Recently I came across a patient who is suffering from hernia. She is in early 30s and got operated for Intestinal Hernia once. During the surgical procedure, parts of her intestine were removed. After the procedure, she always feels nauseated and is hardly able to eat anything. Still she gained weight at an incredible rate, around 20 kg in 8 months’ time. Now she is massively overweight. Unfortunately, she is faced with another incident of hernia. But because of her weight and improper BMI, she cannot get operated safely. Now she is trying to find other options.
What are we trying to treat? Half of the diseases treated produce another set of diseases, either as side effects or complications. Treatment of disease is mostly an attempt to suppress symptoms or cut out the trouble making organ. Ayurvedic approach however has a positive primary aim – maintenance of health. Treatment of sick comes after that. Ideally, no one should fall sick if the first aim is achieved.
Ayurvedic Treatment approach is based on the concept of return to the original state or regaining the balance. What is the fundamental reason for hernia? The outer abdominal wall and supporting structures (ligaments, tendons etc.) are not able to contain the internal mass, thus the protrusion called hernia. Even if one incident of hernia is treated, there will be more such incidents because the reason remains. Surgical treatment in most cases is inadequate. It is like the attempt to fill a leaking container. The container will never get filled till the leakage is repaired. Similarly, the disease will never be permanently cured till the root cause is eliminated. If the cause is eliminated, the abdominal wall and supporting attachments become immune to repeated Hernia. Surgical procedure is more of an emergency relief procedure than a permanent cure.
Another case that I would like to discuss is a person with pleurisy. He has very painful breathing and has gone through thoracentesis recently. He has a pipe inserted in his chest cavity which removes the excess liquid from the intermediary space between two layers of pleura (covering of lungs). The cause of his pleurisy is Lupus, which is an incurable but manageable disorder.
Pleurisy occurs due to some infection (TB, pneumonia etc.), Heart, liver or kidney disease and can be cured permanently when the cause is eliminated. For elimination of infection, the regular method is to do carpet bombing of antibiotics on the body tissues, which kills both culprit and civilian cells of the body. It creates massive damage which might take a long time to get healed. Treatment for heart, liver and kidney is either maintenance based, creates disease re-occurrence or leads to removal of the diseased organ as the final cure, but which again might create other complications.
What if the disease process itself is reversed and the organs return to normal?That is successful treatment. In case of pleurisy, the lungs stop exuding liquid, instead suck back the extra liquid, wash the intermediary space between the two layers of pleura with fast renewal of tissue fluid and regain health. Even in case of infection, what if the body cells facing infection grow stronger and are able to fight back the pathogens to elimination? No need for foreign military aid. It does more harm than benefit. What if the heart walls lose their thickness and rigidity in case of congestive heart failure and start pumping the blood again with full force? That is return to normal, to original! That is the real treatment!
Ayurveda helps the body to cure the disease. Every other approach is artificial and temporary. Let’s get back to roots because everything starts with the roots, so should the treatment.
Eating late at night is so common now-a-days that almost 90% of families must be eating around 9.00 pm, mostly without much hunger. Late dinner at night causes majority of lifestyle problems including indigestion which is the root cause of all other diseases.
You are the king of your body. Suppose you are the king of a country and you order the royal cook at midnight, to cook a seven course meal. The royal cook will dare not disobey you, but will he be able to work with the his best efficiency the next morning? no ! He will be too tired. This happens when you eat heavy food late night.
After the sun sets, the night hormone sets to work, gradually slowing the metabolism in preparation of sleep. When we eat food late in the night, the resulting surge in the sugar level, reverses the effects of the sleep hormone and reactivates the slowed metabolism. Also it taxes the sleepy digestive system for overtime work of dinner digestion.
How do you feel when you are about to leave the office in evening and you are given another bunch of files to finish before you leave? This is what happens to stomach when you eat food after sunset.
Esp. people with insomnia should avoid late night dinners.
If , being the king, you ask the royal cook for a 7 course meal in the middle of preparation for the next course(ongoing digestion), the next course will show the lack of attention. This happens when you eat while the digestion of earlier meal is not complete. It hinders the digestion of earlier meal and under digested food produces toxins.
