HJ: With all the conflicting health advice we receive these days, how can one make sense of it all? What works and what is misleading? It is a difficult question to answer without spending a significant amount of time researching, experiencing and learning what works and what doesn’t. After 3+ years of researching and trying every diet, philosophy and cleanse under the sun, some consistent patterns began to emerge and I began to figure out what worked, what didn’t and why. Without going into the whole backstory (which could easily fill a book), I will summarize my findings as this: the combined teachings of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine contain nearly everything you need to know for radiant health.
These ancient systems of medicine figured out exactly how to achieve incredible levels of health long before science and Western medicine entered the picture. They took a much more innovative and practical approach to health and healing — they studied the body and its relationship to the mind and spirit and began to understand how it operates at a fundamental level. They studied what kept it in balance and what threw it off — what effects foods, herbs and various other substances had on it — and in doing so, they developed the most comprehensive, accurate and powerful systems of medicine ever devised. What’s more, is that unlike the current one-size-fits all approach to health, these ancient, unfathomably wise schools of health and healing understood that we are all unique and hence, all need specific regimens for our personal constitution and particular health challenges. Although there are fundamental principles which underly the larger philosophy and paradigms on which these schools of thought are based, the essence of the practice is tailored to the need of the individual, which produces extraordinary results.
This article deals with the fundamental, underlying principles on which the system of Ayurvedic medicine bases its recommendations for various practices focused on cultivating the absolute highest levels of health and consciousness of the individual. It is a fascinating read and one that bestows many simple, yet powerful practices that can produce incredible levels of health when integrated into ones life.
Health – The Elixir of Life
By Swami Sivananda Saraswati | Yoga Mag
The whole universe from the mightiest sun to the tiniest atom is controlled by laws. Only man breaks and violates all rules and laws. He wilfully disregards and deliberately ignores the laws of health and hygiene, leads a life of dissipation, and then wonders why he suffers from disease and disharmony. Every human being is the author of their own health or disease. The laws of health are the laws of nature, and these cannot be violated at will.
Health, the first requisite
Life without good health is a miserable condition even if one is the lord of the whole earth. What is the use of wealth and possessions if you cannot enjoy good health? Without health, life is not life. One who has good health has hope. One who has hope has everything. Good health is a valuable asset for one and all. One should have physical as well as mental health.
Even for spiritual pursuits, good health is the prerequisite. Without good health, you cannot penetrate into the hidden depths of the vast ocean of life within and attain the final beatitude of life. Without good health, you cannot wage war with the turbulent senses and boisterous mind. The scriptures declare that this body is a boat to cross this ocean of samsara, an instrument for doing virtuous deeds and attaining moksha. It must be kept clean, strong and healthy. This body is a vehicle to take you to the goal. If it breaks down, you cannot reach the destination.
Health is a positive state
Health is the state in which you sleep well, digest your food well, are quite at ease and free from any kind of disease or uneasiness. When you are in a state of perfect health, all the organs – the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, liver, intestines -work in perfect harmony and discharge their functions satisfactorily. A healthy person smiles and laughs and is cheerful and happy. He discharges his daily duties with ease and comfort. A healthy person is capable of working for a long time without getting fatigued. He possesses the highest kind of mental and physical efficiency. Health is a positive state. It is not simply negation of disease. A healthy person can turn out more physical and mental work. He can practise good meditation for a long time. Health is your birthright, not disease. It is as natural to be well as it is to be born.
How to be healthy
Be sober and temperate. The sun and the open air are your good doctors. Let your food be simple. Never eat too much. Take sufficient exercise. If you do not keep well, fast until you are well again. Become your own physician. Assist nature. Do not force nature. Allow nature to heal you. Nature is the best healing agent. Medicines and doctors only help nature in its recuperative work. By drinking pure water, by eating pure and wholesome food, by observing the laws of health and hygiene, by taking regular exercise and cold baths in the morning, by practising japa and meditation, by right living, right thinking, right action, right conduct, by living in the open air and sunshine for some time daily, you can have wonderful health, vigour and vitality.
