The Yoga Lifestyle
Choosing a life of happiness.
By Yogacharya Vishwas Mandlik
For a healthy life, lifestyle should also be considered along with the diet. We can control our diet to a considerable extent, but we tend to be unable to control our lifestyle. It does depend on others, but if we try to lead a balanced lifestyle, we can become quite healthy. Hence, we will consider daily routine and seasonal routine in this chapter.
Ayurveda has given a deep thought to the daily routine. The day starts with getting up in the morning. The following shloka describes when one should get up in the morning.
Brahmmuhurte uttishthen swasthyaraksharthamayushah | Tatra sarvarthashantyartham smareccha madhusudanam ||
One should get up at Brahma Muhurta. It means one and half-hours before the sunrise. At this time, the ozone necessary for the body is adequately present in the atmosphere. The activities of the entire world and especially of the living beings are yet to be started so the pollution is at its minimum. The cheerful atmosphere has a positive effect on the body and the mind. Everyone should get up in the morning and try to take benefit of this.
While determining the time of getting up, one should take into account the time of retiring to bed too. Generally, seven hours sleep is sufficient. People who can sleep deeply without disturbance can do with just 5 to 6 hours’ sleep. Common people dream during the sleep and face the problem of disturbance from time to time; hence for them seven hours’ sleep is needed. This seven hours’ period and the time for getting up should be correlated so that it is convenient. One should get up before the sunrise and keeping that in mind should decide the time to go to bed.
After getting up from the sleep, kardarshan (viewing the palm of the hand) is advised:
Karagre Vasate Laxmi : karmadhye Saraswati | Karmule tu Govind : Prabhate kardarshanam ||
Laxmi, Saraswati and Govind reside on the palm, so one should bow to them with respect, this is the logic behind kardarshan. Of course, with common sense point of view, to get hold of Laxmi ( money ) and Saraswati ( knowledge ) is in our hands only, to remind one of this principle is the main logic behind kardarshan. Also, our eyes are closed throughout the night, if suddenly they are opened in the morning and the atmosphere is viewed, then there may be some strain for the eyes, so one should put both the hands onto the eyes after getting up, so they do not suddenly come into the contact with the atmosphere.
After kardarshan, there should be bhoomivandan ( bowing to the land ). Our life depends on the land, before touching it with the feet, one should apologize to that shakti (Energy Principle). There is a moral support behind this. It is a western custom to apologize after committing a mistake, it is Indian culture to apologize before committing a mistake realizing that the mistake has to be committed.
Samudravasane devi parvatstanmandale | Vishnupatni namostubhyam padsparsham kshamaswa me ||
Vishunupati samutpanne shankhavarna-mahitale | Aanek-ratnasampanne bhumidevi namo namah ||
The writer of this aphorism has described the land very poetically and with faith with the help of his high intuition. With these kind of samskaras (training to mind), the mind can be raised to a higher level.
After the praying to the earth (bhoomivandan), it is stated that “Chintayet aatmano hitam | ” (Think carefully about your own benefits.)
After having slept for six to seven hours at night, one should not get up suddenly in the morning and start his daily work. One should sit peacefully and think about what is good for him. One should plan his entire day program at this time. The mind is very calm and enthusiastic when one gets up. The capacity to think from all the angles is at its maximum at this time. So also there are spiritual aspects of contemplation, which accrue.
Then there is movement of bowels. Excretion immediately after getting up from the bed is good, but due to inconvenient systems of the chawls, reading fresh newspapers first, or due to some other reasons, this natural order is not followed. In healthy people, there are miniscule suggestions to excrete, but if these suggestions are ignored, they go on weakening. Then the process of excretion does not stay normal. Whenever there is some time, the process is hurriedly carried out. Due to these habits, the health is affected.
After the bowel movement, there should be Ushahpan (Drinking Water). Nowadays, people are not even aware of it. They feel that bed tea and ushahpan (Drinking Water) are one and the same. Tea, as it is, is harmful to health. Bed Tea is even more harmful. Ushahpan (Drinking Water) helps improve the health. Drinking water stored overnight in a copper utensil, which is covered, in the morning is ushahpan (Drinking Water). This water helps the excretion tendency and purifies the intestines in the body.
