It is considered pretty normal to get colds and flus in the transition times of fall and spring. These seasons are high-energy times of the year and we are either charged or drained by these shifts in season. Today let's talk about our immune system, and more specifically how to prevent the shit out of getting sick!
As you know if you come to my classes, I work all the time. And even if I'm not at the studio, I'm probably at home working on some task or other for the studio. My life force and the life force of Tiger Lily Yoga are intrinsically connected. If I go down, so does the studio. It won't always be like this but we're in the infant stages of growth here people. I'm not complaining, I knew this going into studio ownership. Anyway, my point is I can't get sick. Like so many people, I don't get sick days and if I have to get subs for my classes it costs the studio money that basically doesn't exist yet. Again, I'm not telling you this so you feel sorry for me, I just want you to know my strong motivation for not going down with a cold or flu.
First let's look at the idea of sicknesses being contagious. We tend to think of ourselves as perfectly healthy until we come in contact with cold and flu viruses. I'm not gonna argue whether or not this is fact. I'm simply gonna ask if there might also be more going on. We're in contact with all sorts of pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that cause us to get sick) every single moment of every single day. Every time we step out of our house we come in contact with microscopic critters who would be happy to take refuge inside us, multiply, and party like it's 1999. And if it were simply a matter of contagious things seeping in and making us sick doesn't it make sense that we would basically be sick all the time?
"But that's why we have immune systems," I hear you saying.
And I'm gonna respond with something you may not have heard before: The immune system isn't our first line of defense against getting sick, it's our second. It's our energy body that's the first line of defense against diseases, colds, and flus. If our energy body is healthy then we won't get sick (or at least we'll get sick a lot less often).
After the shock and awe of this wears off think about it. It makes sense and explains why we're not running around getting sick from every single pathogen we come in contact with. The immune system and energy body work in conjunction to keep us strong and healthy.
One of my teachers, Christina Pratt, was the first person to tell me this and when she said it a lightbulb flicked on inside me. Peruse her website and her podcasts; they're the best sources of shamanic inspiration and energy body information for contemporary people! But this makes sense doesn't it? So let's talk about our energy body for a sec. What if it is actually our first defense against getting sick?
You might be like, "Emily, what are you talking about?"
And my answer for you is, "Exactly!"
Our culture and the allopathic model of medicine doesn't teach us about our energy body and boundaries. (Hundreds of years ago - and still today even - a lot of hard work went into decimating the ancient practices of people who sought out herbalists, witches, medicine people, midwives, and shamans. Not our topic today so I won't get too high upon my soap box but many of our energy body cultivation practices burned with the witches and shamans of our ancestors.)
The energy body isn't a mental or psychological construct; it is not an imagined something, which is about as far as our culture goes into this dialogue. As Christina says, we're an energy bucket. And most of us are leaky because our energy body needs daily nutrients the way our physical body needs food and because we don't know this body even exists we're filled with holes. Energy body nutrients come in the form of energy cultivation and boundary practices (Yoga, Tai chi, Qigong, etc) to strengthen and repair the damage caused by living daily in modern society. This is why practicing yoga on the regular feels so darn good. I'll go into more depth in another post about energy body and boundary cultivation but let's get back to our topic of preventing diseases.
So you been practicing yoga at least twice a week but you're still a work in progress (aren't we all, darling) and you still feel that little tickle in your precious lil throat or nagging ache in your beautiful bones.
What to do?
There are many herbs that are AMAZING at preventing the pathogens from cozying up inside you. Today I'm gonna mention two. Back before the studio was open I used to spend big bucks on a tincture sold at co-ops all over Seattle called Umcka. Whenever I felt like I might be getting sick I started taking it. It's awesome by the way so if you can afford it stock up! Now that money is tighter and I can't afford the $16+/oz Umcka tincture, I use ginger. Yep, common household runnathamill ginger.
This next bit of information has been taken out of Stephen Harrod Buhner's amazing book (okay, all of his books are pretty stunning!): Herbal Antivirals.
The most important thing to remember is to get on this as soon as you feel a cold or flu coming on. Ginger still makes a difference once sickness has set in, but if you really don't want to get sick then you gotta get right on it!
An antiviral, ginger inhibits the attachment of viruses to the cell, inhibits hemagglutinin, inhibits viral proteases, inhibits neuraminidase, stimulates antiviral macrophage activity, is virucidal...
Active Against: Ginger has been used across the world for treating a large range of viral infections including colds, influenza, hepatitis, herpes, yellow fever, measles, chicken pox, and enterovirus..."
As per Mr. Buhner's recommendations, the best way to use ginger is by fresh juicing the rhizome (root). Throw a handful or so into your juicer and don't compost the pulp! Though I rarely recommend cutting potent drinks (Jameson neat please), don't drink ginger juice straight up because this is very very spicy spicy, baby! Your stomach won't appreciate the heat. I cut fresh juiced ginger with as little water as I can manage and then sip it in small amounts sorta quickly.
(If you drink too much too fast you'll get a short-lived tummy ache and a flush throughout your physical body that will make you want to jump right outta your skin.)
I then put the pulp in a pot with some water, bring it to a boil, then let it simmer all day, and sip as tea throughout the day. You can add honey and lemon if you like as well. If you don't have a juicer then simply slice the ginger, put it in a pot, add some water, boil then simmer.
Do this for 2-3 or more days.
This is amazingly effective and wonderfully affordable. It's worked for me for several years now. My hope is that this post empowers you to take your immunity into your own hands. You don't need expensive products manufactured in a lab - even if they are herbal, organic, and blah blah blah. All you need is your local grocery store's bulk ginger.
Enjoy and let me know how it goes for you.
(Caution: if trying to get pregnant or if you are pregnant be careful with the amount of ginger you take. Large amounts act as an emmenagogue, which means is can have abortive effects.)