BY LINDA EGENES

Respiratory and ImmunityYou’ve read the warnings to wash your hands, avoid shaking hands with others, and cough into your sleeve during colder weather or when you are not feeling well.

Yet taking precautions can go much further. For instance, have you taken steps to boost your immunity? After all, a healthy immune system is your best defense.

“Strengthening and maintaining immunity is a vital part of any wellness program or approach,” says Chris Clark, M.D., former director of the Raj Ayurveda Health Center and author of Ayurvedic Healing. “You want to give yourself the best opportunity for health, and for that you want to optimize your immune system.”

According to Dr. Clark, immunity is weaker during the seasonal transition from winter to spring. As temperatures fluctuate, so does our gut health, causing toxins to overwhelm the digestive system. At the same time, sleep cycles and other biorhythms are disrupted in the days after Daylight Saving Time begins.

“So there are two factors happening at the same time: the change of seasons and the disruption of normal circadian rhythms due to Daylight Saving Time,” Dr. Clark says.

Fortunately, Maharishi Ayurveda offers a wealth of health tips to fortify immunity no matter what your age. Here are five simple ways to shore up your immune power.

1. Fire Up Your Digestive Strength
The first step to better immunity is restoring your gut health. Ayurvedic texts explain that immunity is directly linked to digestion. When your digestion is weak, a sticky, byproduct of undigested food, called ama, can spread to other parts of the body, impacting the efficiency of every aspect of our metabolic processes, from cell reproduction to the ability to convert foods into energy. In fact, it’s weak digestion and the accumulation of ama that increase susceptibility to seasonal imbalances.

Agni, the fire of digestion, burns away ama. Because agni is weaker in these spring months, when outdoor temperatures are fluctuating and your biorhythms are adjusting to a new season, it’s especially important to pay attention to gut health in spring.

“Anything that strengthens agni enhances immunity,” says Dr. Clark. “Anything that weakens agni decreases immunity. That’s why it’s important not to overeat, or to eat foods that are too heavy to digest, or to eat before the previous meal is digested, particularly when the seasons are changing.”

It is natural that during the winter when our bodies are working harder to stay warm, we may tend to eat more, and sometimes we can overeat. As we transition to spring, the need to eat may lessen, but we may maintain our normal food routine, thus overwhelming our digestion and leading to ama. Also there may be some ama accumulation from the winter months when we tend to eat more.

Eating light, warm, more digestible foods is the ticket. Season your food with spices such as fresh ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, and black pepper to perk up digestion. Try eating your main meal at lunchtime and eat lighter at night, as digestive strength wanes as the sun sets. Vegetable soup, lightly spiced rice and dhal (kitchari), and cooked veggies are good choices for light evening fare. Try to stay away from heavy sweets.

Because spring weather is cool, damp, and heavy, Ayurveda recommends drinking hot water throughout the day to keep digestive strength high. Avoid ice-cold drinks and foods, such as ice cream, as these can douse agni and make it hard for your gut to do its job. For some people, periodic fasting (such as eating warm, cooked, liquefied meals one day a week) can be helpful in maintaining a strong immune system.

Learn more about our easy home detox programs that are ideal for removing toxins and improving digestion during these transitional months.

2. Exercise daily.
Light daily exercise (or heavier if that is your routine) is a great way to keep your digestion toned and your elimination moving waste products out of your system. Walking 30 minutes a day at a brisk pace can stimulate digestion and improve your immunity. While walking is a good exercise to do directly after a meal, you’ll want to wait until your meal is completely digested before engaging in more vigorous exercise.

3. Get More Rest.
Sleep is a great healer, allowing your immune system to repair itself and detoxify. One interesting point from Ayurveda: it’s not only the amount of sleep that matters, but when. Sleeping late in the morning, especially in springtime, can slow your digestion and make you feel sluggish and dull. As recent research on body rhythms has shown, the Ayurvedic maxim of going to bed before ten at night and waking up at first light, around six, keeps your energy and immunity levels in top form. This routine translates into seven to eight hours of rest at the optimal time of night.

