Healthy habits in Ayurveda 3
Dharmartham Narthakamarthamayurvedo Maharsibhih | Prakasito Dharma Parairicchadbhih Sthanamaksaram
Ayurveda was developed for pure altruistic purpose of human welfare and not for any materialistic gain. Today’s scenario is just the opposite. People at large are draining vitality and vigor due to undisciplined lifestyle and sensual pleasures and medicine or health care has become a costly profession, a means for high earning. The need for a natural, inexpensive mode of preventive care and maintenance of health has become all the more crucial and urgent these days. The guidelines on daily routine as per the recommendations of Ayurveda provide practical and efficacious tips in this respect. Along with physical exercise, the daily routine should also have place for some activities to maintain mental and spiritual fitness. Sandhyaupasana and certain yoga kriyas with meditation are therefore described in the scriptures as integral parts of ideal daily routine. Doing sandhyaupasana every day with the japa of Gayatri Mantra is said to bestow longevity, strength, intelligence, success, glory and spiritual light. Nurturing the soul is actually more important than nourishing the body.
From “Chanakya Niti”:
Vipro Vraaksastasya Mulam Cha Sandhya, Veda h Sakha Dharmakarmani Patram | Tasyanmulam Yatnato Raksaniyam, Chinne Mule Naiva Sakha Na Patram || Chanakya Niti. 10-13
Sandhyaupasana is the root of the tree of healthy life. Knowledge constitutes its branches and dharmic activities are its leaves. Blossoming growth of a tree is dependant on the life of its roots. Without the roots there will be no possibility of any branch or leaves. Sandhyaupasana is the basis of human life in the truest sense. The rituals in it of the two shatkarmas, pavitrikarana, achamana, sikhabandhana, pranayam, nyasa and praathvipujan are simple but effective practices for psychological boosting of the mind and energizing the body. If one can learn it in earnest and authentically, they should try to practice sandhyavandana three times a day. Minimum is once in the morning and once in the evening. The only real times are as the word sandhya implies, the junctions or sandhi between phases of the day.
“Ahoratrasya Ya Sandhih Suryanaksatra Varjita | Satu Sandhya Samakhyata Munibhistatva Darsibhih”
Around the times of sunrise and sunset when neither sun nor any of the stars are seen are the sandhi times. They are described as extremely sensitive with respect to the effect on bodily, mental, and spiritual well being. One should be very careful about what we do in this period. As per Ayurveda… “Sahityika Subhashita Vaidyakam”
Chatvari Ghorarupani Sandhyakale Parityajet | Aharam, Maithunam, Nidra, Swadhyaya m Cha Vivarjayet
Eating, sexual intercourse, sleeping, reading and writing during the sandhi times are extremely harmful and are strictly prohibited during these time intervals. Doing pranayama, meditation, and prayers or mantra in these times induce intensive positive and healthy effects. Garuda Purana says “If God Vishnu is found asleep during the sandhi times, Lakshmi would leave Him”. This is also stating the results that one can expect if one sleeps at those same times. These timings are of crucial significance in the practice of Gayatri Mantra japa and also when lamps are lit through the different religions in India. It is because the brilliance of rising sun happens to be the focus of Gayatri. Awakening of discerning intellect and holding onto knowledge is the immediate benefit of this practice. It is the coming of the light or knowledge and the going of the darkness or ignorance.
Matsya Purana says Adityasya Manaskaram Ye Kurvanti Dine Dine | Janmantara Sahastresu Daridrayam Nopajayate
Those who practice Suryanamskara every morning are relieved from all infirmities and sickness in this life and in the lives to follow.
Whatever one ingests falls in the category of food or annam, which when and if processed by the metabolic system, becomes a source of energy for the different organs and parts of the body. We all eat and some people are generally aware of the importance of our foods purity, freshness, etc… But more than that how many of us pay attention to its subtle properties? Apart from recommending suitable food choices for different seasons and for individual constitution, the Ayurveda also focuses on the intrinsic properties of food which affect the subtle body. The food, which is worth taking (healthy) in terms of its physical and subtle qualities, but taken with the wrong eating habits or method of preparation could make the food unsuitable or even toxic to one’s health. It is equally important to know not only what to eat but also when and how to eat it.