After ushahpan (Drinking Water), one should wash the mouth. Ayurveda specifies dried twigs of from various herbs. Dried twigs of neem are the best. If it is not possible to get them, then one should use the ash of the cow dung cakes. It should be made clean after removing stones etc from it. If it is ground, then the stones in it also get ground and then it is harmful to the teeth. Those who want to use the brush should use the softest one possible. Thick and hard brush is harmful for the gums. The toothpaste, which is used with the brush contains various chemicals, so one should use the paste as per the advice of an expert doctor. One expert dentist has stated that water is the best paste available and the best brush is your finger. After cleaning teeth, there is Jivha Nirlekhan Vidhi ( tongue cleaning process ). The tongue should be cleaned with thin copper or silver plate. Lemon twig is better for this purpose. First the tip of the twig should be chewed to make it look like a brush, and then one should brush the teeth with that, divide the twig in between and clean the tongue with it. After washing the mouth like this, one should do nasya and anjan. One should put some oil or drops from other herbs into the nostrils according to his natural tendencies (prakruti). One should decide these materials with the advice of the Ayurveda consultant (vaidya). Also, to maintain the health of the eyes, it is useful to put certain materials in the form of anjans (helpful herbs to put in eyes). After this, certain essential herbs should be put in boiling water and the vapour should be inhaled through the nose and the mouth, this is known as dhumrapan (smoking). Different types of this dhrumapan eliminate different types of problems (dhoshas) in the body. From all this description, we realise that Ayurveda has gone into details to maintain the health of the body and the precautionary measures have included under
the daily routine.
After all these processes, exercise and Abhyanga Snan (bath followed by oil massage) have to be undertaken. The ranking depends on the type of exercise done. If it is yogasana or pranayama, then it should be done after the bath. If the exercise involves tiring sessions such as push-ups, it should be done before the bath. Abhyang means massage with the oil. It should be done before the bath. There is no need to say that in a hot country like India, one should have a daily bath. But one should massage the body with oil and the soles of the feet with ghee. If it is not possible to massage the entire body with oil, then one should massage the head, ears, soles of the feet etc. The head should be massaged with the fingertips after removing the grown nails. One or two drops of oil should be put into the ears so that the brain becomes calm. The sleep is improved and the eyesight gets better. The complaints of the eyesight are reduced. The oil ghee or butter to be used for such massage should be kept in a copper utensil. It should be churned a bit with water and used after removing the water. Rubbing it with a utensil is effective than rubbing it with hands. While rubbing one should rub towards the direction of the heart. Abhyang is useful in winter season and rainy season. The bathing water should be cold. At least water to be poured over the head should be cold and not hot. Cold water means water having the temperature as that
of the body. Water, which is colder or warmer proves harmful.
After abhyanga, personal upasana (prayer, meditation etc) is important. Due to such upasana, the mind becomes cheerful and the spiritual power increases. The mental strength starts growing and there is confidence in the life. One should take guidance as to which prayer should be done and in what manner. But no doubt it proves useful.
After all these processes, one should do pratrashan. Pratrashan is morning drink. Milk is the best pratrashan and tea the worst. If milk required for tea is consumed on its own it will prove useful. Tannin, a poisonous substance in the tea harmfully affects the nervous system and the digestive system.
At the time of pratrashan, those who feel hungry can have breakfast. Fresh preparations made up of rice and wheat is good for breakfast. Now a days, bread and biscuits are used, but they are harmful to the health because these substances contain salts and they are fermented. Of course, those who consume enough milk and ghee or butter can have them without bad effects. But to avoid them is the best.
After this one should carry on the daily routine.
The lunchtime in the afternoon should be from 11 AM to 1 PM. That is the time of pitta, so appetizers are secreted in the stomach. The food consumed at this time is easily digested. If this time is not possible, then one should have food before the 11 AM, but not after 1 PM. What should the meal contain is an independent topic which we have already considered elsewhere. After lunch, one should not run around or carry on strenuous work. A Sanskrit verse by Sushrut states as under in this regard.
One who sits idle after lunch, becomes lazy. One who sleeps turns obese. One who walks around hundred steps, becomes healthy and one who runs, the death runs towards him. That means his life span is rapidly reduced. Now a days, many people complain of indigestion. There are many reasons for that, but one main reason is this running around after lunch.
In the evening, one should consume only liquids, not solid diet, because that lengthens the dinnertime. The dinner should be around sun set. Because it is good for health to have an interval of three hours between the dinner and retiring to bed. To sleep immediately after dinner is injurious to health. The dinner should be minimal i.e. easily digested. It should not contain heavy preparations.
The sleep at night is also thought provoking point. The place where one should sleep should be free of all insects. The bed should not be too soft or too hard. It should not bend in between. A bed with thick, narrow strips or wooden strips is better. One may take a pillow, but that also should not be very thin or thick. The pillow should have the same thickness as that of the distance between the head and the shoulders while sleeping on one side. This avoids the neck from getting stiff. Due to improper pillow, one can suffer from cold too. The bed sheet and the inner coverlet should be washed after every three to four days. Earlier one item of clothing known as uparane, which was, used daily was attached to a sheet while sleeping. The same was washed daily. While thinking about the behaviour at night, one should think about marital life too. The science writers have said that generally to retain health even at a later age, one should have sex once a week during the youth. Otherwise, the bad effects occur at a later stage.
A slow and steady start to adding each of these practices one by one to your lifestyle can have a long-lasting impact on your well being.