We are living in an unusually stagnant era of a pandemic. The whole world is put into a pause by the novel coronavirus. People are so afraid even to get out of the house. The main concern is that we have not succeeded in finding an effective treatment or medicine for the disease. Vaccines are available but no vaccine has claimed complete success. Rather new mutations are variants of the same virus that emerged after the first vaccination started. The rapid rate of spreading and higher mortality rate scared people.
We had to learn many new lessons including that health can not be sustained with only medicines. Hospitals including emergency care rooms can do only symptomatic management in most cases. In many, it may or may not be successful. Even the rich who can afford to buy personalised oxygen supplies could not survive in each case. It merely did not depend upon the availability of medications or hospital care. It depended on personal health. More specifically, positive health. The word immunity and immunomodulation became famous, as ever. In the present scenario, seeing even young people die immediately of covid, even doctors found it difficult to see the connection between general health and recovery rate. Many lifestyle diseases like diabetes made the situation very bad. In many, it was like a sure ticket for a death sentence. This made people think of new areas of awareness on health. It unrevealed the connection between vulnerability to diseases, positive health, immunomodulation and to an extent, happiness. A healthy diet, lifestyle and proper hygiene are the keys to health. As we all know, modern researchers are finding out many diseases, including autoimmune diseases can develop or worsen due to a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise is proven to affect even mental health. Happiness hormones are produced while exercising and stress chemicals in the body levels down. Thus, most people are making it a part of life, daily workouts to prevent diseases and acquire positive health. Searching for permanent solutions led many of them into the ayurvedic ways of living.
Ayurvedic perspective of health and fitness
Ayurveda thinks different when it comes to proper nourishment and health. Ancient Indian literature says you are what you eat. They believed that each human is a miniature of this universe and whatever happens around corresponds to the inside too. Nourishment depends upon more than ten factors in Ayurveda, not just what dish or calories you eat. Can you believe it? Nourishment is equally dependent upon the food and the eater. Other than the quality and quantity of the food, every detail like the taste, potency, light/heavy to digest, fresh/dried, and even the region of production and temperature of the food item matters. It is interesting to know that equal importance is given to the physical and mental being of the person who eats. Digestive power and body constitution are important as the emotional phase of the person while eating. It is advised to keep your attention only in the process of eating to get the maximum goodness. So, a healthy diet is not just calorie values in Ayurveda. It is very subjective and customised in detail. Health is not merely the absence of diseases. The Ayurvedic term for health is ‘swastha’ comes from a word meaning, those who are seated in their position. The definition goes on like equilibrium of all structural and functional units of the body along with a pleasant state of sense organs, mind and spirit which leads to physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being.
Exercise and Ayurveda
Ayurveda also explains that a proper daily routine and following seasonal regimen are essential for healthy living. There is an elaborate explanation on dinacharya or daily routine that explains right from when and how to wake up, what to think first and the measures to begin a creative day. It finds an order for brushing, exercise, bath, eating along with daily health care therapies like Anjanam, nasyam, kabalam etc. Exercising is an essential part of healthy living but Ayurveda specifies who should do it and to what extent. Ayurveda suggests doing exercise by ardhasakti (half your strength). It does mean physical and mental strength. Ayurveda does not stick to a single normal value always, but it considers the whole system as dynamic as it is. You should consider your tolerance level while working out which is highly varying for each person every time. Draining out the whole energy is not the right way. Seasons are also mentioned where it is advised to do very few exercises in summer where your body is in its weakest stage and whereas the sun is the strongest.
Ayurveda clearly explains the benefits of daily workouts and exercises as laaghavam(losing weight or in more precisely, feeling the lightness of body), karmasaamarthyam (efficiency to do work) deeptogni(increased appetite, digestion and absorption which also includes proper bioavailability) medasa kshaya(loss of fat tissue) and vibhaktaghanagaatratwam (body shape divided equally and proportionately). These are all some dream targets of all those who work out. But Ayurveda emphasises your aim while considering exercise. Any therapy is considered as either brumhana (gaining weight) or langhana(losing weight). Vyaayama or exercise is considered as a therapy that can do both when administered properly.