Some people eat just for the sake of taste or satisfaction. It taxes your digestive system and creates mayhem in the process of digestion. A lot of undigested food keeps getting mixed with the food already under digestion. It is like a guest in a restaurant, ordering a new dish every 5 minutes to the same chef, before the earlier order is prepared.
After completion of digestion and before next attack of hunger, there is a certain time for cleaning and repair. If you order the royal cook to make a elaborate dish, when he in the middle of maintenance and repair. He will cook the dish, but the maintenance work will suffer. Such piled up maintenance work eventually accelerates the process of aging.
Let’s get back to the office example. Once you are used to getting extra work before leaving the office in the evening, you would try to steal some free time in the morning working hours, because anyways even if you work in the morning, the work will not finish by the evening, so when will you find time to cater to your other responsibilities? Your will be working with divided attention. This is what happens to people who always eat late night. They will face lack of hunger, indigestion because energy of stomach is diverted in urgent maintenance and repair as well at the time of digestion, because it is not allowed a separate free time for it. Such people feel lethargic and lack vitality throughout the day. They tend to get tired very soon.
Most importantly, one should not eat without hunger. When you’re earning as much is required, the expenses are almost equal to earnings. But when you start earning more than required, your bank balance will swell. Unfortunately, same thing happens with the extra calories you earn when you eat food without hunger or in excess to hunger. Your tummy swells with the extra fat you earn. At night, because of slow metabolism, the fat or sugar released by digestion is not utilized properly and therefore is converted to fatty tissue and stored in the waist, hips or thighs primarily, resulting in weight gain.
On the other hand, if you go dinnerless you are offering a holiday to your digestive system, to relax, detoxify, repair and get revitalized. Everyone works more efficiently with more holidays. The process of digestion will improve; it will be faster and produce lesser or no toxins. Same rule applies for eating without hunger.
First few weeks, it might feel uncomfortable and you might wake up hungry in the middle of night. But the body will adjust soon to the new healthier routine. Replace the late night dinner with a glass of milk with health supplements, to ensure proper nutrition as well.
Fasting on light food like fruits and milk for a day is like a long weekend for digestive system and it works wonders for the overall health. Liver is allowed time to detoxify blood from toxins other than the ones continuously produced during digestion. This should be observed ones a week for best results.
So be a generous king, treat your body gently and with respect. Otherwise you are bound to face the rebellion of diseases !
How to choose the best option for yourself from a multitude of herbal remedies ?
There are so many herbal remedies available online that probably one cannot try everything in one lifetime. Besides, there are contradictory suggestions about many things. Some say one should have fruits after food, some advice taking fruits before food.
Also we see a lot of everyday examples of violations of health habits, but some people survive them for decades yet they stay healthy. At the same time, there might be health freaks who suffer from multiple disorders. So, to decide what is good for you, might look very complicated sometimes. Therefore, many people skip health planning completely on this excuse. But actually it is very simple to choose your best options. Only problem is that we love complications! Anything complicated only is capable to drug our intellect/ ego and command respect.
So let’s take the first step – appreciate simplicity.
Know Your Prakrati
Second step is to know your Prakruti. Everything starts with “know thyself”. You should know about the person you are trying to treat or keep healthy – yourself. Sometimes, people have over expectations from their bodies; sometimes they subject their bodies to countless hit and trials and sometimes they just don’t care about their bodies. All extremes are wrong. Knowing your body is like knowing your car. You cannot expect a sedan to suddenly develop features of a sports car. You should know your possibilities and assets, know your prakrati.
Prakrati calculation is very easy. There are many websites that provide with online prakrati calculation tools.
After using the prakrati calculation tools, you would know the most probable tridosha combination of your prakrati. In normal body conditions, this calculation is correct. However, there might be some variations due to any physical or mental disease. Therefore it is always good to refer to a learned Ayurveda physician. According to Ayurveda ethics, no physician should charge for inspection or advice. Fee should be charged only for medicine. So ideally a learned physician might be freely available.
One of the major problems that comes with self prakrati calculation is that we might be biased towards results or have preconceived ideas about our body conditions. Here a physician will be definitely helpful.
After knowing your prakrati, you would know whether you own a sedan or a racing car!