4. Tamp Down Stress. While you can’t do anything about nail-biting world events, you can do something about the way you handle life’s challenges. Managing stress is not a luxury item—it’s necessary to keep your immunity healthy. When you’re stressed, science has shown that your resistance to antigens is lower, making you more susceptible to infection.

Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises can cut down on stress and help you stay positive and calm. The Transcendental Meditation technique, for instance, is widely known as an effective stress-reduction technique and has been associated with 50 percent lower hospital admissions for a wide range of diseases. It also is associated with a significant reduction in harmful stress coping strategies such as cigarette, alcohol, and drug usage, all of which can compromise immunity.

“Reducing stress is one of the key ways to improve immunity,” says Dr. Clark. “States of heightened stress are related to a heightened immune response.”

Social support is also important to immunity. “Engaging in activities that give you joy and happiness on a daily basis, such as spending time in nature, or with your family and friends, helps reduce stress,” says Dr. Clark.

5. Take Immune-Boosting Supplements
For those times when your immunity needs help, such as when you are traveling, feeling stressed, or for some reason can’t follow your normal diet and routine, Ayurveda recommends taking herbal supplements to shore up your digestion, remove toxins, and revitalize immunity.

Bio-Immune is a potent Ayurvedic formula that restores balance in two ways: It eliminates the intestinal toxins that challenge our immune system and restores healthy intestinal flora, the body’s first line of defense against imbalance. Bio-Immune also supports natural immunity and helps detoxify blood, supports liver health, and promotes cellular regeneration.

  • eliminates toxins that weaken the immune system
  • supports natural immunity
  • increases resistance to stress
  • promotes liver function
  • is formulated with ashwagandha, holy basil & gotu kola
  • takes over 6 months to prepare

Cold Weather Defense nourishes the body’s natural defense mechanisms, helps remove toxins, and is useful as an all-season safeguard.

  • removes toxins that weaken resistance
  • is formulated with indian elecampane, licorice & hyssop, and holy basil
  • helps regulate mucus in the lungs & sinuses
  • supports overall immunity
  • enhances digestion to minimize production of toxic food residues that can weaken resistance.

Read our reviews to learn what customers have to say about Bio-Immune and Cold Weather Defense.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], March 13, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

Seven Ways to Keep Your Respiratory System Healthy this SpringTake a deep breath. Did you breathe through your nose? Did your chest or belly move as you inhaled or exhaled? Did you hear the sound of your breath?

Chances are you barely notice your body going about its quiet work of inhaling and exhaling, yet your life depends upon it. The 25,000 breaths you take each day supply life-giving oxygen to your brain, your heart, and every cell in your body. And to perform at their best your respiratory system’s airways—comprised of your nose, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes, diaphragm, lungs, and capillaries —need to be supple, flexible, and free of obstruction and irritation.

It’s during spring and autumn that respiratory immunity can trend lower, because your digestive strength fluctuates with the changing weather and may create more ama, the waste product of incomplete digestion. Ama can clog the fine channels and capillaries of the lungs with mucus. The key to burning away ama, according to Maharishi Ayurveda, is to strengthen your digestion and engage in daily routines that reduce ama. This in turn will improve immunity.

Here are seven ways to fine-tune your gut health, boost immunity, and keep your respiratory system in balance. Of course, if you have already developed a respiratory issue, consult your doctor immediately.

1. Eat foods that nourish the lungs and sinuses.
To bolster your immunity in spring, eat more warm, light, nourishing foods such as soups. Or favor light meals of mildly-spiced vegetables with grains such as quinoa, amaranth, or millet. Go easy on the desserts, dairy foods, and oils. Eating a lighter diet for a few weeks while the seasons are changing goes a long way in reducing ama and balancing mucus in the respiratory system. The prevention-oriented Ayurvedic perspective is that food is medicine and when eaten appropriately in the right quantity, traditional “medicine” will not be needed long term. Cook your food with immune-enhancing spices such as cumin, fennel, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and black pepper. An easy way to get these spices mixed properly is to sprinkle on Kapha Churna, which is recommended during Kapha season (springtime) or if you have more Kapha dosha. If Kapha Churna is not to your liking, or too strong for your Pitta or Vata dominant body, try Pitta or Vata Churna instead. You can also take one tablet of Herbal Digest with each meal to spark digestion, or take Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) at night if your elimination is not regular.

