Practical Ayurveda guidelines to enjoy health and vitality in everyday life
Prof. Dr. Abhimanyu Kumar
Ayurveda is not simply a system of medicine, but it offers something great which makes our life happy, healthy and prosperous. In that way, it justifies its literal meaning, the ‘Science of Life’. This science is primarily focused at offering the best of life, in terms of health, happiness and a lot more. It takes care of our physical, mental, social and spiritual health so that we can enjoy health and vitality in everyday life. Practical Ayurveda guidelines for better health and vitality are wird around its fundamental principles. For this purpose, concepts of prakriti, agni, ama, diurnal variation, rasayan etc. play a very important role. Three sub-pillars of life; diet (ahar), sleep (nidra) and way of life (brahmacharya) are basic factors to regulate our body-mind system and help to provide optimal output from our body and mind.
Our Prakriti makes us unique and our body-mind system is programmed accordingly. Every cell of the body performs as per prakriti signals linked with related five basic elements. Because everyone is composed of all three doshas, these constitutional types are indicative of the predominance doshas. The activities of the dosas in the prakriti represent the normal activities of the body. Thus, prakriti assists with daily, preventative measures to optimise health.
Agni is the intrinsic force of the body which interacts with our body system at three levels through its thirteen types. Therefore, balanced agni keeps us healthy by regulating our basic cellular metabolism. Digestive fire (jathragni) at gross level influences our digestive system and become the bases to decide nature of our food, quantity, timings etc. depending on its intensity. For this purpose, in our routine life knowledge of digestive fire is very essential. There are simple methods to assess the nature and behaviour of our digestive and metabolic systems. Our vitality (Ojus) depends upon our agni in a large way. The nourishment of ojas in turn nourishes agni and the dhatus, and as a result provides good health and longevity.
The status of ojas can be assessed by the lustre of the eyes, the strength of limbs, and the function of the mind and senses. In normalcy, ojas is for the most part distributed equally all over the body, whereas in acute disease or trauma the flow of ojas is blocked, and in chronic disease the flow of ojas gradually becomes deficient. In a broader context, however, ama is the impairment of one’s ability to derive nourishment from life, be it physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. A correctly functioning agni confers a harmonious benefit with proper discrimination of the body, mind and senses. To keep ojus free with adequate flow in the body, certain Ayurveda guidelines are very much helpful.
Ayurveda creates awareness of factors which are responsible to maintain haemostasis in body and mind by examining the dynamic quality of seasonal variation, and similarly, the differing influences within each 24-hour period. Thus, to keep ourselves healthy and happy our daily and seasonal regimens should be kept aligned with dietary and lifestyle patterns. Besides cyclic impact of diurnal and seasonal variations on dosha status, there is great impact of our behaviour and conduct on our mental, social and spiritual health. Ayurveda identifies it as sadvritta.
Dinacharya is the daily regimen described in Ayurveda, which takes into account the dynamic quality of each day (24 hours). At any given point during the day or night a particular dosha is said to be dominated, accordingly exert an influence. The potential for an imbalance to occur in that particular period may be kept moderated by a regimen that takes this into consideration.
To keep ourselves physically and mentally fit, it is important to take note of the gradual transition between different doshas and the respective time of day each governs. For example, the morning gets influenced by vata which gradually diminish and kapha becomes dominant. Similarly, as the evening gets closer to midnight kapha gradually declines as the influence of pitta gradually increases. Pitta governs noon and midnight in the clock of twenty-four hours. Our physical and mental functions get affected and swings, accordingly. Dietary, lifestyle and work planning considering cyclic impact of doshas during various day hours is the best way to keep your doshas in more balanced form to offer best from our prakriti and keeps away from vikriti (disease).
Seasonal variations are regulated with the influence of Sun. The influence of the solar cycle, or the time it takes for the earth to complete one orbit around the sun, can be divided into two equal periods, called Southward (daksinayana) and Northward (uttarayana). The Southward period begins with the summer solstice, the beginning of the decline of the sun’s influence in the northern (hemi- sphere and its increasing dominance in the southern hemisphere. During the Southward, especially in temperate areas such as North America and Europe, the lunar cooling influence of the moon begins to dominate, the sun and warm weather are gradually obscured by cloud and the environment becomes wet, cold and windy. Although marked by a brief period of fruition at the end of summer, the vital energy of the planet during the southward descends back into the earth to wait out the cycle of winter.
The human body is composed primarily of earth and water element along with others. Now we can see how the quality of these climactic influences (i.e. wet, cold and windy) vitiates the basic characteristic of the human body, weakening agni during this season facilitates the production of ama. In contrast, the Northward (Uttarayana) period begins with the winter solstice, the time when the light of the sun begins to rise from its lowest point in the sky in the northern hemisphere to its highest. The powerful influence of the Sun during this period gradually begins to dominate, and its progressively warming (ushna) and drying (ruksha) qualities thin the congested properties of Earth and water elements. Thus, the period of time marked by uttarayana generally exerts a stimulating and tonic effect on the human body, enhancing agni and the elimination of ama.
Vitality tells story of the body. Strong vitality is the end product of good digestion, proper metabolism, formation of strong dhatus (tissue types) and perfect functioning of senses. To support it, there are different kinds of rasayana therapy that can be implemented, with different goals kept in mind. On a mundane level, rasayana therapy is used to tone up the body and mind. Broadly speaking it improves the overall quality of health.
Three sub-pillars of our life; diet, sleep and way of life are the key factors to regulate our body-mind system and keep our health and happiness intact. Ayurveda suggests that there are certain dietary regimens that are best suited to the individual doshas. Ayurveda recognises that there are certain foods that influence the individual doshas, and that a true understanding of diet comes from appreciating each individual dietary article, rather than memorising a list of dietary ‘dos and don’ts’. Besides this if we take it beyond any regimen, all diets for all people should be healthy, diverse and whole- some, and attempt to reflect the season and the local ecology based on Ayurveda principles.
Ayurveda offers some easy, all-natural solutions that can improve the quality of sleep. One of the most important things one can do to balance sleep and your overall mental and physical health, is dinacharya (daily routine). Often, sleep disturbances come from an imbalanced routine, working for long hours, eating at irregular times, or going to bed at a different time every night. To bring the body back into balance, one should consider these factors to keep the body’s dosha based biological rhythms running smoothly to get appropriate sleep.
Ayurveda way of life helps us to enjoy more aspects of the life. Besides diet and sleep, other lifestyle variables which influence on health, are- exercise, sexual behaviour, alcohol abuse, modern technologies, recreation, study etc. also need to be considered well. Health is not just about avoiding a disease or illness. It is about physical, mental and social well-being too. The presentation aims at helping to decide to make healthier choices adopting Ayurveda guidelines in the lifestyle which will give more opportunity to enjoy more aspects of life for longer with vitality.