Over the past few months, life has felt like a paradox of sorts. Well! Knowing fully of the towering number of lives succumbed to COVID-19, the expectation to be still, stay at home and maintaining distance from those around us is daunting. Wave after wave, the novel coronavirus is launching itself with innovative sustenance.
An organism utterly miniscule has successfully established its reign, terrifying the world’s highly evolved specie. Each wave comes with a variation and intensity. Humans are using all their intelligence, knowledge and logic to combat the infinitesimally small organism for more than 18 months.
We claim to have the most advanced medical technology and expertise, and yet there are many who lost their lives. Corona has proved that surviving amidst a pandemic is not easy unless we build a robust mechanism. Nevertheless, learning to surf the gruesome waves of COVID-19 is the only way ahead.
Has mankind not experienced such pandemics in the past? Are we the only generation to experience the gory effects of such organisms?
Definitely not!! Scriptures related to Ayurveda distinctly mention about the existence and prevalence of such pandemics caused by different kinds of microorganisms. The great scriptures of Indic civilization have clearly prescribed the best practices that can be employed in order to control and prevent such pandemics from destroying human lives.
It is extremely foolish and unfortunate that except humans every species on Earth is perfectly in tune with nature. Sophistication achieved by the growing tentacles of technology has undeniably widened the gap from nature. We are miserably losing the ability to recognize the basic cues given by nature and our own body. This is because our sense organs are constantly bombarded with a plethora of unending stimuli. Sense organs act as gateways to our mind and body and when they allow the entry of unhealthy, untimely and toxic inputs, over a period of time the mind and body get completely clogged with rubbish.
It is very important to revisit the basic building blocks of our existence to get us going. A holistic overhaul of these blocks will strengthen the foundation to fight any such pandemic.
If our aim is to really mitigate and prevent disease, then we should be mindful and considerate about our –
- Aachara – practices
- Vichara – thoughts
- Vyavahara – conduct
- Aahara – diet
- Vihara- entertainment
- Nidra – sleep
Making the necessary changes by aligning ourselves to healthy practices plays a major role in building a resilient body and mind.
What we do every day takes us one step closer to our goals. A good daily routine helps to maintain a perfect balance of our mind and body with the nature. From the time we wake up to the time we go to bed, every activity in the day must be synchronized with the nature’s clock. Disrupting the synchrony will undoubtedly jeopardize the immune system pushing us to a vulnerable state. We might not experience its ill effects initially, but in the long run it turns out to be extremely disastrous.
The great seers of the Indic civilization clearly understood the importance of keeping the gateways clean. They were very judicious about the kind of stimulus given to the mind and body. This enabled them to keep their systems healthy. They knew that being in synch with the nature is the key.
There are ample practices suggested in Ayurveda and Yoga for achieving good health. Awareness of our daily regimen is of paramount importance. The activities that we perform on a daily basis such as cleansing, yoga, work, eating, relaxation and sleeping take us a long way. The key to achieving optimal health depends primarily on the regularity and timing of these activities. They prove to be the most beneficial practices in modern day than ever before. A good balance of tridoshas (vaata, pitta, kapha) helps in experiencing a sattvic state of mind.
Consideration of the season and climate is very important for planning our activities. We fall prey if we ignore this crucial hints given by the nature.
We should pay very close attention on eliminating wastes from the body. This is the most critical factor for good health. Voluntary suppression of defecation delays the emptying of gases. Similarly suppression of urinary urge vitiates vaata and causes significant increase in the level of blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory rate and many other ill effects on the mind and body.
It is sensible to identify and choose those practices that are beneficial to achieve and maintain optimal health.
Activities suggested for mornings:
1. Ideal time to wake up is at 4.00 a.m. This period is called as Brahmamuhurta, precisely 1 hour 36 minutes before sunrise.
Follow these simple tips to make brahmamuhurta special and fruitful:
Prabhate Kara Darshanam “It is considered auspicious to look at our own palms in the morning upon waking up.”
Best mantra to recite during brahmamuhurta. This mantra has to be recited looking at the palms –
Karaagre Vasate Lakshmi
(Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth Lakshmi resides in our fingertips).
(Saraswati, the Goddess of art and learning resides in our palm).
Karamoole Tu Govinda
(In the root or wrist resides Govinda, Lord Vishnu).
- Spare an honest thought and bow down to your ishatadaivam “favorite God”, Gurus “teachers” and Parents.
- A few minutes of meditation is extremely beneficial as awareness levels are finest during this time.
- Reading religious scriptures or simple tenets of wisdom helps to clear mental clutter and improve clarity and calmness. It is the best time to take in spiritual knowledge and wisdom.