2. Drink plenty of warm fluids throughout the day. Start your morning by drinking a cup of warm water flavored with the juice of half a lemon. This simple tonic stimulates digestion and cleanses impurities. Then continue sipping plain hot water throughout the day to dissolve ama.

Sniffle Free Tea can help balance and clear the sinuses, and Organic Digest & Detox Tea is a powerful way to cleanse toxins from the body when the seasons are changing. Here’s an herbal tea you can make at home to reduce ama and fire up digestion.

Immunity Boost Tea
Boil two quarts of water and pour into a thermos flask. Add 3 leaves of holy basil (tulsi), 2 pieces of clove, 1/4 t. of marshmallow root, 2-3 leaves of mint, and 2 pinches of Indian sarsaparilla. Strain and sip throughout the day. Recommended by Maharishi Ayurveda Vaidyas.

3. Don’t let stress weaken your immunity. Have you ever noticed that when you feel stressed, your immunity takes a hit? To keep your stress levels low during challenging times, schedule in daily meditation and yoga. You also can practice breathing deeply from your diaphragm to reduce stress.

“If we are constantly under stress, the muscles of the diaphragm become weak, and all our breathing starts to come from the chest area,” explains Dr. Tony Nader, M.D., Ph.D. “That is not healthy or efficient. This type of shallow breathing has been found to not only cause changes in the mind such as anxiety, it also has an effect on the blood pressure, digestive system, and heart rate because the chest isn’t expanding and relaxing as it normally would, causing many complications to arise. By re-establishing simple breathing from the diaphragm, we are going to feel something very good.”

To learn step-by-step how to breathe from your diaphragm, check out this 14-lesson series that was recorded live on Dr. Tony Nader’s Facebook page. Scroll down to Global Meditation, Day 1 to begin.

A number of research studies have indicated that these types of Ayurvedic breathing exercises, called pranayama, help cleanse the secretions of air pathways, increase lung capacity, and improve respiratory muscle strength in people with asthma, leading to more efficient and easy breathing. Other research shows that regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique over a period of six months helped reduce bronchial asthma symptoms. Pranayama has a balancing effect not only on the body, but also on the mind.

4. Add self-massage (abhyanga) and steam inhalation to your daily routine. The skin is the largest organ in the body, and daily massage with warm oil can help loosen impurities in the many layers of the skin, open the pores and channels, move toxins to the lymph system for elimination, and in turn stimulate digestion—all of which helps immunity. See simple instructions for Ayurvedic daily massage here.

Use warm sesame oil or Youthful Skin Massage Oil to improve sleep and reduce stress. (Important note from vpk: massage is not recommended if you already have a respiratory imbalance as that can exacerbate the problem.)

Follow your massage with a warm bath or shower to increase circulation, warm your body, and flush out toxins. After massage is a great time to do a steam inhalation with Clear Breathe, a penetrating blend of fennel, clove, and eucalyptus that clears impurities from the respiratory system and sinuses. Place 2-3 drops of Clear Breathe in a pan of steaming water. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the steam for 5-10 minutes, being careful not to burn yourself on hot surfaces.

5. Engage in aerobic exercise daily while breathing through the nose. Daily aerobic exercise—such as walking briskly for 30 minutes in the fresh air—helps your lungs and heart work harder, expanding their capacity to supply oxygen to your body and brain. The result is more efficiently functioning heart and lungs, plus better digestion and a mood lift.

Research indicates many benefits arise from breathing through your nose. Inhaling through the nasal passages helps filter pollutants and conditions the air in cold weather, protecting the lungs. When the air is filtered through the nose, more oxygen is extracted, increasing energy and vitality. Ayurvedic nasal breathing during exercise should not be forced and only practiced if easy to maintain.

