Abhyangamacarenityam Sa Jarashramavataha | Drashtiprasada Pushtayamu Swapna Sutvakcadadharya Krata | Shirah Shravanapadeshu Tam Visheshena Shilayeta
Abhyanga (oil massage): Daily oil-massage of the body prevents gastric problems, fatigue and aging. Clear eyesight, good sleep, long age, beautiful skin and stout body are gained by this practice. Oil-massage should be especially applied on the head, ears and legs. (This is generalized and not specific for everyone. It depends upon ones digestive strength, time of year, as well as other factors)
Sarshapam Gandhatailam Yattailam Pushpavasitam| Anya Dravyayutam Tailam Na Dushyati Kadacana
Mustard oil, fragrant natural-oil and oils extracted from flowers and mixed with other natural substances are usable. Massaging with the sesame or mustard oil as per the season is supposed to be the best.
Snehabhyangadyatha Kumbhashcarma Snehavimardanat | Bhavatyupango Dakshashca Dradah Kleshasaho Yatha || Thata Shariramabhyangadradam Sutvak Prajayate| Prashantamarutabadham Kleshavyayamasangraham|| Sparshane Cadhiko Vayuh Sparshananca Twamashritam | Twacyashca Paramobhyangastamattam Shilayennarah || Na Cabhighatabhihatam Gatramabhyangasevinah | Vikaram Bhajatityartham Balakarmani Va Kwacita || Susparshopacitangashca Balavan Priyadarshanah | Bhatyabhyanga Nityatvannarulpojara Eva Ca
As the polishing with lubricants makes a pot, leather and cartwheel shining, smooth and strong, the body also becomes strong and possesses beautiful skin by massaging it with oil. The vata (gas and movements related) problems are also allayed and the resistance and stamina of the body increases. Massaging the body everyday with due care makes the skin smooth and the body-parts strong; the signs of aging become less visible and the body becomes charming. Oil-massage helps in increasing one’s life -span and the glow of the body. The importance of oil is in no way less than that of ghee (clarified butter) in strengthening one’s health .
Ghratadashta Gunam Tailam Mardane Na Tubhakshane |
The power of oil is eight times more than that of ghee; the only difference is the latter is useful in eating while oil is beneficial in massaging.
Method of Massaging: First apply oil in the navel. It should then be rubbed on the nails of hands and legs. Then the soles should be massaged followed successively by the feet, above the feet, knees, thighs and hips. Then the hands, arms, neck, waist, back, abdomen, stomach should be massaged in that order. The chest should be massaged in the end. The hands should move in upward direction in all parts of the body except the neck; massaging the neck from top to bottom is more useful. Care should be taken to massage the chest slightly away from the heart. Massaging should be done in the morning before bathing. It is to be done in an open space with no breeze. A drop of oil could be poured in the ears while massaging them gently; this is quite useful against the problems of vata. Massaging the soles sharpens the eyesight because of the soothing effects on nerves. Massaging should be done slowly. It does not take much time. Though there is more benefit if it is done for half an hour. Some time should be given between massaging and bathing to help proper absorption of oil. For best results, one should lie down or sit in a relaxed position for fifteen minutes or so if possible. Shaving the beard and cleaning the nails etc could be done during this time. Care must be taken not to do massaging for at least three hours after eating. Massaging should not be done during illness.
Kshaurkarma (shaving): Shaving is a necessary requirement of the daily routine in Ayurveda for adult males in most normal cases. Hardly do we know its importance other than looking and feeling neat and clean. The Ayurvedic texts tell us that this daily chore is important for mental and physical health, too.