Choosing Right Herbal Remedy For Yourself
Third step is to appreciate our uniqueness. We should love ourselves because we are unique in all senses. Everything from our eye color to the finger prints is absolutely unique. Therefore our health solutions cannot be same for all.
Nature has provided us with such a fabulous variety of edibles which helps us to choose the best options for ourselves. Every food item is beneficial, harmful or neutral towards each one of the 3 dosha. After knowing your prakrati, you should know which food items are best suited to your tridosha combination. It is just like different requirement for each car.
The easiest way, to know whether a food item is good for you or not, is to check presence of different pacifying qualities for each dosha in it. If the relevant qualities are present in the food item, then it is good for you.
Rasa is the taste of the substance. There are 6 types of rasa – Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent.
If you have a vata dominant prakrati – sweet, sour and salty are the best rasa for you.
If you have a pitta dominant prakrati – sweet, bitter, astringent will be better than rest.
If you have a kapha dominant praktati – go for bitter, pungent and astringent rasa
For vata prakrati go for hot(tendency and not necessarily temperature), oily substances.
For pitta go for cool temperament substances.
For kapha, go for hot, rough, dry, light substances.
So if you have long list of herbal remedies for indigestion, for example
Apple cidar vinegar
Carom seeds (Ajwain)
For vata prakrati choose ginger because it is hot and opposes main guna of vata that is cold.
For Pitta prakrati choose fennel seeds because they have a cooling sweet temperament. However for other prakrati types they will not be as effective because they are not compatible.
For kapha prakrati choose carom seeds for their astringent taste and dry temperament.
Please find an indicative list of beneficial herbs for each dosha.
Satmya means something that is naturally favourable or comfortable for the body. It is said that even if something is not compatible to the human body in general, after exposure for a long time, starting with small quantities; the body makes physiological changes to adapt itself to that particular substance. It can be anything, from excessive salt in food to poison.
Curd is absolutely forbidden at night according to Ayurveda because it is believed to increase susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections. But south Indian meal is never complete without curd, whether it be lunch or dinner. And still most of them have no chronic cough and cold. It is because after long repeated exposure to habit of eating curd at night, body adjust itself to it and stays healthy with it.
So if a health habit or a food item is compatible to you, there is no need to change it just because others are doing something else.
Priya (Liking )
Now if your prakrati is pitta dominant, sweet and cool things are best for you, but what if you don’t like sweets. Should you try to eat sweets just because they might be healthy for you ? Actually no, have mint instead if you like it better. This is the most important thing is the third step – love you choices.
Respect your desires and our mind. There is a huge amount of religious literature telling us that the mind should be kept under strict restrictions to be healthy. But to be successfully healthy, we need to become more sensitive towards the rightful desires of mind. Instead of restriction, guided control is the real effective measure. When you are hungry you should eat food. In fact you should always eat something that makes you happy. I am not advicing you to get addicted to junk food, but even if you follow the same rule for junk food, after a time you would start loving more healthy food because of the unhealthy results of junk food. But that is a long twisted way to health, might take more than a lifetime to reach your destination.
There is such fabulous variety of edibles and their preparations that definitely there must be something healthy that tickles your taste buds too. You should try to find that and eat the Healthy food you love! The sense of satisfaction derived after eating a tasty meal is the key to proper digestion and assimilation of food. What is the benefit if you have something very healthy but is not absorbed by the body.
So eat what you love and love what you eat !
According to ayurvedic medicine, all organs of one body are different from another body. Therefore there should not be an exact standardization of food or Medicine intake according to age or weight or other factors. Our body is the best measuring tool for the right amount of food or Medicine for us. For example , if a person should have a handful of rice, than the his hand is the best measuring tool because everyone’s size of hand will be different from the other, but in proportion to his body and thus his needs. One pinch will contain slightly different amount of salt for different people but in exact proportion as is required by their individual bodies. Therefore if I were to tell you to have 100 gms of rice in a meal, probably I will not be as precise as when I would tell you to have one handful of rice for a meal.
The idea is to appreciate that our body is the best reference point for its needs.
Therefore if you have indigestion with vata dominant prakrati, take a pinch of salt and a finger full of carom seeds with water precisely.