And whenever possible, exercise outdoors in parks and away from highways or pollution to bring the best quality of oxygen to your lungs.

6. Try these targeted herbal supplements to keep your respiratory system in balance.
Protection Plus Respiratory System contains 26 herbs that detox and cleanse the respiratory channels and act synergistically to protect the lungs from respiratory problems. While it targets the lung’s immunity, it will help the entire system to fight imbalances and allergens.

Clear Throat is a mild-tasting herbal syrup that helps clear impurities from the upper respiratory system; balances excess fluid in the lungs, throat, and sinuses; and cools and soothes the throat.

Bio-Immune, Sniffle Free, and Cold Weather Defense tablets are all immune-enhancing herbal supplements that target immunity and are well worth taking during the spring season to help avoid seasonal imbalances

Elim-tox and Elim-tox O also help strengthen digestion and remove ama.

7. If you are feeling dull or sluggish, try a detox. Follow the Maharishi Ayurveda Detoxification System Guidelines to gently cleanse impurities from your mind-body system. When you give your body a chance to clear out accumulated toxins, it’s a bit like spring-cleaning your body. A powerful way to improve respiratory health and overall immunity this spring.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], April 30, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

Key to ImmunityAs we face a global pandemic, immunity is on all of our minds. The most effective ways to increase the immune system may be deeper than you think.

According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, strong immunity is synonymous with strong digestion. In fact, the factors that determine a person’s bala, or immunity, are directly related to digestion.

Let’s break down the digestion-immunity connection in three stages.

Stage One: Is your digestion strong enough to digest your food properly?

Digestion is defined as a person’s capacity to break down food into substances that can be used by the body—and it’s the word “capacity” that contains the whole story.

If your capacity to break down food is impaired, undigested food or ama is created. Ama is the Ayurvedic term for the sticky, gooey mess that is left behind when digestion isn’t going right (you may know that feeling—heartburn, bloating, or your stomach in knots). Another sign of ama is a coated tongue.

When ama, the waste product of incomplete digestion, accumulates in the digestive tract, it overwhelms the digestive fire (called agni in Ayurveda), making your digestion even weaker. Eventually, if your digestion stays weak and continues to generate ama, it can travel to other parts of the body where it can accumulate and cause stiff joints, clogged arteries, brain fog, and a host of other imbalances.

You may have heard health practitioners describe “leaky gut syndrome,” an unhealthy inflammatory response caused when particles of undigested food, bacteria, or toxins cross the intestinal wall, enter the bloodstream, and spread to other parts of the body. This is another way of saying that when food is not digested properly, it can eventually cause imbalance and health problems throughout the body.

Stage Two: Is your gut environment so healthy that imbalances can’t take root?

When digestion is healthy, it not only burns away or digests ama, but also digests and eliminates toxins from the gut—including invasive microorganisms. A balanced metabolism creates an ama-free gut environment that is not welcoming to invaders.

In modern terminology, a balanced microbiome is an environment in which the good bacteria thrive and the bad bacteria recede. In Ayurveda, it’s said that imbalance can only grow in conditions where ama and imbalance already exist.

Stage Three: Is your digestion performing at its peak, supporting radiant skin, shining eyes, exuberant energy, and robust immunity?

This is the goal of Ayurveda—to create such healthy digestion that your skin is glowing, your eyes are bright, and you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically balanced. It’s a definition of health that goes way beyond not being sick—it’s a state of happiness and self-realization.

So how do we get there? That’s a big question, and actually the entire field of Ayurveda is aimed at improving digestion in order to create this balanced state of health and immunity.

Here’s an easy guide for getting started.

