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How and why Yoga, Ayurveda and diet can strengthen your immune and nervous systems and treat particular pre-existing conditions

vivekananda Lundi février 28, 2022

How and why Yoga, Ayurveda and diet can strengthen your immune and nervous systems and treat particular pre-existing conditions
Par M. G. Satchidananda

Natural and social calamities have been predicted by climatologists and social scientists for decades, while yogic seers have predicted these for centuries. While climatologists, social scientists and yogic seers agree that humanity is responsible for these, they differ on the question of how to prevent them. Climatologists prescribe sustainable energy sources. Social scientists prescribe economic and social policies. Yogic seers prescribe strengthening of the nervous and immune systems of the individual through Yoga, diet and the yamas, or social restraints (Note 1) to prepare for difficult times. However, they agree that we must act collectively with understanding and wisdom to respond effectively to widespread climatic and social challenges. We are all in this together!

While extreme storms, floods, fires, swings in temperature, and the rampant pollution of our waters and air may never leave our consideration, it has taken a pandemic to shut down countries and force us to change our social and economic behavior. The world has been knocked off its axis by Mother Nature with this pandemic. The plight of polar bears will never affect a critical mass within our collective consciousness, but the coronavirus may well move us to do what is needed.

Reports from experts in epidemiology indicate that those who have strong immune systems and no preexisting conditions, particularly of inflammatory diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, asthma and heart disease have a very low probability of developing severe symptoms of the corona virus disease or even any symptoms, even if infected by it.

Therefore, the best thing you can to avoid harmful infection is to strengthen your immune and nervous systems and to now begin to treat the above mentioned inflammatory conditions through the wholistic practices of the five-fold path of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and its sister science, Ayurveda, India’s indigenous treat science. Let’s explore how and why they are so effective.

Signs of a weak immune system include:

Repeated infections of any kind (like recurrent pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections). 
Feeling fatigued on a regular basis, despite adequate rest and sleep.
Minor wounds that are slow to treat.
Loss of appetite and decreased body weight.
Diet: The single most important change you can make in your life now is to stop consuming processed foods, which are often used as “comfort foods”.

Ultra-processed foods are designed to be irresistible and encourage overeating. Processing enhances palatability by adding sugar, fat and salt. Once we start eating them, it’s almost impossible to stop. Our gastrointestinal tracts rapidly absorb fast carbs, and, as a result, our bodies don’t feel full. So, we keep eating, and gain weight.

More important, fast carbs also promote insulin resistance, meaning the body can no longer regulate blood glucose. Insulin is a hormone the body produces to move glucose into the cells, which use it for fuel. When insulin cannot do this, sugar builds up in the blood and, over time, can harm the small blood vessels in the heart, kidneys and eyes.
This, in turn, can lead to metabolic syndrome, a constellation of symptoms that include hypertension, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Metabolic syndrome raises the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and other serious conditions.

As taught during the first initiation seminar of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga, it is recommended to maintain a vegetarian diet, which emphasizes the principles of Macrobiotics and/or Ayurveda to promote energetic balance, with whole, in season, organically and locally grown plant based food. This will also help to reduce global warming, environmental pollution and to reduce the demand for non-renewable sources of energy.

What to eat to boost your immune system:

Green, leafy vegetables: Kale, collard greens, spinach, cabbage and lettuce
Antioxidant-rich foods: Berries, artichokes, beets and dark chocolate
Foods with anti-inflammatory agents: avocados, broccoli, cherries, peppers and mushrooms
Lean proteins (vegetarian): beans, lentils
Bee propolis

A high-fiber meal plan works through the gut microbiome to reduce harmful and excessive immune responses in the lungs, while boosting antiviral immunity.

Examples include:
- Whole grains: Oatmeal, brown rice, bulgur wheat, quinoa and millet
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, chia, flax, sesame and hemp
- Flours: whole wheat, almond, chickpea, buckwheat and barley
- Legumes: Beans, dried peas and lentils
- Fruits and vegetables with skins: Apples, cucumbers and sweet potatoes.

