Health Tips: Your Health Guidelines from Ayurveda-I Ayurveda the ancient Indian medical - science is believed to be the oldest repository of diagnostic, pharmaceutical and therapeutic knowledge. This Vedic science draws upon an integral approach to healthcare by considering the physical, mental and deep emotional well being simultaneously. It encompasses thorough knowledge of the Adhibhautik (physical, pertaining to the gross body), Adhidaivik (mental, emotional and pranic, pertaining to the subtle body) and Adhyatmik (spiritual, pertaining to the astral body) aspects of health. No other branch of ancient or modern disciplines of medical sciences, perhaps, has such deep and expanded foundations as Ayurveda has. This ancient science of medicine enfolds the secrets of youthful longevity and is therefore also referred as a comprehensive science of happy and hearty life.
The rising graph of psychosomatic disorders and challenging diseases and the limitations of the widely used modern medical sciences in coping with them on the one hand, and the risks of harmful side-effects of antibiotics and synthesized drugs on the other, have revived new interest in this ancient science. The preventive and remedial measures derived under Ayurveda deal with multidimensional complexities and problems of human life and provide solutions in perfect harmony with Nature. It is therefore most relevant and promising towards achieving total health in the present times as well.The Shastric scriptures on Ayurveda define it as
Hitahitam Sukham Duhkhamayustasya Hitahitam |
Mananca Tacca Yatroktamayurvedah Sa Ucyate ||
Meaning: The grand treatise, which contains the details of healthy and long age (ayu) and which defines what is good (hita) and what is bad (ahita) for the four different types of ayus (namely, hitayu, ahitayu, sukhayu and dukhayu, concerning different conditions of diseased or healthy life) is Ayurveda.
The basic purpose of Ayurvedic knowledge is cited in the Shastrik literature as
"Swasthasya Swastharakshanama Turasya Vikara Prashamanam Ca"
Meaning: Ayurveda aims at the protection and maintenance of good health of the healthy people and elimination of and control over the ailments and health-disorders of the unhealthy.
The following are the signs of a healthy person according to Ayurveda.
Samadoshah Samagnishca Samadhatumala Kriyah |
Prasannatmendriyamanah Swastha Ityabhidhiyate | |
Meaning: Only that person is healthy, whose doshas, dhatumal and agni (the basic elements and functional energy streams as per one’s natural constitution or prakati) are balanced and free from all defects and disorders and whose mind and soul are in perfect harmony.
The above definition conveys the comprehensive and complete approach of the rishis who founded this great science of medicine and total health.
Prakati Nidana the basis of diagnosis and treatment under Ayurveda describes ones natural constitution (prakrati) in terms of three basic functional elements or physical, mental and emotional energy patterns called the tridosha: namely, vata, pitta and kapha. In terms of the physique and physiological activities of the body, the modern researchers interpret vata as the energy of movement, pitta as the energy of digestion or metabolism and kapha as the energy of lubrication and structure. Harmonious balance of vata, pitta and kapha is regarded as the sign of normally healthy state. Any disturbance, excess or deficiencies in any of these upsets the normal concentration of vital elements, and physiological and (bio) chemical reactions and functioning inside the body and therefore results in different kinds of diseases. For example, if the waste products inside the body are not discharged properly, these will cause harmful deposits and toxic effects.
Ayurveda recommends disciplines in eating habits, sleep, and other phases of daily routine, etc, as per one’s prakati and the nature of the climate and the ambience one lives in. One of the major causes of generally bad health and mushrooming of diseases in the modern times is the haphazard and undisciplined life style adopted by most people today. If we care for natural maintenance of good health, it is worth paying heed to the tips provided under the teachings of Ayurveda.
Let us first look at what is described as the ideal routine of the day according to Ayurveda. After getting up in Brahm-muhurta (about three hours before sunrise); five to ten minutes sadhana of contemplation on self-realization, paying respect to mother earth in the form of Namaskar, drinking substantial amount of water to fill the stomach for proper cleansing by excretion, cleaning the teeth, massaging the body with oil, morning walk, physical exercises (by suitable yogasanas), bathing followed by japa-sadhana with meditation, swadhyaya (study of enlightening books and scriptures) are the successive steps of the daily routine before having lunch.
Getting up in the Brahm-muhurta is given significant importance in the scriptures for physical, mental and spiritual development.