Ten Ayurvedic Ways to Boost Your Gut Health (and your immunity)

  1. Eat fresh, organic food according to your body type.
  2. Sit down when you eat, and choose a settled atmosphere—including congenial conversation with friends or family—to support digestion. In other words, eating standing up at a counter in O’Hare Airport could be hard on your digestion.
  3. Plan your main meal at noon, when digestive strength is strongest. Eat lighter at breakfast and dinner. Allow three hours to digest your evening meal before going to bed.
  4. Eat your meals at the same time every day. Avoid snacking between meals unless you’re hungry, as this disrupts digestion and can cause gas and bloating.
  5. Include plenty of roughage in your diet, including freshly cooked veggies, whole grains, and pulses (small beans such as split mung dahl). Roughage binds to toxins and carries them out of the body.
  6. Use spices and herbs to stimulate digestion such as cumin, coriander, fennel, oregano, basil, and rosemary, according to your body type.
  7. End your noon meal with lassi, a natural yogurt-based probiotic drink.
  8. Drink plenty of pure water throughout the day. Your digestive system needs water to work properly—dehydration is not only the main cause of sluggish bowel movements, but also contributes to low energy and mental fatigue. Sipping hot water throughout the day is a good way to dissolve ama. Ice-cold water and drinks, on the other hand, disrupt digestion and create ama.
  9. Exercise daily according to your body type, as movement boosts agni and helps burn away ama.
  10. Use herbal supplements for digestion management.
  • Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) to support your digestive system and elimination.
    This go-to daily detox formula helps maintain regular elimination and the flushing of toxins from the body, purifies the liver, intestines and blood, assists the digestion and absorption of nutrients, tones the large intestine, and creates luster in the skin, a sign of healthy digestion. It contains a powerful combination of three legendary fruits—indian gooseberry, chebulic myrobalan, and belleric myrobalan—revered in the Ayurvedic tradition for their cleansing and nourishing benefits. Digest Tone is also a powerful antioxidant and balances all three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha).
  • Herbal Cleanse to support elimination and intestinal cleansing.
    Herbal Cleanse absorbs toxins in the GI tract, promotes the growth of friendly colon bacteria, and protects the mucus membranes of the colon. Indian leaf senna, sweet fennel, indian jalap, and other herbs in this traditional formula support natural, healthy elimination. Chttps://www.mapi.com/products/herbal-supplements/detoxification/herbal-cleanse.htmlabbage rose cools the intestines, making it ideal for balancing Pitta dosha.
  • Aci-Balance to balance stomach acidity.
    This Pitta-pacifying formula soothes occasional acid indigestion and heartburn, helps maintain stomach acidity, and helps relieve occasional flatulence and sour belching. A rare form of white turpeth and the other synergistically blended herbs help rebalance and moderate the digestive fire for smooth comfort.
  • Herbal Di-Gest supports improved digestion and balanced appetite.
    By stimulating sluggish digestion, Herbal Di-Gest promotes absorption of nutrients, balances food cravings, and helps with gas, bloating, and discomfort. A blend of 12 Ayurvedic herbs and spices including pomegranate seeds, ginger, cumin seeds, and black pepper helps fine-tune your digestion to improve assimilation and elimination and helps you feel light and clear after meals. Effective in balancing Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas.
  • Liver Balance to balance, nurture, and support healthy liver function.
    As the filter between all the toxins and pollutants outside your body, your liver is essential to digestion and your health. This traditional Ayurvedic formula helps strengthen and cleanse the liver by supporting the elimination of impurities. This formula promotes good appetite and assimilation of nutrients, helps digestion and metabolism of fats, and supports healthy blood cells, bile, and nutritional fluids
  • Glucostat helps maintain healthy sugar metabolism.
    This potent herbal combination helps boost the body’s natural ability to digest and metabolize sugars, when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. Boerhavia, spreading hogweed, winter cherry, mineral pitch, neem, and arjuna myrobalans help to nourish both kidney cells and liver functions. This formula supports the healthy functioning of kidneys and liver, improves digestion, improves digestion and assimilation of carbohydrates, and cleanses and nourishes the pancreas.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], August 20, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

Excerpted from Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda (Part 2 in a Series of 3)

by Kumuda Reddy, M.D., and Linda Egenes

Super Healthy KidsImmunity depends on healthy and vibrant digestion during childhood and beyond. This is a central principle of Maharishi Ayurveda.