It is advised to do exercise after applying any Sneha (fat-soluble liquids like oil, ghee, bone marrow etc processed with herbs) on the whole body and head. It improves flexibility and reduces the chance of injuries. There are many conditions where oil application and exercise are contraindicated like fever. Only a healthy and fit individual can do regular heavy workouts. There are also therapeutic forms of physical therapies and many forms of exercises that enhance the mamsadhatu(muscle tissue) and improve mobility. Regular exercises under expert guidance are found beneficial in many patients with nervous, locomotor and psychiatric diseases. Ayurveda shares a common element in all these pathologies where Vaatadosha is involved. Proper exercising help remove srotorodha(obstruction in channels) and vitiated Vaata dosha is brought bac into a balanced state. On the other hand, when done in excess by unfit people, the very same exercises can cause Vaatakopa in the body. Acute Vaatakopa will show discomforts like restlessness, shivering or shaking, sleep problems, headache etc. When chronic, Vaatakopa may lead to serious disorders of the nervous or locomotory system. In short, Ayurveda considers exercise as an essential part of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Choosing the right way of practise or sadhana is very important.
Go the yoga way, the natural rhythmic flow
It will be incomplete to end this article without a word on Yoga, the age-old traditional practice in India. Speaking about the Indian traditional way of fitness training, Yoga is the best routine to follow. Yoga is not as simple as doing some difficult postures or super flexible body but it is one of the shaddarsanas (6 different philosophical schools) that were run in ancient India. Ayurveda and Yoga are sister sciences that share a common perspective towards attaining positive health. There are many definitions for Yoga, like yoga: chittavruttinirodha(yoga is keeping the mind stable), yoga: karmasu koushalam(yoga is work efficiency) but yoga as such denotes union between body and mind or spirit, or it can be considered as uniting the inner self with the universe outside. Yoga is divided into 8 steps or levels which is known as Ashtangayoga, of which the Aasanas (yoga postures) are the third. Yogasanas or physical postures are just one of the eight steps to attain salvation or contentment. Mastering a posture lets you free of the concern or stress of the body balance and helps you meditate more efficiently.
What you do is not important, why you do is
Ayurveda encourages people to maintain health and fitness by following the daily routine which includes regular exercise. But the method is different for each person. It can be done by a healthy person as fitness yoga or it can be a part of therapy, as in therapeutic yoga. Some people need to lose fat or excess weight but some need to gain weight to reach normal BMI levels. Both groups can do fitness training to achieve their goals. It depends upon how much a person understands self, physically mentally, socially, emotionally and spiritually. All these realms work together to form a human being. Fitness is a balance in these achieved by proper way of daily living. Fitness does not involve only physical exercise, but it is only a part of it. Fitness and positive health are attained by a wholesome approach starting with knowing ourselves, managing diet & lifestyle, and constantly trying to develop ourselves in all the realms.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, United States. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please consult your GP before the intake.
Dr. Rajesh Nair, the co-founder and chief consultant of Ayurvedaforall.Com, is a graduate of prestigious Vaidyaratnam Ayurveda College (affiliated with the University of Calicut), Kerala, India. Additionally, he holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Yoga Therapy from Annamalai University.
Dr. Nair offers consultation at two busy clinics in and around Haripad, Alleppey, Kerala, the southern state famous worldwide for authentic ayurvedic treatment and physicians. While offering consultation on all aspects of ayurvedic treatments Dr. Nair has a special interest in Panchkarma, Yoga, and Massage.
Through Ayurvedaforall Dr. Nair offers online consultation to patients worldwide and has served hundreds of patients over the last 20 years. In addition to his Ayurvedic practice, he is the chief editor of ayurveda-amai.org, the online portal of Ayurveda Medical Association of India, and the state committee member of Ayurveda Medical Association of India.
Dr. Nair is a regular speaker at Ayurveda-related conferences and has visited Germany to propagate Ayurveda. You can write directly to him-
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