exasperating challenge to peace of mind. If you’re feeling angry or stuck in the midst of this pandemic, your Pitta (anger) or Kapha (stuck quality) may need some re-balancing. Two common healers for both Pitta and Kapha are movement and bitter taste. You’re stranded at home or in an airport? Move. (Speaking of movement, I just saw a young man make an incredibly deft forearm move at the library’s public water fountain, yes. . .)
You’re home feeling furious, think about what bitter veggies you want to add into your armamentarium – Bitter? You must be kidding. No. Broccoli? Cilantro? Parsley? Asparagus? Kale? Brussel sprouts? (You notice I didn’t suggest these for the Vatas among us…Bitter taste is cold and light, try a little, not a lot if you’re lean and worried.) Fresh air is also cool and light this time of year, perfect for Pitta and Kapha, as is a cooling mist. Another kind of calming influence is pranayama. One very simple pranayama is just breathing out a longer exhale than our inhale. It enhances our relaxation responses. Dr. John Douillard has other good recommendations in a Yoga Journal article on Ayurveda in COVID 19 pandemic times.
My colleague Polarity Therapist Shanna Marsh has coined an apt term “the social nervous system”. We’re plugged into this larger social nervous system in a variety of ways, especially through our devices. The energy can amp up fast in this larger nervous system. Those of us who are inclined to be calm, I invite that calmness to spread. Respect and positive connection are tridoshic, balancing for every biological energy. If you’re feeling wild and crazy, unplug from the Web, that great throbbing creature, and seek whatever healing nature you can. Consider hugging a tree with appreciation. It will help your vata and build your vital immunity.
EASILY AVAILABLE MEDICINALS TO ENHANCE IMMUNITY
Antioxidant-rich foods provide general immune support. The anti-oxidant nutrients include vitamin A and beta carotene, vitamin C, selenium, and zinc.
Golden vegetables and fruits that you enjoy, like carrots, golden beets, yams and apricots are great sources of mucus-membrane supportive beta-carotenes. Dark leafy greens like bok choy, Chinese cabbage, cilantro, kale, Brussel sprouts, arugula and spinach are excellent as well.
Yes, the proverbial two Brazil nuts per day does provide a wise amount of selenium-rich anti-viral support. Sunflower seeds, brown rice, spinach, turkey, mushrooms, and eggs are other tasty sources of selenium.
An anti-viral herb like lemon balm can provide relaxing mood relief as well immune support; an easy way to use it is as a tincture in hot water, take as directed on the bottle. Fresh lemongrass is a tasty antiviral; food-grade essential oil of lemongrass can also be used. Osha most would not claim to be tasty, yet some of us find it comforting, as its pungent flavor is accompanied by a powerful anti-viral and cough-calming action. It can also be used for the kind of coughs that come with pollen allergies. A small piece of organic osha root can be held in the mouth for a sugar-free alterative to cough lozenges.
In Ayurveda, healthy immunity is associated with Rasa dhatu, the plasma and lymph tissue. Rasa dhatu agni, the vital digestive fire of the plasma is connected with the ability to ward off germs. If this digestive fire gets low, we can experience it directly, with cold hands or feet. If you notice this, a tasty simple tea to bring up Rasa dhatu agni that I’ve mentioned in past blogs is cinnamon-cardamom-ginger. In Ayurveda, this warms your hands and strengthens your immune system’s ability to fight off germs.
TOP RESPIRATORY HERBS FOR IMMUNITY
The best Ayurvedic herbs I know for a healthy respiratory system are from Dr. Vasant Lad: talisadi, sitopaladi, mahasudarshan and abhrak. They are great for boosting overall respiratory health, as is pranayama. I do not know an organic formula that incorporates these commercially in a tablet, yet they make an excellent tea. They can be gathered from local Ayurvedic practitioners in your area or on the Web.
For a great summary of how to support your respiratory system effectively from a naturopathic perspective, read this blog by Canadian Dr. Iva Lloyd.
IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS SEEK HELP
COVID 19 symptoms are fever with cough and/or shortness of breath. Incubation time is 2 – 14 days. Contact your doctor or health provider immediately if you are experiencing symptoms, to check in about testing and care. (The COVID 19 blood test is only effective for people with symptoms.) For more information, click here.
CONNECT AND HEAL
On the deepest levels, it’s time to face ourselves. As reports proliferate of people duking it out in the toilet paper aisles of Sam’s Club here in Santa Fe, it never hurts to remember that patience, loving kindness, and humor are potent tonics for anyone. If you are inclined to prayer in whatever tradition you practice, on behalf of everyone on the planet, it is a proven healer.
This is a great chance for us to realize (yet again) that we all live on just one planet. As the postcard my client and friend Lesley gave me says, “Good planets are hard to find.” Humans tend to have a short attention span. The COVID 19 pandemic has gotten our attention. Part of building healthy community is making certain that everyone has access to care, with respect. Extending support to travelers and those with loved ones in affected areas is part of healthy community, as is reducing stigma about seeking care or having COVID 19.
May we learn how to work together well and extend that learning to our actions in other areas, such as social justice and climate change.
Abstract Cover Image thanks to Renee Lynn
Flower Salad image thanks to Allison Cekala
Amadea Morningstar, MA, RPE, RYT is expert in Ayurveda and Polarity Therapy health care. Amadea works on-site in Santa Fe and at distance world-wide. She is available with respect, bringing over 40 professional years of experience, academic training and hands-on knowledge to her sessions, teaching, and books. Sessions with Amadea include Western nutrition, Ayurvedic nutrition and herbalism, Polarity Therapy bodywork, Marma therapy, Integral yoga, and nature-based approaches.
Amadea has a new Ayurveda book out with photographer Renee Lynn , Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, in print and e-book form. To learn more, click here.