The digestive juices are likened to a fire, called agni. In fact, the word agni refers to the sun and fire, and to the digestive and metabolic transformations that take place in the body. Charaka Samhita (an ancient text that expounds the principles of Ayurveda) states that strength, health, and longevity all depend on the power of agni.

Agni also refers to the digestive enzymes and secretions in the stomach and small intestines. Called jatharagni, the main agni, these digestive enzymes and secretions are responsible for breaking down food and turning it into chyle, or nutrient fluid. When jatharagni is healthy and strong, the nutrient fluid is formed correctly and easily reaches the cells to create and nourish healthy tissues.

After the process of digestion breaks down the food you eat into nutrient fluid, the various tissues of the body are metabolized through a series of transformations. These tissues include plasma, hemoglobin, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow, the central nervous system, and the reproductive tissue including semen and ovum.

The creation of tissue, called dhatu, requires a brightly burning digestive fire, or metabolic process. This is because the dhatus are formed in a sequence, starting with the nutrient fluid in the blood and ending with the reproductive tissue. If there is any block or abnormality at any point in the digestive process, then there will be a weakness in that tissue, and in all the tissues that follow in the chain of transformation.

So you can see how very important a strong digestion is to children, who are growing so rapidly and need to develop healthy blood, bones, organs, and brain. The following chart outlines the seven dhatus with their Sanskrit names.

chart:

The Seven Dhatus (Body Tissues)

Rasa—Blood plasma, chyle, nutrients

Rakta—Blood cells, hemoglobin

Mamsa—Muscle

Meda—Fat and adipose tissue

Asthi—Bone

Majja—Bone marrow and the central nervous system

Shukra—Reproductive tissue, including semen and ovum

This process of forming nutrient fluid into new tissues takes place in the cells—thus agni also resides in each cell. In fact, there is a meta- bolic process (agni) associated with each tissue (dhatu) cell, to trans- form that tissue into the next tissue in the sequence.

Thus rasa agni transforms nutrient fluid (rasa) into blood (rakta).

Once that transformation is complete, rakta agni transforms blood into muscle (mamsa). Mamsa agni transforms muscle into fat, and so on. A disturbance in mamsa agni could cause the muscle to be weak, and because the dhatus are formed in a sequence, all the subsequent

transformations—of fat to bone and bone to bone marrow, and so on—would also be weakened.

In order for the nutrient fluid to be completely healthy, and in order for each dhatu agni to complete its transformation in each cell, the jatharagni, or digestion, must be functioning smoothly. You can see how healthy food and healthy digestion are essential for your child’s blood, muscles, fat, and bone tissues to be properly formed.

Agni also exists in every cell as the metabolic or transforming function, and thus maintains the proper functioning of the RNA and DNA. Agni is responsible for keeping the body’s cellular function vibrant. Each of the billion cells in the body has its own function, its own mechanisms. One may be concerned with seeing, one with hearing, one with digesting. Each organ and each cell has its own mechanisms. And in a healthy child, they’re all vibrant.

Strong Immunity Means Strong Digestion
Toxins in the Digestion

When digestion is weak or irregular, a sticky, toxic, waste product of digestion forms, called ama. Ama is the result of undigested food. It collects in the stomach first, but if it is not eliminated, it can spread to other parts of the body through the nutrient fluid and cause disease.

When digestion is weak and the nutrient fluid does not metabolize properly, it gets mixed with ama. Ama blocks the channels that carry nutrients to the cells, resulting in undernourishment, and if left unchecked, weakness and disease in the tissues. Ama also causes blockage in the channels of circulation and elimination, resulting in fatigue, lack of energy,  lethargy, and a heavy, dull feeling. It can cause the flow of Vata to reverse itself, which results in constipation, indigestion, excessive belching, bloating, gas, heartburn, bad breath, or regurgita- tion of food. In general, ama can cause dullness in the eyes and skin and a dull mind.

Ama creates a fertile environment for bacteria, thus contributing to disease. It also provides a breeding ground for free radicals, the reac- tive oxygen molecules that many scientists believe cause 90 percent of disease.

