Some Other Important Steps of Morning Routine:
As we saw in the last issue, Ayurveda
lays special emphasis on prevention of diseases and disorders and takes scientific consideration of every aspect of daily routine in this regard. In the first article we had elucidated a brief background of Ayurvedic medical concepts and described the successive steps of morning routine. The major steps included – Best timings and mode of getting up Atmabodha Sadhana, Ushapana, Shauca and Dantadhavana. Now we proceed further in this sequence and discuss about Abhyang (oil massage), Kshaurkarma(shaving), physical exercise, morning walk, bathing and suitable type and mode of wearing clothes. At a first glance, one might doubt as to what could be scientific about such routine chores. But reading the views of the rishis in Ayurvedic scriptures tells us how deeply and comprehensively they had looked at every aspect of health vis-à-vis our physical organism and environment.
Abhyang (oil massage):
Atha Jatanna Paneccho Marutadhnaih Sugandhibhih |
Yathartusamsparsha Sukhaistailairabhyangah Macaret ||
If one wants to eat food for good health and wants to avoid loss of appetite or indigestion then as per the season, he should use warm and fragrant oil in winter and cooling and naturally scented oils that reduce gastric problems in summer for massaging the body.
Abhyangamacarenityam Sa Jarashramavataha |
Drashtiprasada Pushtayamu Swapna Sutvakcadadharya Krata |
Shirah Shravanapadeshu Tam Visheshena Shilayeta ||
Daily oil-massage (of the body) prevents gastric problems, fatigue and aging. Clear eyesight, good sleep, long age, beautiful skin and stout body are gained by this practice. Oil-massage should be especially applied on the head, ears and legs.
The rishis further state –
Sarshapam Gandhatailam Yattailam Pushpavasitam|
Anya Dravyayutam Tailam Na Dushyati Kadacana ||
Mustard oil, fragrant natural-oil and oils extracted from flowers and mixed with other natural substances are usable. Massaging with the seasamum or mustard oil (as per the season) is supposed to be the best.
Snehabhyangadyatha Kumbhashcarma Snehavimardanat |
Bhavatyupango Dakshashca Dradah Kleshasaho Yatha ||
Thata Shariramabhyangadradam Sutvak Prajayate|
Sparshane Cadhiko Vayuh Sparshananca Twamashritam |
Twacyashca Paramobhyangastamattam Shilayennarah ||
Na Cabhighatabhihatam Gatramabhyangasevinah |
Vikaram Bhajateetyartham Balakarmani Va Kwacita ||
Susparshopacitangashca Balavan Priyadarshanah |
Bhatyabhyanga Nityatvannaroolpojara Eva Ca||
As polishing with lubricants makes a pot, leather and cartwheel shining, smooth and strong, the body also becomes strong and possesses beautiful skin by massaging it (daily) with oil. The vat (gas and movements related) problems are also allayed and the resistance and stamina of the body increases.
Massaging the body everyday with due care makes the skin smooth and the body-parts strong; the signs of aging become less visible and the body becomes charming. Oil-massage helps in increasing one's life-span and the glow of the body. The importance of oil is in no way less than that of ghee (clarified butter) in strengthening one's health.
Ghratadashta Gunam Tailam Mardane Na Tubhakshane |
The power of oil is eight times more than that of ghee; the only difference is the latter is useful in eating while oil is beneficial in massaging.
Method of Massaging:
First apply oil in the navel. It should then be rubbed on the nails of hands and legs. Then the soles should be massaged followed successively by the feet, above the feet, knees, thighs and hips. Then the hands, arms, neck, waist, back, abdomen, stomach should be massaged in that order. The chest should be massaged in the end. The hands should move in upward direction in all parts of the body except the neck; massaging the neck from top to bottom is more useful. Care should be taken to massage the chest slightly away from the heart. Massaging should be done in the morning before bathing. It is most beneficial if done in an open space; it could be beneath the shade of a tree etc, in summer. In winter it should be in the sun; in case there is cold breeze, it is advised to do it inside a room.
A drop of oil could be poured in the ears while massaging them gently; this is quite useful against the problems of vat. Massaging the soles sharpens the eyesight because of the soothing effects on some nerves. Massaging should be done slowly; it need not take much time. (Although greater is the benefit if it is done for half an hour or so in case of adults). Some time should be given between massaging and bathing to help proper absorption of oil (for best effects, one should lie down or sit in a relaxed position for fifteen minutes or so if possible); shaving the beard and cleaning the nails etc could be done during this time. Massaging should be done every day. However, if one does not have time, it could at least be done on Sundays or holidays. Care should be taken not to do massaging for at least three hours after meal or eating something. Massaging should not be done during illness.