Only a mind stable enough to resist the vacillation by emotions or thoughts, can concentrate.
Developing concentration is a big issue, esp. among students and moreover among their parents.
However to effectively develop concentration, it is important to understand that concentration is the natural result of a stable mind. It is the product of undivided attention, free of strong currents of fear, prejudices or emotions. We lose concentration because the focus of our mind is frequently changed by some or the other idea that enters our mind. Our untrained mind is like a wind cock that gets deflected in whichever direction the wind flows.
The energy of mind and time is limited. These random thoughts feed on our mental energy like the weeds consume the nutrition of the soil and leave it exhausted and infertile. They hinder the thinking so strongly that sometimes, we feel that we are incapable of concentration.
We cannot use something which is not under our control; we cannot use even our mind if it is not under our control. The problem appears to be that how to control the thoughts and the mind.
Imagine our mind to be like a sea of thoughts. Then, trying to concentrate, with uncontrolled thoughts, is like swimming in a turbulent sea. If the thoughts entering our mind are negative then it is like swimming against the flow. If the mind is angry , then it is like swimming under a storm. There is a severe danger of drowning or getting diverted from your path.
How will it be if you are able to control the waters ? What if the waters are always serene or still ? There will be hardly any special effort required to swim , with the facility to swim anywhere, without any resistance, any danger. You will be floating effortlessly from one point to the other. The best way to keep the water still is to stop throwing more pebbles in it, in response to the disturbed currents.
The most primitive and natural tendency to defeat anyone is to attack. Now when we feel that we have to control thoughts, control mind, we become aggressive. We start thinking about how to control thought. We might brood over getting rid of them, but still we are very much thinking about THEM. These emotions or thoughts become stronger as we brood more and more over them. We become more acutely aware of them. We reinforce them by acknowledging and accepting their influence over us. In the world of thoughts, what you think is real! if you think that some thoughts are your problem, they will become your problem.
Mind is like a piece of iron with conflicting thoughts, but becomes a magnet when the thoughts align!
Forceful control of thoughts is even more dangerous. It might make you like a pressure cooker with no pressure valve, ready to burst. Thoughts are the method of mind to analyse, understand and conclude. Thoughts don’t come from space; they are children of your mind, generated as a result of intercourse with external stimuli. Forceful control might provoke them towards a dark distorted growth.
Overall, any kind of resistance against thoughts is like fighting the darkness with a steel sword. The darkness will be never go but gradually you will accept defeat. What you need is a lamp!
Some people focus exclusively on a single idea, a mantra or a thought, in order to develop concentration. But it is like watering a single weed instead of many. The mantra or idea will become very strong and will direct the mind. Again, we have willingly lost the control. It is like the case of a master of a house, who trains well a servant and becomes too dependent on him for running the household, eventually losing the power to control. When the single idea becomes too powerful, it becomes the guiding force of our lives. Such people have mental power akin to the visual power of the horses with eye patches. The idea becomes the center of their lives, whereas they stand on the periphery. Sometimes, they are willing to lay their lives for such ideas. Concentration thus developed serves its own self; you cannot use it for anything else.
Concentration for a specific aim is like building up a rope bridge to help to swim in the waters. But it can help only from one specific point to the other, where the two ends of the rope are and only in fairly favorable water conditions. People who develop concentration with a certain specific aim, might find it difficult to focus on other areas with same efficiency. Many great students lose their academic efficiency after a certain achievement because they initially focused to reach only up to that point. Unconsciously, their need of concentration ends after that achievement. Similarly, many science or math wizards may find it difficult to focus on day to day mundane jobs. This is lopsided effect of concentration.
We cannot fight thoughts, we cannot focus on them, then what should we do ? it takes some effort to realize that we don’t need to do anything with thoughts. Working on thoughts is like trying to move the wheels of a bicycle while keeping the paddles still. Thoughts are like water dripping from a leakage point. The effort to collect water is waste of energy. One should try to plug the hole!
“How can one get butter by churning water “ – Ram Charit Manas
The work that yields concentration starts at a higher level. The aim should be reach a state where the fog of thoughts diminishes, the dust of emotions settles and the vision becomes clear. Here, concentration becomes an effortless natural instinct. You are focused all the time with uninhibited receptivity. Not only you are able to concentrate, you become free of colored vision. Such is the meditative state of mind.
