The ancient Vedic knowledge of India is the source of yoga as well as Ayurveda, a complete system of natural medicine. Ayurveda has many strategies for health, and one of its specialties, which is especially important today, is strengthening the immune system.
In Ayurveda, the diagnostic procedure known as pulse diagnosis determines a person’s immunity. Through that technique, the trained Ayurvedic physician places his fingers on the radial pulse below the wrist and evaluates the level of what is called ojas in the body. In Ayurveda, ojas is often equated with immunity. It results from eating the right foods, good digestion, the elimination of toxins in the body, and, in general, the coherent functioning of the mind and body.
Strong ojas is reflected in a radiance or glow in the person’s complexion and eyes (radiant health), the absence of significant aches or pains, mental clarity, and a profound sense of well-being. Low ojas is typically evidenced by dry skin, weak sense organs resulting in excessive sensitivity to sound and light, significant muscle or joint pain, frequent infections and illness, and anxiety, depression, and fatigue.
Getting the Most from Our Immune System
So, how do we use increase the strength of our immune system and increase ojas? One principal means is through diet. According to the form of Ayurveda revived by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (called Maharishi Ayurveda), the six best foods for increasing “ojas,” which is equated with immunity in Ayurveda (ojas is also for bliss) are milk, ghee (you can get it at health food stores or find a recipe on the Internet), honey, almonds, oranges, and rice.
And if an Ayurvedic diet is new to you:
- Honey and ghee should not be combined in equal proportions in a meal (in the same proportions they are toxic),
- The honey you purchase should be raw and unheated (heating honey changes its character and can have a toxic effect), and for the same reason don’t cook with honey or put honey in hot milk or tea; wait until your drink is just warm),
- Milk should only be taken with what Ayurveda considers sweet foods (not just sugary foods but, for example, whole grains, unsalted nuts, butter, ghee, jam, figs, dates and raisins). In addition, cold milk may increase mucus and may have a negative effect. So, it is best to boil the milk and then drink it warm with a pinch of cardamom. Milk with meat or fish will have a toxic effect, so if you have meat or fish, wait at least 20 minutes before having dairy foods.
- It is best to soak almonds overnight and remove the skins.
- Staying well-hydrated, exercising, and yoga are also important for immunity as they increase circulation and help us move white blood cells through the body to where they are needed to kill harmful bacteria and viruses.
As a result:
- Drink six to eight 8 ounces glasses of water per day and four to eight ounces every fifteen minutes if you’re involved in strenuous exercise.
- Yoga is an excellent way of improving circulation. Poses such as downward dog, warrior, and poses with the legs up the wall, help with circulation, as well as an exercise known as Sun Salutations. The yoga poses and guidance on Sun Salutations can be found on the Internet.
- It’s important to try not to remain seated for long periods. Stand, stretch, do yoga asanas, and keep moving as much as is reasonably possible to increase circulation.
What to Avoid for Better Immunity
In addition, because we don’t want to damage the body by diminishing ojas, in flu season especially and when viruses are going around, we need to avoid alcohol, recreational drugs, soda and other foods and drinks high in sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, chemically processed foods (meaning foods with additives, preservatives, artificial colors, and the like), tobacco, junk food in general, and heavy foods including red meat.
We should eat lighter in times of vulnerability to make sure we aren’t overloading our digestive system, and certainly don’t eat or snack all the time; the digestive system needs breaks.
More Information about Ayurveda and meditation can be found in The Coherence Effect Book.