Paushtikam Vrashyamayushyam Shuci Rupavirajanam | Keshashmashrunakhadinam Kalpanam Sampra sadhana m|| Papopashamanam Keshanakharomapamarjanam | Harshalaghavasaubhagyakaramutsaha Vardhanam ||
Charaka has defined « shaving » as a cleansing and beautifying exercise, which augments health, life span and happiness. The second shloka from Sushruta Samhita, also has similar meaning (Sushruta is revered as the founder of surgery, in modern medicine too). It conveys that « shaving » everyday alleviates the evil tendencies of mind, reduces tension and heaviness and induces a cheerful mood and enthusiasm. Therefore everyone who needs it should shave his face every day. It makes one feel neat and energetic. Those who like to grow beard should take care of cleaning it and keeping it orderly and in proper shape as far as possible. Hair on the head should be cut at least once in 3 to 4 weeks. Women should also keep their hair clean and tidy. It should be noted that the « kshaurkarma » also implies cleaning and cutting wherever applicable hair on all parts of the body and cleaning and cutting the nails. Nails should also be cut regularly once a week or fortnightly, in general and cleaned everyday. (For even more detail, if you know tithis; cutting hair, nails and shaving is to be done on Pratipada, Tritiya, and Chaturdasi which are the 1st, 3rd, and 14th phases of the moon) The brush, razor etc used for cutting the hair, nail etc should also be kept clean.
Vyayam (Physical Exercise): According to Ayurveda, regular exercise of the body is essential for everyone. Sharira Cheshta Ya Cheshta Sthairyartha Balavardhini | Deha Vyayama Sankhyata Matraya Tam Samacareta ||
The movements and postures of the body aimed at stabilizing and strengthening it constitute what is known as « Physical Exercise ». As food is essential for sustenance of life, so is physical exercise vital for its health. A mechanical clock does not work without periodical winding. Similarly the body can not function properly without any physical exercise. Regular physical exercise is like the nectar milk of Kamadhenu, a heavenly cow referred in scriptures, for good health. Interesting to note here is that in vedic times there was not endurance training and cardiovascular training like there is today in the Western exercise theory. In fact, if those types of training was seen from the lens of Ayurveda or Yoga it would be seen as ativyayam or excessive and would be condemned due to its destructive effect on health of mind and body. What could be considered cardiovascular exercise from a vedic sense would be pranayama but it even is deeper than that. The entire way of looking at exercise and what is healthy is backwards in the Western view from a Vedic understanding of health. The contractive training to break the muscle cells so that they grow back stronger is a singularly modern Western concept. The muscle fibers grow back adhesed like gristle in a piece of steak which makes the body tight and creates stress in the physiology as well as the mind. The heart has to work much harder to send blood through the tight tissues than it does for loose relaxed tissues (think of what high blood pressure really is). Bigger stronger faster is not what Ayurveda means by exercise, That is solely a Western mindset. In fact, Charaka states that having a relaxed pot belly is a sign of good health. This hardly fits today’s modern version of 8% bodyfat and ripped abdominals of what is considered ideally healthy.
According to Charaka, Laghavam Karmasamarthyam Sthairya Duhkha Sahishnuta | Doshakshayugnivraddhishca Vyayamadupa jap ate||
Physical exercise gives lightness to the body, increases its stamina for hard work, stability and tolerance. It helps in elimination of the bodily deficiencies and defects and augments the appetite (stimulates the digestive fire).
As per the text « Bhava Prakasha » Vyayamadradhagatrayasya Vyadhirnasti Kadacana | Viruddham Va Vidagdham Va Bhuktam Shighram Vipacyate ||
The body is strengthened by regular physical exercise and is prevented from catching diseases. Its capacity of resistance and defense and immunity against diseases also increases. Physical exercise helps digestion of heavy food which is difficult to digest easily. Physical exercise is a must to avoid or reduce obesity. Regular exercises of the body keep one fit and cheerful. Such people are free from the ’usual’ problems of old age. Proper physical exercises strengthen the muscles and keep the body in shape, harmonize the blood flow, give power to the lungs and energize the nerves. Physical exercises should always be done at a place where there is sufficient flow of fresh air. For an average man and woman, it is advised to practice physical exercises that use only half or little more of their stamina at any time. Different types of exercises are recommended for people of different age groups, physique and general health. Overdoing an exercise or stretching/stressing any part of the body beyond its limits proves to be harmful. The blind followers of aerobics or those going to the so-called heath-clubs out of craze or ’fitness fashion’ centers should take special note of this specially modern Western « yogis » practicing what they think is yoga but is actually just Western exercise.
