Ayurveda is the chosen lifestyle for millions of people throughout the world because it not only works, but also allows you to be at the center of your life—to control what you eat, your daily routines and habits, and your attitude.
Food for Thought
The great Ayurvedic rishis, or seers, discussed food in great detail in the Veda writings. Both the ancient Indian doctors Sushruta and Charaka gave great importance to food choices as a means of maintaining health. They especially stressed that dishes should be homemade and served warm and that leftovers should be avoided.
The Veda details the properties (for example, heavy, light, and oily) of hundreds of food items and recommends them—or warns against them–according to a person’s individual prakruti or constitution. In general, however, Ayurveda states that a person’s diet can be plant-based or meat-based, but should be customized to the person’s dominant dosha (link to the article “Doshas Explained”). Ayurvedic advisors agree that Pitta individuals should take their largest meal at noon; Vata people may eat smaller quantities more frequently; and Kapha individuals may skip breakfast and make lunch their largest meal.
Sage Charak says, “A daily diet should be of such a quality which not only helps to maintain present well being but serves as a prophylactic against coming diseases.” But other factors are also important. Certain foods, for instance, taken in combinations, can cause indigestion, and raw foods should be consumed in small amounts. Most importantly, since a relaxed mind enhances digestion, you should not eat when you are upset or angry.
According to Professor Rahul Bansal, who “applied Ayurvedic food concepts to his family life and writes about its effect in the Indian Journal of Community Health, “the results have always been very positive in preventing illness and helping recovery from illness.” Bansal is head of the department of community medicine at Subharti Medical College in India.
Lifestyle management on a daily basis is key to nurturing good health. For example, drinking warm water early in the morning helps cleanse the kidneys and stimulate the movement of the digestive tract.
Other illustrations are hygienic practices for the face and mouth (including scraping the tongue and gargling) and regular bathing. According to Sage Charak, “Bath purifies the body, promotes the virility and longevity, eliminates fatigue, sweat and dirt; induces body strength and is vitalizing to highest degree.”
Getting plenty of rest also is integral to good health. Regular bedtimes and risings strengthen the immune system as do meditation, yoga and stress reduction via creative, recreational activities. Just sitting quietly twice each day and breathing for fifteen minutes can prove restorative to both mind and body.
Of course combining nature with physical exercise is a commonsense Ayurvedic practice, whether it’s a simple walk around the neighborhood or a hike up a scenic mountain trail. Do what is appropriate for your age and physical stamina.
Also, the Charaka Samhita advises not resisting natural urges or, for that matter, forcing them either. These urges include urinating, belching, sneezing, vomiting, crying, sleeping, sex, and expelling gas.
The Emotional Nexus
Ayurveda stresses that knowledge of the real self is the source of self worth and true happiness, creativity, and harmony. Emotional health comes from self-referral, celebrated Indian physician Deepak Chopra says. It is acceptance and knowledge of the core self. He suggests attaining this acceptance through meditation or practicing a conscious inner dialogue in which you repeat the following three principles:
I am totally independent of the good or bad opinions of others about me.
I am subordinate to no one, and no one is subordinate to me.
I am courageous in the face of all challenges.
According to ancient Indian seer Charaka Samhita, it is important to create a loving environment and surround yourself with positive, supportive people who follow healthy routines and respect you. Look for peace-abiding people who are mature, patient and conduct themselves virtuously; avoid quarrelsome, sarcastic, greedy, or cruel friends.
Lifestyle takes on new meaning in Ayurveda. By modifying your diet, your daily routines and emotional mindset, you can upgrade your life from okay to “Oh, what a beautiful day!”