The following are tips to supplement your regular routines. Please consult your doctor if you have any serious symptoms.
Despite the easing of lockdown restrictions around the world, during this time you should still stay home as much as possible. Essentially this means if you have mixed views about going to an event…. don’t go. Understand that this year, 2020, is your time of nesting and of introspection, as free as you can be from distractions outside the home. It may not have been your plan to do so this year, but this is what life has thrown at us. Followers of Vipassana will be most familiar with this philosophy: only by reducing external influences, can we get to the core of what our body is telling us. Of course, this is very different to Vipassana as we have access to phones, television, email as well as whatever personal interactions we have included in our routines. But the idea is the same. It is not always comfortable, but with some self-reflection and nurturing it can become an inspirational time for each of us. And as Vipassana teaches us, impermanence is the only constant: this will not last forever.
Going out in public
Sometimes we are forced to be in locations where many people frequent. This includes our workplaces, especially those that are open to the public such as supermarkets, public transport and elevators. While social distancing measures have been mandated in many public spaces, there is still much that is unknown about how far the virus spreads and how long it can remain airborne. We don’t know who may have been in that elevator, shopping aisle or café queue 20 minutes earlier and we do know that the virus can last in the air for several hours. So, it’s wise to try to protect yourself as much as you can in these areas.
There is no doubt that face masks will absolutely help reduce viral transmission from the wearer to the rest of the public, and this will also assist to contain the spread from asymptomatic individuals. Masks will also offer some protection against contracting the virus from infection in the community, provided this is reinforced by maintaining a distance between you and others and handwashing with soap before you touch your face. If using a cloth barrier such as a scarf, these need to be rotated every day and ideally washed after each use. There is evidence that suggests that while cloth masks can provide some protection for the wearer, the fibres can trap the virus and potentially be a source of infection. Recent evidence has suggested using a triple layer cloth mask. If you cannot wash them after each use, leave it at least three days before using the same scarf over your nose and mouth.
The primary energy to control in the body at this time is Vata. With infection travelling through the air, reducing our exposure to the air outside as well as controlling the air element in our bodies can help protect us. Sesame oil is excellent for this. Before going out, wipe sesame oil at the entrance of your ear canals and nostrils. This will reduce the entry of Vata energy into your body from outside. Note, this will not substitute for protective barriers such as masks, and other personal equipment which you should still use. You may have seen, or even tried yourself, the Ayurvedic Nasya technique where oil is inserted into the nasal passages via the nostrils. This is not necessary – oil can simply be smeared into the entrance of the nostrils with your finger, ensuring your hands are clean beforehand, and similarly into the ear canals with your pinkie finger before venturing out.
This technique is also beneficial for individuals who have anxiety, insomnia, arthritis or neurological conditions such as epilepsy. These classic Vata disorders will be exacerbated by the entry of air energy into the body, even without a virus. Consequently, many of these people find windy weather very unsettling. Sealing the entry points with sesame oil can also be beneficial when in cold dry weather, such as in the mountains, flights and areas with high wind flow.
You should also reduce the Vata producing foods in your diet. Foods should be well cooked and mixed together – soups, stews and risottos are ideal – and earthy root vegetables such as potato, carrots and foods with a high water content like zucchini. Roasting zucchini provides a very sweet taste which pacifies Vata. Reduce the following vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, beans and chickpeas. Avoid too much coffee, even decaffeinated, as this has the bitter taste that can aggravate Vata.
If you are unwell
If you become ill with a respiratory illness, you must consult your local medical practitioner immediately who will decide how to proceed from there. Most likely you will have a cold or flu virus but depending on your symptoms and the testing protocols in your area you may be tested for Covid-19.
If you are found to be positive for Covid-19, please follow the advice of your medical practitioner who is familiar with your history and can appropriately manage your clinical presentation.
If you do not have Coronavirus infection but have respiratory symptoms, be aware that inflamed, raw tissues such as the lining of your nose and throat can attract secondary infections. Often these will be bacterial, but they can also provide a focus for other viral infections, so you need to stay home until all symptoms are completely resolved. It’s not a good time for people who are coughing and sneezing to be out in public anyway.
If you must go out when you are unwell, there are a few things you can do that will help. Where possible travel by car from door to door. Use the above tips such as wearing a face mask and sesame oil at the air entry points, as well as warm scarf around the neck.
If you have a sore throat, a tablespoon of medicated honey can soothe and coat the inside area of the mouth helping to reduce the exposed inflammation.
Honey tonic is made by:
2 tablespoons of Manuka honey
The juice of half a lemon
2 drops of garlic oil, ginger oil, cayenne oil and oregano oil.