How Yoga can strengthen your nervous and immune systems and treat particular pre-existing conditions
Scientists have linked chronic stress with how likely you are to develop a cold if exposed to a virus, and how severe the symptoms will be. High levels of stress are known to reactivate infections such as herpes and to make your immune system less likely to respond to a vaccine. The stress hormone, cortisol, appears to be the major player in this immune suppression. It has been linked to high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, resistance to insulin, and “food seeking behavior” and consequent obesity. Typical contemporary stressors – worries about relationships, problems related to employment and finances, security, happiness and fulfilment – tend not to be resolved quickly, so the stress response system (or sympathetic nervous system) stays activated or is repeatedly reactivated. Stress is often fueled by habitual thoughts and emotions. Yoga postures, pranayama and meditation have been repeatedly found to lower levels of this stress hormone by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes and restores hormonal equilibrium. Deep diaphragmatic breathing calms the mind and emotions. In meditation, one can learn to “let go” of worries and negative emotions, and to use the power of visualization and auto-suggestion to cultivate their opposite.

The lymph system carries lymph, a fluid rich in lymphocytes and other immune-system cells. The lymphatic system fights infections, kills rogue cancer cells, and disposes of some toxic waste products of cellular functioning. When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, the flow of lymph improves and with it, the functioning of lymphatic system. Fasting also helps it to catch up in processing such waste products.

How Yoga can treat diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes. People with Type 1, also known as juvenile-onset diabetes, due to the auto-immune destruction of that part of the pancreas which secretes the hormone known as insulin, must take external sources of it to regulate the level of blood sugar (glucose). Ninety percent of persons with diabetes however, have “adult-onset” or type 2 diabetes, in which their bodies may produce normal amounts of insulin, but their body becomes resistant to its effects and as a result their blood sugar rises. Why some persons develop such resistance is not known, but obesity and inactivity clearly make the problem worse. (Note 2) While some persons with type 2 take insulin (usually via injection) to improve blood sugar control, most are treated with oral medication and dietary measures. However, about 15% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have a slowly progressing type 1, or “latent autoimmune adult diabetes” (LAPD). Both types increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and complications including diabetes, kidney failure and amputations. Once you develop it, daily monitoring of your blood glucose level is required.
The good news is that with type 2 you may be able to prevent it or minimize its impact through regular exercise, keeping your weight down, and managing your stress. Yoga can help to prevent and treat diabetes in several ways. As a stress reducer, it can help you to reduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which raise blood sugar levels, and which promote both overeating and the accumulation of intra-abdominal fat, and which in turn contribute to insulin resistance. By reducing these stress hormones the risk of heart attack is also reduced.

Many persons with diabetes also develop problems with their autoimmune nervous system which controls blood vessels and various organs including the lungs and autonomic nervous system.

Many studies have also shown that those postures which massage the pancreas, including the bow pose, sitting crane, standing crane, and grasshopper pose are effective in restoring its ability to secrete insulin adequately, as well as to reduce intra-abdominal fat. The practice of Yoga also increases willpower, self-confidence, contentment, and discipline, all necessary in any effort to lose weight or manage health issues.

Pranayama, meditation and practicing relaxation after each Yoga asana, and shavasana at the end of a session also enables you to manage stress and consequently to avoid over-eating. (Note 3)

Keep moving. A recent study found that people with diabetes who walked two hours per week had a death rate in any particular year that was almost 40 percent lower than those who were more sedentary.

Get enough sleep. There is evidence that sleeping poorly contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes and to difficulty in managing it.

How Yoga can treat hypertension

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is sometimes referred to as the silent killer, because those who have it usually show no symptoms. It causes heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and even dementia. It affects one in six people in the Western world, yet as many as a third of them are unaware of the problem, and of those who know they have it, less than a quarter keep it under good control. The optimal rate is 120/80, referring to the pressures when the heart contracts and relaxes respectively, while resting. Repeated readings of 140/90 is the threshold for the diagnosis of hypertension. Most doctors will first recommend nondrug measures including diet, exercise, salt restriction, and weight loss, for up to six months, unless the reading is very high.

“When the novel coronavirus first hit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others put people with asthma at the top of their lists of those who might be the most vulnerable. But European researchers writing in the journal Lancet noted it was “striking” how underrepresented asthma patients had been. Earlier this month, when New York state released data about the top chronic health problems of those who died of covid-19, asthma was not among them. Instead, they were almost all cardiovascular conditions.” (Note 4)

The Yogic practice of self-study, svadhyaya, can help you to control hypertension by regularly monitoring your blood pressure with a device, recording it in a diary and correlating it with your mood, what you have eaten, caffeine or alcohol you have consumed, how stressed you feel, and how much sleep you have had.

