Ayurved and Health
Ayurved and Health go hand in hand. Most people know that. But not many know exactly what to do so that we can remain healthy. Ayurved is not only about medicines, it’s a way of life. Now, let’s try to understand it in detail. Let’s begin at the beginning!
What is Ayurved?
Ayurveda (आयुर्वेद) = Ayushya (आयुष्य) + Veda (वेद)
Ayushya= Life, Veda=Wisdom / Knowledge.
Thus, “Ayurveda” which is a Sanskrit word, means the knowledge of life. Ayurveda includes various means and measures to protect and enhance ‘Ayushya’ or ‘Life’. More information about it are here.
- The guidelines for healthy living, which can prevent diseases.
- Therapeutic methods that act as curative measures.
Ayurveda ensures that there is complete harmony and balance in one’s physical, mental and emotional aspects of life.
Every individual has different and unique physical, mental, and emotional characteristics, which comprise their constitution (Prakriti). This constitution, remains the same throughout one’s life and is determined at the time of conception by a number of factors.
To understand this better, we need to know three aspects:
- Pancha maha bhuta (Five fundamental elements)
- Sapta dhatu (Seven body tissues)
Pancha maha bhuta (Five fundamental elements):
According to Ayurveda, the entire world and our bodies are made of ‘five fundamental elements’ called Pancha-Maha-Bhutas.
- Prithvi [Earth]: e.g. solid structures, such as bones, flesh, skin, tissues, and hair.
- Jal [Water]: e.g. saliva, urine, semen, blood, and sweat.
- Agni [Fire]: e.g. digestive fire. It forms hunger, thirst, and sleep.
- Vaayu [Wind]: e.g. nerve impulse, blood flow, muscle contraction, secretion of glands (where there’s movement).
- Aakash [Space/Vacuum]: e.g. empty space in and around our organs, even at our cellular level!
- Rasa Dhatu – Metabolic Juices and Plasma (The Digestive System)
- Rakta Dhatu – Blood (Circulatory system)
- Mamsa Dhatu – Muscles and Tendons (Muscular System)
- Med Dhatu – Bodily Fat
- Majja Dhatu – Bone Marrow
- Asthi Dhatu – Bones (Skeletal System)
- Shukra Dhatu – Seminal Fluids (Reproductive System)
TriDoshas (The Three Doshas):
Five fundamental elements blend into physical form as these three Doshas.
- Vata Dosha: Vaayu + Aakash
- Pitta Dosha: Agni + Jal
- Kapha Dosha: Jal + Prithvi
In all of us, any one or two of the three Doshas are the most dominant amongst them, which determines the basic or primary constitution or Prakriti of an individual. For an individual to remain healthy, there must be a harmony in these three basic substances (Doshas). Any kind of disharmony of these Doshas will lead to diseases, not just at the physical level but also at the mental and the emotional levels. All the bodily functions happen because all the three Doshas work in conjunction with each other throughout the body.
For instance, when our food is digested, nutrients and waste are produced. When the nutrients are assimilated, they nourish the seven bodily tissues (Sapta-Dhatu) and the waste is thrown out of the body through sweat, urine, feces, nasal discharge, eye discharge, etc.
To maintain the balance of these Doshas, Ayurveda recommends a disciplined lifestyle, which is called Dincharya. Because these three Doshas have their influence on our body in every particular few hours of the day, there is a Vata, Pitta and Kapha time of the day, and Vata, Pitta and Kapha time of the night.
- Vata time: 2:00 am – 6:00 am & 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
- Kapha time: 6:00 am – 10:00 am & 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
- Pitta time: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm & 10:00 pm – 2:00 am
According to Ayurveda guidelines, one should always get up before sunrise. The scientific reason is 2:00 am – 6:00 am time of the day is governed by Vata element, which also governs the time of transition (when the night is turning into a day!). The morning Vata time is the phase where our receptivity is at the peak. Yogis and Rishis discovered long ago that this time of day, when air and ether are prominent, is the best time of the day for yoga, pranayama, meditation, prayer, chanting and other spiritual practices. Haven’t we heard the the best problem solving ideas blossom into one’s mind via intuition when one is meditating? Yes, this is the power!
However, at the same time, Vata is the Dosha of the movement, so it is very easy to get out of balance because of its delicacy. Exposure to screen light (mobile or laptop) or bright lights, loud noise or even some negative thoughts; all of these have the power to unbalance our Vata Dosha. Avoid them all and choose some calm soothing and a peaceful environment! Grab your mat; do some yoga, pranayama, breathing exercises and meditate! Repeating affirmations can also calm down our aggravated Vata at this time.
After 6:00 am, when Kapha is prominent, (the water and earth energy), it is a bit heavy and sluggish. That is why it is not a great idea to wake up in this time if we want to feel energetic throughout the day. If we wake up in Kapha hours, chances are we may feel a little sleepy, even if our sleep quota is over, thanks to its heavy qualities.
(Try waking up in both Vata and Kapha durations on different days and you yourself will feel the difference!)