So, fundamentally, concentration is a quality of meditative state of mind. It is but the natural outcome of meditation, just as health is the natural result of nutritious food. We cannot skip nourishing food and try to achieve health some other way. This is the radical difference between concentration and meditation. The base cannot be replaced.
Therefore meditation is indispensable for development of concentration. Not only concentration but right way of thinking is the added advantage of meditation. Without the right discretion, concentration will be just another tool, like a computer which can be used either to waste one’s time or increase knowledge. Overall, life becomes more meaningful with meditation.
Is meditation right for children ? Will they be able to understand it ?
Actually, it is easier for children because of their uncomplicated receptivity. Young children are in a natural state of meditation. Their mind is at peace, which is gradually lost as they enter our world. What we need to do is to just preserve that meditative state by external reinforcement.
However anything forced develops resistance than receptivity. If you want to introduce your kids to pick up meditation, you need to do it yourself, no matter whether you are busy or tired. What you tell might not work but what you show will be absorbed inevitably. Therefore personal practice is the best and unfailing way to promote your kids towards a happy and peaceful life.
May God Bless You With Peace, The Greatest Wealth In The World!
Ayurveda has a concept of Swasthvritta “Sphere of Health “
Let us imagine a sphere of light around us and outside it, is all darkness. This sphere constitutes all the healthy habits and strength of our mind and body. Conceptually, as this sphere diminishes, we become more and more vulnerable to darkness of diseases. We can also assume that it is a part of aura that one has around him.
Assuming that the light in the sphere is because of the life factor or the soul, let us imagine that the size of the sphere detonates the strength of the body whereas the brightness detonates the strength of the mind.
So for a healthy life, one should grow and maintain this sphere of health. The better and more compatible health practices we have, this sphere will be bigger and brighter, which reflects our ability to foresee more, to do more and to accomplish more. It reflects immunity and stamina that your body has against diseases.
For the people who have bad health habits, this sphere will be smaller and duller; such person will fall sick and succumb easily to diseases and other external factors.
There are 2 types of patients defined based on their mental strength
Strong minded – these are the people who are mentally very strong, capable of enduring heavy discomfort for a long time, without much visible agony. In such people, even a big disease may appear to be trivial, due to concealed symptoms.
Feeble minded – Completely opposite, small problem may look big because of their inability to endure. They shout and jump at every little pain in their body. Normally, these kind of people have some kind of emotional pain that reflects through their attention seeking behaviour.
With the concept of Swasthyavritta, it becomes easier to understand that a person with a relatively weak body (smaller circle) but a strong mind or will power(brighter circle) will be able to defeat the darkness of diseases more certainly.
When a person is angry with destructive thoughts, his thoughts first attack his body. We all know about auto immune diseases. You must have experienced many times that when you are angry for some time, afterwards you feel very tired and drained. Unfortunately, this becomes a routine for some people and they get habituated to such dark thinking, which is inviting for diseases.
This sphere has different components according to the type of mind or thought process.
Mind is said to be of 3 types
Satvic – Intellectual, wise
Rajsic – Imperial, Imposing
Tamsic – Dull, lethargic
If we assume that each sphere has its own colour according to its mind energy, then Satvic will be white, orange, and yellow
Rajsic – Red
Tamsic – Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green
Now we have 3 dimensions of thought – size, brightness and colour of the sphere.
If you see red object in blue light then it will appear black!
The point is to make clear that all people have different minds so their Swasthvritta are also different. One set of health practices might not fit the other. One man’s food is another man’s poison. Our Swasthvritta originates in our mind, so if our health practices are borrowed and we don’t feel happy about them, then they are not in sync with our mind and so they will never be effective in keeping us healthy, ever if they have proved to be very beneficial to many other people.
There are many people who conceptually do not agree with non-vegetarian food. Such food, if consumed, will never bring them any nutrition, instead it might create toxins from undigested food.