Shaving is a necessary requirement of the daily routine for adult males in most normal cases. Hardly do we know its importance other than looking and feeling neat and clean. The Ayurvedic scriptures (e.g. the shlokas below) tell us that this daily chore is important for mental and physical health, too.
Paushtikam Vrashyamayushyam Shuci Rupavirajanam |
Keshashmashrunakhadinam Kalpanam Samprasadhanam||
Papopashamanam Keshanakharomapamarjanam |
Harshalaghavasaubhagyakaramutsaha Vardhanam ||
Maharshi Charak (the founder of herbal medicines and Ayurvedic pharmacology) has defined "shaving" as a cleansing and beautifying exercise, which augments health, life span and happiness. The second shloka, which is from Sushruta Samhita, also has similar meaning (Maharshi Sushruta is revered as the founder of surgery in ancient India). It conveys that "shaving" everyday alleviates the evil tendencies of mind, reduces tension and heaviness and induces a cheerful mood and enthusiasm.
Therefore everyone who needs it should shave his face every day. It makes one feel neat and energetic. Those who like to grow beard should take care of cleaning it and keeping it orderly (and in proper shape as far as possible). Hair on the head should be cut at least once in 3 to 4 weeks. Women should also keep their hair clean and tidy. [It should be noted that the "kshaurkarma" also implies cleaning and cutting (wherever applicable) hair on all parts of the body and cleaning and cutting the nails]. Nails should also be cut regularly (once a week or fortnightly, in general) and cleaned everyday. The brush, razor etc used for cutting the hair, nail etc should also be kept clean. As far as possible, one should shave and cut the nails by himself; there are chances of infections in a barber's shop, as he uses the same shaving brush and razor for several people without taking care of disinfecting them regularly.
According to Ayurveda, regular exercise of the body is essential for everyone.
Sharira Cheshta Ya Cheshta Sthairyartha Balavardhini |
Deha Vyayama Sankhyata Matraya Tam Samacareta ||
The movements (and postures) of body aimed at stabilizing and strengthening it constitute what is known as "Physical Exercise".
As food is essential for sustenance of life, so is physical exercise vital for its health. A (mechanical) clock doesn't work without periodical winding. Similarly the body can't function properly without any physical exercise. Regular physical exercise is like the nectar-milk of Kamadhenu
(a heavenly cow referred in mythological scriptures) for good health.
According to Maharshi Charak,
Laghawam Karmasamarthyam Sthairya Duhkha Sahishnuta |
Physical exercise gives lightness to the body, increases its stamina (for hard work), stability and potential for tolerance. It helps in elimination of the bodily deficiencies and defects and augments the appetite.
As per the scripture named "Bhav Prakash" –
Vyayamadradhagatrayasya Vyadhirnasti Kadacana |
Viruddham Va Vidagdham Va Bhuktam Shighram Vipacyate ||
The body is strengthened by regular physical exercise and is prevented from catching diseases. Its capacity of resistance and defense (immunity) against diseases also increases. Physical exercise helps digestion of heavy food (which is difficult to digest easily).
Physical exercise is a must to avoid or reduce obesity. Regular exercises of the body keep one fit and cheerful. Such people are free from the 'usual' problems of old age. Proper physical exercises strengthen the muscles and keep the body in shape, harmonize the blood flow, give power to the lungs and energize the nerves.
Physical exercises should always be done at a place where there is sufficient flow of fresh air. For an average man and woman, it is advised to practice physical exercises that use only half or little more of their stamina in a given season. Different types of exercises are recommended for people of different age groups, physique and general health. For example, jogging is very good for young and healthy people but it may not suit the older ones.
