by Alex Redmond
It’s that time of year for making snowmen and snug duvet days watching your favourite films. Unfortunately this time of year is not always merry-making and fun, it’s also the season of colds, flu and general ill health. The good news is there are really simple, easy and natural things we can do to maximise our immune system and keep ourselves healthy.
Here are my top 5 tips for staying healthy:
1. Drink a cup of Turmeric Milk each day.
Drink a cup of Turmeric each day to boost your immune system.
Turmeric has been used for centuries to boost immunity and treat coughs and colds. Lots of people are put off by the idea of drinking turmeric, try my favourite recipe below, it’s sweet, warming and will keep those colds at bay, you might be surprised how good it tastes!
I like to make up a paste that I can keep in a jar in the fridge and use whenever I need to instead of making it fresh each time, then just add between half and a whole teaspoon of the paste (to your own taste) for each mug of turmeric milk.
Ingredients for the paste:
1 tbsp ground Turmeric
½ tbsp ground Ginger
½ tbsp ground Cinnamon
1tsp Black Pepper
1tsp Vanilla essence
½tsp Ground Cloves
To make the paste, add all the spices together and bind with a bit of water until it forms a paste. Then pop the paste in a small jar and conserve in the fridge.
(Feel free to remove any spice, apart from the turmeric, that you don’t like or add in your own favourite sweet spice)
To make a cup of turmeric milk
250ml milk (this can be cow’s milk, goat’s milk, coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk or soya milk depending on your dietary and taste requirements, but I think it goes particularly well with coconut milk)
½ or 1 tsp mixed paste (recipe above)
1 tsp Honey (or agave nectar or any other natural sweetener of your choice)
Add the milk into a small saucepan, then mix in the paste and bring to boil. Add in the sweetener to your taste and then remove the saucepan from the heat. Use a tea strainer over your cup and pour the Turmeric milk through the strainer into your cup. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg. Enjoy!
2. Practice some winter breathing exercises.
Breathing techniques (Pranayama) can boost general and lung health and help keep airways, throat and lungs free from infections.
Kapalabhati Pranayama, also known as the cleansing breath, cleanses the body’s internal system, not only the respiratory organs, but it also has a beneficial effect on the digestive system and organs, including the stomach, pancreas and liver. (You can read more about the benefits of Kapalabhati here).
To practice this breathing technique:
Sit comfortably with a straight back to make space for your lungs, and place your hands on your lower belly.
Use your diaphragm to forcefully and fully expel all the air from your lungs (as if you were blowing your nose). If you are new to this practice, use a longer slower exhale to force the air from your lungs, slowly working up to shorter, more forceful exhalations.
Allow the inhalation to come naturally, the lungs filling spontaneously, without effort or forcing anything.
Perform this cycle ten times to start off with, or less if you feel light headed, then allow your breathing return to normal and observe the sensations in your body. Repeat these cycles of ten movements two or three times to start off with and gradually work up to 6 rounds (60 breaths).
Here is a Youtube demonstration of Kapalabhati breathing from Yoga International.
If you are suffering from high blood pressure, any heart disease, hernia, gastric ulcers, vertigo, epilepsy, lung diseases such as asthma or poor lungs capacity or recovering from tuberculosis or if you are pregnant, you should do these exercises only under expert guidance.
3. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
Make sure your are getting lots of health boosting vitamins and minerals, eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg each day. If you don’t like eating them, try juicing them!
Top fruit & veggies for winter health are Kiwi, Oranges, Blueberries, Cantaloupe, Spinach, Broccoli, Kale, Carrots, Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes.
Try adding some raw, organic coconut oil into your smoothie or meal for an extra boost.
Always buy your fruit and vegetables as fresh and local as possible.
4. Reduce your stress levels
Stress hormones lower your body’s ability to fight off infections and viruses, and can even cause illnesses and disease. Take steps to reduce your stress levels this winter; simplify your life as much as possible, be picky about which party invitations you accept and make time to get some physical exercise; take a walk in the countryside or park and get some fresh air out in a natural environment.
You can use a deep breathing practice to calm down your nervous system, check out my free guided breathing practice below.
5. Sleep well
If we’re not sleeping well, we’re more likely to get a cough or cold, studies have shown that a lack of sleep decreases the levels of infection fighting white blood cells in the body. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and keep your immune system at peak condition!
Make sure you are relaxed before heading off to bed; switch off the TV or computer for at least half an hour before bedtime and go to bed a little bit earlier. Listen to a guided relaxation, take a relaxing bath or do a bit of very gentle yoga or Tai Chi before you head off to bed.
Stay healthy, happy & enjoy 2014!
About the Author
Alex has been practicing yoga for over 15 years and started teaching around 4 years ago. She holds a diploma of Yoga Teacher from the British School of Yoga (BSY). She is a member of the National Association of Yoga Teachers (YANI). Alex also has a diploma of Meditation Teacher accredited by the National UK Therapists Register (SFTR).
Alex is from the Isle of Wight, UK, and moved in 2010 to live in Ogliastra, Sardinia for a simpler and quieter life, enjoying the beauty of the island and the friendly hospitality of the people of the area. She now holds regular yoga and meditation classes for local residents and has recently launched Stress Management for a Modern World, an online mindfulness based stress management course which lasts for 8 weeks.