Ayurveda has two parameters of health. One of the parameters is the “Ahaar” or the food. The second most important factor for a perfect health is “Vihaar” or the lifestyle. The word “Vihaar” means the way of life, for example, the lifestyle of a soldier will be different from a civilian, and the lifestyle of a labourer will be different from an office goer. They will have different work, work environment and social circles which affect their mental as well as their physical health.
As per Ayurveda, there are three pillars for a flawless health – Ahaar (food), Nidra (sleep) and Brahmacharya (proper conduct). The first 2 factors are described in this article.
Ayurveda prescribes a general guideline for a healthy body that each health-conscious individual should try to follow.
Vihaar or lifestyle has following factors that should be taken in to consideration in order to ensure a healthy lifestyle –
Ahaar or Food
Nowadays the quality of food has declined. But the more important factor is that the food is not consumed in the right manner. Here are few Ayurvedic directives with their scientific logic.
Ideally, food should be consumed at a fixed time. The reason behind this rule is that the human body is governed by an innate biological clock. This bio-rhythm of the body is synchronized to the sun, according to Ayurveda and it adjusts its processes according to the position and impact of the sun on the human body. The key of all metabolisms, digestion is supposed to be completely dependent on the sun. When we have meals at a fixed time, then the body finds it easier to predict and prepare for the meal. Therefore, proper hunger and proper digestion is ensured. But if we have meals at random times, it confuses the body and disturbs the natural rate of metabolism.
Given that the time of the meals should be fixed, one should never eat unless very hungry. Eating without hunger can promote diabetes in the long run. When we are hungry, the digestive juices are already present in the stomach, ready to digest the food. But this is not the case when we eat without hunger. The digestive juices are secreted after the food ingested and they might be diluted or low in quantity. Over a period, this can cause chronic digestive problems.
Another very important factor is intake of water during the meals. Ideally one should not consume any water before or immediately after a meal. Water intake reduces the optimum temperature required for the digestion. Excess intake of water just before a meal or immediately after a meal also dilutes the digestive juices required for optimal digestion. Now if you are extremely thirsty, you should not curb the natural thirst. But if you have had more than a glassful of water, skip the meal and have food when you start feeling hungry again.
Sleep is an important part of lifestyle. According to Ayurveda, it is one of the three pillars of life (food, sleep and abstinence). Unfortunately, sleep is a much-ignored part of our lives. It is considered to be unproductive. But it is the only time body gets to repair, rebuild and rejuvenate itself. Therefore, it is a very important part of our health.
The first point is the best time for us to sleep. After sunset, the time of Kapha dosha starts. This is the time when the body starts to relax. The good time to sleep is approximately 2-3 hours from sunset. For example, if the sun sets at 6 pm in the evening then the good time to sleep is around 9-10 pm.
The duration of sleep depends on the age, the health status and the physical and mental work done by the individual. Ideally a normal young person with active lifestyle should sleep from 9 pm to 4 am in the morning. This is a good duration of sleep for the normal person.
The first phase in the sleep is of Kapha. Kapha balances the other two dosha. It helps to calm the body so that the mind can enter the realm of unconsciousness. It helps to relieve any kind of hyperactivity or inflammation in the body. It helps to reduce the rate of general metabolism so that the saved energy can be diverted towards growth, repair and rebuilding. The Kapha period sets the ball rolling to initiate the sleep. Kapha period is approximately from 8 pm – 12 am. If you miss this period, you have missed the major relaxation process for the body. This might lead to lethargy and sleepiness throughout the next day. The next period is a phase of Pitta stretching approximately from 12 am to 4 am. Pitta helps to digest and eliminate the pathogens, toxins, etc. and convert them to excretory material. This is the major conversion process in the body. It helps to prepare the digestive juices and all kinds of chemicals required in the body. A person who does not sleep in this period on a regular basis might face indigestion and hormonal imbalance. The next period is a phase of Vata. Here, the sleep is light. Most of the dreams are seen in this sleep. This period extends from 4 am to 8 am. Vata promotes proper excretion. People who keep sleeping in this duration face constant constipation, bloating, flatulence and similar problems. They might face Vata related problems like joint pain, migraine, eye problems etc.
Therefore, the best time to sleep is from 8 pm to 4 am. The best time to wake up ranges from 4 am to 6 am. These ranges are suggested for all age groups, right from the children to the elderly.
Ayurvedic way to sleep
Sleep is very important for our body. Most of the people eat very late nowadays. And they tend to go to sleep almost immediately after the dinner. When you sleep immediately after dinner, the rate of metabolism becomes very low because of sleep. Sleep shuts down the conscious mind and all the voluntary activity is stopped with it. It reduces the rate of heat production in the body. Therefore, the optimal temperature for digestion is not reached. Such a situation invariably leads to indigestion, heaviness and all kinds of digestive disorders.
Therefore, one should have a gap of at least 1 hour before going to sleep. The ideal gap between dinner and sleep is 2-3 hours.
In order to sleep at a proper time and have a good sleep, the other part of the daily routine has to be improved. If you want to go to sleep early, you should try to have an early and light meal. Most of the people eat more not because of hunger but because of their psychological hunger. Therefore, it is important to become more sensitive to the needs of your body and to eat appropriately. This will result in better quality of sleep as well.
These small changes in your lifestyle will not only help you to prevent diseases, but also lead the way towards a healthy, happy and fruitful lifestyle.