Ayurvedic Lifestyle to Strengthen our Immune System

Summary: Practical lifestyle advice from Ayurveda for building a strong immune system. Covering the Ayurvedic daily routines (Dinacharya) that help us achieve balance in our system and contribute to our general wellbeing.

An Ayurvedic lifestyle can be a major contributor to health, wellbeing and a strong immune system.

Ayurveda gives simple, practical advice for daily and seasonal routines that can help us feel more energised, with greater enthusiasm to face life and all its challenges.

The concept is very simple. By following the daily and seasonal rhythms of nature we are more ‘in tune’ with our environment and, as a result, more healthy. In Ayurveda, different periods of the day are assigned the predominant qualities of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. So, by tuning our activities to suit the qualities of the time we are ‘going with the flow’ rather than doing battle with nature.

We don’t have to follow these guidelines too obsessively either. We just keep in mind the general principles and regard the ideal routine as something to aim for. To start with, we can pick a few of these health promoting tips and see if we feel better as a result.

The following are Ayurveda’s top tips for a lifestyle that promotes balance, health and wellbeing. This advice is general and applies to everyone regardless of dosha.

Although this may seem to take a lot of time and effort to follow, we really gain far more than we lose. As a result, our time in activity is much more efficient and productive; we find ourselves being full of energy, enthusiasm and focus. And we naturally develop a stronger immune system simply as a by-product of these daily routines.

Daily Routines (Dinacharya) for a Strong Immune System

First thing in the morning: 6 to 8 am

    • Best to wake up naturally (no alarm) somewhere between 6 am and 8 am [1]
    • Maybe scrape tongue if it is coated in toxins
    • Drink a glass of warm water to stimulate a poo
    • Have a sesame oil self massage (Abhyanga) [2]
    • Take a warm shower
    • Yoga exercises; do a set of simple yoga postures [3] taking between 10 and 15 minutes to complete
    • Meditation; 20 minutes of mantra based Vedic meditation is ideal
    • Breakfast; a light breakfast is fine

Mid-morning

    • A good time to take a brisk 20-30 minute walk

Lunch: around Mid-day

    • Lunch should be our biggest meal of the day – taken around mid-day (12.00 to 13.00). This is because our internal digestive fire or Agni is greatest at this time. A strong digestion means no toxic by-products clog up our system from poorly digested food.
    • Follow Ayurveda’s top tips for mealtimes
    • Sit for a few minutes after eating
    • Go for a short walk, say 10 minutes, to help digestion

Late Afternoon

    • Meditation; 20 minutes of mantra based Vedic meditation is ideal

Dinner: best to finish by 7 pm

    • Eat smaller portions than for lunch
    • A lighter dinner without heavy food is good
    • Sit for a few minutes after eating
    • Go for a short walk, say 10 minutes, to help digestion

Bedtime: best around 10pm

    • Make sure we have left at least 3 hours after dinner before going to bed to ensure we have properly digested our evening meal
    • Don’t go to bed too late (say after 10.30) as we then start getting into a Pitta period that promotes wakefulness rather than sleep!
    • It has been said that ‘an hour before midnight is worth two after it’
    • Follow Ayurveda’s top tips for getting better sleep

General Advice

Following simple Ayurvedic advice for meal times helps improve our digestion. This in turn fights off disease. For example, just having our main meal at mid-day, without any cold drinks, promotes excellent digestion. Very simple!

An Ayurvedic lifestyle will also incorporate dietary advice about which foods to eat, but the ideal diet will be very different for each predominant dosha type. So a diet for a Vata type will be completely different from the dietary advice for a Kapha type. Our ideal diet will also change with the seasons [4]

Getting the right amount of good quality sleep is also important for health. Ayurveda has some top tips for getting good quality sleep. For example, going to bed around 10pm enables us to be in tune with the changes in the natural daily rhythm. If we leave it too late the Pitta period of the night begins and we find ourselves awake and alert when we should be sleeping.

Ayurvedic recommendations for an ideal lifestyle actually fall into two categories: general advice (as stated above) that applies to everyone and specific advice that depends on our individual Prakriti (mind/body type or dosha). For example, exercise falls into the ‘specific’ advice category. The ideal amount is not the same for everyone. It varies greatly with our predominant dosha. Vata types require far less exercise than that recommended for Kapha types. But Kapha types can get by on much less sleep than Vata types. As we become more familiar with Ayurveda we can ‘fine tune’ our lifestyle to suit our predominant doshas. But this requires a bit more advanced understanding.

Footnotes

[1] Most Ayurvedic advice tells us to ‘get up before dawn’. This is perfectly sensible for a country like India where the length of daylight does not vary greatly with the seasons. Countries further away from the equator can have very early sunrises in summer and very late ones in winter. So the general advice of between 6 am and 8am seems a reasonable compromise for everywhere.

[2] For most mind-body types this will be with sesame oil (first ‘cured’ by heating once to around 120C then cooled – take great care when doing this! Use a thermometer) . If this is too heating for pure Pitta types then use coconut oil. If we can’t do a whole body massage, then a mini-massage of just head and feet is helpful. If we can’t do a full massage daily then doing it at least a couple of times a week promotes health and pacifies the Vata element (an out of balance Vata is the driving force behind many diseases). There are lots of web based resources for abhyanga and good instructional videos on YouTube

[3] Any simple ‘set’, or sequence of yoga postures will do. A properly designed sequence is better than a random selection because one asana can provide the ‘warm up’ for the next and all ‘flexural modes’ (spinal twists, extensions, backwards and forwards bends, side bends), of the spine are considered. The Art of Living organization has an excellent yoga sequence shown in their YouTube video.

[4]  An Ayurvedic diet is not the same throughout the whole year. There are seasonal changes that reflect the changes in the external environment.  For example, it is good to eat heavier, more warming foods in the winter and lighter foods such as salads in the summer. Our natural inclinations favour these changes in diet with season – we just need to follow them.


Other Key strategies used by Ayurveda to help build a strong immune system

Or, return to Boosting Immunity with Ayurveda – Overview article