Many studies have shown that cardio-vascular exercise and the weight loss that often results can reduce blood pressure. Since a vigorous asana practice, for example with repeated Sun Salutation, can be intense enough to be aerobic, it has the potential to lower pressure. Tightness in the muscles exerts pressures on arteries, creating more resistance to blood flow. Therefore, asanas and massage can lower BP by relaxing them.

Recent studies of walking conclude that 8,000 steps per day, at a rate of 100 steps per minute, are needed to maintain cardio-vascular health.

Stress can increase blood pressure in the short term. More important in the long-term is the effect of stress on life-style choices. People suffering from stress are more likely to skip exercise, eat unhealthy food, drink alcohol, and smoke cigarettes, all of which can contribute to increasing blood pressure. Therefore, Yoga’s ability to reduce stress through the practice of asanas, pranayama, meditation, mantras and chanting have been shown to lower blood pressure in several studies.

One of the most effective ways to reduce your blood pressure during the practice of asanas, is by making your exhalations twice as long as your inhalations to shift the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system towards the restorative parasympathetic side, and away from the sympathetic “fight or flight” side. Practice Ujjayi breathing by partially closing the glottis to facilitate concentration on the breath.

Chant “Om” or “Om Kriya Babaji Nama Aum” in a soft melody. Not only does it extend the exhalation, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, but its vibrations soothe the nerves.

Yogic therapy may vary depending upon the person. The person who is overworked, exhausted from running around on nervous energy needs slower restorative postures including some inversions, such as vibareethakarani (topsy-turvey). The person who is stuck in a frustrating job or relationship, pent up pressure needs a more dynamic practice which include repeated standing poses such as Triangle pose and Sun Salutations.

How Yoga can treat asthma

Asthma is a condition in which the bronchial tubes in the lungs become swollen, constricted, and blocked with mucus secretions, causing the characteristic symptoms of wheezing, chest tightness, cough and shortness of breath. It has been linked to genetic factors, allergies, air pollution and stress. Dysfunctional breathing habits, such as chest breathing, mouth breathing, and reverse breathing , and poor posture contribute to it by preventing the lower lungs, richly supplied with blood vessels, from getting enough oxygen to fully replenish the blood passing through those vessels. Poor postural habits limit the movement of the diaphragm and the ability of the rib cage to expand and contract. The practice of asanas corrects poor posture, strengthens and loosens these muscles. It also strengthens the abdominal muscles which must be engaged during healthy breathing.

Most persons with asthma have much more difficulty in exhaling than inhaling because of the narrowing of the small bronchial tubes due to inflammation and mucus. These tubes expand during inhalation, but tend to collapse during exhalation, leaving too much stale air trapped, and less room for new oxygen rich air to come in, thus compromising the oxygen supply required by the rest of the body. In response, breathing becomes quicker, short, inefficient and stressful. Rapid breathing causes carbon dioxide levels to drop, the blood to become more alkaline, and the blood cannot get as much oxygen as needed. This creates a vicious cycle where the asthmatic breathes even faster to bring in more oxygen.

The practice of pranayama with a ratio of 1:0:2:0, meaning an exhalation that is twice the length of the inhalation, and zero retention in between, serves as an antidote to the asthmatic condition, ensuring adequate absorption of oxygen. The practice of pranayama with abdominal breathing corrects the problems of chest breathing and reverse breathing. The practice of Asthma pranayama, wherein one inhales in stages, through the nostrils, quickly pulling down and releasing the diaphragm, and then exhales in stages through pursed lips, can help prevent asthma attacks. The practice of vipareethakarani asana with or without support can improve lung function.

People who engage in regular aerobic exercise have fewer asthma flare-ups, use less medication, and miss fewer days of school and work. Weight loss can be helpful, as overweight persons tend to breathe more shallowly, which can make the airways more likely to go int bronchospasm. Avoidance of polluted air, mold, chemical, environmental, and dietary allergens which can trigger inflammation and reduced lung function is also recommended. Dehumidifiers eliminate excess moisture that can lead to the buildup of mold.

How Yoga can treat heart disease.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women. More women than men suffer from heart attacks. In predicting heart attacks, doctors tend to focus on risk factors like smoking and elevated cholesterol, but science has uncovered strong evidence for other possible contributors. Type A behaviors, which are characterized by anger and hostility, a focus on achievement, and a sense of urgency about time, have been strongly linked to heart attacks in several studies. Other psychosocial factors include job dissatisfaction, loneliness, and an unhappy marriage. People with several other risk factors including being overweight, hypertension, diabetes, and inflammatory conditions have a much greater potential for heart attacks.

