I have a cold today. I know what you may be thinking: “Is that a topic really worthy of a blog post?” I think it is, for two reasons. The first is that it is really unusual for me to have a cold. The second is that I believe I know how to cope with it.
I hesitate to tell you that it is really unusual for me to have a cold. It feels like bragging. My intention is to humbly observe, with a bit of wonder. It’s particularly unusual because I am exposed to a lot of students who are living in close quarters, and who don’t take particularly good care of themselves. They tend to run themselves ragged because of all of the demands that are tugging at them. Among these are the demands we professors place on them, though many of us would emphasize their lifestyle choices. On the latter point, I figure they are making mistakes to which they are entitled, in pursuit of balance.
Balance is the reason it’s very unusual for me to have a cold. I try to eat well and properly, and get enough sleep. Since I started my yoga teacher training in mid–October, I meditate in the morning and at night, and spend at least ten minutes a day on my mat (it’s rare to spend less than 30-40 minutes). This isn’t easy, but neither is my record perfect or pretty. In the past seven years I have been practicing yoga, and in the past five seasons I’ve done the YogiDetox™ with Cate Stillman, I’ve been sick much less often. Perhaps I get one short-lived cold (2-3 days) once a season.
This weekend I was a bit unbalanced by overactivity and by eating things not supportive for my constitution, like dairy and wheat. Also, I was outdoors, a little too hopefully underdressed, in the brisk New England wind. So this morning a woke up with some congestion and feeling achy.
English: This is a map showing the route of the British army’s 18-mile retreat from Concord to Charlestown in the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. It shows the major points of conflict, as was as showing the route taken by Hugh, Earl Percy’s reinforcements. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fortunately, it’s Patriot’s Day here in Greater Boston. It’s meant to commemorate the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the “shot heard ’round the world,” but really it’s an excuse to run the Boston Marathon. A Monday holiday does not make a huge difference for my teaching schedule, because I still have the same commitments tomorrow, and therefore the same preparation today. But I do not have to dress up and go into the University. I can sit around unshaven in my fat pants. Uncharacteristically, I “slept in”—8 AM, what a rebel—and can take a little more time to take care of myself.
This is where the knowledge part comes in. I don’t just mean head knowledge. I mean a deep knowing about my constitution and what’s going on in my body. Part of this awareness comes from the body awareness encouraged in the style of yoga I practice. A long time ago a young fellow who worked in and now runs his parents’ health food store suggested to me that colds start in the gut. I’ve checked this out, and observed this to be true. He recommended taking a teaspoon of slippery elm bark and boiling it in a cup of water for ten minutes (until it’s viscous), adding maple syrup and drinking it while it’s still warm. I know that not only coats the throat but tends to draw the congestion down out of the head and through said gut.
Ayurveda, the “sister science” to yoga is something I’ve learned a little bit about through yoga and through participating in the aforementioned YogiDetox™. Instead of considering the chemical properties of foods, Ayurveda considers their “energetic” properties. We know, for instance, that spicy foods like cayenne produce heat. So I made a “spicy lemonade” with cayenne, lemon juice, and maple syrup to sip throughout the morning. This is a preparation I used when I did the “master cleanse” for the YogiDetox™ last spring, and I use it when I feel a cold coming on. My experience is that it works.
So I am grateful to have this knowledge, and the experience with which to reflect upon it. Of course, I don’t feel happy about having a cold, but neither am I beating myself up for falling out of my prevention regimen. We wobble and fall out of poses all the time. It’s part of the practice, and it’s all practice. I don’t feel any less of a yogi for this. What we learn from it and how we recover from it are what’s important.
If you are interested in learning more about your constitution and about a “living ayurveda,” I highly recommend the YogiDetox™ I keep mentioning. Be sure to use my links in this post, so you can “tell ‘em I sent you.”