There is no doubt this is a testing time for everyone around the globe. Along with the obvious physical concerns, there can be financial and emotional stress to deal with. Many of us are not just concerned for ourselves but also our loved ones. While feeling generally calm and optimistic, I do also find my thoughts drifting to my parents.
I’ve held off writing anything about this Covid-19 outbreak as I’ve not wanted to inadvertently fall in with the hoax or cashing-in hoard. I don’t want to do either of those things and by staying quiet I thought the silence in the noise would be welcome. However, I’ve been asked now by so many clients and friends about how Ayurveda can help that I realise the silence is not helpful either.
So, what can be done? I don’t have all the answers or indeed a miracle cure, but this is what I do know. There are two main themes to this; boost immunity and reduce stress.
There is specific immunity and non-specific immunity. None of us have specific immunity against this virus as no-one has had it before and we therefore don’t have antibodies against it. We can’t create these until we get the virus.
What we do have is non-specific immunity – a collection of mechanisms in the body what work as barriers to keep out microbes and as agents to destroy them if they get past the barriers. In Ayurveda, this immunity is called ojas and is created from the essence of all tissues, it gives us our resilience and vitality. At all times, and especially now, it is important to look after ourselves in such a way that promotes ojas and doesn’t deplete it.
Strengthen our barriers
The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda has a strong suit in strengthening our barriers. These are easy to do and help to nourish, strengthen and protect our natural defences. Most of them involve sesame oil, so rather than toilet roll, maybe stockpile some of that!
- Put oil in your nose daily. Wash your hands (and make sure your nails are short). Put a drop of untoasted, unrefined sesame oil (like Clearspring or Meridian), ghee or even olive oil onto each little finger and insert up your nose (never far enough to cause any discomfort). Rub the oil around the nasal membranes. You can do a facial steam beforehand to clear out anything lurking but make sure you use the oil after each steam.
- Swill oil in your mouth. Use untoasted, unrefined sesame oil or coconut oil and do this after brushing your teeth. You can hold the oil in the mouth, swill it around and suck it between the teeth. This helps our natural barriers in the mouth.
- Self-massage. This sounds grand but even if it is just an application of oil to the body daily or every other day, you’ll help the skin do its job. Use untoasted unrefined sesame oil (vata or kapha types) or coconut oil (pitta). This can also be a great stress-reducer.
This sounds obvious but it really is important. This is a good time to reduce sugar and ditch the processed and junk food. In particular:
- Have plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, in all different colours to get a range of nutrients. Different dosha types will often need a slightly different ratio of these but in this instance, just get a good range and go for as many portions you can a day, minimum 7.
- Eat gently cooked food (not boiled into oblivion but maybe steamed, sauted or stir-fried) so that the digestive fire can break it down and assimilate it better.
- Aim for light but nourishing foods such as rice, vegetables, mung beans (split and whole), red lentils, ghee, cooked grains (not wheat). See here for more on heavy versus light foods.
- Add herbs and spices to aid digestion and get the most out of your food. Ginger is particularly good for this.
- Sip warm water or non-caffeinated herbal teas, regularly and consistently throughout the day. Don’t just glug a whole cup suddenly when you remember you haven’t drunk for hours, that depletes your digestive fire and will reduce your ability to create ojas.
- Supplement with spices to help build ojas. Cinnamon is fantastic. Also, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme and cloves. Mix yourself up a little concoction of raw honey (1 tsp), grated or juiced ginger (1 tsp), cinnamon powder (1/4 tsp), turmeric powder (1/2 tsp), clove powder (1/8 tsp) and garlic (1/8 tsp). Take this 2 -3 times a day.
- Use some medicinal Ayurvedic herbs, commonly used to build ojas Amla, ashwagandha and tulsi to name but a few. Kalamegha (andrographis) is Ayurveda’s excellent all-round antimicrobial. Be careful with any drug or disease contraindications. Get in touch for a consultation if you have questions on this – they don’t have to be face-to-face, there are plenty of online and phone options.
- Give yourself the best chance of sleep. It is equally as important as food but often forgotten. Ayurveda is hot on sleep; get routine and sleep regular hours. Give yourself a big sleep window, if you set aside 10 hours, you’ll get your 7 or 8. If you set aside 7, you’ll get less than you need. Read about sleep here.
This situation has the potential to increase stress in the being. As with all external events, it is our response that dictates whether we get stressed – it is not the event itself. Easy to say, and it is not something I personally have nailed but I do have some things which help immensely.
- What would a wise woman/man do now? Channel your inner wise person (you’ll have one, they may be real life people you know, known figures who’ve you’ve read about or even fictional characters from a book or movie that inspire you!). Your inner knowledge will be stronger than you think as this wisdom lives in you but may not always be listened to.
- Meditate. What better use of any extra time you may have by not commuting or doing the school run? Each 10 mins you put in will pay enormous dividends. Consider an app such as Headspace or Calm if you aren’t sure what to do. Try meditating morning and evening to bracket the day with some much-needed stillness.
- Have a massage! If you’re self-isolating but fever-free, you could do lots of lovely self-massages or even exchange them with your partner or children if you’re not staying out of each other’s way. Obviously wash your hands thoroughly before and after. Or if you aren’t isolating and we aren’t either, come and have a massage with the lovely Maria. Do not have a massage if you have a fever.
- Move. Do some gentle yoga or get out for a walk or run in fresh air as often as you can.
- Take some adaptogens to help you be more relient to stress. Be careful with any drug or disease contraindications. Get in touch for a consultation if you have questions on this – they don’t have to be face-to-face, there are plenty of online and phone options.
These pointers apply to life too so don’t forget them as soon as this passes, which of course it will do. If you have some specific health concerns at this time, do get in touch.
Author: Kate Siraj, Ayurvedic Practitioner, BSc Ayurveda, MChem (Oxon), MAPA, Shadow Work Coach
© The Ayurveda Practice
Photograph of grass pollen thanks to Freedigitalphotos.net