Overdoing an exercise or stretching/stressing any part of the body beyond its limits proves to be harmful. The blind followers of aerobics or those going to the so-called heath-clubs out of craze or 'fitness fashion' centers should take special note of this. Ayurveda
warns us against the negative effects (balardha) of over- or improper (unsuitable to one's body) exercises:
Hradisthane Sthito Vayuryada Vakram Prapadhyate|
Vyayamam Kurvato Jantoh Stadvalardhasya Lakshanam ||
Kaksha Lalata Nasasu Hastapadadisandhishu |
Prasvedanamukha Shoshacca Balardhamtaddhi Nirdisheta||
If the air (oxygen) to be supplied to the heart begins to be absorbed in the mouth (i.e., gasping) then it is a sign of balardha. Unusual perspiration through the armpits, forehead, nose and leg-joints, etc implies balardha
The rishis of Ayurveda further say –
Kshayastranarucchirdi Raktapittabhramaklamah |
Kasashosha Jwarshwasa Ativyayama Sambhavah ||
Improper or over-exercising may lead to excessive thirst, vomiting, giddiness, piles, problems of blood circulation, cough, breathing problems, fever and even tuberculosis (due to excessive weakness) etc.
Should everyone practice physical exercise or is it inadvisable for some? In this regard the Ayurvedic treatises say:–
Raktapitti Krashah Shoshi Shwasakasakshataturah |
Bhuktavanstrishu Ca Kshino Bhramartashca Vivarjayet ||
The patients of plethora, asthmatic attack or severe cough, withering of body, acute anemia and underweight, heart disorders, vertigo, etc or the one who has just eaten or drunk something should not do physical exercise.
Ayurveda recommends practice of yoga
for physical and mental wellbeing. Yoga
in its true sense means the path, which leads to spiritual awareness. However, the trends today have, to a large extent, diluted and even distorted the meanings and forms of yoga. Moreover, people in sheer frantic hurry to get rid of specific health problems or eager to slim the body, often start practicing some of the asanas of yoga
as advertised in a magazine or 'taught' in a health club without realizing the possible adverse side-effects, unless these asanas are accompanied by some complementary asanas or without following the proper disciplines associated with them. Such practices should be avoided. All kinds of physical exercises or yoga
should be practiced under proper guidance. It is also important to understand the underlying philosophy of yoga.
In view of the time-constraints of the people today and realizing the need for comprehensive but easy to follow yoga-practices in today's life-style, Pandit Sriram Sharma Acharya had advocated a new set of yoga-exercises called "Pragya Yoga". It is taught in the training programmes of Gayatri
Teerth Shantikunj, Hardwar and at some of the branches of Gayatri
Mission in India and abroad where trained teachers are available. It has been found very effective and suitable for most people in the teenage to middle age group. The common urinary diseases, constipation and other digestive problems, mental and physical fatigue, stress etc are cured by its practice.
"Pragya Yoga" is especially effective in relaxing and strengthening the nerves and muscles and enhancing the grasping power of mind. It serves the triple purpose of strengthening the body, calming and energizing the mind and cleansing the inner emotional self. Its sincere practice with the japa
of Gayatri Mantra
helps in awakening the pragya (spiritually enlightened pure intellect).
Most of us are aware of the importance of morning walk. It is regarded as an integral part of the daily routine in Ayruveda. The morning time is ideally conductive for enhancing and purifying the physical and mental energies. The air is fresh and pure, especially near the plants and trees and is full of soothing fragrance. Its cool touch is very pleasant; even in the peak of winter one enjoys it (wearing sufficient warm clothes) and finds it energizing. The mild and soothing smell emerging from the soil in the early morning hours also has healthy effects.
For best effects one should walk silently with erect neck, straight spinal column and a relaxed but stretched chest. Both the hands should also move as much as possible while walking. Breathing should be deep and only through the nostrils (the mouth should be kept closed). Walk with as light and less clothes as feasible in the seasons of summer and autumn. Walking speed should be as fast as one could manage with ease. If possible, one should also jog for some time. The mind should be trained to visualise "through each in-breath, I am absorbing vital energy and radiance floating in Nature and throwing away the metabolic wastes, infirmities and defects with its exhalation….". Healthy youngsters should practice jogging and the elderly people should walk as much distance as possible every day. Despite their busy schedules, Mahatma Gandhi used to walk about four kilometers every day after his morning prayers and Maharshi Dayanand used to run around a long track.
The immediate gains of morning walk are elimination of constipation and digestive problems. Those suffering from erotic thoughts and untoward excitements and imaginations should practice running regularly every morning; it gives rapid remedial effects in such cases.
Any clean and airy place is good for morning walk. Although lawns, gardens or open grounds or terrace are the best for the purpose, there is also a substitute. Those who do not have access to these places can instead practice "Still march fast" (by folding the knees one after the other up to the stomach in each step keeping the thighs perpendicular to it while standing straight at one place) at a fast pace in an open room. This exercise should be practiced for about fifteen to thirty minutes.
