DAILY HEALTH IN THE INDIAN AYURVEDIC SYSTEM by Dr. Aja Thomas The information presented in

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

DAILY HEALTH IN THE INDIAN AYURVEDIC SYSTEM by Dr. Aja Thomas The information presented in this book is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe. If you have a health problem, you should consult a competent health professional. INTRODUCTION BASICS OF THE AYURVEDIC AND TRIDOSHA SYSTEM HEALTH MAINTENANCE THROUGH DAILY ROUTINE MORNING ROUTINE EXERCISE/MEDITATION AND PRANAYAMA FOOD IN AYURVEDA SLEEP CONCLUSION BIBLIOGRAPHY ABOUT THE AUTHOR INTRODUCTION Ayurveda is the ancient Indian system of health and medicine. Literally, Ayurveda means knowledge (veda) of life (ayuh). It was, and is, therefore, not just a system of healing, but also daily preventative health for the body, mind, and soul. Even more than this, it is a system which can incorporate into it all forms and levels of healing modalities. Ayurveda is an adjunct to the original Vedas or holy scriptures of the Indian subcontinent, which are the basis for the entire ancient cultural civilization of that region. They encompassed not only the religion and philosophy, but their politics, military, science, language, art, theatre, etc. In one sense, Ayurveda make up all of these sciences since by the very definition of the word Ayurveda, they are all "sciences of life". But Ayurveda in its traditional usage is a system of health; a system that has many similarities to Naturopathy. In fact it is considered by some to be the origin of Naturopathy. One branch of Ayurveda is called Prakrtika Cikitsa which literally means Naturopathy or Nature Cure. The purpose of this book is to present an overview of the concepts and workings of Ayurveda with special emphasis on practical measures that can be taken on a regular basis. So rather than spend extensive time dealing with the more scientific and intricate aspects of Ayurveda, we will work on those areas which can be of specific assistance to each individuals physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. This will encompass such areas as diet, morning routine, meditation, sleeping - things that we do, or should do every day. BASICS OF THE AYURVEDIC AND TRIDOSHA SYSTEM The mainstay of Ayurveda is built on the tridosha system. Tridosha means three faults and refers to the three humors known as vata, pitta, and kapha. This system, very similar to the Oriental medical system, is based on the five element theory of Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. These five are combined to become the three primary energies of the body: Air (vata), Bile (pitta), and Mucus (kapha). Vata consists of the air and ether principles, pitta is the fire and water principles, and kapha is the earth and water elements. Thus it is considered that all facets of the anatomy and physiology are governed by one or another of the doshas and that homeostasis is the balance of these three doshas. Dis-ease then is their imbalance. Every living thing can be characterized by these three doshas, or elements, and they can be distinguished by their attributes. By noticing what attributes are predominant one can determine the dosha. The following chart gives the attributes of each of the doshas: VATA PITA KAPHA dry oily heavy light penetrating slow cold hot cold rough light oily subtle mobile slimy mobile liquid dense clear sour smell soft dispersing static To give a further understanding of the principles and functions of the three doshas we will consider them briefly one by one: Vata embodies the principle of movement like the wind. It governs movement in the body and is catabolic in nature. It governs breathing, movements in the muscles, tissue, cell plasma and membranes, nerve cells, blinking, heart contractions, all expansion and contractions. It also governs the emotional reactions of fear, nervousness, anxiety, pain, tremors, etc. Pitta embodies the principle of heat or fire. It is metabolic in nature and rules over all forms of digestion, metabolism, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, the body temperature, skin color and bodily luster, and luster of the eyes, as well as intelligence, understanding, and comprehension. It governs emotions of anger, hate, and jealousy. Kapha embodies the principle of water. It is anabolic and cements the elements. It is lubricating and gives resilience and strength. It gives moisture to the body, lubricates joints, heals wounds, is responsible for memory retention, maintains immunity, vigor, and stability. It is responsible for greed, attachment, and envy, as well as for understanding, love, compassion, and calmness. The doshas are also located primarily in specific areas. Vata is primarily found in the large intestines; pitta in the small intestines; kapha in the chest (lungs and