- Planning for the unfolding day can best be done during this time, be it finances, work or other important aspects of life.
- Recollecting and reflecting on the actions of the previous day will aid in overcoming negative tendencies and emotions which will eventually reduce bad karma.
- Practicing asanas at this time will greatly benefit the body-mind complex as it removes lethargy from the body and brings lightsomeness, calms the mind and makes us joyful.
- It is the best time for all kinds of creative work.
- Taking a slow walk in the refreshing morning air and surrounding ourselves with soothing visuals will promote relaxation.
- It is the best time to study, one can achieve perfect concentration when the sounds are minimal.
It is important to understand what to avoid during brahmamuhurta:
- Very stressful mental activity is detrimental.
- Eating during this time is unhealthy and causes illness.
- When ailing, one must not strain themselves physically and mentally by waking up at this time.
- Geriatric people who do not have the practice of waking up early since their childhood.
- Pregnant women.
- When the previous meal has not digested well.
2. Cleansing activities includes –
- Danta moola dhauti “cleaning teeth and gums.”
- Jihvamoola dhauti “scraping the tongue.”
- Chakshu dhauti “washing the eyes with clean warm water,” this practice can be done when taking a bath or at any-time.
- Karna dhauti “cleaning the ears,”.this practice helps in dislodging any unnecessary wax and aids in good hearing.
- Practicing yogic kriyas or shatkarmas is:
- Vamana dauti or kunjala kriya is a yogic way of cleansing the upper digestive tract by filling the stomach with warm saline water followed by vomiting the entire water. This practice helps in the removal of Aama ‘sticky yellowish-white toxin’ from the upper digestive tract. This practice helps people with respiratory issues such as asthma and other pulmonary disorders.
- Jalaneti is the practice of nasal irrigation by passing warm saline water in the neti pot from one nostril and draining it from the other nostril. This practice washes the nasal cavity to flush out mucus, clears nose blocks, helps with sinus issues, alleviates allergies, improves vision and strengthens the brain.
- Kapalabhati involves forcefully expelling the breath out through the nostrils using the lower transverse abdominis muscle. The exhalation is active and the inhalation is passive. Kapalabhati is considered both as kriya and pranayama. Forceful exhalation reduces carbon dioxide in the blood and increases oxygen availability. This is a very good practice, especially during situations prevalent in the present times. People with very high blood pressure, cardiac issues, pregnant women and those who have undergone recent surgery are advised not to practice this.
- Nauli involves massage of the internal organs of the abdomen by making rapid circular movements around the abdominal muscles. This practice improves digestion and prepares the practitioner for pranayama practice. It should always be practiced on an empty stomach, preferably after emptying the bowels. However, menstruating/pregnant women or women who are trying to conceive, people with hernia or who have recently undergone surgery, individuals with cardiac issues or severe constipation are strongly advised against practicing this kriya.
- Basti is like enema, a technique where water is sucked through the anus. This kriya is used for cleansing the lower abdomen, especially the large intestine, colon and rectum by removing toxins and piled-up faeces. It cures constipation, purifies blood and improves digestion.
- Trataka is a kriya which has a very beneficial effect on the eyes. It not only helps to improve concentration but also enhances confidence, patience and will power. This practice involves sitting in any meditative posture and gazing at a candle which is placed 16 to 20 inches away on a pedestal so that the flame is exactly at the eye level.
- Kriyas eliminate gross wastes like excess kapha, pitta and vaata from the body and keep it in a good condition. During the pandemic, it is advisable to practice vamana dhauti once a week while jala neti, kapalabhati, nauli can be practiced at least once every day.
- Massage the body with warm oil at least once or twice a week. This practice keeps the skin healthy, tones the body and improves circulation.
3. Practice of asanas is very beneficial. Practice surya-namaskar followed by other asanas such as pashchimotanasana, ardhamaschendriyasana, mandukasana, ushtrasana, malasana, sarvangasana, bhujangasana. These asanas stimulate the flow of lymph to prevent illness and infection and act as a detox. They aid in good digestion and keep the body and mind active. Advanced practitioners can practice more difficult asanas, such as mayurasana, sarvangasana, shirsasana, chakrasana, ekapadarajakopotasana, kurmasana, bakasana, hanumanasana etc.
Some beneficial tips to make the best out of your practice –
- Start your practice with the recitation of a mantra for purifying the body and mind. This mantra is an invocation to Sage Patanjali.
malaṁśarīrasya ca vaidyakena
AUM ŚĀNTIḤ ŚĀNTIḤŚĀNTIḤ AUM
- Too much force and strain are not recommended, practice asanas until there is mild sweat.