Ayurveda warns us against the negative effects, balardha, of over or improper exercises which is unsuitable to one’s body:
Hradisthane Sthito Vayuryada Vakram Prapadhyate| Vyayamam Kurvato Jantoh Stadvalardhasya Lakshanam || Kaksha Lalata Nasasu Hastapadadisandhishu | Pras veda namukha Shoshacca Balardhamtaddhi Nirdisheta||
If the air/oxygen to be supplied to the heart begins to be absorbed in the mouth, i.e. having to breath through the mouth and not the nose, then it is a sign of balardha. Unusual perspiration through the armpits, forehead, on the upper lip and leg-joints, etc implies balardha. You can see from this that what the modern day science thinks is exercise is from a Vedic view…. excessive. All exercise should be done with breathing through the nose only. Breathing through the mouth is a sign that one has gone past their maximal capacity and prana will now be imbalanced if continued leading to disease.
Kshayastranarucchirdi Raktapittabhramaklamah | Kasashosha Jwarshwasa Ativyayama Sambhavah ||
Improper or over exercising may lead to excessive thirst, vomiting, giddiness, piles, problems of blood circulation, cough, breathing problems, fever and even tuberculosis due to excessive weakness etc.
Raktapitti Krashah Shoshi Shwasakasakshataturah | Bhuktavanstrishu Ca Kshino Bhramartashca Vivarjayet ||
The patients of plethora, asthmatic attack, or severe cough, withering of body, acute anemia and underweight, heart disorders, vertigo, etc or the one who has just eaten or drunk something should not do physical exercise. Ayurveda recommends practice of yoga for physical and mental wellbeing. Yoga means the path which leads to spiritual awareness, not exercise. However, the trends today have diluted and distorted the meanings and forms of yoga. Moreover, people in sheer frantic hurry to get rid of specific health problems or eager to slim the body, often start practicing some type of the asanas of yoga as advertised in a magazine or ’taught’ in a health club without realizing the possible adverse side-effects that are created unless these asanas are accompanied by some complementary asanas or without following the proper disciplines associated with them. All kinds of physical exercises or yoga should be practiced under proper guidance (what is that thought? a 200 hour certified person). It is also important to understand the underlying philosophy of yoga and understand that asana is a very small part of what yoga is.
Morning Walk: Most of us are aware of the importance of morning walk. It is regarded as an integral part of the daily routine in Ayurveda. The morning time is ideally conductive for enhancing and purifying the physical and mental energies. The air is fresh and pure, especially near the plants and trees it is full of soothing fragrances. Its cool to the touch and is very pleasant. Even in the peak of winter one can enjoy it while wearing sufficient warm clothes and it becomes energizing. Breathing should be deep and only through the nostrils (the mouth should be kept closed). Walk with as light and less clothes as feasible per the season. Walking speed should be as fast as one could manage with ease. The mind should be trained to visualise « through each in-breath, I am absorbing vital energy and radiance floating in Nature and throwing away the metabolic wastes and defects with its exhalation. » The immediate gains of a morning walk are elimination of constipation and digestive problems. Any clean and airy place is good for morning walk. There is research in Ayurveda that has shown that 5 minutes of the red rays of the first 20 minutes of the rising sun on just enough bare skin as the size of the palm to get your days worth of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
Bathing: Bathing every day at least once is a necessary discipline of Vedic way of life. It cleans the body and opens the skin pores. From an Ayurvedic view it opens the srotas or channels. Bathing in the morning removes all the drowsiness and laziness and refreshes the body. It soothes the mind and hence helps in concentration, meditation, studies, etc. Water has been referred as amrat or nectar and jivana, life giving, in the Vedas.