Stress hormones including cortisol, discussed above, induce changes that cause the blood to clot more easily. They also raise the blood pressure and heart rate, putting added strain on the heart and increasing its need for oxygen. “Although acute respiratory distress syndrome still appears to be the leading cause of death in covid-19 patients, blood complications are not far behind.” (Note 4).

Yoga’s ability to lessen anger may lower the risk of a heart attack. It takes three hours physiologically for the body to get back its balance and many heart attacks occur within these three hours. Studies show that meditation lowers cortisol while increasing the “feel good” hormones of serotonin and oxytocin. With regular practice meditation can change the brain: the hippocampus grows, and the amygdala shrinks resulting in less stress and greater immunity. The above mentioned “psychosocial” factors underlying heart disease can be treated using many Yogic practices and teachings including:

1. The practices of “letting go” of thoughts and emotions, cultivating the Witness, detachment from the fruit of ones action;

2. cultivating the opposite of negative thoughts and emotions using auto-suggestions as taught in Kriya Yoga.

3. the cultivation of love and devotion through bhakti yoga transforms anger into feelings of love, acceptance and gratitude;

4. service to other with karma yoga;

5. the observance of the social restraints of Yoga, known as the yamas, including non-harming, being truthful, chastity, not taking what does not belong to you, and greedlessness.

Yogic practices to treat cancer

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer develops when the body's normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor. Cancer kills by invading key organs (like the intestines, lungs, brain, liver, and kidneys). At the cellular level cancer is caused by changes to genes’ DNA. But the cell is only the terminal of a long organic process and cannot be isolated from its surroundings and other body functions. Instead of focusing on the cell, a holistic approach requires us to change the blood, lymph and environmental conditions that have created malignant cells.

In the USA, the lifetime probability in 2020 of being diagnosed with invasive cancer is slightly among higher for men (40.1%) than for women (38.7%). The four leading cancers are lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate. After heart disease, cancer is the second leading cause of death there. In ancient times and in traditional societies it is practically unknown. In 1900 it was about 4%. In 1950 it was only about 12 percent.

This progression of cancer tells us that it is the product of our own modern daily behavior, including our modern diet, thinking, lifestyle, way of cooking and eating, and environmental conditions. Consequently, it is a “pre-existing condition” for nearly everyone. We are all in a pre-cancerous state. The proper place to perform cancer surgery is not in the operating room of a hospital after the disease has run its course, but in the kitchen and in other areas of daily life before it has developed. For guidance in this, I recommend Michio Kushi’s The Cancer Prevention Diet, which emphasizes a traditional diet, known as Macrobiotics, of whole organic foods, locally grown, in season, with a balance of energies.

In addition, as discussed above, the practice of asanas will improve the functioning of the lymphatic system, to remove rogue cancer cells and toxins from the blood. Studies have demonstrated that the practice of restorative asanas can accelerate the process of recovering from chemotherapy and invasive cancer treatments which involve radiation and surgery. Meditation also helps to avoid contributing factors to cancer, including poor dietary choices, stress, depression, anger and other negative emotions.

How to strengthen your immune system through Ayurveda

Ayurveda’s approach to inflammation.

Inflammation manifests as cancer, infections, fever, arthritis, aches and the other conditions discussed above, and according to Ayurveda as an excess of the element of fire, or Pitta. Pitta is one of the three doshas or grouping of the five elements of nature manifesting in a person’s constitution. It is the grouping of fire and water. Vata is the grouping of air and space. Kapha is the grouping of earth and water. Pitta is therefore treated with cooling or heat dispelling therapy. As Pitta also contains the element of water, it is also moist, mobile, and light, so it can benefit from therapies which are drying, nutritive or calming. But the cooling therapy should be given first. The treatment of Pitta is intimately connected to the treatment of the blood. Most conditions of bodily heat, fever, inflammation, infection or acidity also relate generally to Pitta. When deranged, Pitta will manifest itself in the above aberrations. Tastes that treat Pitta are sweet, astringent and bitter, as they are all cooing in nature. Bitter taste being both the coldest and most drying of the tastes, is the strongest in reducing Pitta.