stomach). As mentioned earlier, disease is caused by imbalance. When there is an imbalance of any of the following disease takes place: 1. imbalance of the doshas 2. imbalance of the digestion 3. imbalance of the 3 waste products (feces, urine, sweat) 4. imbalance of the senses 5. imbalance of body, mind and spirit Because all systems of the mind and body are inter-related, what effects one effects another. Ultimately the digestion will be effected. In Ayurveda, the gastrointestinal tract is considered the origin of health and disease for the body. When the digestion is affected the result is undigested food substance known as ama. In Naturopathy this is the equivalent of toxins. This ama is a thick dark matter which accumulates in the intestines. Eventually this ama enters into the circulatory system, settling into weakened areas of the body and manifesting as various symptoms. Thus is caused toxemia and disease. Ayurveda considers the mind and body closely connected, and since each dosha governs not only bodily functions, but mental functions, an imbalance in one will directly affect the other. For example, by repressing stress, worry, and anxiety, which are vata emotions, vata diseases can occur such as constipation. Or the reverse, where there is vata physical disorder, such as constipation, there may also be caused vata emotions of anxiety, nervousness, etc. So the daily routine is tied into physical, mental and spiritual equilibrium. The doshas also play a crucial aspect in diagnosing the patient for each individual has a particular constitution given by his or her parents at the time of conception. Therefore each person is classified as either: 1. kapha type, 2. pitta type, 3. vata type, 4. kapha-pitta type, 5. kapha-vata type, 6. pitta-vata type, or 7. kapha-pitta-vata type. And of course there are innumerable subdivisions of these seven. In the western systems of medicine, each particular disease is treated the same, generally without thought of the individual's particular constitution. For any given disease the same medications or treatments are prescribed for everyone. Ayurveda follows the advice of Sir William Osler, "it is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has." Therefore, it is essential to know one's individual constitution according to the doshas. The following series of categories will assist the individual in getting a better understanding of his own constitution. Each category is broken into three areas: vata, pitta, and kapha. For each category you need a total of three. If you are totally vata oriented under a particular category, then give vata three. If you are mostly vata but partly kapha, then give vata two and kapha one. If you can't decide between any of them, give each dosha one. When you have finished, count up all the vata points, pitta points, and kapha points, and you will have an idea of what dosha predominates in your physical constitution. One point - when you judge your characteristics, keep in mind not only your present tendencies, but tendencies throughout your life, as these can have a tendency to change somewhat. 1. Body Frame: V-Thin, very tall or very short P-Moderate build K-Large or stocky build, large bones 2. Weight: V-Underweight P-Medium, proper weight K-Overweight, heavy 3. Skin: V-Dry, rough, moles P-Soft, oily, warm, fair, yellow or red K-Oily, soft, pale or whitish, cool 4. Hair: V-Dry, brittle, dark, kinky P-Soft, oily, yellow, red, premature gray, K-Thick, oily, light or dark 5. Teeth: V-Large, crooked, protruding, poor gums P-Moderate size, soft gums, yellowish K-Strong and white 6. Eyes: V-Small, dull, dry, dark P-Medium, penetrating, green, gray, yellow K-Large, attractive, blue, thick eyelashes 7. Fingernails: V-Dry, brittle, and cracked P-Thin, flexible, soft K-Oily, hard, smooth 8. Appetite: V-Low P-Very strong K-Moderate 9. Thirst: V-Variable P-Excessive K-Low 10. Evacuation: V-Often constipated, dry, hard P-Soft and oily K-Slow but steady 11. Physical Activity: V-Very active, always moving, jittery P-Moderate K-Slow, lethargic 12. Sleep: V-Unsound, restless P-Sleeps little K-Heavy, long and sound 13. Dreams: V-Flying, jumping, running, fearful P-Fire, war, anger, violence, red K-Water, swimming, romance 14. Emotions: V-Anxiety, fearful, unpredictable, worry P-Anger, aggressive, irritable K-Greed, possessive, attached, but calm 15. Mind: V-Restless, agitated P-Aggressive, intelligent, determined K-Calm, slow 16. Faith: V-Sporadic, changing P-Extremist, fanatical K-Very steady, fixed 17. Memory: V-Recent memory good, long memory poor P-Sharp memory K-Slow to learn, but long term retention 18. Speech: V-Fast, rough voice P-Penetrating, sharp, loud K-Slow, monotonous 19. Pulse: V-Quick, snakelike, 80 to 100 bpm P-lumpy, froglike, 70 to 80 bpm K-Smooth, swanlike, 60 to 70 bpm 20. Money: V-Earns