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The basics of staying healthy with Ayurveda by Dr. Sachin Dua

From a correct and disciplined daily regime to the correct personal diet, here are a few tips on getting and staying healthy according to ayurvedic principles.

1. Dincharya for Healthy Life

The daily regime or routine is called Dincharya in Sanskrit. According to Ayurveda to maintain a healthy and disease free life one should follow a daily routine or schedule. It is important to follow a daily regime in order to be optimally healthy. Everyday two cycles of change pass through us, each bringing a Vata, Pitta, or Kapha predominance.

 

  • First cycle: 6 A.M. to 10 A.M. - Kapha
    • 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. - Pitta
    • 2 P.M. to 6 P.M. - Vata
  • Second cycle: 6 P.M. to 10 P.M. - Kapha
    • 10 P.M. to 2 P.M. - Pitta
    • 2 A.M to 6 P.M. - Vata

 

Based on the above cycles our daily ideal schedule should be like the following:

A day is divided into morning, noon, evening, dinner and bedtime. Morning is the time to wake up. A healthy person should get up two hours before sunrise. It is very healthy to get up during this hour, as the environment is fresh and clean. This is the time when there is the most sattva in the air. It is the most fresh and pure time of the day. Drinking a glass or two of warm water helps in the elimination. Brushing the teeth and scraping the tongue is done. Massage the body (abhyanga) with sesame oil.

This massage need not be long and cumbersome. Massaging the Scalp, forehead, temples, hand and feet for about 5 minutes is sufficient. Bathing should be done in mild water, which is neither too hot nor too cold. Exercise and meditation forms an important part of the morning activities. It circulates the blood within the body and helps in breathing fresh air. Breakfast should be warm, nourishing and wholesome. During noon Lunch should be taken early between 12 and 1P.M. this coincides with the peak Pitta period, Pitta is responsible for the digestion. Ayurveda recommends that the lunch should be the largest meal of the day. After the meal it is good to take a little walk, a couple hundred steps only, to help the food digest. Anything more than a short nap should be avoided because sleeping in the day is prohibited in Ayurveda.

Evening is the time between day and night a special time of balancing the whole day’s activity. This is the time for evening prayers and meditations in many cultures around the world. According to Ayurveda dinner should be taken around 7 p.m. It should not be heavy. It should be lighter than the lunch. The dinner should be made at least three hours before bedtime as gives the body ample time to digest the food and relax. Sleeping immediately after the dinner is not right. Walk to aid digestion for about 10 - 15 minutes. 10 p.m. is the bedtime. You should go to sleep around this time so that you get a sound sleep of six to seven hours. It is good to message the soles of your feet before going to bed as it relaxes your system. This is the complete daily routine, which everyone should follow to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Modern Daily Regimen

In today’s present scenario it has become really important for each one of us to maintain good health. With so much pollution in the environment, food adulteration, untimely working hours and an unhealthy lifestyle it has become mandatory for everyone to look after their health. That's why the Ayurvedic dincharya is to be followed in accordance with the present context. Ayurvedic life-regimens are simple, non-invasive, non-traumatic and generally do not interfere with other form of treatment. Right from waking up in the morning till sleeping at night all daily routines are according to our present need. Waking up in the morning is always good for health. But if you are working late nights than you should set your biological clock accordingly. As six to seven hours sleep is a must. Drinking a glass of Luke-warm water helps to flush out all toxins accumulated overnight in the body.

As we say 'cleanliness is next to godliness' in this case cleanliness is also a very important factor to maintain good health because personal hygiene is really important. Clean teeth and mouth. Brushing of teeth should be repeated after every meal. Cleaning of tongue freshens up the mouth and also stimulates the secretions of digestive enzymes. Proper cleaning of nose, ears and washing eyes with warm water held in mouth for moments is advised. Keep your hair trimmed, nails filed and wear clear, clean clothes.

A regular self-massage with herbal oil is necessary for every person. It makes the skin supple, enhances blood circulation, encourages quicker removal of the wastes and relaxes the body. Along with food, hygiene, sleep exercise and meditation is also very important. Regular light exercises help the body to shape up, increase muscle strength, improve appetite and maintain health. Yoga, swimming, walking and even laughing are excellent options. Your dressing is also important so always wear clean, airy and light clothes of natural fibers like cotton, wool, linens, or silk. Similarly breakfast lunch and dinner should be done on time to maintain the regularity. Though our modern lifestyle does not permit us the time to look after ourselves but the responsibility is ours. As these regimens helps us establish a daily, monthly and yearly program for optimal health. So it is after all our life so it is how we take care of it.

2. Ahar Vihar

According to ayurveda, every individual has unique needs for balance. Since diet is one of the most important ayurvedic tools for achieving balance, ayurvedic healers generally design individualized diets for people they see, based on various factors such as age and gender, the doshic tendencies that need to be balanced at a given time, the strength of the body tissues and the digestive fires, and the level of ama (toxins) in the body. That's why ayurveda is a complete system of healthcare having a traditional system of medicine. There are various factors, which should be kept in mind like the right time to have food, food for different constitutions of person, effect of wrong type of diet on ones life so we should have the idea that what to eat and the right way of eating. A wholesome diet is essential not only for maintaining health but also for fighting diseases. All diseases are caused by aggravation of the three doshas i.e. vata, pitta and kapha which is mainly caused due to the excess intake of improper diet. Intake of proper quantity of food promotes longevity, does not aggravate the doshas, and maintains a proper digestive system.