Alteratives are herbs that cleanse and purify the blood, help treat tumors and many kinds of cancer, dispel fevers, and work well in infections, contagious diseases and epidemics. They treat the flu, especially those with high fever. They cleanse the lymphatics and strengthen the white cell blood count. They include the cooling alterative herbs aloe vera, burdock, dandelion, echinacea, neem, plantain, red clover, sandalwood and yellow dock. As diuretics they increase urination, a way of removing heat, acid and toxins from the body. This relieves Pitta.

The strongest herbs to reduce Pitta, are bitter tonic and antipyretic herbs: aloe vera, American colombo, barberry, calumba, chaparral, gentian, golden seal, golden thread, Peruvian bark, white poplar and special to India, chirata, kutki, and neem. They are also the strongest herbs to dispel fat, reduce excess weight and regulate sugar metabolism, and in this way may be helpful in conditions such as diabetes. They not only suppress fevers, they destroy infections, attack Ama, the toxins which have entered into the tissues and caused the fever. Care should be taken to use them only to the point where the viral, bacterial or parasitical pathogen is destroyed.

Ama, the accumulation of toxins, undigested food or waste-materials, is the root of most colds, fever and flus, as well as chronic diseases of a weak auto-immune system, from allergies to asthma, arthritis and cancer. Treatment with bitter herbs must first aim at its elimination before rejuvenation. Bitter taste, composed of air and ether, helps separate Ama, whose quality is heavy, from the tissues and organs wherein it is lodged. It stimulates the catabolic processes of the body to break down foreign material and thereby relieves fevers.

Ama and Agni, the power of digestion, are opposite in properties. Ama is cold, wet, heavy cloudy, bad smelling and impure. Agni is hot, dry, light, clear, fragrant (aromatic) and pure. To treat Ama, it is necessary to increase Agni. Psychologically, Ama arises from the holding of negative emotions, which quench Agni, and cloud mental clarity of the mind. Physical Agni is also reduced. Undigested experiences become toxic like undigested food.

Once Ama is eliminated, there are many herbs which can be used to treat asthma. These include bayberry, cardamom, camphor, cloves, elecampane, flaxseed, garlic, mullein, myrrh, saffron, ajwan, asafoetida, bala and ephedra.

How to strengthen your nervous system through Ayurveda

Ayurveda’s approach to anxiety.

Emotions of fear, anxiety, and nervousness are indicative of a Vata constitution. They may result in insomnia and mental instability, which in turn will weaken the immune response. Nervines are herbs that strengthen the functional activity of the nervous system and promote mental health. They are also effective for respiratory afflictions as they stop spasms of the bronchial tubes. They include aromatic herbs such as chamomille, mint and valerian which promote the flow of prana. These three are known as tridosha, as they have positive effects on all three doshas. Where there is a deficiency in nerve tissue, often due to poor nutrition, nutritive herbs such as ashwaghandha or licorice are needed. Nervine herbs that are cooling reduce fire and are therefore better for Pitta: chamomille, gotu kula, peppermint, spearmint, St. John’s Word, wild yam. Those that are heating reduce Kapha and Vata, are indicated for physical lethargy and psychological conditions such as greed, desire, attachment, clinging to the past. They include asafoetida, basil, bayberry, eucalyptus, garlic, myrrh, nutmeg, sage, and valerian.

Pitta-type emotions such as anger and hatred create internal fire and can cause hypertension, insomnia, irritability and other mental and nervous imbalances that burn out the nerves. A calm and clear mind is usually a cool mind. Most herbs that act upon the mind, such as Gotu-kula, mint, chamomile and fennel are cooling. These may be taken in small amounts or for a short term only because excessive use may further weaken the nerves by their drying action. They may also be over-stimulating. Too much of anything is too much. What sedates one dosha may stimulate another. Restoring and maintaining balance in our elemental physical and mental nature is the objective in both Ayurveda and Yoga.

Note 1: “Opposite Doing: the Five Yogic Keys to Good Relationships, ebook, available in 5 languages at bookstore page of
Note 2: Nearly half of all American adults are obese, and almost one-tenth are severely obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moreover, both have increased since 1999, the CDC says. The agency says that obesity also now affects 1 in 5 children.
Note 3: Babaji’s Kriya Yoga: Deepening Your Practice, by Jan Ahlund and M. Govindan, available in 4 languages at bookstore page of
Note 4: Washington Post, April 22, 2020, “A mysterious blood-clotting complication is killing coronavirus patients.”

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