The word Ayurveda springs from two Sanskrit words “ayu” and “veda”. Ayu means life and veda means knowledge. So the words Ayurveda means the knowledge of life. Ayurveda provides not only with the information but the wisdom to live life.
Prevention is always better than cure. The aim of Ayurveda as described in the classical Ayurvedic text says
Swasthasya swasthya rakshnam
Aturasya vicar prashman cha
(First), protect the health of the healthy
(then) treat the diseased
This statement defines the focus of Ayurveda. It says that the priority should be to preserve the health of the people with normal health. This does not mean that the sick people should be ignored. But the interesting point is that maximum people will not fall sick if there is a serious focus on prevention. This dimension of thought needs to be revived today as more and more people are leading disease-causing lifestyle, falling sick and then trying to get cured. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get cured also without removing the root cause of the disease. How can a habitual smoker be permanently cured of asthma or bronchitis, without giving up or reducing smoking?
Healthy food and lifestyle not only helps to prevent the diseases, it is also the basic platform for the treatment of diseases already present. The first few chapters in all the classical Ayurvedic text start with the healthy food and lifestyle habits.
The preventive Ayurveda is everywhere in Indian traditional lifestyle. However, the basic healthy lifestyle is so simple and cheap, that it eludes our attention. Let’s open our eyes to these basic preventive measures and nip the very buds of the diseases –
Waking up before sunrise helps to prevent most of the Kapha related disorders like chronic cold and cough, headache, hairfall, eye disorders, including severe disorders like migraine and dementia. These habits keep the bio-clock of the body in rhythm with the nature.
Traditional morning routine suggest drinking few glasses of water early morning, immediately after waking up. This procedure is called Brahmapaan as it is advised before the sunrise, in the Brahma muhurat. This simple practice helps to prevent a whole bunch of kidney disorders, liver disorders, and intestinal disorders. It is the most basic treatment for chronic constipation and all kinds of digestive disorders.
Early morning bath helps to reenergize the body. It stimulates the temperature regulation system of the body before the sunrise and accelerates the blood circulation. It is like a short exercise for the entire cardiac system. A faster blood circulation initiates a short internal bath for all the organs of the body. Enhanced circulation helps in faster removal of the previous day toxins and gives us another clean slate for the new day.
Digestion is the key to good health. Following are few Ayurvedic directives regarding eating habits that can prevent almost all diseases in a person.
According to Ayurveda, it is ideal to have 2 main meals in the day, the first one from 10 am-12 pm and the second before the sunset. These are the 2 time slots when the digestive power is the best and the food consumed at these times is more likely to get digested without producing any toxins. Good digestion is the basis of all immunity and health.
Ayurveda completely prohibits binge eating. Food should be consumed only and only when really hungry, that too in an amount just appropriate to quench hunger. Unfortunately, we stuff ourselves with more food than required. Besides, most of the people have developed psychologically hunger for many addictive foods like pizza, chocolates, or packaged snacks. This habit is the root cause of lifestyle disorders like diabetes. Simple changes in eating habits can be healthy not only for your body, but also for your pocket!
It is important to have more and more traditional meals every day. Indian traditional cooking is infused with herbs and spices with medicinal properties. Basic Indian spices like turmeric, ginger, black pepper etc. have anti-cancer, antioxidant, cardio-protective, blood purifying, and anti-inflammatory properties. This reinforces the Ayurvedic belief that food is medicine if consumed properly.
Ayurveda prohibits eating of fruits, vegetables or grains grown out of season. Now-a-days all fruits and vegetables are available thought-out the year. We are prompted to think that eating greens or non-seasonal fruits though-out the year is healthy. However, according to Ayurveda, fruits and vegetables grown out of their natural seasons are devoid of their natural nutrition. In fact, they are supposed to be denatured and can cause diseases. Besides, nature provides the most appropriate nutrition according to the seasons and body requirements. Juicy watermelon or litchi is naturally the best fruit for summers. Winter has a natural abundance of fruits and vegetables because the digestive fire is the best in this season, whereas very few fruits and vegetables are available during the rains, when the digestion is the weakest!
According to Ayurveda, locally grown food is the best for native population. Mother nature is very kind to us. Coconuts are cool in nature and best suited for the hot tropical climate, where they naturally grow; whereas Kesar is hot in temperament and is best suited for the cold climate like Kashmir, where it is grown in abundance. Quinoa is not meant for a person in cold parts of Europe, it is meant for a person in Ecuador, where it naturally grows. So, if you do not have enough money to buy exotic fruits like Kiwi, dragon fruit or Thai guava, consider yourself lucky!
One of the most important health habits is to keep a gap of 1 hour between dinner and sleep time. Sleep reduces the normal rate of metabolism and retards the process of digestion. People who go to sleep immediately after a meal are exposed to the danger of all kinds of Kapha related problems like heaviness, indigestion, lethargy, obesity etc.
Another important meal related habit is “Shatpadi”. This Sanskrit word implies 100 steps (Shat =100, pad=steps). Shatpadi is advised normally after the dinner. One should walk for minimum 100 steps after dinner or a heavy meal. This process helps to stimulate the blood circulation and body heat, which in turn accelerate the digestion. This is to ensure that there is no heaviness, improper digestion or toxin formation in the stomach.
These few cheap and simple lifestyle habits can help us to have a long and healthy life, free of diseases and nuisance.