Signs of a Healthy Digestion

You’ve now seen how a weak digestion can affect your child’s health. On the bright side, a healthy digestion can create a state of health that is so invincible that disease rarely, if ever, happens. When digestion is balanced, the body produces greater quantities of the vital material called ojas. Ojas is the end-product of digestion, the essence of the dhatus, created from the proper transformation of each of the agnis. It is always present in the body, as it resides in the gaps between the body tissues and also in the heart.

The healthier a child is, the more ojas, and vice versa. When ojas is lively, it creates contentment, enthusiasm, vitality, bliss, and clear thinking. It is reflected in a sparkle in the eyes and luster in the skin. You could say that ojas is the material form of bliss in the body. It is also the expression of immunity, or bala. Ojas helps prevent disease and maintains the balance of the doshas and dhatus.

Ojas is the finest material form of consciousness, and exists at the junction point between consciousness and matter. It is similar to bal- anced Kapha dosha in quality: heavy, soft, smooth, thick, sweet, stable, clear, and unctuous.

You can see that ama and ojas are exact opposites. When digestion is balanced, then food gets digested without excess waste, ojas is cre- ated at each transformation, and the tissues are properly nourished and infused with vitality. When digestion is weak, toxins (ama) mix with the nutrient fluid, are transported throughout the body, obstruct the channels, diminish ojas, and create weakened or abnormal tissues.

When immunity is fostered with proper health care, then each cell functions to the best of its capacity. Then there is perfection at the basic level of the cell—perfection in digestion, perfection in metabolism, and perfection in the RNA and DNA. Immunity is at its peak in every cell—whether in the brain, the muscles, or the skin. The immunity and strength in the body create vitality, a happy smile, and the vibrant health of youth. And more importantly, immunity and digestive strength wipe out disease.

This is the primary goal of Maharishi Ayurveda: to create total health in mind, body, and emotions throughout life. You could say that conventional medicine is treating at the level of the wave, while Maharishi Ayurveda treats the level of the deep ocean, at the source.

When immunity is based on the strength of the deep ocean, then germs are like little waves on the surface, and do not pose a problem.

They come and go and are not disturbing. If there is enough bala or immunity in the body, the child doesn’t get the flu so easily. After all, the germs will always be there—whether your child succumbs to the infection or not depends on his immunity. If immunity is strong, various physical, emotional, and environmental changes won’t affect the child’s basic stability and strength.

Excerpted from Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda by Kumuda Reddy, M.D. and Linda Egenes, Maharishi University of Management Press, 2010. 

Excerpted from Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda (Part 1 in a Series of 3)

by Kumuda Reddy, M.D., and Linda Egenes

Super Healthy KidsAccording to Maharishi Ayurveda, nutrition plays an important role in the developing human immune system. This is especially true during gestation. Undernourished, low- birth-weight babies show persistent immunological impairment for several months, even years.

Food is especially vital for the growing child. Every day your child is building bones, muscles, and brain cells at a rapid rate. Food gets converted into the seven dhatus, (tissues) and becomes the flesh, bones, blood, and muscles of the body. The more fresh the food is, the more consciousness it has, the more quickly it is converted into ojas, the most refined and nourishing product of digestion. And remember, ojas is directly related to immunity. The more wholesome the foods your child eats, the greater his immunity will be.

Because the amount of ojas is directly linked to the level of immunity, offering children ojas-producing foods should be the highest priority for parents. Here are five ways to increase the amount of ojas in your child’s diet to boost immunity.

1. Choose fresh foods.

In order to create ojas, food must be fresh to start with, the fresher the better. In Maharishi Ayurveda, there is the concept of prana or “life force.” Some foods contain more prana than others, and these are the foods that nourish both the body and mind.

Frozen, canned, packaged, and processed food has very little prana, and is therefore difficult to digest. If your child eats a steady diet of these foods, the result will be ama.

