Part 1: Ayurvedic Self-Care for Cold and Flu Season

This blog is the first of a 3 part series on Ayurvedic self-care practices you can build into your routine for better health. In part 1 you will find morning self-care practices you can start building in your daily routine. Part 2 will discuss evening routines for a better sleep. Part 3 will have details for digestive reset program that I am participating in this Fall and I will invite you to join me.

This year it felt like Mother Nature flipped a switch and the weather changed from the hot humid summer to a cool brisk Fall. When the seasons change we are at risk for lowered immune function. I see people all around me getting colds already.

As a student and later as I began my first career as a classroom teacher I would get sinus infections like clockwork as the seasons changed. It wasn’t until I began a regular yoga practice that my nervous system started to become better regulated and my immune system became stronger and the infections stopped.

That is not to say I haven’t periodically come down with the flu or felt under the weather. As I delve deeper into my yoga therapy studies for the C-IAYT certification, I have started some new routines based on Ayurvedic science. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga that developed thousands years ago. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depends on the balance between mind, body and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. This is a proactive approach that we can assimilate into our routines which becomes an ongoing self-care practice or lifestyle, rather than an antidote you receive in order to fix a problem. As a part of my daily routine I have started to implement some new practices. As I begin to find ease in my routine I will continue to add more and more.

Why is a daily routine so important? Without going too deeply into it, our doshas, or qualities that are inherently in us, influence our body-minds and environments in a particular way throughout the day. When we can align with the natural rhythms of the day and the natural rhythms of our body, we promote optimal health. Starting with our morning routine is a great way to begin because it sets the stage for how our day unfolds.

Our bodies naturally work to clear out excess toxins while we sleep. This is why having a full nights sleep is so important. These toxins find their way into our colon and skin which is why personal hygiene needs to be taken care in the morning. First thing when you wake up drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon, followed by elimination. My friend Shelly Prosko, a physio/yoga therapist designed a toilet mediation which I will share in a separate post.

Here are a few things you can build into your morning routine (choose 1 or 2 things then add more later). The key is to be able to create more ease and not feel overwhelmed by a to do list of things.

  1. For your Mouth:
    • Gargle: use sea salt and warm water for a sore throat or to clear the throat of potential infections. To reduce soreness or dryness use sesame oil. To reduce inflammation of the oral tissue use milk.
    • Scrape your tongue with tongue scraper or spoon: it removes accumulations from the tongue and stimulates the fire quality (that we need for energy and digestion). Rinse the mouth after to clear any residue.
    • Brush teeth: astringent, bitter or pungent tooth powder or paste are used to keep the gum tissue firm.
    • Oil pulling: the state of the mouth is thought to reflect the state of the entire gastrointestinal tract. Lubrication is of the utmost importance for a well-functioning digestive system, especially for elimination. Take tablespoon of oil (sesame for fall/winter, coconut for summer) and swish it in the mouth for 2 to 10 minutes. When I started 30 seconds was the most I could handle. It helps to strengthen gums, teeth and tongue. Reduces dryness of the lips and tongue and helps to promote elimination.
  2. For your Eyes:
    • To freshen the eyes, rinse with cool clean water or organic rose water (hydrosol).
  3. For your Nose:
    • Neti: this is my favourite part of my morning routine. This is a technique used to clean the nasal passages using sea salt, water and a neti pot. It is great to clear excess mucus from the nasal passages and sinuses. It reduces the build-up of allergens, dust and other debris in the nasal passages and promotes clear and easy nasal breathing.
    • Nasal Oleation: oiling the nasal passages helps keep them lubricated and nourished and prevents dryness. It is especially important with environmental sensitivities like animal dander and pollen. Use 2-4 drops of plain oil like sesame or coconut in your palm. Rub your pinky finger in the oil and gently swirl in your nostrils.
  4. For your Skin:
    • Dry brush: using a raw silk glove or a brush specifically designed for the body, gently brush the skin to remove any dry skin and promote lymphatic circulation. Depending on your need, it may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Brush gently over your face and genitals. Long strokes over the long bones, and circle strokes over the joints.
    • Self oil massage: a technique used to nourish and protect the skin, harmonizes the flow of energy and promotes circulation and soothes the nervous system. Depending on your need, oil massage may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Use sesame, sweet almond or jojoba for Fall/Winter. Use similar strokes to the dry brushing. Sit and breathe for a few minutes while the oil is absorbed by the skin. The skin is a very important organ of digestion therefore using organic cold pressed oil is recommended. From an Ayurvedic view, you would only put on your skin what you would put in your mouth.
    • Shower or Bath: after self oiling, a bath or shower is taken to remove excess oil before getting dressed. They are also invigorating, refreshing and release negative energy. Soap can be used for the arm pits and groin area. The remainder of the body is simply rinsed – unless there is dirt of course. Too much soap removes the natural oils that maintain the health and strength of the skin.
    • Sweat: the skin benefits from sweating daily. A little perspiration beneath the arms and at the low back – about 50% of one’s capacity. This can be done by going for a brisk walk or visiting a sauna. The intention is to liquefy any toxins and allow it to release through the open pores.
  5. For your Ears:
    • To keep the auditory passages from drying, we put a few drops of oil (sesame or coconut) into the ears by either putting oil on the pinky fingers and rotating them around the aperture or using a dropper to put 2-3 drops of oil into the ear canals. You can also oil the outer architecture of the ears if you like.

I invite you to pick one or two things to incorporate into your daily routine this week and let me know how it goes. Stay tuned for my next post on evening routines and bed time hygiene.

Happy exploring!

Source: Mona Warner, Ayurvedic counsellor, Janati Yoga