quickly, spends quickly P-Moderate earner, likes luxuries K-Saves money, slow to spend, wealthy Once one is aware of his constitutional type, he or his physician is better able to determine what dally routine, prescription, or treatment will be best suited to his needs. Not only can medications be prescribed by constitution, but also yoga exercises, breathing exercises, diets, types of massage, color therapy, and even the way one sleeps. HEALTH MAINTENANCE THROUGH DAILY ROUTINE First it must be understood the reasons for dally routines. Routines are not to be over-disciplined regiments to stifle the individual, but rather a regular program to encourage balance and equilibrium. Each individual entity is a microcosm of the universal macrocosm. We are small particles, qualitatively identical to this universal nature. Therefore we must maintain a balance with nature to remain in harmony with her. Nature is changing, from moment to moment, day to day, season to season. We must similarly change with her if we are to maintain harmony. Although it is often difficult to initiate a new routine or lifestyle, once it has been established it will become automatic and second nature. In the Vedic literature it is stated that those changes which are for the ultimate good of the individual will appear as poison in the beginning but nectar in the end. So the primary benefits of dally routine may be stated as bringing harmony between the individual and the environment, maintaining health due to harmony between the above mentioned items (man and universe, body-mind-spirit, the three doshas, etc.), and enhancement of a calm and peaceful mind, again due to the above mentioned harmonies. Before we begin to explain the various aspects of the daily routine, it is important to understand about time. Although this is far too short of book to describe the intricate workings of time as explained in the Vedic literatures, we will give a basic sampling with relation to Tridosha. All periods of time may be broken down into kapha, pitta, and vata periods where the predominating qualities of those doshas are prevalent. During a given 24 hour period you have two time segments for each dosha as follows: 6:am to 10:00 am - kapha 10:00 am to 2:00 pm - pitta 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm - vata 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm - kapha 10:00 pm to 2:00 am - pitta 2:00 am to 6:00 am - vata These are not to be considered exact, but fluctuate somewhat according to season. Through keeping personally aware, one can get an idea of what dosha is predominant at a given time. Because of the above time frames, the first item of the daily routine, rising, should be done shortly before sunrise in the vata period. Vata, again, is the principle of movement, so to arise in this period ensures that vata dosha will be functioning to help in the elimination of urine and feces. It is also the quietest time of day known in the Vedic literature as Brahma Muhurta (time of spiritual awakening). For this reason it is also the best period for prayer and meditation. This will be more carefully examined later in the book. The doshas also have their aspect on the seasons. Fall is the vata period of wind, drying, and cracking. Winter is the period of kapha with cold and heaviness. Spring is kapha and pitta of warming. Just like when the sun melts the snows in spring, the coming warmth of spring and summer melt the built up kapha, often giving rise to spring colds. And summer is pitta with extreme heat. In regards to metabolism too, this may be seen. Winter and spring are a time of building up (anabolism); Summer is a time of maintenance (metabolism); and fall is the time for dwindling (catabolism). The periods of man's life are also governed by the doshas. In childhood is kapha, anabolism, as the child grows and builds. Children are especially susceptible to mucus diseases. In adulthood the fire of pitta predominates and man is driven to work, maintain, and the passions that bring progeny. A too typical example of a pitta disorder in this period of life is the ulcer. And finally in old age is the vata period of dwindling catabolism. Drying up, shrinking and coolness are prevalent in this stage. Such vata diseases which manifest during this time are arthritis, constipation, sciatica, rheumatism, etc. In fact, classical Ayurvedic texts have classified diseases according to dosha. There are 80 vata or air diseases as follows: Cracking of nails, boils on legs, pain in the legs, fractures in legs, anesthesia in legs, paralysis of legs, pain in the ankle, pain in the soles, sciatica, pain in the knee, fracture of the knee, paraplegia, carbuncle, lameness, prolapsus ani, piles, pruritis scrotal, phymosis, intussusception, pain in the thighs, paralysis of the feet, dwarfishness, pain in lower spine, bubo, pain