Take a deep breath. Did you breathe through your nose? Did your chest or belly move as you inhaled or exhaled? Did you hear the sound of your breath?
Chances are you barely notice your body going about its quiet work of inhaling and exhaling, yet your life depends upon it. The 25,000 breaths you take each day supply life-giving oxygen to your brain, your heart, and every cell in your body. And to perform at their best your respiratory system’s airways—comprised of your nose, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes, diaphragm, lungs, and capillaries —need to be supple, flexible, and free of obstruction and irritation.
It’s during spring and autumn that respiratory immunity can trend lower, because your digestive strength fluctuates with the changing weather and may create more ama, the waste product of incomplete digestion. Ama can clog the fine channels and capillaries of the lungs with mucus. The key to burning away ama, according to Maharishi Ayurveda, is to strengthen your digestion and engage in daily routines that reduce ama. This in turn will improve immunity.
Here are seven ways to fine-tune your gut health, boost immunity, and keep your respiratory system in balance. Of course, if you have already developed a respiratory issue, consult your doctor immediately.
Eat foods that nourish the lungs and sinuses.
To bolster your immunity in spring, eat more warm, light, nourishing foods such as soups. Or favor light meals of mildly-spiced vegetables with grains such as quinoa, amaranth, or millet. Go easy on the desserts, dairy foods, and oils. Eating a lighter diet for a few weeks while the seasons are changing goes a long way in reducing ama and balancing mucus in the respiratory system. The prevention-oriented Ayurvedic perspective is that food is medicine and when eaten appropriately in the right quantity, traditional “medicine” will not be needed long term. Cook your food with immune-enhancing spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and black pepper. An easy way to get these spices mixed properly is to sprinkle on Kapha Churna, which is recommended during Kapha season (springtime) or if you have more Kapha dosha. If Kapha Churna is not to your liking, or too strong for your Pitta or Vata dominant body, try Pitta or Vata Churna instead. You can also take one tablet of Herbal Digest with each meal to spark digestion, or take Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) at night if your elimination is not regular.
- Drink plenty of warm fluids throughout the day.Start your morning by drinking a cup of warm water flavored with the juice of half a lemon. This simple tonic stimulates digestion and cleanses impurities. Then continue sipping plain hot water throughout the day to dissolve ama.
Sniffle Free Tea can help balance and clear the sinuses, and Organic Digest & Detox Tea is a powerful way to cleanse toxins from the body when the seasons are changing. Here’s an herbal tea you can make at home to reduce ama and fire up digestion.
Immunity Boost Tea
Boil two quarts of water and pour into a thermos flask. Add 3 leaves of holy basil (tulsi), 2 pieces of clove, 1/4 t. of marshmallow root, 2-3 leaves of mint, and 2 pinches of Indian sarsaparilla. Strain and sip throughout the day. Recommended by Maharishi Ayurveda Vaidyas.
- Don’t let stress weaken your immunity.Have you ever noticed that when you feel stressed, your immunity takes a hit? To keep your stress levels low during challenging times, schedule in daily meditation and yoga. You also can practice breathing deeply from your diaphragm to reduce stress.
“If we are constantly under stress, the muscles of the diaphragm become weak, and all our breathing starts to come from the chest area,” explains Dr. Tony Nader, M.D., Ph.D. “That is not healthy or efficient. This type of shallow breathing has been found to not only cause changes in the mind such as anxiety, it also has an effect on the blood pressure, digestive system, and heart rate because the chest isn’t expanding and relaxing as it normally would, causing many complications to arise. By re-establishing simple breathing from the diaphragm, we are going to feel something very good.”
To learn step-by-step how to breathe from your diaphragm, check out this 14-lesson series that was recorded live on Dr. Tony Nader’s Facebook page. Scroll down to Global Meditation, Day 1 to begin.
A number of research studies have indicated that these types of Ayurvedic breathing exercises, called pranayama, help cleanse the secretions of air pathways, increase lung capacity, and improve respiratory muscle strength in people with asthma, leading to more efficient and easy breathing. Other research shows that regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique over a period of six months helped reduce bronchial asthma symptoms. Pranayama has a balancing effect not only on the body, but also on the mind.
- Add self-massage (abhyanga) and steam inhalation to your daily routine. The skin is the largest organ in the body, and daily massage with warm oil can help loosen impurities in the many layers of the skin, open the pores and channels, move toxins to the lymph system for elimination, and in turn stimulate digestion—all of which helps immunity. See simple instructions for Ayurvedic daily massage here.
Use warm sesame oil or Youthful Skin Massage Oil to improve sleep and reduce stress. (Important note from vpk: massage is not recommended if you already have a respiratory imbalance as that can exacerbate the problem.)
Follow your massage with a warm bath or shower to increase circulation, warm your body, and flush out toxins. After massage is a great time to do a steam inhalation with Clear Breathe, a penetrating blend of fennel, clove, and eucalyptus that clears impurities from the respiratory system and sinuses. Place 2-3 drops of Clear Breathe in a pan of steaming water. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the steam for 5-10 minutes, being careful not to burn yourself on hot surfaces.
- Engage in aerobic exercise daily while breathing through the nose.Daily aerobic exercise—such as walking briskly for 30 minutes in the fresh air—helps your lungs and heart work harder, expanding their capacity to supply oxygen to your body and brain. The result is more efficiently functioning heart and lungs, plus better digestion and a mood lift.
Research indicates many benefits arise from breathing through your nose. Inhaling through the nasal passages helps filter pollutants and conditions the air in cold weather, protecting the lungs. When the air is filtered through the nose, more oxygen is extracted, increasing energy and vitality. Ayurvedic nasal breathing during exercise should not be forced and only practiced if easy to maintain.
And whenever possible, exercise outdoors in parks and away from highways or pollution to bring the best quality of oxygen to your lungs.
Try these targeted herbal supplements to keep your respiratory system in balance.
Protection Plus Respiratory System contains 26 herbs that detox and cleanse the respiratory channels and act synergistically to protect the lungs from respiratory problems. While it targets the lung’s immunity, it will help the entire system to fight imbalances and allergens.
Clear Throat is a mild-tasting herbal syrup that helps clear impurities from the upper respiratory system; balances excess fluid in the lungs, throat, and sinuses; and cools and soothes the throat.
Bio-Immune, Sniffle Free, and Cold Weather Defense tablets are all immune-enhancing herbal supplements that target immunity and are well worth taking during the spring season to help avoid seasonal imbalances
- If you are feeling dull or sluggish, try a detox.Follow the Maharishi Ayurveda Detoxification System Guidelines to gently cleanse impurities from your mind-body system. When you give your body a chance to clear out accumulated toxins, it’s a bit like spring-cleaning your body. A powerful way to improve respiratory health and overall immunity this spring.
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