I grew up in a yoga family where medicine and vitamin supplements were banned from our house. Whenever I got sick, instead of bringing me to the doctor, my dad would take me outside to sit under the sun and sip on turmeric tea. Throughout my childhood and since becoming a yoga teacher, I’ve personally experienced and witnessed the healing effects of natural remedies from ancient wisdoms of yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda.
I would like to share with you 7 powerful techniques that you can immediately start doing to build a strong and healthy immune system. These methods are backed up by modern science and will help you prevent or quickly recover from the first sign of sickness. I have been practicing these methods for over 10 years and it has kept me strong and healthy. I rarely get sick, even if I do I recover quickly. I encourage you to try it out for yourself.
1. Sleep before 10PM
According to Ayurveda wisdom, the world’s oldest holistic healing system, different energies dominate different hours of the day that directly govern our bodily functions. It is important to be doing the right thing, at the right time, for the body, brain and hormones to function optimally. This concept is supported up by scientific discovery of the human body’s circadian rhythm, a 24 hours internal cycle that regulates all living beings.
Between the hours of 10PM to 2AM, pitta or fire energy dominates this window of timeframe. The fire energy is responsible for internal cleansing, digestion and elimination of toxins from the body. Sleeping by 10PM ensure your body can dedicate and focus 100% of its power towards removing toxins from the body and keeping you healthy.
2. Drink Lemon Water
Drinking a large glass of warm water first thing in the morning is essential to rehydrate and stimulate bowel movements. The custom of drinking water in the morning is a prominent Ayurveda tradition known as “Ushapan” where 500 to 750ml of water should be taken first thing in the morning, before sunrise, on an empty stomach.
You can choose to drink warm water by itself or add 1/2 or a full lemon to the water for an added boost of vitamin C, antioxidants, and essential nutrients for the immune system. Warm water will increase the body’s temperature (thus increase the digestive pitta or fire energy), relax the abdominal muscles, and helps to flush out toxins from the body.
3. Sun Salutation
Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, is a series of 12 yoga postures performed in one graceful flow. Originated in 1500 BCE in the Rig Veda, the oldest collection of sacred Hindu scriptures, sun salutation build strength, flexibility, and connect with the life giving energy of the sun. It is a complete practice by itself, just by doing all the postures, every part of our physical and energetic body can be awakened.
Modern research show yoga movements, such as Sun Salutation, has a promising anti-inflammatory effect in the body - to counter the immune system response to infections. Clinical trials also revealed yoga exercises reduce inflammation at the DNA level by changing pro-inflammatory genes. Practicing sun salutation for at least 3 rounds each day, in the morning and in the evening. Day by day, you can surely observe and feel your mental and physical health improve.
4. Lion Pose
If there is one useful yoga pose I recommend for preventing cold and flu, it would be Simhasana or Lion Pose. This is an easy practice combining both a yoga pose and breathing exercise. It works to activates the immune glands of the tonsils, the lymph nodes in the neck, and it also helps prevent a sore throat from progressing. You can feel the benefits throughout the respiratory tract, relieving many imbalances of the mouth, throat, nose, eyes, and ears almost immediately. If possible, practice Lion’s pose by facing the sun to further nourish and disinfect.
Here's how to practice Lion Pose:
Kneel on the floor and sit on your heels or a yoga block, then open the knees as wide as you can to at least as wide as your hip. Rest the buttocks in-between the heels and bring big toes to touch.
As you inhale, do the following: spread the fingers wide like a claw, draw your arms backwards elbows towards ribcage. Lift the chest, imagine opening the front part of the body and filling it up with fresh oxygen.
As you exhale, do the following: fingers continued to spread wide, press in towards the front and center, slight round the upper back, compressing air out of the upper body. Like a lion roaring, open your eyes wide and gave towards the tip of the nose, at the same time stick out your tongue as much as you can. The exhale should be audible and exaggerated as you make a "haaaa" sound, emptying your breath.
Repeat for 3 times, for at least 3 rounds. You can practice the pose for as long as it feels comfortable.
5. Morning Sun Bath
Natural sun light is crucial for our health and well-being. Sun exposure when done carefully at the right timing and conditions, allows us to absorb the healing power of the sun without causing any damages. The light of the sun penetrates deep into the skin to cleanse blood vessels and energize the body. Natural sunlight is responsible for vitamin D production and activates key immune cells. Being exposed to the sun daily also regulates melatonin production in the body to maintain the circadian rhythms of our body for a good night’s rest.
The proper way to take a sunbath is during a time when the sunlight is not very strong. Morning time is best and evening time is second. During winter time, you can be under the sun for up to 20 minutes. During summer time, up to 10 minutes is sufficient. Lie down or sit somewhere with your back facing the sun and relax. Once you start sweating, it’s time to stop, move away from the sun and replenish by drinking water or taking a cool shower
6. Evening Foot Bath
A warm-water foot bath helps to boost blood circulation, reduce fatigue and improve sleeping conditions. Research also demonstrated it improved immune status with significant increases in white blood cells count through warm foot bath with mechanical stimulation. Both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes the benefits of soaking your feet in warm water. If possible, warm foot bath should be followed with a few minutes of gentle massage of the feet. By stimulating the pressure points in the feet with warm water and touch, it opens up blocked energy channels and stimulates the body’s own healing mechanism, and opens up the blockages in the energy channels leading to the related organs.
The best time for a foot bath is 1-2 hours before bedtime. You should soak for no more than 20 minutes in an open airy space. The water level should be 10-15 cm above your ankles, covering both feet entirely. After soaking, massage all part of the feet gently. Finish the foot bath by drinking a warm cup of herbal tea or water.
Meditation is an important practice to help us reduce stress, gain clarity, and physically affect our mind and body to decrease chances of illness from the inside out. It is one of the best thing you can do to improve the overall quality of life. Evidence from clinical trials repeatedly demonstrated that mediation reduces pro-inflammatory processes, increases in cell-mediated defense parameters, and increases an enzyme activity that guards against cell aging. Meditation is the quickest method to help our body switches from flight and survival mode into growth and repair mode.
For beginners, follow these three steps to start practicing meditation:
Relax the body. You can scan your body, part by part, from head to toe, relaxing each one as your attention passes through the parts.
Focus on the breath. After your full body is relaxed, bring your awareness onto the breath. Feel each inhalation and exhalation. Observe the quality of your breath. When thoughts, emotions, or distraction arises, don’t be discouraged. Just notice the distractions and come back to the breath. The more you practice, the stronger your attention and connection with your breath would be.
Be in stillness. Resist any temptations to move or shift the body, not even to scratch or adjust your seat. Being in complete stillness is the most effective way to cultivate your concentration, and build tolerance against distractions. Sit in stillness and practice for at least 20 minutes each day.