Brahadyogi yagya valkya Smriti states Amraatam Kalpayitwa Ca Yadannam Samupagatam | Pranagnihotravidhina Vidhina Bhojyam Tadwadaghapaham
Having food should be treated like a yajna in which holy sacrifices are made in the sacred fire of prana. Such a food becomes a source of elimination of all sickness and weakness of the body and mind. I am gonna share a personal experience here….. I personally pray before each meal. I give my food to god before taking any. This is my own way. I do this in restaurants, at friends houses, everywhere and anywhere. I get stared at and giggled at and even whispers and points sometimes. Interesting how uncomfortable it makes most people feel, specially internally. Even here in India. I don’t see many people in the world doing this at all. It is not just a vedic thing or a yoga thing or an ayurvedic thing… it is a totally natural thing to be thankful for the food that you have received and show gratitude to whatever higher force you may believe in that has brought it to you for your consumption. The gratitude for all the energy that has gone into growing it by nature, by god. All the people that have done some part of the work to bring it to the place it is, right in front of you. Knowing that this food, what you are about to eat will become you, is it not worthy of being praised, blessed? I have a devout Kabbalist friend, nothing at all enters his mouth, not even a liquid, without his blessing it. Think about it.
The Gita says Ayuh Satva Balarogya Sukha Pritivivardhana | Rasyah Snigdhah Sthira Hryadya Aharah Sattwikapriya || -Gita XVII-8
A person of Sattwika nature likes to eat foods that prolong life, purify one’s inner being, give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. The Gita further mentions about the foods liked by persons of Rajasika and Tamasika natures… Katva-amla-lavanati-usna-tiksna-ruksa-vidahina | Ahara rajasasyesta dukha-sokamaya-prada -Gita XVII 9
Foods that are bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to a person of Rajasika nature. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease.
Yatu yamam gata-rasam puti paryusitam ca yat | Ucchistamapi camedhyam bhojanam tamas priyam || -Gita XVII -10
Stale, tasteless, decomposed, putrid and leftover foods are liked by a person of Tamasika nature. The Ramayana also has some reference to the quality of food. Talking of moral principles, Jatayu says “Eatable food is that which is completely digested in a natural way, without producing any harmful effect inside the body”.
Some scriptures also comment on the best quantity of food intakes. For example, the Vishnu Purana suggests
Jatharam Purayedardharmannairbhagam Jalena Cha | Vayoh Sancarnarthaya Chaturthamavasaisayeta
The portion of solid food should be about half the capacity of the stomach; one-fourth of the latter should be filled with liquid diet and water and the remaining one-fourth should be left empty for free movement of air and fluids inside the stomach. Ayurveda states that most of the diseases have their roots in overeating and improper cleansing of the digestive system. This is true in case of modern urbanized lifestyle of today. Excessive eating or consumption of lavish, gravy foodstuffs or fast foods, processed and canned foods, non-vegetarian dishes, etc… do not suit the biomechanics and natural process of metabolism of the human body. These unnatural foods eventually result in constipation, acidity, or other problems of indigestion. Defective metabolism leads to weakening of the entire system. The undigested toxic heavy molecules (aama) and other kinds of unexcretia inside the body cause varieties of unforseen reactions. Germs and other infections also get support in such a host system, the environment is created for their existence. If there isn’t sufficient space for airflow within and out of the stomach, it may cause unnatural pressure on the heart, often leading to angina. The instructions in ayurveda on “Why to eat? What to eat? When to eat? How much to eat? And, how to eat?” it is the key to a happy, healthy life.
Jirnabhojinam Vyadhirnopasarpati | Chanakya Sutra
One who eats only when the food consumed earlier has been properly digested, remains free from all diseases.