Ayurveda has in detail provided the type of diet a person should intake depending upon his constitution. It is important to note that a person should have a proper balanced diet. Apart from a wholesome diet, one needs to observe some basic rules such as; food should be consumed only after the digestion of the previous meal, as then it promotes proper digestion, appetite and proper manifestation of the natural urges. People should have the knowledge of food and their benefits. One should also avoid bad habits, which are harmful to one's health. In other words a person should lead a disciplined life. In ayurveda, foods are classified into six-taste category like sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Ayurvedic healers recommend that you include all of these six tastes at each main meal you eat. Food intake should, contribute to order and coherence in the body. It should aid in keeping a balance so as to maintain immune strength. That's why Ayurveda is referred to as a holistic alternative science.

3. Ayurvedic Diet

According to Ayurveda, there are positive and negative attributes of diet. Since Ayurveda deals with a holistic approach to healing, it covers the diet factor in depth. In Ayurveda food is not only a mixture of all the basic ingredients like proteins, vitamins, fats and carbohydrates, but it is something, which serves as a source of energy for mind and soul. Food is considered to be one of the most important aspects of Ayurveda as it provides the basic nutrients, which are necessary to carry out the basic activities of digestion and metabolism. Ayurveda has categorized personality traits into three different kinds, based on the food habits the Satvic or spiritual quality, Rajasic or active quality, and Tamasic or material quality of the mind is all affected by the food we eat. The activating Rajasic quality may dominate or combine with the other two qualities to form different mental tendencies in man; spiritually active, intellectually active, or materially active. Satvic food is elevating while Rjasic foods lead man to a materialistic, selfish way of living. Tamasic food is one, which leads to a devilish streak in a person. Since diet, along with daily habits, is crucial to the health of an individual, it must be made clear at the outset that there is no standard ideal diet for all people in general as everybody has a different body structure and digestive system. The various factors that need to be kept in mind while working out the ideal diet for every individual, which will be distinctly different based on the person's specific constitutional characteristics, are as listed below:

 

  • The natural quality of each food should be full of all the nutrients.
  • How those natural qualities can get altered.
  • The effects of combining foods - proper and unacceptable combinations.
  • The quantity of food intake.
  • Individual differences in food intake.
  • The places and climatic condition where the food is grown, prepared and consumed.
  • The effects of the seasons and time of day.
  • Avoidance of artificial flavors, chemicals, preservatives and colours.

There are lots of disadvantages if proper and regular eating habits are not followed like if the food is taken in excess and before the normal time and interval than it may lead to indigestion, obesity, and anorexia, etc. Similarly if food is not taken in time than it may cause Hyperacidity, Gastritis, Gastric and duodenal ulcers.

4. Tripods of Healthy Living

Food (Ahar), Sleep (nidra) and Brahmacharya (controlled sex) are regarded as the three pillars or tripods of healthy living. It is important that our body should be adjusted to timely intake of good quality and proper food, regular sleeping habits and controlled indulgence in sex because that ensures a long and healthy life. It is to help you to achieve this that the concepts of daily routine and seasonal routine have been explained. It is important to maintain a daily systematic food and sleeping habit. Brahmacharya (celibacy) means a balanced sex and worldly life. It essentially negates over-indulgence in sex and similar worldly acts. The practice of celibacy promotes life and preserves health and as such is an important practice. Diet, sleep and celibacy are considered to be three pillars of healthy living.

Diet - We are what we eat. So it is essential to know what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat and how to eat. Though there are concepts of generalized diets, which are applicable to one and all, Ayurveda says that it is the individual who knows best what suits his body and mind and he should act accordingly. The popping of all the vitamin pills in the world is not going to make you healthy - for all you know your body might just reject them. One important principle in Ayurveda is that "there is nothing in the world that is not a medicine or food". It is only a combination of several factors that renders a substance unfit for consumption for a particular individual - the same substance might be absolutely palatable and digestible and in fact good for the health of another individual. Hence please become aware of your body and try to understand what it needs - you will be doing it a great service. The second important point to be noted here is that any substance, however good it may be, if taken in excess, is harmful to the body. Timely and moderate eating habits will serve you well.

Sleep - Give your body sufficient rest and find out what a different person you are. In pursuit of all the material benefits and comforts, you treat your body like a donkey; abuse it to the extent you can; and finally are an exhausted person when you have the comforts. When you give your overheated car time to cool off, can't you give your over abused body time to recover from the stress and strain? Happiness and sorrow, growth and wasting, strength and weakness, virility and impotence, knowledge and ignorance, life and its cessation - all are dependent on sleep.

Celibacy - Total abstinence from sexual activity may not be possible for ordinary mortals - but a restrained sexual life, keeping in mind the higher goal of eternal happiness, is certainly possible. Sexual promiscuity leads to various diseases as is so well known today and hence there is no need for any elaboration here. Thus the factors of diet, sleep and celibacy play an important role in determining the health of the individual.

 

Published with the kind permission of Dr. Sachin Dua 

Dr. Dua has a tremendous passion for Ayurveda, believing that it is by far the best preventative healthcare system known to man. He holds a B.A.M.S. Degree from M.D. University, Rohtak, Haryana. He is committed to academic excellence and his ongoing goal of providing the highest level of Ayurvedic training outside of India. 

He teaches both the public and professionals such as; physicians, chiropractors, osteopaths, psychologists and other professionals in the basic principles and practices of Ayurveda. 

Dr. Dua may be emailed at: sachin_dua1979[at]yahoo[dot]co[dot]in 

Copyright © 2008 Dr. Sachin Dua. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

This article was published on Monday 11 May, 2009.
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