in the sides, gas in the stomach, heart palpitation, contraction of the chest, pain in the chest, drying of the arms, lock- jaw, wry-neck, pain in the shoulder, pain in the lips, pain in the eyes, pain in the teeth, looseness of teeth, dumbness, nasal voice, indistinct voice, speechlessness, astringent taste in mouth, dryness of mouth, otitts, hardness of hearing, capacity to hear loud words only, obstruction of passages, contraction of passages, cataract, pain in the head, facial paralysis, paralysis of one side, general paralysis, convulsion, general lassitude, giddiness, shivering, yawning, hiccup, moroseness, delirium, tired feeling, roughness, discoloring of the limbs, sleeplessness, epilepsy, ocular diseases, diseases of the eyebrows, pain in the forehead, cracks on the head, pain on lower forehead, headache, unmindfulness, forgetfulness, fissure on lips, pain in the rectum, piercing in chest, hernia, crookedness of penis, hysteria. There are 40 pitta or fire diseases: Feeling of heat on sides, a little internal burning, burning sensation over body, burning of the eyes, putrefied gastric gas, eructation of acid food, semi-digestion, internal combustion, burning in a particular limb, excess of heat, excess of perspiration, foul smell from body, fissures of the body, dirty matter in blood, dirty matter on flesh, burning of skin, fissures of the dermis, fissures of the skin, urticaria, red boils, pits on the skin, hematemesis, jaundice, yellowishness, black pimples on skin, painful boils, chlorosis, bitter taste, taste of blood, putrefied taste, excessive thirst, feeling of everlasting hunger, ulcer in the mouth, ulcer in the throat, ulcer in the eyes, ulcer in the rectum, ulcer of the penis, hemorrhage, dusky sight, yellow urine/eyes/and stool. The kapha (water) diseases are twenty in number: Unliking for food, drowsiness, excess sleep, numbness, heaviness, dullness, salivation, sweet taste, coughing out phlegm, loss of strength, indigestion, heaviness of chest, inflammation of veins, goltre, excess of fat, coldness of limbs, urticaria, whiteness of eyes, whiteness of urine, whiteness of stool. This should give the reader some indication of how disease is classified in Ayurveda, and the part time plays in health. For our purposes, however, he should mostly be aware of the doshas during the day to understand balance and routine. MORNING ROUTINE The first order of business in the morning is rising. As already mentioned, one should rise before sunrise. Why should one rise before sunrise? This is the most harmonious time as it is the most physically, mentally and spiritually balancing period of the day. About ninety minutes before dawn, and again one half hour before dawn, there is a surge of energy which takes place. It is at this second surge that the balance of the body is established and the blood chemistry is set up for the day. By being awake, cleansed and aware it will augment this balancing and lead to a happier day with more stamina and equilibrium. Immediately upon awakening, before rising, one should take a moment to center oneself with a positive frame of mind, offering prayer and respects to ones chosen object of worship. This will help to eliminate that "getting up on the wrong side of bed" syndrome. Starting your day from the very beginning in a conscious frame of mind will do much to keep the rest of the day running smooth. After rising one should first take a glass of room temperature water with optional juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon added to it. This daily regiment will help to cleanse the system in three ways. First of all, by drinking the water it stimulates the gastrointestinal tract to help in the elimination of feces. Secondly the lemon is antiseptic and antibacterial and works to cleanse the entire gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach, where we tend to accumulate excess mucus and kapha. And thirdly, the water also assists the kidneys and bladder in their functions of removing toxins from the system. All this will be helpful in the next duty of elimination. Generally no one has any trouble eliminating urine in the morning, but few people will have a good bowel movement. Our lemon water drink will be very effective for this and will be especially effective with the addition of a simple exercise. Bend your knees and place your hands on your thighs with the fingers pointing in. What you are doing is half supporting your upper torso on your thighs. Now blow out all of the air from your lungs, and while holding the air out, suck in your abdomen, pulling it in and up. Then push it out again and suck it in, doing this about 10 times, all while you are holding your breath out. What this does is to swish the water around in your stomach, helping to cleanse it, and stimulates the small and large intestines