Autumn is upon us—and that means cold and flu viruses are lurking everywhere. How can you keep the bugs at bay? Sure, you can try the basics that many of us use like staying warm, perhaps schedule a flu shot, eat well. But you can also prevent colds and flu using ancient wisdom from yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda.

According to this holistic healing system, Vata dosha (ruled by the elements of air and ether) tends to increase in the winter season. Vata dosha is often translated as “wind” or “that which moves.” Vata’s qualities are cold, dry, light, mobile, and erratic and you can see these qualities manifesting outside when the leaves become brittle and dry, the temperatures  drop (and fluctuate), and the wind is picks up speed.

According to Ayurvedic experts, these changes also affect the body-mind. Here are some telltale signs that your Vata dosha is gaining too much momentum:

Dry lips, dry skin, dry nasal passages
Constipation, gas, bloating
Earaches, tinnitus
Insomnia, disrupted sleep patterns
Cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold
Feeling restless, depleted, weak
Nervousness, anxiety, feeling of fear

One tip experts say can help reduce excess Vata dosha is to reduce stress. Ayurveda and allopathic medicine agree that stress can reduce the functioning of your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to illness, so one of the best ways to balance Vata in the winter season is to reduce your stress levels. A study published in Health Psychology found that “severe chronic stress” lasting for more than one month can double your chances of getting sick when you’re exposed to a cold virus. To reduce stress, prioritize self-care and make sure your work and social responsibilities are manageable. Exercising daily can really help with this.

That’s one tip. What else can we do? Get more sleep! I know this sounds really obvious but that’s because it is! Sleep is the time when we refresh the body and soul and our immune function operates at its best. Science backs up this Ayurvedic adage. In 2009, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania found that people who get less than an average of seven hours of sleep nightly were three times more likely to catch a cold than those who regularly got eight or more hours of sleep.

Another tip that I see constantly come up in Ayurveda is to give yourself a hot oil massage. An Ayurvedic self-care practice called abhyanga (a full-body hot oil massage, which you can administer yourself) is said to reduce anxiety, stress, and excess Vata. Ayurvedic doctors recommend using organic sesame oil in the fall, as its warming qualities counteract the season’s cold, dry nature. It can seem a bit arduous and time-consuming to do this, but the experts promise great results so give it a shot and see how it works for you!