Brahme Muhurte Hyuttishhejjirna Nirupayan Rakshartha Mayusah Swastho | A. Su. 3
Brahme Muhurte Budhyet Swastho Raksharthmayusah | Bha. Pra. 1| 24
Implications: In order to enjoy a long, healthy life, a person should get up in the brahm-muhurta with positive thinking. He should also take care of what he eats at night; whether it is digested properly or not? (That means, the night-meal should be light and taken much earlier before going to sleep so that one will not feel heavy and drowsy in getting up so early).
Maharshi Manu has advise
Brahme Muhurte Budhyet Dharmarthacanucintayet |
Kayakleshanshca Tanmulanvedatatwarthameva Ca|| -Manu. 4 | 92
Meaning: Every man and woman should get up in the brahm-muhurta and think of dharma and artha. (That means one should determine the righteous mode of utilizing the day ahead and also plan for constructive use of his time and efforts during the day for progressive augmentation of resources and talents). One should also contemplate on his body-functions and analyze whether it is in healthy state or not. If not, he should try to investigate (by introvert concentration on the body) the cause of what is going wrong. Reading and contemplating on the teachings of the Vedas should also be a part of this morning phase.
Today, there is a general habit of eating late in the night, watching television still longer.
Then how could one get up early in the morning? But if we want to be away from all diseases and enjoy a vigorous and hearty life, we will have to change this wrong trend. We must inculcate the habit of getting up before sunrise. Human life is indeed a rare opportunity for self-realization. We must make best use of every moment of this precious gift. We should get up every morning with a feeling of having a new birth and plan constructively for the best use of the day, as though the next twenty-four hours would be the entire span of the new life.
Lotus blossoms with bliss with the dawn of the day, birds welcome it with sonorous warbling, wind flows smoothly with a refreshing touch.
Everything in Nature’s creation appears to gain new life, new energy in the brahm-muhurta.
If we miss these beautiful moments by sleeping, great will be our loss in terms of soul awakening. Brahm-muhurta is said to be the best period of the day. It is most favorable for maintaining good health and also for intellectual and spiritual progress. Nature wholeheartedly enshowers during this time phase all that is essential for mental and bodily strength, vigour, happiness, intellectual brilliance and productivity and spiritual benefits.
The ancient scriptures of Ayurveda mention the above fact at one place as
Varna, Kirti, Mati, Lakshmim, Swasthyam Ayushca Vindati |
Brahme Muhurte Sanjagracchiyam Va Pankajam Yatha ||
Meaning: Getting up in the brahm-muhurta helps gaining beauty, charm, brilliance of intellect, glory, prosperity, health and long life. The body gets energized and blossoms like a lotus flower if one is awake at this time.
We should get up in this supremely energizing phase of the day and do the sadhana of atmabodha (self-realization). The atmabodha sadhana is performed just after getting up. The conscious mind and all associated faculties go into rest with sound sleep in the night. The visible world ends and one lives in a different world of unconscious perceptions. The soul has only a tenuous connection with the body and the gross world in this phase; which is just sufficient to enable continuity of the vital functions that maintain the living state of the body. The consciousness and its intimate connection with the body is regained the moment one gets up. Thus, the instance of getting up is somewhat like having a new birth.
In order to perform the above sadhana, sit up on the bed or on some cloth piece with erect spine; preferably with legs folded as in sukhasana. Keep both the hands on your lap. (The body may be covered with extra warm clothes in winter). Take a deep breath in a relaxed mode and exhale it slowly (breathing should be through the nostrils only).
Try meditating on bluish light during the first breath, yellowish light during the second and reddish light during the third. Thank the Almighty for giving this life and feel happy to have this opportunity of a new lease of life for the day ahead. Contemplate for few minutes that God is blessing you for the next twenty hours and is going to keep watch on how you plan to make ideal use of this boon. Think positively of doing something constructive and adopting a virtue and/or giving up a bad habit in your behavior and actions that day. (Plan something that is do-able; howsoever small it may be, it will boost your self-confidence if you are able to follow what you resolve).
The next step of your routine should be to pay obeisance to the mother earth. The following shloka describes what should be our feeling at these moments (the shloka may be chanted like a prayer):
Samudra Mekhale Devi Parvatastana Maale|
Vishnu Patnim Namastubhyam Padasparsham Kshamaswa Me ||
Meaning: You who wear a waistband of oceans, huge mountains cover whose breasts; who is the eternal Companion of Lord Vishnu, I pay obeisance to you Oh Mother Earth! Kindly forgive me, as I have to commit the sin of putting my feet upon your surface (to begin my journey of life for the day ahead).