to move. It is also extremely beneficial for all of the organs of the abdomen, as it stimulates blood flow into these areas. The best method for naturally stimulating the bowel is to squat. Our modern toilet bowls are completely unnatural and unsuitable for healthy elimination of feces, and are part of the reason we have such a high rate of constipation, hemorrhoids, and other colon problems. It is best to squat actually on the toilet rim which puts one in the natural position for a bowel movement. At first it may take some time, but as the body becomes accustomed to this practice, one will easily and fully eliminate feces each morning. This practice insures a wholesome clean condition first thing, free from fear of reabsorbing toxins sitting overlong in the bowel. And assuming that one has risen just prior to dawn, the movement of vata, along with drinking the water will help in the effective elimination process. After one has evacuated it is time to clean the mouth and teeth. Of course in the west we generally use toothbrushes of which the soft variety are best. However, in other countries, or here if one prefers, a stick may be used. Generally a twig from a bitter or medicinal tree such as Eucalyptus should be used. It should be about half the diameter of the little finger and approximately 6 inches long. The end farthest from the tree should be chewed until soft and the soft, chewed end used in a manner similar to a toothbrush to clean the teeth and massage the gums and spaces between teeth. In general sweet types of toothpastes, as we have in the west, should be avoided, but rather an astringent tooth powder should be used, or you can make your own. The best tooth cleansers should include ingredients which are pungent, bitter, astringent, cleansing and course. Ingredients might include black pepper (pungent), cinnamon (astringent and pungent), salt (course), peppermint (cleansing), witch hazel (bitter), goldenseal (astringent) and mustard or sesame oil to hold it together. Oil may also be used to massage the gums with or without some of the above items. Next one should scrape the tongue. Standardly, a manufactured tongue scraper is used. This is a thin flat piece of metal about 1/2 inch wide and about 10 inches long shaped into a "U". The tongue is extended from the mouth and scraped starting slightly inside the mouth outwards or towards the front. In lieu of a tongue scraper a silver or stainless steel spoon may be used. This process cleans the toxins from the tongue which have accumulated over night and also helps to stimulate the digestive and other organs through reflex action. Generally the toothbrush is not suitable for scraping or brushing the tongue. At this time it is a good idea to examine the face and tongue, Ayurvedic methods of diagnosis. By examining the lines and wrinkles of the face one may determine if disease or disorder is present. Examples here would include vertical lines on the forehead between the eyebrows. A line on the right indicates repressed emotions or toxins in the liver while a line on the left indicates the same for the spleen. Puffiness of the lower eyelids indicates problems in the kidneys while a butterfly like discoloration on the cheeks below the kidney region, or on the nose, indicates malabsorption of iron or folic acid. In examining the lips, if they are (dry, rough and cracked this is an indication of vata derangement and dehydration, and a need for more liquids, especially water. Pale lips are a sign of anemia, while yellow or blue lips can indicate jaundice or heart disorders respectively. Colors of the tongue are also indicative of various disorders: pale- anemia; yellow-excessive bile or liver disorder; blue-heart disorder. If there is a heavy, whitish coating on the tongue it indicates undigested toxins in the digestive tract. If the coating is present towards the middle, toxins are present in the stomach and small intestines; and towards the back, in the colon. A vertical line down the center of the tongue indicates that emotions are being held in the spine. If there is a curve in the line it may indicate a curvature in the spine. If the curve is at the tip, it would indicate cervical vertebrae; towards the middle or back, thoracic or lumbar respectively. Impressions of the teeth along the front and forward sides of the tongue indicate unabsorbed nutrients while teeth impressions along the side of the tongue suggest delicate lungs. Dry, cracked tongue is indicative of chronic vata derangement in the colon. Small white patches on either side of the rear of the tongue suggest kidney disorder. After the examination of the face, and prior to the bath one should massage the body with oil. This may be done dally, or at least two or three times weekly. Massage helps to balance the doshas and enhances the movement of energy within