LIFESTYLE : SWASTHAVRITTA
How we live each day is the crux of Ayurvedic living. Ayurveda is really is the art of moment to moment living. The awareness of how we need to live to be optimally healthy needs constant adjustment. This is very difficult because of our routines, commitments, desires and attachments. All of the constitutional information that I have introduced is only relevant when applied to a real world. Ayurveda recommends different lifestyles according to age, sex, climate, time of day and time of year:
Here are some Ayurvedic recommendations for optimum health:
Daily activities : Dinacharya
• Rise in accordance with the seasons. Ie when the sun rises early get up early and when it rises late get up late. This depends on how far you live from the equator.
• Clean your teeth-astringent/bitter/pungent flavours- gargle water or oil and scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper.
• Wash your body-especially the eyes and excretory orfices.
• Oil your ears, nose, head- this prevents dryness and keeps the passages clear.
• Massage is a central feature of many Ayurvedic treatments- it regulates the humours:
Vata- feet, lower back, colon area, neck, shoulders and head- Sesame oil
Pitta- chest, region on back opposite heart and head- Coconut or Brahmi oil
Kapha- lower abdomen, chest, throat, sinus- Canola or mustard oil
• Apply pleasant aromatic scents-essential oils- Lavender, Sandalwood, Jasmine.
• Chew cardamom, fennel, anise to freshen breath between and after meals.
• Do not restrain any of the 13 natural urges (thirst, hunger, sneezing, yawning, crying, urinating, defecating, farting, burping, ejaculating, sleep, waking and breathing due to over exertion) as this causes the natural movement of vata to be aggravated. Ayurveda considers that restraining these urges leads to numerous diseases. British decorum may consider otherwise!
• Eat your main meal in the middle of day when the internal digestive fire is at its highest.
• Follow a wholesome occupation that accrues good karma. This allows you to fulfil the 4 aims of life: Fulfilling your birth right and duty, obtaining pleasure, wealth and spiritual enlightenment. (Dharma, Kama, Artha, Moksha).
• Exercise (vyayama) according to constitution:
Vata- light, slow, not beyond sweating grounding, grounding yoga.
Pitta- team sports, up to point of sweating, relaxation afterwards, calming yoga.
Kapha- vigorous exerecise, beyond sweating, regular, vigorous yoga.
• Observe your local geographical terrain and climate- adapt your daily life-style.
• Persue health, wealth, desires and spiritual realisation.
Live according to your stage of life:
Age 0-16 is considered to be a kapha stage of life. This is a time of structural growth, softness and love. The problems that children acquire are often kapha problems including mucusy coughs, glue ear, diarrhoea and digestive troubles. Living according to this stage of life means following an anti-kapha diet, especially around times of imbalance: less sugar, wheat and dairy if kapha becomes aggravated.
From 16-50 is considered to be a pitta stage of life. It is a time of becoming organised, having a family and earning and living. The problems that people acquire between these ages are often pitta problems such as heartburn, acidity, acne and heart problems to name a few.
From 50 onwards is considered to be a vata time. It is a stage of wisdom and insight when the body can thin and the skin dry a bit. The problems that people acquire are often vata in nature with arthritis, grying hair, body pain, weight loss and strokes predominating during this stage of life.
I will write more about the appropriate life styles for these stages in later updates.
The Ayurvedic clock:
Each phase of the day is dominated by a particular doshic quality:
2am-6am Vata 2pm-6pm: often windy, people that are insomniacs are affected.
6am-10am Kapha 6pm-10pm: often wet, sluggish times with mucus being produced.
10am-2pm Pitta 10pm-2am: the hottest part of day.
The way to balance any disturbances at these times is to perform activities that reduce the aggravation of each tendency.
Seasonal activities : Rtucharya
The seasonal variations in temperature, rainfall and wind have a direct effect on our health. To a certain extent we are protected from the ravages of extreme weather by our well insulated and temperature controlled homes but the climate still affects the internal organs, our moods and appetites. We make some changes naturally. We eat less salad and more hot food in winter, or we sleep less in summer. Certain aspects of the humours become aggravated during different seasons. For example, kapha is clearly more aggravated in winter when there are more coughs and colds around. Ayurveda recommends that one way to remain in more control of your health is to adjust your diet and change some of the tastes that you are eating. The sweet flavour increases mucus in the body and so it is suggested that during a mucusy time of year you eat less sweets. I will talk about the flavours in much more detail later, but for now to stay healthy follow these adjustments:
Season Aggravated dosha Tastes to increase Treatment
Spring-early Kapha Bitter/Ast/Pungent Clear mucus
Spring-late Vata Sweet/Sour/green foods Relaxing
Summer Vata Sweet/Cool, moist foods Nourishing
Autumn-early Pitta Bitter/Ast/Sweet Detox bowel
Autumn-late Vata Sweet/Sour/Salty Oil massages
Winter Kapha Pungent/Ast/Bitter Warming
The cusp of every season aggravates vata and so always follow a vata pacifying regime during these times. A period of reflection and dietary adjustment for 7 days either side of the solstices will promote health during the following season.
My top summer tips are to:
1. Drink cooling grape juice to cleanse and nourish your blood.
2. Take 2 tablespoons of Aloe vera juice a day. This helps to detoxify the liver and bowel.
3. Drink rosewater- delicious and soothing for pitta when it can most easily become aggravated. (make sure the rosewater you take is safe for internal consumption).
4. Drink cooling teas of peppermint, hibiscus and fennel to keep the system pure and free from pitta toxins.