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How to be Healthy – The Ayurveda Way

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Ayurveda believes that healthcare must address the individual as a whole and not just the disease.

Modern medicine has to a large extent been successful in controlling communicable diseases. However, the 20th century population is plagued by a fresh set of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), collectively called “Lifestyle diseases”, whose management is revealing the shortfalls of modern medicine. As the name suggests, these are the result of fast-paced lifestyle that necessarily accompanies the developments over the years and have become a major threat to health in the present era.

Lifestyle disorders are preventable chronic diseases, which are associated mainly with the way a person or group of people live. These diseases are primarily based on the daily habits of people and also as a result of an inappropriate relationship with others in their environs. They include four main types’ viz., cardiovascular diseases, Cancers, Chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Diet and lifestyle are the major factors found to influence exposure to many diseases. The main factors contributing to lifestyle diseases include bad food habits, physical inactivity, wrong body posture, disturbed biological clock and also addictions such as tobacco smoking, alcohol drinking and other drug abuse.

With rapid economic development and increasing westernisation of lifestyle in the past few decades, prevalence of these diseases has reached alarming proportions among Indians in recent times. If we consider why lifestyle diseases are increasing across the world, the most accurate thought would be that we lead a hectic lifestyle with lack of daily routine. Stress and lack of physical exercise further aggravates such condition.

Proper lifestyle involves a pure psychological and innate control over the physical and sensory activities. When this initiation, control, and co-ordination are disturbed, it leads to the derangement of lifestyle and results in lifestyle disorder.

Ayurveda narrates this phenomenon as ‘Prajnaparadha’ (intellectual blasphemy) which is one of the three basic causes of any disease.

Ayurveda has a holistic approach to combat Lifestyle diseases boosting the whole health system. It has a functional framework that can accommodate any medical condition one may come across. According to Ayurveda, there are three fundamental states of a being, such as the physical, mental, and spiritual and it is believed that health and wellness depends on a delicate balance between these states. Its main goal is to promote good health and not fight diseases. Health is a balance of all these three states and their relationship with the outside world. Ayurveda offers extensive insights about food and health based on certain unique conceptual as well as theoretical positions (aahaara vidhivisheshayatana).

One of the utmost basic philosophies of this science is that, the man is a microcosm of the macrocosmic world that he lives in. It indicates that the man and the world are made up of the same elements/mahabhutas (Prithvi, Agni, Jal, Vayu and Akasha) with different permutation and combinations, amalgamations and gradations. Indeed Ayurveda hypothesizes that any substance, including the living and non-living things are the product of these five elements with different proportions.

For ease of understanding of physiological and pathological aspects, the five elements are further grouped into three entities; the tridosa viz.

  • vata (a combination of space and air)
  • pitta (fire) and water
  • kapha (earth and water)

The theory of Tridosha fundamentally brings Mahabhuta theory into practical, usable and understandable format for its application to the cause of human health.

In the management of lifestyle diseases, Ayurveda offers various regimens including dinachrya (daily regimens), rithucharya (seasonal regimen), panchakarma (detoxification and bio-purification therapies) & rasayana (rejuvenation therapies). To maintain healthy psychological life, the sadvritta (ideal routine) and aachaara rasaayana (code of conduct) are important.

Dinachrya, Sadvritta And Aachaara Rasaayana

Includes:

  1. Early to bed and early wake-up
  2. Oral hygiene and cleansing the bowels
  3. Daily physical exercise
  4. Daily oil massage including scalp, ear and feet as well as bathing
  5. Daily use of oily nasal drops
  6. Maintenance of body hygiene
  7. Daily prayer and meditation
  8. Nutritious and balanced diet
  9. Proper dressing according to the season and one’s prakruthi
  10. Engaging in moral and ethical activity which upholds Dharma

Rithucharya:

Environment influences the resting state of doshas. Hence a good understanding of it is very much essential for early diagnosis and prognosis of any disease. For adopting preventive and curative measures, doshas arising from Hemanta/winter should be expelled during vasanta / spring, those arising from grishma /summer should be expelled during  varsha / monsoons and those arising from varsha/ monsoons  should be expelled during sharat / autumn. This can be the key to prevention of most NCD’s a gift of Ayurveda.

Panchakarma:

The treatment modalities to delineate lifestyle diseases can broadly be classified as:

  • ShamanaPalliative treatment, which brings the Dosha to normalcy. Useful in initial stages of diseases.
  • Shodhana – Purification treatment, which expels imbalanced Dosha out of body. Useful in aggravated stages of diseases.
  • In case of Vata vitiation– Basti (suppositories) is the Shodhana treatment, and oil is Shamana treatment.
  • For pitta – Virechana (Purgation) is Shodhana and Ghee is Shamana.
  • For Kapha – Vamana (emesis) is Shodhana and Honey is Shamana.

Yoga:

Yoga therapy is one of the best remedies for relieving internal stress. It has an important role in developing harmony between mind and body. Understanding how the body feels and undertaking the right breathing techniques are important tool to fight stress and anxiety to lead a better quality of life.

Yoga reduces anxiety and improves quality of life. Used as a complementary therapeutic regimen under medical supervision, it would be appropriate and worthy in NCDs.

 Principles for Management of lifestyle diseases:

He who indulges daily in healthy foods and activities, who discriminates good and bad of everything and acts wisely, who is not attached too much to the object of senses, who develops the habit of charity, considers all as equal,  truthful, is pardoning and keeps the  company of good persons only becomes free from all diseases.

‘If one wants to be healthy forever, healthy habits needs to be included in the life style even in busy schedule.’

Prof. Dr. G G Gangadharan is an Ayurvedacharya, author of Ayurveda: The true way to restore your health and happiness and Director of Ramaiah Indic Specialty Ayurveda – Restoration Hospital. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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