Health and diet
The secret of being healthy and happy at all times is to be a little hungry all the time. Do not overload the stomach. Overeating is the chief cause of most diseases. The vast majority of people dig their graves through their teeth. No rest is given to the stomach. Though we boast that we are civilised, when the question of food comes, we make many imperceptible blunders. People generally eat twice as much as the system needs which hinders elimination, assimilation and growth. All the organs are overworked and become diseased quickly. Hence, avoid overeating and observe perfect moderation in diet.
The right kind of food is most important. Have a good knowledge of diet and nutrition. You can build a healthy constitution. Half the illnesses of the world are due to an ill-balanced diet. There is no mystery about diet. It can be learnt very easily. A correct diet is a fundamental factor in the maintenance of perfect health and a high standard of vitality. Good food is not expensive. A well-balanced diet is not costly. It is knowledge of dietetics that we lack. Eat moderately what you know by experience is agreeable to you and what is digestible. A simple diet is best.
The necessity of exercise
Exercise is necessary in all periods of life, particularly during childhood and early adulthood. It is essential to keep up good health, vim, vigour and vitality. Exercise preserves the healthy tone of the body. It bestows general efficiency of body and mind, with a better social spirit and co-operation with others. You learn to control the weak side of your nature and give fuller freedom to the best spirit that is in you. Exercise checks overgrowth and develops the weak person. It quickly restores convalescents to better health. During growth it corrects deformities. It removes debility and obesity.
Exercise is essential for the different organs of the body to function easily and effectively. It is necessary to promote the formation and repair of tissues, and to excite the demand for oxygen needed for utilisation of food. Without exercise there will be no health. The whole system will refuse to function. The stomach will refuse to digest food properly and the intestines will decline to function efficiently. The blood will be loaded with poisonous matter.
The heart cannot work efficiently without definite exercise. Regular exercise will drive the blood more vigorously. The lungs will take in the air with deep breaths. The chest will expand. More waste and used air will be driven out. When the action of the heart is improved by exercise, local congestion vanishes. The blood is equally distributed and the circulation of blood in the lungs is improved. The amount of oxygen inspired and of carbon dioxide expired is greatly increased. It is best to take exercise in the open air because you get more oxygen to purify the blood.
Exercise gives a healthy glow all over the body. Because it gives a more rapid supply of blood, the kidneys the lungs and the skin, which remove the waste material, are stimulated. They do the function of cleansing more energetically and efficiently. Muscular exercise has a beneficial effect on the body as a whole. It removes constipation and produces regular bowel actions. It leads to better mental efficiency and performance. It reduces and regulates the temperature.
One should have a well-built body without fat. Fat hinders work by its extra weight, by giving rise to additional heat during work and by greater fatigue due to the accumulation of waste. Reduce the fat through regular and systematic exercise.
Exercise should be regulated and adjusted to the needs and capacity of the body. Violent exercise should be avoided. It is better to have recourse to graduated exercise. Every muscle of the body should be involved. Do not go beyond your capacity. If there is fatigue, reduce the number of exercises and the period of exercise. There should be perfect exhilaration of spirit after exercise. Infrequent, severe exercise may do more harm than good. The amount of exercise should be regulated according to the age, physical development or capacity of the individual.
Yogasanas and physical exercise
Ordinary physical exercises develop the superficial muscles of the body only. Asanas are intended for the thorough exercise of the internal organs. Physical exercise draws the prana out. Asanas send the prana in and distribute it evenly throughout the body. Asanas are more than physical exercise. They bestow mental poise, help to control the emotions and confer spiritual benefits. You do not practise asanas and pranayama to gain big muscles. Muscles do not give mental health. Harmonious working of the endocrine glands and internal organs, and more so the nervous system and mind is what you need and what the regular practice of asanas and pranayama will bestow upon you.
Good health is the foundation of success in yoga and spiritual pursuits. Nations flourish only if they are healthy. Wealth is useless without health. Nature tries to keep us healthy, but we violate her laws. If you want radiant health, return to nature. Avail yourself of the healing properties in nature. Nature is the best healing agent.