Healthy habits in Ayurveda 3

by trueayurveda

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 their 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

Sandhya (upasana) is the root of the tree of (healthy, hearty and enlightened) life . The Vedas (i.e. source of righteous knowledge) constitute its branches and religious 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. In essence, the above sloka (likewise many guidelines in the Shastric Literature), conveys that sandhya (upasana) is the basis of human life in the truest sense. The rituals of shatkarmas 2 namely, pavitrikarana, achamana, sikhabandhana, pranayam, nyasa and praathvipujan are simple but effective practices for psychological boosting of the mind and energizing the body. If possible, one should try to practice sandhyavandana three times a day. In any case, one must do it twice, once in the morning and once in the evening, for ten minutes only, if it is difficult to find more time. The only real times are (as the word sandhya implies) the junctions (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 even in the clear sky.) These time intervals (sandhi times) are described as extremely sensitive with respect to the effect on bodily, mental and spiritual well being. We 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/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 time-phases of the day induce intensive positive (healthy) effects. Garuda Purana says  « If God Vishnu is found asleep during the sandhi times (around sunrise and sunset 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, as the brilliance of rising sun happens to be the focus of meditation. Awakening of discerning intellect and holding onto knowledge is the immediate benefit of this practice. One may chant other prayers and mantras as per his faith, but the science of yoga and spirituality, as also Ayurveda, affirm the pre-eminent impact of the Gayatri Mantra japa during sandhyaupasana.

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 eats or drinks, or rather, whatever goes inside the body via the food pipe (G.I. tract), falls in the category of food, which, upon being processed by the metabolic system, becomes a source of energy for the different organs and parts of the body. We all eat everyday. Some people are generally aware of the importance of our foods purity, freshness, etc.. But, how many of us pay attention to its subtle properties? Apart from recommending suitable food-choices for different seasons for persons of different age groups, the Ayurvedic scriptures also focus at the intrinsic properties of food, which affect the subtle (mental) body. The food, which is worth taking in terms of its physical and subtle qualities, but the wrong eating habits or method of preparation could make the food unsuitable or even toxic to one’s health. It is therefore 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 (vital, spiritual energy). Such a food becomes a source of elimination of all sickness and weakness of the body and mind. To share something personal here….. I personally pray for my food. 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. Wow. 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, all the energy that has gone into growing it by nature, by god. All the people that have done 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? I have a devout Kabbalist friend, Nothing enters his mouth, not even a liquid without this blessing. 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 dear to a person of Tamsika 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 says, 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. Unless properly assimilated and digested, these unnatural foods eventually result in constipation, acidity or other problems of indigestion. Defective metabolism leads to weakening of the system. The undigested heavy molecules and other kinds of unexcretia inside the body cause varieties of untoward 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 the scriptures 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

He/she, who eats only when the food consumed earlier has been properly digested, remains free from all diseases.

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