- Choose a quiet place, free of dust and pollution.
- Practice asanas after performing kriyas is very beneficial.
- While practicing asana, complete awareness must be on the movement and breath.
- Synchronizing the breath with the movement is very important.
- In the final posture only the muscles necessary for the asana must be used and all other muscles should be completely relaxed.
- Do not allow the mind to wander. When it does, learn to bring it back promptly.
- Avoid yoga at least three hours after consuming a meal.
4. Pranayama practices are the breathing practices. They are very useful for a variety of reasons and have wonderful benefits on health and well-being of an individual.
Practicing pranayama such as bastrika, suryabhedana, anulomaviloma, ujjayi, brahmari, sthetali, shitkari is very beneficial. These practices strengthen the lungs, relieves stress, improves concentration, help in detoxification, clears nasal passages and sinuses, improves sleep quality, boosts immunity, improves digestion, pacifies body, balances mood and makes the mind well oriented.
To achieve maximum benefit, pranayama has to be practiced after asanas.
5. Spending at least 15 minutes a day in meditation reduces fear, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and induces calmness, clarity and confidence. Nada Yoga, sound meditation is an easy way to establish a meditation routine. It starts with meditation on calming music. This helps to quieten and collect the mind. Slowly and gradually regular practice evolves to hearing the internal sounds of the mind and body. Trataka or gazing meditation involves fixing the gaze on an external object such as the flame of a candle, an image of the ishta dyvam (favorite God) or a symbol such as a sri yantra. This practice starts with the eyes open and then eyes closed. It is done to train the practitioner’s power of concentration and visualization.
There are many forms of meditation practices. It is advisable to choose one practice and continue it rather than hopping from one meditative practice to another.
6. Eat a nutritious and light breakfast.
Activities to be done during late morning and afternoon:
- Immerse yourself in productive work as this is the time when the body and mind are very active.
- Eat the largest meal of the day at noon.
- Practice of yoga Nidra is a very effective way of achieving deep relaxation in a very short time.
- Practice of ujjayi pranayama “Ocean breathing” can be done at any time of the day as it helps to improve concentration and release tension.
Activities to be practiced in the evening:
Evening routine is a good way of unwinding after a busy day.
- Rejuvenate with some asana and pranayama.
- Nourish the body by eating a light and easy-to-digest meal at-least three hours before bedtime.
- Enjoy leisure activities such as listening to calming and relaxing music, taking a leisurely walk, reading a book, painting etc.
Vichara means thought process. Humans are filled with thoughts that linger; even in our subconscious and unconscious states our mind does not stop thinking. Every thought leaves an indelible mark on us. Our thoughts create our reality. Being mindful about the quality of thoughts is very important. Thoughts cannot be seen by others, they are undeniably private but what goes on in our thought center makes all the difference. Our behaviour, conduct and actions are all guided by our thoughts. Hence it is very important to be mindful about the quality of our thoughts.
Minding our minds during Pandemic is very crucial, especially as we are surrounded by the negativity in terms of the spread of Corona from all over the world through TV, social media, newspapers, family, friends and other sources. Limiting social media usage will help us find peace and quietude.
Feeling vulnerable with all the unknown worrisome thoughts are taking up too much space in our brains. Worrying tricks our brain into feeling a sense of impending doom.
The natural response of the mind to such information is fear.
- Patanjali Yoga sutras lay a great emphasis on the conduct of thoughts.
Having a strong intention to identify the band of six inner enemies “Arishadvarga or Shadripu” leading to negative thought patterns is the key. These are thoughts which lead to –
- kama (desire when develops into sensual gratification, lust)
- krodha (anger, an outcome of confused desires)
- lobha (greed, possessiveness)
- moha (delusion caused by false evaluation)
- mada (pride, arrogance)
- matsarya (envy, jealousy)
These kinds of thoughts have very negative effects on the mind and body. It is absolutely necessary to identify these thoughts and get them out of our system immediately.
Identifying Kleshas “the negative states of mind, mental afflictions” is equally important. Kleshas cloud the mind and create a stressful environment and cause suffering. They become great obstacles, impede positivity and growth. Kleshas are five –
- Avidya (ignorance)
- Asmita (egoism)
- Raga (attachment of material possession)
- Dvesha (hatred or aversion to people, unpleasant things and experiences)
- Abhinivesha (fear of non-existence or death)
When Kleshas hinder perception, they act like malware corrupting our thought process. These kinds of vicious thoughts randomly pop into the mind and blind our ability to perceive reality. During the time of uncertainty and stress, Kleshas make their presence even stronger. When we track back the reason for any of our suffering, the culprit is undoubtedly one or more of these Kleshas.
