|The primary aim of ayurved, the science of life, is to bring the physical body into a state of balance and maintenance of that state of balance and to correct the imbalances, if there are any, by the aid of diets, regimens and therapies.
A healthy body is one in which vat, pitta and kapha are in a state of balance, the digestive fire and all other fires which perform chemical activity in our body are balanced and the actions of tissue elements (dhatus) and excretory organs are in harmony. When the soul, the senses and mind are satisfied and happy only then the individual is considered to be healthy. Physical body derives energy from the food that we eat. The nutrients (prasad) which are required for the functioning of the body are separated from the waste (mala) which is thrown out of the body by the excretory system. The nutrients are converted into 7 tissue elements or dhatus called rasa (lymph), rakta (blood), mansa (muscles), meda (fat), asthi (bones), majja (marrow) and sukra (semen). In a healthy body these 7 dhatus are also in a state of equilibrium.
Also the proper functioning of the excretory system plays an important role in keeping the body in balance, as, if the waste that needs to be expelled out of the body, if not eliminated in proper time starts rotting in the colon and generates ama, which creates imbalance in the entire system. Therefore, according to ayurved if the doshas, dhatus and excretory system are functioning properly, the senses and the mind are satisfied, one is considered to be a healthy individual.
Preservation of energy and maintaining stability in the body are the two means of achieving a healthy state. Ayurved prescribes daily routine (dincharya), night routine (ratricharya) and seasonal routine (ritucharya) to aid the conservation of energy and health. Ayurved talks about diets, regimens and habits advantageous and detrimental to health in detail.
Just as vat, pitta and kapha are three pillars on which the body stands; ayurved has enunciated three basic supports or aids for attainment of complete health.
These basic supports are:
- Ahar or a balanced diet
- Nidra or complete rest and
- Brahmacharya i.e. celibacy
In our daily routine the energy consumed as well as compensation for wear and tear of the tissues primarily comes from the food that we eat. Food, water and air are the three main sources of prana in the body and come under ahar.
The food that we eat gives us life, radiance, memory, ojus and is also primarily responsible for digestive and metabolic activity of our system.
In the Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna describes sattvik bhojan as that food which contains rasa, or is juicy and palatable, unctuous (containing some amount of fat), which brings stability, is a tonic to the heart, easily digestible and is liked by the individual. This type of ahar can be called as a balanced diet.
The principle on which ayurvedic diet is based is “samanya vridhi karanam” i.e. articles of identical quality enhance the tissue elements (dhatus) e.g. rasa increases rasa dhatu in the body, meat increases mansa dhatu and fats increase fat in the body.
Taking this fact we can classify food into 4 categories:
- Which compensates for the wear and tear of the body and increase the tissue elements. Also the ligaments and tendons e.g. Milk, eggs, meat and pulses.
- Foods which provide necessary heat to our body e.g. cereals (anna), sugar, potatoes etc.
- Food which gives vitality and glow to the body which aids the conservation of ojus e.g. ghee (from cow’s milk), butter, oil etc.
- Food which helps or aids digestion, absorption and elimination e.g. water and other liquids, enzymes, spices.
(To be continued.)
—The writer is an Ayurveda expert from Dhyan Foundation.
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