- Baxter Bell, MD
Interview with Melina Meza
Welcome to my new blog, What’s On Your (Yoga) Mind?, where I answer questions and curiosities about yoga, health and just about anything you would like to know more about! This new venture is being launched during the Covid19 Pandemic, and I am the one with questions- specifically, how can the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, provide tools for keeping us healthier and support immune health?
My first stop, an interview with my amazing wife, Melina Meza, to pick her brain on just this topic!
Baxter: Melina, you have a unique perspective as an Ayurvedic educator and experienced yoga teacher on staying healthy in during this Pandemic. I wondered if you would take a minute and share with folks some general ways that Ayurveda promotes good immune health.
Melina: Thank you for including me in your conversation, and I’d be happy to share some of the ways Ayurveda promotes good immune health.
Ayurveda has taught me to align my daily or weekly routines and health goals with the seasons to maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit. I believe in the power of simple daily practices, that they hold the key to maintaining immune health in these busy modern and changing times. The daily routines I refer to are called Dinacharya in Ayurveda, and refer a variety of practices for the morning (AM), evening (PM), and midday; and some practices span across an entire day. Consistency and steadfastness in practice are key to maintaining immune health!
Baxter: I appreciate the holistic, whole-person approach of Ayurveda in addressing health promotion. Acknowledging that recommendations are always made for the individual you would be helping, do you have some more specific recommendations of the top actions people might take to help prevent infection and boost immunity (in addition to social distancing and hand washing, etc.)?
Melina: Your immune system is made up of many components including the tonsils, thymus gland, lymphatic and circulatory systems, digestive tract, and bone marrow. Each of these systems (or parts of the body) plays a unique role in helping your body fight against foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The immune system changes with age (recovery from a cold is a slower process, for example) and functions are proven to decrease when faced with chronic stress, which is why yoga and a yogic lifestyle, so effective in addressing chronic stress, are so important for maintaining your health.
For a specific example, I ask people to pay attention to that “hunch” you get when you might be getting sick—maybe your throat feels swollen or you have super low energy—and stop what you’re doing, and start planning your self-care time before the cold has time to settle in. Immediate steps to take can include drinking a LOT of water or herbal tea, taking a spoonful of Chyvanprash (traditional Ayurveda paste high in Vitamin C), use a soothing throat spray or gargle with sea salt, cancel evening plans, eat broth-based soup for dinner and be in bed by 9pm. These are my favorite preventative steps to keep the cold at bay. I’d also strongly advise folks to repeat this same sequence for two or three days just to be safe.
I’ve also broken down the components of the immune system here with some practical ways that yoga, nutrition and Ayurveda can help support good immune health:
Nose to Throat Support:
·Neti/Nasya Oil ·Gargle with salt/herbs/oil ·Teas with licorice, ashwagandha, ginger and honey (consume 3-4 cups when feeling at risk of catching a cold) ·Essential Oil Therapeutics. Place several drops of one of the following antimicrobial oils in a diffuser: eucalyptus, silver fir, lemon, lemongrass, palo santo, tulsi, pinon pine
Lymphatic System Support:
·Stay hydrated ·In yoga and exercise, do dynamic movements including inversions, muscle contraction and relaxation, and twists to assist in lymphatic circulation ·Get a massage or do self-massage ·Dry brushing (an Ayurvedic self-massage technique)
Circulatory System Support (heart and blood vessels):
·Eat a heart-healthy diet (avoid or minimize red meat, fried foods, processed foods and alcohol) ·Exercise (to reduce blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol, strengthen heart muscle and support blood vessels to improve blood flow)
Digestive System Support:
·Uddiyana bandha, Agni sara, Kapala bhati ·Well-balanced practice with forward bends, twists, prone back bends, and inversions ·Asanas that target lymphatic channels and nodes (neck, armpit, chest, abdomen, pelvis, groin) like supine twist or reclined cobbler’s pose, bridge, low lunge twists, or dynamic warrior 1, just to give you a few examples. ·Pump and release technique (tighten and relax muscles in poses) ·Restorative or Yin Yoga
Baxter: Wow, that covers a lot of territory! I know that sometimes when I am working with a Yoga Therapy Client, and I present a comprehensive list of recommendations to them as you have for us here, they often look overwhelmed. With that in mind, could you prioritize for us and give us a short mini practice as a way to start a much larger process that would be ongoing and expanding over time?
Melina: I agree and know from experience what that look of overwhelm looks like! Here are my top 5 recommendations to start your Dinacharya for greater Immune health:
1) In bed with lights out between 9:00-10:00pm
2) Hydrate often with herbal tea and water
3) Avoid sugar, alcohol and caffeine
4) Do your self-care with neti pot or nasya oil, and other supplements
5) Restorative yoga and/or meditation to help manage stress
Baxter: That seems like an excellent simple set of suggestions for people to try. Melina, if people want to learn more about your approach to introducing Ayurveda into their lives, is there anything else you can recommend?
Melina: Ayurveda and yoga are best practiced with an open and curious mind. Once you start practicing, it may take a few days to notice the effect of the practice, so be patient, enjoying the experiment and opportunity to pay closer attention to your body, mind, and heart along the way as you take these steps to maintaining or boosting your immune health.
If you’d like to learn more, please know I recently published a beautiful book called, Seasonal Health and Wellness – Change Your Life One Week At A Time, to make your life easier and take the guesswork out of which practices to do when. This inspirational guidebook features 52 simple and effective seasonal practices, one for each week of the year. The practices span a range of focuses-some are dietary, some meditative, some yoga- or exercise-based, and others geared to sleep or self-care.
The book also contains 56 of my photographs, aligned with the seasonal practice suggested to inspire you to keep the book open all week to help you maintain your weekly commitment!
Melina’s book is currently on sale through Thursday, April 30th, 2020!
Baxter: Thanks, Melina, for taking the time to share your vast knowledge and experience with yoga and Ayurveda today!
And for those who would like to submit a question for me to address in a future blog post, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe and be well!