Kapha is the best time to get our heart pumped up with some exercises and start the first meal of our day – BREAKFAST that should be light and easy to digest.
Pitta is made up of fire and water, which makes it the Dosha of heat. It is dominant in our body when the Sun is at the highest in the sky, which is 10:00 am- 2:00 pm. It affects the heat of our bodies as well as of our minds. Pitta is related to productivity. It is best to have the biggest meal of the day i.e., Lunch, at Pitta dominant hours of the day. Because digestion is a fierce process which requires heat at its optimal performance.
As the cycle continues, again comes the Vata hours of the day 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm. As it is composed of air and ether, the light and etheric qualities of this time of day enhances our creativity and expansive thinking, making it a great opportunity to engage in some creative work and problem solving or analyzing.
From 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, when Kapha becomes dominant, it is a great idea to wind up our day in these hours. We may eat light dinner, which is easy to digest.
By the time it is 10:00 pm, it is advisable that we begin our preparations for sleep. The heavy quality of Kapha help us to have a sound sleep easily, quickly and naturally! And for that , it’s very crucial that from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm, our activities should be soothing and calming instead of those which are full of agitation such as, distressing conversations, violence in any form of fiction like TV shows/movie or novel, which can disturb our sleep. Instead, a light conversation with our family/ loved ones, a warm bath and a warm cup of milk with turmeric are some good ideas to add to our routine at this time.
As we move in the PITTA hours of the night, which is 10:00 pm to 2:00 am, it is very important that we are already in deep sleep so that the body cleansing and cell repair work which happen in our body, do not get disturbed. These cleansings happen at not only the physical level, but also at the emotional and the mental, and these cleansings are very much supported by a deep sleep.
As Pitta governs these hours, if we are not in bed before Pitta hours, we may feel hungry due to digestive fire and our trips to refrigerator may cost us ruined health! So let us sleep and let our body cleanse. If not, you will stay awake, eat, and obviously disturb the equilibrium of our body. Because if we eat at late hours, our body is confused, whether it shall digest the food we are eating now or it should cleanse our body.
Whatever our body has digested in Pitta hours, when there is a Vata time followed by Pitta time, that is 2:00 am, Vata would deliver the goods that Pitta has digested to various body parts because Vata is responsible for circulation and the movement. If we disturb these processes, then we may find ourselves up at midnight between 2:00 am to 6:00 am and find unable to go to sleep again, and then suddenly in Kapha hours from 6:00 am to 10:00 am, we may find ourselves asleep, only to wake up with groggy head because we slept in wrong hours! Therefore, it is always better to follow the rhythm of nature.
Another important aspect in Ayurveda is MITAHAR, meaning moderation in food. Meaning, we should never eat too much or too less. Let our hunger and appetite guide us. We should eat only when we are hungry. Always eat slowly and chew properly, so that the digestive enzymes present in our saliva mix with the food, and make it easier for us to digest the food. That is why it is said, the digestion begins with our mouth!
At the same time, pleasant and happy mindset helps in generating right amount of gastric juice. Under stress, anxiety, anger or any such negative emotional situations, our body perceives it as a threat. The first thing body does is to stop producing these juices. As digestion is a heavy process, it shuts that down, instead starts sending blood to our muscles, our heartbeat increases, and we are ready to fight with which body has perceived as a dangerous threat!
If we eat at wrong hours, or whenever we are not hungry, because of the absence of gastric juices in our stomach, the food is not digested properly, and it turns into AAMA–toxins in the body. This AAMA is the main reason for various disease in the body. That is why Ayurveda puts a lot of emphasis on digestive system. If we eat right food at right time with right techniques and with right frame of mind, it is digested, assimilated and excreted well. So healthy bowel movements are important to remove major AAMA – toxins from the body.
For good digestion, water plays a very important role. We should always start our day with a glass of warm/room temperature water, to hydrate ourselves after 6-8 hours of sleep. We should always drink water BEFORE our meal and never immediately after our meals. Because water drunk immediately after meal dilutes the gastric juices, so they cannot digest the food efficiently. These residuals result in AAMA. Drinking water and eating meals should have sufficient gap before and after our meals. Drinking water at correct time in fact enhances the process of digestion. Too less water in our body may result in constipation or hard stool, which is difficult to pass.
Ayurveda has wonderful ways to cleanse AAMA from the body. One of them is FASTING. We can fast through various ways. Water fast, where we are just on water for certain amount of hours or days. It is considered as one of the extreme fasts and should be done under the supervision of an Ayurveda practitioner only. Other types are, fruit fasting, juice/liquid fasting, a fast which involves eating particular light foods like khichadi for certain days, etc. The main purpose of fasting is to give our body a break from digestion, because our body consumes a lot of energy in digestion, and if given a break, that energy can be used in cleaning the cells of the body and some major cell repair work. That is why some major disorders have been cured by this best therapy!
Ayurveda is a wonderful science and can greatly benefit every individual when learnt under a knowledgeable VAIDYA, but it is equally dangerous and can haphazardly damage if the principles are not applied properly. Now you know why the title of this article is Ayurved and Health.
— Dr Krushika Shalin Shah