Have you ever wondered that many of the modern concepts of healthy living were enunciated in Ayurveda long ago? In Ayurveda, the masures advised for leading a healthy life are called Svastha-Vṛtta. While explaining health, Suśruta says:
समदोषः समाग्निश्च समधातुमलक्रियः।
प्रसन्नात्मेन्द्रियमन: स्वस्थ इत्यभिधीयते।। सुश्रुत सूत्र 15:48
This definition encompasses physical, mental and spiritual aspects of health. Health does not mean mere absence of disease but it means that mind and spirit should also be Prasanna (happy). Complete psycho-somatic equilibrium is the key to Svāsthya (health). This concept is in total alignment with the WHO’s definition of health.
Means for Achieving Good Health
For achieving perfect health both psyche and physique must remain in equilibrium. For maintaining physical health, Āyurveda strongly recommends the practice of Dinacaryā (day regime), Rātricaryā (night regime) and Ṛtucaryā (seasonal regime)
This comprises of the do’s and don’ts during the day time. “Early to bed and Early to Rise”. Get up early in the morning before sunrise. This is called BrāhmaMuhūrta. This practice is highly rewarding as it avoids dreams which generally appear in the morning hours.
Drink enough water
Drinking enough water helps in free passage of motion and urine.
Flush out (Mala -MūtraTyāga)
It is very important to inculcate the habit of easing in the morning. Suppressing natural urges (Vega Vidhārana) is the root cause of many diseases.
Brush your teeth well
You can prepare your own tooth brush using stick of trees like neem, babbula or khadira. Any good powder which possesses natural antiseptic qualities can be used to overcome the accumulation of dirt, plaques, and tartar. Oil massage of the teeth and gums is necessary if you have any disease of the teeth or gums. The accumulation of coatings on the tongue (Mala) should be scraped by a clean and washed tongue cleaner whose edges are neither sharp nor blunt. The tongue cleaner should be thoroughly washed before and after cleaning. After cleaning the teeth and tongue, you may do some gargling with saline water.
Massage: Oil is well!
It is important to massage the whole body with oil. For massaging, you can use TilaTaila (sesame oil), and SarṣapaTaila (mustard oil) or Nārikela Taila (coconut oil). Mustered oil is the best specially in winter. Medicated oils may also be used. The benefits of oil massage include soft and glowing skin, free movement of joints and muscles, increased blood circulation and fast removal of metabolic waste products besides overall fitness.
Regular exercise develops stamina and vitality. It develops resistance against disease, clears the channels of body (Srotas). It increases blood circulation and improves efficiency of lungs. An exercise should lead to appearance of sweat on the forehead. The exercises including Yoga, gymnastics, and aerobics should be avoided during the diseased condition like cough (Kāsa), tuberculosis (Kṣaya), and cardiac (Hrid) disorders.
Take bath with warm water free from impurities
Avoid taking bath in places affected by storm or dust storm. You should wash your head with warm water matching with the body temperature. Taking bath regularly increases Jaṭharāgni (Appetite), clears the pores of the skin and makes the skin glossy.
Eat balanced Diet
Diet should be regulated taking into account the Deśa (land), Kāla (season) and Swabhav (habit). Diet should be planned so as to include all six Rasa (taste) i.e. sweet, salt, sour, bitter, acrid and astringent. Diet should be well balanced and consumed according to digestive capacity of individual.
Tips for diet
- Consume fresh ginger with a small amount of salt 10 to 15 minutes before food.
- Hard substances should be properly chewed.
- Prefer curd alongwith or after you food.
- The food should be tasty, fresh and presentable
- Food should be neither very hot nor absolutely cold.
- Drink water frequently. But avoid drinking water at least 15 minutes before food. The quantity of water after food should be small.
- The food which is heavy (Guru) for digestion should be taken in a limited quantity.
- Heavy food should be avoided at night. The proper time for night meal is 2-3 hours before going to bed. After dinner it is better to go for a short walk of say hundred steps.
- Heavy exercise, physical or mental work should be avoided after food.
- Some rest is advisable after meals for proper digestion of food.
Sleep is most important requirement for maintenance of health and longevity. It is called ‘Jagaddhātri’(Mother of the world) because of its capacity to overcome wear and tear of the body, mental stress and tissue loss.
- One should sleep with head to the east or north.
- The bed room should be clean, ventilated and away from noise.
- The bed must be neat & clean and free from bugs.
- The bed room should be dust free.
- Relax your mind by engaging in prayer or blissful music before going to bed.
- Avoid sleeping late at night
- A minimum of 7 hours of sleep is recommended to repair the wear and tear of the body.
- Sleep during the day should be avoided as far as possible. However, if one keeps awake at night,
- he can take a nap during day time. Day-sleep is not contraindicated in summer. But in winter, the day-sleep increases Kapha, thereby causing respiratory and digestive problems.
- It is advisable to massage the head, soles and palms with oil before going to bed. By massage,you can enjoy sound sleep.
For all creatures, sexual act is a natural urge. Sexual act is also essential for the procreation of the species. However, exercising discipline in sexual act is important as explained in ancient texts. Even animals of lower form practice certain amount of restrictions but human beings are prone to over indulgence or abuse of the sexual act. Some regulation of this activity is essential.
Tips on sexual behaviour
- Over indulgence in sexual act is harmful for the body; it may lead to debilitating diseases
- Sexual act should be performed during night time, preferably during the first quarter of the night so that after performance of sexual act, one can take rest for the whole night.