As a physician, it is easy for me to see which children are eating fresh, home-cooked meals and which children are eating processed, frozen, or canned foods. Signs of digestive toxic buildup (ama) in children include drowsiness, fatigue, a pale color, and lack of enthusiasm. Children who eat fresh foods tend to have rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes, and buoyant energy, not to mention less sickness and disease. Just by converting your child’s diet to fresh foods, you can increase his health and vitality immeasurably.

Foods that are packaged are not only old and lacking in prana, but they likely have many harmful additives and preservatives. A rule of thumb for choosing food: the more natural, whole, unprocessed, and unadulterated the food is, the healthier it will be for your child.

2. Serve regular meals of warm, cooked food.

Raw food is difficult to digest and can cause a Vata imbalance. Although many people believe that there are more vitamins in raw foods than in cooked ones, the problem is that the raw foods are hard to digest and assimilate. A preliminary study presented at the American Chemical Society showed that the antioxidant beta carotene—which exists in carrots, broccoli, and spinach and has been found to combat tissue damage and plaque in arteries—is absorbed 34 percent more easily in cooked and pureed carrots than in raw ones. The researchers concluded that cooking vegetables softens the plant tissue, allowing antioxidants to be released.

It’s better to serve children warm, delicious, attractive, and whole- some meals that have been cooked by someone who loves them. The warmth is essential for proper digestion, and helps avoid the buildup of ama. Children, being in the Kapha time of life, find warm foods espe- cially soothing and helpful to the digestive process.

Avoid serving your child food straight from the refrigerator. It’s better to serve warm drinks or warm water, fresh-cooked foods, and room- temperature fruits. Fresh salads made with grated carrot, ginger, fresh parsley, and cilantro are fine in small quantities to tone the appetite before the meal, if the child has strong digestion. (Grating makes vegetables more absorbable.)

3. Whenever possible, provide home-cooked meals for your child. There is no better medicine than mother’s home-cooked meals. Just as fresh food has more prana, so does food that is lovingly prepared with- out rushing. And the most important element of food is preparing it with love. As a mother, you put so much love into a meal. The mother’s love is pure ojas to the child. A mother’s food is, for that reason, recognized as the most nourishing in every culture in the world. I’m sure many of you are thinking, “but I don’t have time to cook elaborate meals using all natural ingredients!” Many of you are working mothers, and as a working mother myself, I know how difficult it is to prepare a hot supper after a long day on the job.

I would suggest that you start by adding just one more home-cooked meal a week. If you already cook twice a week, try cooking three times. If you don’t cook at all, try just one meal. Instead of picking up food at a restaurant, instead of popping a frozen pizza in the oven, try to cook a simple meal of fresh vegetables, grains, and legumes.

Then see how your family reacts. Do they appreciate your efforts? Are the children more satisfied, more settled after eating? How do you feel when you eat fresher, more lovingly prepared foods? How do your children feel? Are they more relaxed, more focused?

Then gradually add another home-cooked meal, and another. One thing I know about cooking—the more you do it, the easier it gets. If you just have in your mind that you are committed to cooking more, you will find ways to do it. Once you are committed to the idea, then it just becomes a matter of finding the easiest way to carry out your plan. For instance, you can enlist your older children and husband to help. Some families enjoy cooking together, and make the preparation of meals a family project.

The other problem is school lunches. If your child is eating institutionally prepared meals at school, the fact is that he or she is eating food that is not fresh. It may even be harmful. School cafeterias are notorious for using canned, frozen, and packaged foods, which are often laced with preservatives and other chemicals. Children usually com- plain about such food, calling it all sorts of unpleasant names. Most adults would not eat the food that is served in many school cafeterias.

I am not bringing this problem up to make you feel guilty. I am bringing it up because I know that if parents get passionate enough about something, they can do amazing things. You can band together with other parents and get the food in your child’s cafeteria changed. Or you can try to provide your child with a thermos of nourishing soup or other hot food from home. The main point is to first recognize the problem. The solution will make itself known.

Excerpted from Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda by Kumuda Reddy, M.D. and Linda Egenes, Maharishi University of Management Press, 2010.