Some useful tips to handle the Kleshas and Arishadvargas:
- Maitri “friendship” – unconditionally accept a person for who he/she is instead of demanding what you would like of them. Be friendly towards positive and happy people who take life without grumbling or complaining.
- Karuna “compassion” – Being compassionate to troubled and negative people helps to be less judgmental, more accepting of people and situations.
- Mudita “pure joy” – feeling of pure joy for the achievement of others without any self-interest.
- Upekshanam “imperturbed” – not being disturbed because of people who judge or criticize you.
- Keep a constant watch on the thoughts whenever the mind wanders towards negativity and pessimism. Be prompt and become aware that the thought is harmful and toxic.
- Consciously cultivate a habit of bringing positive thoughts into your active thinking zone.
- Being aware of the nature of thoughts.
Vyavahara relates to our behaviour and conduct:
Living during the times of pandemic is a new experience to the majority of world population. For many, COVID-19 might not be lethal but it is the kind of pandemic that impacts our psychological wellbeing. With a vast number of people being affected in a very short period of time overwhelms us and elicits various reactions. Onset of fear and panic is a natural response when there is an extreme sense of concern about the situation that is perceived as a danger to the physical safety. There are many different reasons for this such as –
- Dissemination of information from the right sources at the right time.
- Lack of information or misinformation after exaggerated and fueled by media.
- Persistent concern about the COVID waves and attacks.
- Worrying about the long-term effects of COVID.
- Significant changes in behaviour leading to actions such as panic buying, believing in every news item, stockpiling basic necessities, xenophobic behaviour.
- Experiencing panic attacks, characterized by pounding heart, sweating, shortness of breath, feelings of choking, chest pain, nausea, overwhelming fear of death, feeling of losing control, sense of impending doom.
- Other affects such as severe health anxiety, isolating oneself, seeking constant reassurance about health.
Being aware of the spectrum of panic consequences due to COVID-19 pandemic is the first step towards making the necessary tweaks in your behavior. With the rapid spread of global pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), people around the world have expressed panic through various disruptive and disturbing behaviours such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, use of narcotics, physical and mental abuse and this must be avoided by all means.
Some beneficial tips to cultivate useful habits:
- Involving in meaningful work.
- Practicing ashtanga yoga (yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara dharana, dhyana) helps to train the mind and body in the right way.
- Pondering on optimistic aspects.
- Spending time reading good literature.
- Enjoy the atypical break from social expectations.
- To help foster positive and healthy thoughts one must associate with like-minded people.
Aahara is the diet, as per Ayurveda it is considered as one of the greatest medicines for the body. Faulty diet disturbs the mind, body and disrupts its functioning. Diet plays a very important role in sustaining life when it is consumed in a disciplined manner.
Important tips for Bhojana vidhi “manner in which food has to be cooked and consumed,”
- Food must be cooked and consumed in a happy state of mind..
- Consuming freshly prepared food with natural ingredients is the key to good health.
- Consume clean water.
- Chant the bhojana mantra before your mealtime. This will help in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is the God’s energy that fires up the digestive process in every living being.
- For good digestion ensure half the stomach is filled with food, quarter with water and leave a quarter empty.
- Having complete awareness of the taste, texture, smell of food makes the meal truly enjoyable.
- Savour every morsel.
- Be grateful and thank God for providing food to eat.
- Sit cross legged while having your meal.
- Use your hands to eat.
- Food cooked and consumed in a happy mood is digested and assimilated well.
- Relish your meal.
- Use fresh wholesome and pesticide free ingredients.
- Consume locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Eat in moderation.
- Avoid talking while eating.
- Ideal mealtime,
- Breakfast must be consumed between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
- Lunch must be consumed between 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
- Dinner must be consumed between 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Digestion starts in the mouth therefore ensure that every mouthful is chewed well.
Oil, spices and salt have to be consumed cautiously.
Snack on puffed rice, roasted black gram, soaked nuts, fresh fruits.
Ayurveda prescribes specific diet patterns in the diseased conditions, known as pathya. Derangement of the digestive power “jataragni” occurs in many diseases which is the prime reason for vitiated dosha, Ama (toxic substances) and malformation of Dhatus (body tissues).
List of Wholesome foods:
- Fruits such as pomegranate, papaya, apple, mango, sweet lime, lemon, orange, figs, plums, pears, grapes, dates, gooseberry or amla.
- Nuts such as almonds, walnuts soaked overnight, pumpkin seeds, roasted flaxseeds, roasted sunflower seeds.
