Have you noticed that some people fall sick every time the seasons change or whenever there is the slightest temperature change? According to Ayurveda, one of the reasons for this is varying degrees of bala—immunity or general strength.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that a robust immune system can make all the difference in dealing with these novel viruses. Therefore, increasing our bala to live well and strongly through various seasonal changes, aging, and viral or bacterial infections that abound is essential. However, before we explore how to do it, let’s discuss the three types of bala mentioned in Ayurvedic texts.
Three Types of Bala
There are three broad types of immunity, based on the time of the year, genetics, and one we develop by conscious effort.
Heredity/Natural Immunity (Sahaja)
We inherit a natural immunity from our parents. For those born with good immunity, it doesn’t matter what they eat or drink, what seasons change, or what their body may be; they have the inherent strength to stay healthy and unaffected.
Dr. Nisha Manikantan explains in her book, Ayurveda Simplified, “According to Āyurveda’s theory on genetics, genetic factors are defined at the cellular level. If both the parents’ genetic makeup is healthy, the same health is seen in the children, whereas if their genetic makeup includes susceptibility to certain diseases, those diseases will be carried over into the next generation. The effect will be at the cellular, nuclear or chromosomal level.”
Changable/Time and Location (Kālaja)
Our immunity may be naturally strong in certain seasons and weaker in others, particularly during seasonal transitions. For example, you may feel more robust in winter than in the summer. Similarly, our immunity undergoes marked change through childhood, youth, and adulthood. Also, you may feel stronger in the mornings than in the evenings.
There are also certain places where the climate supports better immunity. “For example, places with an abundance of water, ponds, cool and pleasant climatic conditions are Kapha dominating areas and contribute to stronger immunity,” according to Dr. Manikantan. So, the seasons, climate, and a person’s age can all affect immunity.
You can develop a permanent, more robust immunity over time with the right foods, lifestyle, spiritual practices, and rejuvenating herbs. This also involves developing a strong and happy mind.
Read Ayurvedic Kadha: A perfect Immunity Booster
How can we increase our Bala?
A big Ayurvedic secret to having a robust immune defense is following nature, that is, living in alignment with the seasons and following a proper seasonal routine or ritucharya.
Winter weather is cold, chilly, and full of moisture. It’s the season when animals (including humans!) go into hibernation mode. Because these qualities generally define the Kapha dosha, winter is considered a Kapha season. A balanced Kapha dosha provides strength and stability to the body and mind. However, winter has cold and dry spells—signs of the vata dosha. If you don’t balance out the vata dosha, you may feel isolated and depressed.
As we enter the kapha season, the air starts getting colder and heavier, but our natural healing system is unique and intelligently designed to give us a stronger digestive fire during winter to digest our food better, which releases more energy and vitality for us to survive the winter months.
Download the Dinacharya poster here.
You may feel hungrier during winter. So it is a good idea to have unctuous, sour, salty or sweet, warming foods, healthy fats, have a wholesome diet that gives more strength and nourishes the body tissues. This is also the time of the year when we socialize more and tend to overeat. Though naturally, we can digest more than usual, overeating and binging on heavy complex carbs can make our digestive metabolism sluggish, lowering our immunity.
Eat fresh, wholesome, immunity-boosting foods, such as
- Seasonal fruits & vegetables
- Nuts & seeds
- Whole grains
Avoid processed, canned, frozen foods, or packaged foods, as well as eating leftovers, chemical-laden foods, and foods containing preservatives. You should also avoid cold foods and iced drinks as they may weaken the digestive fire.
Here’s what an ideal diet for the winter looks like, according to Ayurveda. As you will read in the article linked, you should switch your dietary habits between high-Vata early winter and the Kapha-dominant deeper winter months to keep your doshas in check.
Spices for the Season
Cook with warm, astringent, bitter, and pungent-tasting spices like turmeric, ginger, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and coriander to reduce kapha accumulation at this time of the year.
Bonus: Here’s a quick recipe for making the best pumpkin spiced cider.
Examine Your Doshas
During these times of seasonal transition, when specific doshas tend to accumulate, get a Nadi Pariksha, or pulse diagnosis. An Ayurvedic practitioner will check for dosha imbalances and work with you to create the proper routine to bring you back into balance, directly influencing overall health and immunity levels.
Rasayanas or Rejuvenators
Your digestive fire is naturally higher during winter, making it the best time to take Rasayanas, also called rejuvenators—powerful, specifically formulated supplements made with powdered extracts, potent raw herbs, and essential oils based in ghee, honey, and brown rice syrup. These supplements heal and prevent seasonal illnesses by bolstering vitality and energy, rejuvenating longevity, enhancing memory, and improving the quality of blood for better overall health and wellness.
There are two types of rejuvenators; one type boosts energy and improves immunity and overall health, while the other staves off specific diseases or infections. Some rejuvenators to take in winter include
Chyawanprash. Are you looking for a health tonic or supplement that gives you vitality, more energy, stamina, longevity, anti-inflammatory benefits, and freedom from cough and cold? If so, this blend of 40+ herbs is your answer.
Triphala. This herbal concoction is a rich source of nutrition and immunity. Triphala has been in use for thousands of years, combining the healing powers of three super ingredients-gooseberries (amlaki), Black myrobalan (haritaki), and Beleric.
Shilajit. This rejuvenating combination of herbs regulates hormones and enhances immunity. It works on the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system. It is known to reduce ulcers too.
Sri Sri Tattva Immunity Boosting Kit
What is an ideal daily routine for sustained immunity and strength?
What separates people who often fall sick from those who don’t is having a routine aligned with the demands of changing seasons of the year. Lack of routine, irregular sleeping, and bad eating habits can also affect your biorhythm and quickly lower your Bala.
Now is also an excellent time for seasonal Ayurveda detoxes like Virechana, Swedana, and Abhyanga. Also, if enough sunlight is available, consider taking 15-minute sunbaths daily.
Vihara: Lifestyle Habits
Here are a few lifestyle habits, also called Vihara in Ayurveda, to nurture during these cold months:
- Work out or practice yoga every day to counter Kapha accumulation.
- Perform daily abhyanga to nourish and keep the skin and joints from drying. It warms you up, keeps blood circulating, and helps improve lymphatic movement.
- Take daily steam baths.
- Avoid afternoon naps (as tempting as they are.) This can worsen kapha accumulation.
- Have an iron-clad sleep schedule to prevent vata from going off balance.
- Stay dynamic—practice breathing exercises and warming pranayamas, and be physically active during deep winter to stave off the influence of excess kapha.
Time to Rest
Your mind-body complex naturally craves rest during this time of the year. This is the time to go inwards. Go for silent retreats, spend daily time in silence, meditation, contemplation, nourishing yoga, and listening to gentle music or chants.
Armed with these Ayurveda tools, you’re ready to bolster your bala for a healthier, stronger, and revitalized winter!