Saturday, May 30, 2009

Prevent Flu Attacks With Bikram And Smart Winter Foods

I've been practising Bikram for a little over 2 years now, and so this is my third winter with the sweat box to get me through. It's around this time each year that I've noticed numbers dip and sway a little. And why wouldn't they? The mornings are fast becoming icy and most of us have either been sick or are fighting hard not to sick. Even if that's not you, the warmth of bed in the morning or the couch and some comfort food at night is hard to avoid. It's all too easy to tell yourself that it would be smarter to stay home in the warmth, to preserve your winter health with some extra sleep.

Well sleep and rest is sure important, but let me tell you this. I've never before come across an exercise form as effective as Bikram for staving off flus and colds. We all know that prevention is the best cure, and in this case we've got the ultimate example. Next time you consider staying home, letting another day pass with no healthy movement, or maybe even indulging in that extra big comfort dinner, make the smart choice, and get your butt down to class before the winter blues turn well and truly into the winter flu.

Of course exercise alone isn't enough to complete any aspect of health. If you're not nurturing your body with some smart winter foods then you'll be fighting hard all flu season. Here's how to cruise through winter with nutrition choices to warm your body and soul, toughen your immune system, and fight off those ever-present pesky diseases.
  • As my Chinese Medicine Practitioner used to say to me, "keep your kidneys happy". This means not only should you keep your lower back warmly covered from the cold (and your head, especially post-class!), but you should choose warm winter foods to nourish your organs and your health.
  • With that in mind, now is definitely the time to re-heat everything (stove is better than microwave), choose warm breakfast foods like a healthy cooked breaky rather than cold cereal, and indulge in plenty of soups and stews.
  • Teas are a fantastic way of staying warm and building health through winter. Ginger and lemongrass is great for immune system health, but if you don't like tea then one of my favourite anti-flu brews is a simple mix of hot water, lemon, and a dash of honey. Add a little ginger for flavour and warmth.
  • Use spices liberally. If you're a chilli-lover, then go nuts. If not, all warm spices such as pepper, lemongrass, coriander and ginger are a great addition to a standard meal and a wonderful way to boost your health.
  • Try not to go too hungry. A little hunger is a good thing, but allowing near-starvation to set in - particularly after class - is nothing but a fast-track to illness. You need to regularly provide your body with the nutritional tools it needs to get through each day. Aim for 3-5 mid-size meals each day, and try to keep even your snacks on the warmer side. Poached fruit with full-fat organic yogurt is one of my favourites.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes. Okay, so this last one's not about nutrition, but it's just common sense. One of the greatest benefits of Bikram is the heat and the detoxification of potential illness. But the absolute worst thing you can do is run straight out into the cold with inadequate covering. Even if it's just for a minute or two, and espeically if your hair is wet. The same principle goes at home - keep the heater on low and try to get moving a little every hour or so. When you do venture outdoors, don't kid yourself that a jumper, jacket, scarf and hat is overkill.
We're all exposed to germs every day. We each come into contact with people who are sick or about to be sick. You can't avoid that - but with Bikram and some smart winter foods you can sure do your best to fight off the flu for the rest of the season.

Do you have any tips for fighting off sickness during winter? Leave a comment below. Alternatively, contact me with your queries and I'll try to answer it as a post.

Food for Yoga. Food for Life.


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