Apa Id Va U Bheshajirapo Amivacatanih | Apo Vishvasya Bheshajistastva Muncantu Kshetriyat ||
Water is a medicine in itself; it is an enemy of diseases. It has the potential to kill diseases. It increases life span and helps in well being. At one place the Vedas even say « Bhishagyo Bhishaktara Apah | » Water is the best among all medicines. Realizing this importance of water, water is given prominent place in Ayurveda. Bathing every day helps healthy growth of the body and its activeness. Its obvious effects are cleansing and freshening of the body and inducing a feeling of freshness in the mind as well.
Pavitram Vrashyamayushyam Shramaswedamalapaham | Sharira Balasandhanam Snanamojaskaram Param || -Charaka Samhita
The body is purified by bathing. Bathing enhances life span, eliminates fatigue, sweat and dirt. It augments the liveliness and force of the body.
According to Sushruta, Snanam Dahashramaharam Swedakandutrashapaham | Hrdyam Malaharam Shreshtham Sarvendriyavishodhanem || Tandrapapopashamanam Tushtidam Punsatva Vardhanam | Raktaprasadanam Capi Snanamagneshca Dipanam ||
Bathing eliminates heat, fatigue, sweat, itching, and thirst. It cleans the sweat on the body, strengthens the heart and naturally cleans the sense organs. It removes the drowsiness and helps in recharging the blood circulation and energy. Very warm water should not be used for bathing above the collarbone as the heat has negative effects on the senses and on delicate skin. Bathing with comfortably cold water is best for healthy effects. It allays the excess heat of the body and plethora of other problems. Bathing should be started from the head. A bucket bath is the healthiest and a shower the least as it aggravates vata. In a bucket bath, at least three to four bathing cups full of water should be poured on the head in its straight and bent positions. Doing so helps release the heat of the head and the whole body. The other parts of the body should then be bathed in succession from top to bottom. Ayurveda would have you use a paste of besan (chick pea flour), turmeric and mustard oil, or suitable natural herbs rather than the soaps. Soap takes the natural oils out of the skin. This makes very little sense when really thought about. The body should then be rubbed by wet towel of cotton or a similar rough fabric after bathing so that the skin pores are opened up properly. Care should be taken to wipe up all the joints including those behind the ears and near the nostrils, etc this way. The body should be clothed only after it has dried completely. Absolutely do not bathe after having food or when having fever, or weakness due to dysentery, etc. Proper sponge bath could be taken while suffering from minor cold and/or some disease of ears or eyes. Bathing serves as a medicine.
Clothing: The Ayurvedic texts describe Kamyam Yashasyamayushyamlakshamighnam Praharshanam | Shrimatparishadam Shastam Nirmalambara Dharanam ||
Neat and clean clothing has pleasant and healthy effect; it eliminates the signs of indigence and enables one to sit with the civilized and cultured people. Different types of clothing are recommended for worshiping, working in the house, outing and sleeping. Different types of fabrics suit for different seasons; for example light especially white and light in texture, loose and thin clothes in summer. Warm clothes that are woolen, silky and dark colored that suppress kapha and vata in winter and easily drying clothes, especially whitish color, in autumn. Washing one’s clothes by oneself is a good physical exercise and also ensures careful cleaning. Do not wear dirty clothes. The choice of color for healthiest effect on the mental and physical health depends on chromopathy and astrological nuances in Ayurveda and Jyotisha. Tight clothes have negative effects on blood circulation and nervous system. Choice of clothing should be such that it allows comfortable movement of body and makes the personality graceful. (If you are so desiring the knowledge of best colors for you generally, you can send me your birth details of time and place and I can quickly look up what yours are. That is as long as I am not bombarded by requests to do so.)