The third major step is drinking fresh water. It should be drunk slowly, but continuously, to fill the stomach completely. This should be done before going to the toilet, as it helps in fast and smooth excretion and proper cleansing of the stomach. This activity is called "ushapana" and is recommended in Ayurveda as "One who does ushapana every day after getting up in the (early) morning indeed protects his body from diseases and makes his body healthy". Generally cold (normal temperature below lukewarm) water is supposed to give best effects.
It is a pity to note that even in India the land of the genesis and practice of Ayurveda, many people mostly the so-called educated ones, who are supposed to be more aware of health- are now getting used to ’bed tea’ or ’bed coffee’ which is harmful for our body in all respects. Normally cold water is good for our teeth and it also strengthens our digestive system. Our metabolic system has the capacity to heat up the chilled things entering the stomach, but there is no process to cool down the hot things up to the healthy or normal temperature. Consumption of hot tea, coffee, other drinks or eatables damages the delicate tissues in our tongue, food pipe and the stomach; these give rise to ulcers at times, which might become cancerous, if neglected.
Ushapana in the morning is also useful as it helps curing the indigestion, if any, due to the food consumed during the previous night. The following quote in "Bhav Prakash" also highlights the importance of ushapana:
Savituh Samudaya Kale Prasati Salilasya Vivedashuau |
Roga Jara Parimukto Jiveda Vatsarashatam Sagram ||
"The person who drinks eight ’anjali’ (deep cup made by joining the two hands) water every day at the sunrise time becomes free from all ailments. He lives for hundred years and the (weakness and other problems of) old-age does not even touch him". Indeed, people used to have hundreds of years of youthful life in the Rishi-Age.
Complete cleansing of the stomach by ushapana not only keeps the body light but also refreshes the mind. It eliminates problems of white discharge etc. Sexual complexities, boils, ulcers, headache and problems pertaining to eyesight are also found to be naturally cured by regularity and consistency in this simple exercise.
Greater benefits of ushapana are obtained if one can (after due practice of "jala-neti" etc) drink about 250 ml of water through the nose instead of mouth. Its positive effects are cited in the Ayurvedic scriptures as
Vigat Ghan Nishithe Prataruthaya Nityam, Pivati Khalu Naro Yo Ghranarandhrena Vari |
Sa Bhavati Mati Purnashca Kshusah Tarkshyatulyo, Vali Palita Vihina Sarvarogervimuktah |
Meaning: The person, who consumes water through the nose, soon after the darkness of the night is over, gains bright intellect and sharp eyesight; his hair do not become gray or white and he remains free from all diseases.
The water used in ushapana may be kept at a lukewarm temperature in the winter seasons to avoid irritation in the nose/throat.
The next step (after ushapana) in the daily routine is excretion of faeces (shauca). Sushrut (one of the Vedic masters of Ayurveda) has mentioned about its importance as
Ayushyamushasi Proktam Maladinam Visarjanam |
Meaning: Excretion of the dirt inside the body in the morning before sunrise helps in maintenance of long healthy life.
The Indian style of toilets is most suitable in terms of proper pressure on the legs and stomach. Excretion at the right time in the morning is important as a delay in it leads to harmful deposits of the toxic and waste substances in the body that eventually cause or support the occurrence of diseases. Everyone desirous of healthy and active body and mind should have shauca twice a day once in the morning after the atmabodha sadhana and ushapana and once in the evening. Some people resist going to the toilets or urination at times against the call of nature. This should be avoided, as it is quite harmful for health. Also, care should be taken to wash hands, legs and face after each visit to the toilet. This is essential for hygiene and also for refreshing the body and mind.
Because of the fast and tension-filled routine, many people have complaints of constipation or unclear stools these days. Apart from ushapana, some specific yogasanas and physical exercises would be beneficial in such cases. Use of coarse flour, cereals, fibers, green vegetables and pulses with skins (especially sprouted ones) in food is also recommended as a good remedy against such problems. In severe cases of constipation (e.g. due to some long- term hidden mental tension) taking one spoon of the Ayurvedic herbal medicines, such as haritaki-powder every night gives fast relief.
