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How to nourish your ‘ojas’: 12 Ayurvedic self-care tips

Sara Palmer, founder of Stratford-upon-Avon's LoveYogaHealing, shares ideas from one of the oldest medical systems in the world, on boosting immunity and health during lockdown

Self-isolating, furloughed or simply feeling out of sync since the UK lockdown began? If you’re finding it difficult to establish a good daily routine (ie staying up til the early hours binge-watching telly and sleeping until noon) Ayurveda, the ancient medical science of India may help according to Sara Palmer, founder of Warwickshire-based LovehealingYoga who’s a senior registered yoga teacher, yoga therapist and Ayurveda practitioner.

It’s long been seen in-and-outside of India as a time-tested solution to many of our 21st century ailments. It teaches us that our lifestyle, what we eat and how we eat it, are the cornerstones of healthy, happy days. 

As far as our immune system is concerned, from an Ayurveda perspective we have a pool of strength known as ojas (in a nutshell, the vital energy that rules our immunity, strength, and happiness). Ayurveda recognises that nature runs in cycles. We have the cycles of the seasons, our age, day and night, and the moon. As human beings we are not separate from but also a part of nature.

Our bodies change with the seasons, our digestive capacity changes according to the time of day, and our vital reserves change with our various stages of life. And so Ayurveda would tell us that to attain health and happiness we need to adapt our daily lives in accordance with these cycles. Much of what is recommended below is based on this premise. 

Here are 12 simple lifestyle tips to help you nourish your ‘ojas‘ through these days of lockdown: 

1) Rise early, close to sunrise, and sleep by 10pm

2) Drink a glass of warm water on rising to help clear toxins from the system.

3) On waking, practice Yoga sun salutes and gentle stretching to awaken the circulation, stimulate the lymphatics and to set your nervous system for the day ahead. 

4) Yogic breathing will deeply oxygenate your cells promoting cellular vitality, and also help to balance your autonomic nervous system (pacifying the fight-flight part of your system), building greater stress resilience. It will also invaluably help to strengthen your respiratory system and lung function during this time. A qualified Yoga teacher can teach you the correct way to perform the breathing practices. 

5) Daily meditation practice or time set aside during the day for relaxation will calm body and mind and support better sleep, essential of course for our physical, mental and emotional well-being. 

6)  Skin brushing at this time of year, before showering,  with a raw silk glove or natural bristle brush will help to stimulate the lymphatics (which play a key role in immune strength).

 7) Eat your main meal of the day at lunchtime when the sun is highest in the sky, giving greatest strength to your digestive fire, eat lightly in the evening and try to avoid eating after sunset when the digestive fire is lessened. 

8) Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables, and try to include these five colours in your daily intake to ensure a wider range of nutrients: green, orange, red, purple, brown

9) Opt for a wholefoods diet, with whole grains and legumes such as lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, soybeans, and peanuts, in addition to your fruit and vegetables. Avoid refined foods and glutinous foods which can create congestion, weakening the lines of defence in our gut and in our lungs. Vary your foods to ensure a broader nutrient intake.

10) Try to reduce animal products to about 20% of your weekly intake and opt for lighter meats and fish. Animal products are amongst the hardest foods to digest and so can sit in the tummy for the longest, creating toxicity as they sit there undigested. This toxicity places a demand on the immune that we are wanting to preserve. 

11) Avoid sugar. Eating or drinking sugar can curb our immune system responses for at least a few hours. 

12) Nourish your spirit daily with inspirational reading or viewing, connection with people who uplift you and time in nature.

Sara runs free online talks on Ayurveda on a regular basis, online classes and Ayurveda Yoga retreats, loveyogahealing

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