Bathing every day at least once is a necessary discipline of Vedic way of life. It cleans the body and opens the skin pores. Bathing in the morning removes all the drowsiness and laziness and refreshes the body. It soothes the mind and hence helps in concentration, meditation, studies, etc. Water has been referred as amrat (nectar) and jivana (life) in the Vedas. Bathing with sufficient water is also regarded important in Naturopathy and Ayurveda.
Apa Id Va U Bheshajirapo Amivacatanih |
Apo Vishvasya Bheshajistastwa Muncantu Kshetriyat ||
Water is a medicine in itself; it is an enemy of diseases. It has the potential to kill diseases. It increases life-span and helps in well-being.
At one place the Vedas even say – "Bhishagyo Bhishaktara Apah |"
(Meaning: Water is the best among all medicines.)
Realizing this importance of water, water-therapy is given prominent place in Ayurveda
and Naturopathy. Many of the modern healing institutes also use it as a significant mode of prevention and cure. Dr. Louis of Germany used to treat all his patients by water-therapy alone.
Bathing every day helps healthy growth of the body and its activeness. Its obvious effects are cleansing and freshening of the body and inducing a feeling of freshness in the mind as well. Maharshi Charak has also affirmed these benefits in his treatise–
Pavitram Vrashyamayushyam Shramaswedamalapaham |
Sharira Balasandhanam Snanamojaskaram Param ||
The body is purified by bathing. Bathing enhances life span, eliminates fatigue, sweat and dirt. It augments the liveliness and force of the body.
According to Maharshi Sushruta –
Snanam Dahashramaharam Swedakandutrashapaham |
Hradyam Malaharam Shreshtham Sarvendriyavishodhanem ||
Tandrapapopashamanam Tushtidam Punsatva Vardhanam |
Raktaprasadanam Capi Snanamagneshca Dipanam ||
Bathing eliminates heat, fatigue, sweat, itching, and thirst. It cleans the sweat on the body, boosts up the heart and naturally cleans the sense organs. It removes the drowsiness and helps in recharging the blood circulation and energy; it also augments body-force.
Very warm water should not be used for bathing; as its heat has negative effects on the eyesight and on delicate skin. Bathing with cold (up to the temperature easily tolerable by one in a given season) water is best for healthy effects; it allays the excess heat of the body and plethora of other problems.
Bathing should be started from the head. At least three to four bathing-mugs full of water should be poured on the head in its straight and bent (comfortably by bending the neck) positions. Doing so helps outflow of the heat of the head and the whole body from the soles. The other parts of the body should then be bathed in succession from top to bottom. Using paste of besan (flour of gram pulse), turmeric and mustard oil, or suitable natural herbs twice or thrice a week is better than the soaps. The body should be rubbed by wet towel of khadi (raw cotton woven on handloom) or a similar rough fabric after bathing so that the skin pores are opened up properly. Care should be taken to wipe up all the joints (including those behind the ears and near the nostrils, etc) this way. The body should be clothed only after it has dried completely.
Do not bathe after having food or when having fever, or weakness due to dysentery, etc. Proper sponge bath could be taken while suffering from minor cold and/or some disease of ears or eyes. Bathing serves as a medicine as soon as the body is in a position to bathe comfortably.
The Ayurvedic texts describe –
Kamyam Yashasyamayushyamlakshamighnam Praharshanam |
Shrimatparishadam Shastam Nirmalambara Dharanam ||
Meaning: Neat and clean clothing has pleasant and healthy effect; it eliminates (the signs of) indigence and enables one to sit with the civilized and cultured people.
Different types of clothing are recommended (for best effects) for worshiping, working in the house, outing and sleeping. Different types of fabrics suit for different seasons; for example –light (especially white and light in texture), loose and thin clothes in summer, warm clothes (woolen, silky and dark colored that suppress kaph and vat) in winter and easily drying clothes (especially whitish) in autumn.
Washing one's clothes by oneself is a good physical exercise and also ensures careful cleaning. Do not wear unwashed clothes. Although the choice of color for healthiest effect on the mental and physical health depends on chromopathic and astrological theories in Ayurveda, it is generally true that very bright and gaudy clothing should be avoided. Tight clothes have negative effects on blood circulation and nervous system. Choice of clothing should be such that it allows comfortable movement of body and makes the personality graceful.
To be continued in the next issue)