- Though different Āsanas (postures) have been described in Kāma-Śāstra, the one in lithotomy/missionary position is considered the best.
- Masturbation and sodomy are injurious to health.
- Having sex with a person suffering from any kind of diseases (e.g., STD or AIDS) should be avoided.
- After sexual act, a glass of milk (i.e. about 250 ml) should be taken to promote health and energy.
- Sexual act should not be performed during the course of a disease or in convalescence
Adhāraṇīya Vega (Non-Suppressible Urges)
There are thirteen natural urges. These are desire to pass (i) urine, (ii) stool, (iii) semen (iv) flatus, (v) vomiting, (vi) sneezing, (vii) eructation, (viii) yawning, (ix) hunger, (x) thirst, (xi) tears, (xii) respiration and (xiii) sleep. These urges should never be suppressed because suppression of natural urges leads to many diseases.
Tips on Sadācāra
- Everyone wants to be happy. Happiness should be shared with others. One should strive to bring happiness to all. This attitude is termed as Hitāya, which is characteristic of our culture.
- One should love one’s neighbours. Stay away from enemies, vagabonds and loafers.
- One should keep aloof from sins committed by the body, mind and speech. Bodily sins are theft, injury or assault on others , unethical and immoral acts (Vyabhicāra) such as rape. Speech sins are telling lies, using harsh words, boasting, condemning others or engaging in irrelevant talk. Mental sins are jealousy, anger, greed, lust, egotism, delusion, too much attachment and evil thought.
- One should give a helping hand to the needy, handicapped and crippled as and when sought.
- One should respect the elderly persons, intellectuals, educated, physicians (Vaidya), guests and cows.
- One should practice simple living with humane qualities
- One should help even the unhelpful and the enemies at times of their need.
- One should have a balanced frame of mind. Avoid arrogance when rich, and do not grief or envy when poor.
- One should never bother about the fruits of a work but pursue hard work for sake of duty.
- One should not waste time in meaningless talk or gossip.
- Help ever, hurt never.
- One should exercise control over sense organs.
- Actions should be planned in such a way that all the three domains viz. Dharma (righteousness), Artha (acquisition of wealth) and Kāma (desire) are achieved.
- One should never get obsessed with (Āsakti) one thing. Be moderate in everything.
- One should shave regularly or clean beard daily.
- One should take bath regularly and put on clean clothes which are decent and presentable.
- One should keep handkerchief around the nostrils and mouth while sneezing or yawning to avoid spread of infection.
- One should stop work before one is excessively tired.
- One should not sleep under a tree at night.
- One should be free from all bad habits (Vyasana) including drinking alcohol, smoking and drugs.
- One should not serve or respect persons with low morals and character
- One should not indulge in eating, sleeping, or studying in the twilight.
- One should keep pace with the time.
- One should keep a note of all the acts and events that happen during the day, reflect upon them and change the practice if needed.
Man is a social animal. One has to work in the society in a manner which is conducive for better hygiene and sanitation of the community. This can be achieved by individual efforts with the cooperation from civil society. Garbage should not be thrown at random, it should be consigned to its proper place. The gutters and the drainage system should not be blocked. Toilets and washrooms should be maintained properly. Water sources should be thoroughly cleaned. The outbreak of any disease must be reported to the authorities immediately so that public health action can be taken.Ṛtu-Caryā
Not only the behaviour of a person is responsible for causation of disease but seasonal changes also bring about disease. India with its vast geographical dimension from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
possesses variety of seasons. The seasons are classified mainly based on the movement of the sun,i.e. Dakṣiṇāyana and Uttarāyaṇa. Accordingly the seasonal changes like cold, heat and rains occur.
The seasons in Ayurveda are classified mainly in to six seasons viz. Śiśira, Vasanta, Grīṣma, Varṣā,Śarada and Hemanta. Hemanta and Śiśira are cold seasons, Grīṣma is a hot season, Varṣā is a season of rains. Śarada and Vasanta are moderate as the days are moderately hot and nights are cold and pleasant.Seasonal Variations of the Doṣa
There are three variations of Doṣa viz. (i) Sañcaya (accumulation), (ii) Prakopa (spread or excitement) and (iii) Praśama (normalcy). These variations of Doṣa take place in the body by the seasonal variations over which there is no human control. But it is possible to keep the variations of Doṣa to the minimum by changing the mode of living. The seasonal variations of Doṣa are as under.Seasonal Variations of the Doṣa
Hemanta is the only season when not a single Doṣa is accumulated or spread. While in other seasons the Doṣa are in a state of derangement. Hence it can be inferred that Hemanta is the season most suited for building-up the body and increasing resistance to diseases. In Grīṣma due to the scorching sun heat, the body becomes weak, perspiration is excessive leading to fluid loss, impaired digestion and occurrence of skin diseases. Due to humidity in weather, the digestion is impaired in VarṣāṚtu. Śarada is a pleasant season but due to sudden climatic changes occurrence of many diseases such as ViṣamaJvara (intermittent fever), Visūcikā (cholera) can be expected. Ayurveda prescribes Āhāra (diet) , Vihāra (lifestyle) and purificatory measure of Pañca-Karma to be followed in the various seasons which have been tabulated.
ĀhāraVihāra and Śodhana According to the Season