"Dantadhawan" the process of cleaning the teeth and mouth is also given significant importance in Ayurveda. Root causes of many diseases are said to grow from dirty teeth. Shining white and healthy teeth are often compared to pearls and add to one’s charm. Teeth are like the guards sitting at the main entrance of the body. Teeth are cut a few months after the birth of our body. If we do not take care of our teeth through proper eating habits and cleaning, these become the hideouts of germs. The diseases of gums, formations of cavities in the teeth, toothache, etc are clear signs of the damages caused to the teeth by our negligence. Much before such manifestations, the dirt and the bacteria hidden in the teeth are carried inside the body along with whatever we eat. We must therefore follow prescribed disciplines for keeping our teeth clean and strong.
The rishis the founders of Ayurveda. had given due importance to teeth as the key elements of healthy body. They had recommended datuna (small pieces of soft branches of certain medicinal trees) as the best for dantadhawan. The medicinal trees/plants of Nima (margosa), Babula (acacia), Sihora (Siamese Roughbush), Khadira (Black Catechu), Kanera (Indian Oleander), Mahua (Bassia Latifolia), Arjuna (Terminalia Arjun), Badama (almond), etc are found most suitable for this purpose. The Scriptures say
Avekshyartum Ca Dosham Ca Rasam Virya Ca Yojayate |
Kashayam Madhuram Tiktam Katukam Pratarutthitah ||
Nimbashca Tiktake Shreshah Kasaye Khadirastatha |
Madhuko Madhure Shreshah Karanjah Katuke Thata|| -Su. Chi. A. 24
Meaning: A datuna of sweet, bitter, astringent or spicy taste should be used as per the state (determined in the Ayurvedic diagnostics in terms of kratu, dosha, rasa and virya) of the teeth and general health of a person. Datuna of Nima is acrid spicy, Khadira is astringent, Mahua is sweet and Kanera is bitter in taste. Use of these strengthens and beautifies the teeth with shining glow.
Acharya Shushrut has also recommended the datunas of the above kinds for different tastes and effects. Nima is generally good for every one as it eliminates the dirt and mucus in and around the teeth, gums and mouth, works as a disinfectant and removes stinking odors from the mouth.
It is also important to use a datuna properly. The teeth should be brushed gently and the datuna should be pressed beneath the teeth so that its juice is extracted and spread around the teeth and gums and fills the mouth. One should sit and use the datuna with full concentration; whenever needed, the saliva or the used juice of the datuna should be spitted in a pit, bathroom-canal or washbasin without dirtying the surroundings. Usually, a datuna should be about six inches long and have thickness about that of the little finger. After brushing the teeth the datuna should be torn into two pieces from its central axes; one portion of this should be used as a tongue-cleaner. The palate should be cleaned by rubbing the other portion on it with the support of the thumb. Cleaning of the tongue and the palate is as important as that of the teeth and the gums (as cited in the following scriptural quote):
Jihvanirlekhanam Raupayam Sauvarna Varkshameva Ca |
Tanmalapaharam Shastam Madushlakshanam Dashagulam || -Su. Chi. A. 24
Meaning: The tongue cleaner could be (if not of datuna) made up of gold, silver or any metal or wood but it should be soft, smooth, flexible and (long enough for proper cleaning of the tongue).
In case people have problems in getting datun every day, they may make use of (herbal) toothpaste or toothpowder. Use of powdered rock salt, mustard oil, and powders of dry ginger, sal ammoniac, dried green-leaf of guava, dry bark-skin of Molashri (Surinam Madler), Kayaphal (Myrtalberry) and triphala etc is recommended in preparation of good Ayurvedic toothpastes or tooth powders. One may make use of a brush and stainless steel tongue-cleaner but the method of cleaning should be slow, consistent and long enough, as it is while using a datuna. The toothbrush should be moved upward and downward on each tooth (on the front as well as back and around). Middle finger could also be used for this purpose. The teeth should be cleaned with the help of this finger with proper gargling each time we eat something. Sometimes some particles of eatables or grains are stuck in between the teeth; in such cases, the particle should be brought out with the help of the brush or toothpick followed by thorough gargling.
The teeth should also be cleaned before going to bed. Many people have a habit of drinking milk before sleep. They should be extra careful, as the deposited layers of milk, if left unclean, will invite attack of germs. Proper cleaning of the teeth, gums and mouth (including tongue and palate) in the morning and night is a healthy habit that must be adopted by every one who cares for good health.
(To be continued in the next issue).