by Tim Keim, EYT500, Yoga Therapist

Cold and flu season are not just a function of cooler weather, rain and snow. It’s also what we do before and during the holidays that creates the physical terrain for disease to take root. The holidays engender a relaxation of our attitudes about food and drink, particularly alcohol, sugar, caffeine and white flour. We’re celebrating, right?!

I confess I’m also prone to excess during the holidays. Not this year! I can do without the hammering headache, nausea, fever, body aches, vomiting and diarrhea that viruses inflict upon us. How about you?

I propose a celebration of harmonious bodily balance and gustatory pleasure. “How’s that work,” you may ask? Here’s my strategy.

Stress is the seed bed of disease. A simple walk among the trees, beside the brook, under the birdsong is a good place to begin. Once you’re there, breathe long, attentive breaths into your belly. Massage your guts with the force that keeps you alive, your divine inspiration of breath. Follow your breath with your mind, in and out. Watch every measure of breath slowly untie the knots of stress in your belly. Sit and breathe as long as you like; make a habit of it.

Choose three simple recipes made with organic, vegetable ingredients. Eat these recipes often as the holidays approach. Cook them with intention and love. You’re worth it, aren’t you? Season them with things like dill, cumin, coriander, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. These spices provide strong cleansing action of the blood and lymphatic fluid and create the optimum environment for complete digestion. Eat quietly, without distraction, and talk calmly about the goodness of life.

Allow nothing to stand in your way of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is a central pillar of good health and there is no substitute. Rest is repair; it’s when the body does its housecleaning. Lack of sleep leaves the body mired in unprocessed toxins that provide the fertilizer for disease. If you need a little help, try a half-teaspoon of nutmeg in a cup of warm milk and some valerian root capsules.

If someone gives you cookies, take home two for every member of your family and give away the rest. Refined sugar is perhaps the most powerful way to undermine health any time of year. Disease-causing microbes thrive on it!

Let’s think about the second paragraph in this piece when we’re about to have that second alcoholic drink. Alcohol is a toxin. Actually, it’s the waste product of yeast (think fecal matter). An overloaded liver, already doing hundreds of jobs, can only do so much.

Let’s try to eat until we’re 75 percent full. Use the spices mentioned above. Overburdened digestive systems fail to digest food thoroughly, creating persistent waste in the body. We can eat again in three to four hours, no reason to gorge in the land of plenty.

Rest after eating. Hug and kiss your loved ones. The holidays are about renewing the bonds that keep us close.

Tim Keim is an IAYT certified yoga therapist, and has been teaching yoga for 15 years. Keim can be heard Saturday and Sunday mornings from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 91.5-FM, WUNC. He can be reached at timkeim811@yahoo.com.