- Dry Fruits such as apricots, dried figs, raisins or dried grapes, dried dates.
- Spices such as dry ginger, black pepper, cumin, mustard, carom seeds, fenugreek, turmeric, dried coriander seeds, long pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, rock salt, pink salt.
- Sweeteners such as jaggery, palm jaggery, date sugar, honey.
- Dairy products such as cow ghee or clarified butter, butter milk, unpasteurized cow milk for children.
- Cooking oils such as virgin coconut oil, non-refined sunflower oil, cow’s ghee or clarified butter.
- Pulses such as Green lentil (Moong dal), Red lentil (Masur dal), Yellow lentil (Toor dal), Bengal gram (Chana dal), Horse gram (Kulatha Dal).
- Grains such as red rice, brown rice, whole wheat, finger millet, fox millet.
- Fresh vegetables like ridge gourd, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, snake gourd, cucumber, okra or lady finger, brinjal or eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, beetroot, ginger, garlic, gooseberry or amla, banana stem, raw banana, drumstick, mango ginger, coconut, onion.
- Green leafy vegetables such as Indian basil, amaranthus, spinach, fenugreek, moringa, kale, coriander, mint, curry leaves
- Virudhahara or wrong food combinations is contraindicated and not good for health.
List of wrong food combinations –
- Milk and sour substances.
- Cooked honey.
- Fish and milk.
- Green leafy vegetables and milk.
- Milk and fruits such as banana, orange, grapes, pineapple etc.
- Meat of animals in marshy region with black gram, honey, milk, jaggery, germinated grains.
Avoid consuming deep-fried food, refined carbohydrates, sprouts, black gram, sesame paste, sugar, pungent spices, excessive fluids, melons, fish, alcohol.
Ayurveda prescribes specific diet patterns in the diseased conditions, which are known as Pathya. According to the principles of Ayurveda, derangement of the digestive power jataragni occurs in many diseases which is the prime reason for the formation of vitiated dosha, Ama (toxic substances) and malformation of Dhatus (body tissues).
Things to avoid,
- Overeating until one feels very full puts a heavy load on the digestive system.
- Binge eating.
- Eating at irregular time weakens digestion.
- Eating stale and cold food leads to indigestion.
- Do not sleep immediately after consuming a meal, there should at-least be a gap of 2 or 3 hours.
Vihara is a reasoned and rational way of involving in social relations, entertainment, consumption and dressing. These aspects of lifestyle promote physical, mental as well as social health, leading to a good overall health, improvement in the quality of life, as well as helps in the prevention and management of diseases.
Over-indulgence in any activity is not advisable.
Lockdown has restricted our movement outside home. Nevertheless, it is important to spend time in a meaningful manner where we are able to allocate time for all the activities sensibly.
- Too much of screen time.
- Binge eating while screen viewing.
- Unnecessary and unhealthy conversations and gossiping.
Nidra is sleep, the importance of a good sleep regimen has been emphasized by many ancient seers and acharyas. When the mind gets exhausted and the jnaendriyas (sensory organs) and karmendriyas (motor organs) become inactive, sleep is induced.
Nidra is not only an important but also an indispensable phenomenon of life that affects the mind-body complex in a favorable way when enjoyed in a rightful manner.
Nidra revitalizes the body and mind. Health, vitality and emotions largely depend on the following,
- Quality – a deep, uninterrupted and peaceful sleep.
- Quantity – between 6 to 9 hours depending on the age and body’s condition. Infants and people who are ailing need more rest.
- Timing of sleep – between 9 pm to 10 pm.
Being aware of these three important factors is the essence.
Sleep caused by the nature of ratri (night) is considered excellent. This kind of sleep nourishes the individual in the right way. When mind is devoid of its own sense organs, it is a clear indication that the system needs time for rest and repair. When we fail to understand or suppress the most important signal, that is when the body loses its ability to fight diseases, digestion is impaired, immune system gets compromised and the diseases take over our body.
Most people in the world are aware that they suffer from insufficient sleep but find it difficult and even lack interest to make changes in their routine.
- Caffeinated beverages after 4:00 p.m.
- Eating a heavy dinner.
- Eating after 8:00 p.m.
- Screen viewing after 8:00 p.m.
- Exposure to bright lights after 8:00 p.m.
- Drinking too much water or other beverages just before going to bed.
- Strenuous activity (physical and mental).
- Tight and uncomfortable clothes.
- Excessive talking.
- Over consumption of alcohol.
- Untimely sleep, e.g., sleeping during the day unless one is ill and sleeping very late.
- Excessive sleep of more than 9 hours.
(Image credit: fda.gov)
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