These oils can be sourced from most health food stores. I use the oils from Pinnacle Health as they have good quality control. Mix all ingredients and take a spoonful before you step out letting it melt inside your mouth. If you have an intolerance to honey, then coconut oil pulling can also assist. If you have a chesty cough with a lot of mucous, Irish Moss is a good expectorant – or for the brave, try Senega and Ammonia. Both are very cheap and available at chemists. Alternatively, chopped raw onion mixed with honey is a great expectorant to clear those lungs. For wet, ‘boggy’ sinus pain, dry roast Ajwain seeds in a pan and inhale the smoke. For dry sinus pain, steam inhalation with lavender or eucalyptus oil will help.
Maintaining optimum immunity
Keeping a distance from others and practising good hygiene will reduce your chances of contracting Coronavirus. But if you do, how can you keep your immune system optimised to help avoid the worst effects?
Our Immune system is essential to the body’s core, and like everything else, its functioning is unique to the individual. While it’s important to protect against Vata energy when going outside, especially as winter approaches, the rest of us with a Pitta or Kapha disposition need to ensure our doshas remain in balance.
Eating well, sleeping restfully, appropriate exercise and self-care as well as regular bowel eliminations are the fundamentals to keeping your body balanced.
For all the doshas, to attain optimum immune health for your type it is important to ensure your bowels are clean and empty. This allows your system to identify what it needs to bring it gently into balance: A craving for the crispness of an apple or the tang of a fresh tomato, the warmth of a soft blanket or even the challenge of a good crossword puzzle. Once we are free from blockages and congestion, our body easily knows what it needs physically, emotionally and intellectually to satisfy and bring it into harmony.
In order to ensure your bowels are empty, you should have at least one to two bowel motions a day. To assist complete evacuation, your knees should be higher than your hips, so try resting your feet on any solid blocks when you are on the toilet. Avoid too much food that is hard to digest such as melted cheese and try to start your morning off with oatmeal at least a few times a week. This has a very effective cleansing effect on the bowel and your stools will become full and easy to pass. If you are taking Vitamin C supplements, which you should, this can serve as a gentle laxative. Unless you have significant constipation, you should avoid strong laxatives as they can strip essential structures from an empty bowel. Once the bowel is clear, and there are regular movements each day, maintaining healthy function can be assisted by your choice of probiotics.
Eat in accordance with your doshic type and find activities that support your unique make-up. For some it can be the harmony of music, the satisfaction mastering a new skill or the joy in watching a plant grow.
Several of us are on a lockdown or quarantine to one extent or another and yet we all have quite different circumstances and reactions to being housebound. For some of us it is relative business as usual – either working from home, or at the office where work may be busier, quieter or much the same. Others are on something of an enforced vacation – binge watching Netflix or learning a foreign language or instrument. For those with small children at home it can be a particularly challenging time, as with those trying to keep track of teenagers. Some of us live alone and the solitude can be both enjoyable and daunting. Others live with one or more people, maybe even someone you don’t get along particularly well with and need to balance dealing with partners of housemates and elderly parents. And finally, some of us do not have the security of a home – perhaps an uncertain tenancy, a relationship end or being between places.
Whatever your circumstance, the way through this will be unique for each of us and starts with balancing and nourishing your dosha.
While reducing excess Vata is a major factor, those with other doshic imbalances need to be mindful they do not slip into imbalance. Kapha individuals need to ensure they do not get too chesty, keep any asthma under control and avoid the temptation to over-snack and therefore weight gain. Kapha people very often feel the absence of human contact more than other types. A Kapha-balancing diet is good to follow at this time. For those who have a Pitta dosha, channelling that intellectual drive into another pursuit can help with the feelings of intense frustration. Pittas with blood pressure conditions need to ensure they are taking their medication, as Covid-19 has a predilection for those with heart and blood pressure conditions.
For Vatas, the sooner a regular routine is established the better, with plenty of warm foods and liquids. Vata people with excessive anxiety or insomnia can find relief by putting sesame oil on the soles of their feet at night.
Alcohol & other recreational relaxants
Many people are reportedly drinking more alcohol now than they have before. In many ways this is understandable. The absence of a regular work schedule, the stresses that have emerged during a confined space either alone or with others on a background of general community anxiety and fear make it too easy to reach for something we know has provided comfort in the past. While alcohol is a toxin, and therefore can dampen the dampen the body’s digestive fire, in moderation it is completely acceptable to use during lockdown. But do follow some tips:
A better alternative is to make a tea from the following and drink liberally throughout the day