Similarly, many people who eat vegetarian diet but are very ambitious, regal and daring, might profit from a non-vegetarian or a high protein diet and absorb it quite readily as it is the food subconsciously sought by their mind. Because the mind develops the body according to its aim and it suits an ambitious person to be ready for physical hard work and have good stamina. A soldier with a fighter mind will appreciate the benefits of a non-vegetarian diet, but a intellectual will go for a simpler and easy to digest diet, that helps supply more blood to the brain instead of the muscles.
We all have coloured thinking, so you should eat and live according to the colour of your mindJ, to keep your mind and body in sync.
Another way to maintain the sync between external inputs and the mind is to change the mind, change the colour, the thought process. So whatever comes from outside is easily assimilated without disturbances.
Therefore Swasthvritta also includes meditation and other such activities for mental flexibility. There is no surety of peace in religious rituals, but spiritual practices are great for mental health. Methods for maintaining mental health also differs according to the minds of the people.
So to conclude, you have your own Swasthvritta which is as unique as you are and your innocent pleasure is the guiding light for you to discover it.
This series will help you with the tools to develop your unique health routine!
Constituents of Swasthvritta
There are 2 fields of health, which are also the fields of diseases – Mind and body
So we should regulate our mental and physical inputs. Like our body cells, we should become selectively permeable to external inputs: embrace the compatible ones and be impervious to incompatible ones
2 major parts of Swasthvritta are appropriate Aahar (Material Input) and appropriate Vihar (adjustment to surrounding)
Aahar – It is interesting to note that all material inputs absorbed by the body can be termed as Aahar, so the body ointment or the unwashed soap on the skin is also is an Aahar that might affect the skin!
8 ways of Aahar in body (Intake)
Oral – solids, liquids
Nasal – Smell, air
Eyes – Kohl, Eye make-up
Ears – Liquids, air (There is ayurvedic treatment of putting medicated smoke in the ear for ear ache and many other disease.)
Skin – Air (vapour, smoke), Liquids, ointment, powder
Anal Route – Enema, smoke
Rectal Route – Enema, smoke
According to Ayurveda, Aahar is more important as it helps to strengthen the body from inside, so even effects of wrong Vihar or lifestyle can be overcome. Effects of Aahar are also more prominent on the mind. It is rightly said that you are what you eat!
Vihar or lifestyle covers the following factors –
Sattva is the mind; also it is synonymous with the mental strength. As earlier discussed our body is a physical manifestation of our mind. In fact not only our body, our relations, house, work; everything evolves and gets life from our mind. Everything appears the way we see it.
Compatibility is the key. Nothing is good or bad categorically; everything should be defined in context to the person concerned. It is interesting to note that the prescribed amount of the food and medicines for a person in Ayurveda, depends on the measurements of his body, for example amount of grain one should eat in a single meal is equal to the amount of grains he can hold, putting his hands together. Earlier, labourers were given grains in the units of the amount they can hold putting their hands together, as wages. Also the size of heart is defined as equal to the size of the fist of the person, which is again different from person to person. Salt or medicinal powders(churna) should be taken in a pinch, which again will be different according to the size of the fingers of each person.
In context of mental compatibility, everything depends on the kind of mind energy you have (Satvic, Rajsic, and Tamsic); classical singing might a wonderful stress buster for someone, but not necessarily for you. You might like rock or pop, or might like rock climbing even better.
Compatible Aahar for mind includes – cheerful conversations, blessings, praise, Satsang (company of likeminded people / well-wishers / wise men/cheerful and positive people)
Compatible Vihar for mind includes – be in state of happiness, satisfaction, lack of jealousy, anger, hatred, be close to nature.
Anger management is a very important factor for mental health. We get angry because we are able to do nothing about the incompatibility between what we want and what we have. We cannot get everything in life. Tolerant nature is the base of mental health. It is said that the person who never gets angry and never have other negative emotions, will never fall sick and have long healthy life.
Also if you have to prioritize between health habits, take the one that feels good first, because its cheerful effect on mind is more important than the effect on the body.
Compatible Aahar for body – differs according to the
Likes and dislikes
Prakruti (body constitution)
Digestive Agni (Fire)
Compatible Vihar for body – differs according to the
Likes and dislikes
Prakruti (body constitution)
Compatible Aahar and vihar will be discussed in Ritucharya.