the body. It also acts to stimulate the lymphatic circulation, which is essential to the defense system of our body. Different oils should be used according to the constitution of the individual. Mustard seed oil is the all around best type of oil. However, as it can irritate some peoples skin, you may want to test it on yourself first. For vata types, sesame oil is recommend with strokes going against the direction of body hair growth. This helps the oil to penetrate into the skin as the vata type constitution generally has very dry skin. Stroke should be very light. For the pitta type constitution a cooling oil such as sunflower or sandalwood should be used. Again, massage strokes should be light. For the kapha person, they may use corn oil, calamus root oil, or no oil at all. Mustard oil would be especially good for the kapha type person due to its heat. Massage for the kapha type should be deeper. Finally one may take his bath, or in the west preferably a shower. Although seven types of bath are mentioned in the Vedic literatures, including bath of the mind, bath by mantra or prayer, rain/sun baths, etc. we will restrict ourselves to the more common water bath. It is suggested that amongst water baths, a pond is good, a lake is better, and a river is best. Translated into western civilization, a shower is better for general cleansing than a tub bath, as it has the advantages of washing away dirts and oils, as well as excessive psycho-electrical energies, massaging and stimulating the body. The bath temperature should be cool or slightly warm ending with cool, unless the bather is old, infirm, or diseased in which case warm water may be used. In no case should excessively hot water be used for general bathing and especially never on the head. Bathing with, or ending with cool water is extremely beneficial, as it stimulates the circulation,and nervous systems, and this one practice can do more towards making a personal feel vital and alive than almost any other simple practice. Bath should be taken at least each morning, while for some it is suggested taking twice or three times dally. EXERCISE/MEDITATION/PRANAYAMA Following the bath one should perform daily exercise. In Ayurveda it is felt that super strenuous exercises as are prevalent in the west can actually be detrimental to the body. They may result in physical strength but they can also lead to an imbalance of the doshas. Ayurveda recommends yoga exercises for its bodily benefits as well as mental and spiritual effects. Yoga is supreme for balancing the doshas within the body and can be used simultaneously for any of the purposes that more vigorous exercises are used. For instance, for losing weight the shoulder stand is excellent as it brings blood and stimulation to the thyroid gland in the neck, one of the primary organs responsible for weight balance and metabolism, especially in women. This one exercise is also beneficial for hyperthyroidism, constipation, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, liver disorders, excessive anger, sexual debility, sore throat, asthma, emphysema, and a host of other ailments. In addition to its effect of balancing the doshas and strengthening the body, yoga also has the result of calming the mind, for yoga postures are performed in a slow, peaceful manner, with a centered mind. This has both an immediate calming effect and long term result of a calm and peaceful countenance. A final result of daily yoga postures is their benefit in opening the various energy and spiritual channels of the body, most notably those purported to reside in the spine. According to Ayurvedic and yogic anatomy, there resides within the spinal column three subtle channels called the pingala, ida, and sushumna. Through the practice of yoga asanas or postures, meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises) the most subtle energies of prana and ojas are directed up the spine to the seven energy centers known as chakras (literally wheel). The practitioner of yoga experiences various levels of spiritual realization and consciousness as he is able to direct the energies to each higher chakra successively. On a more practical and mundane level there are many health benefits to the daily practice of both meditation and pranayama. First we will consider briefly pranayama. Pranayama (literally control of breath or prana) is performed prior to meditation. It has innumerable forms all based on the concept of prana which is both oxygen and a more subtle energy simultaneously tapped through pranayama practice. In addition to its more spiritual aspects, specific pranayama practices can be chosen for their benefit to particular diseases. For instance the cooling breath known as sheetali is performed by inspiring air through the curled tongue. Its cooling results help to alleviate pitta or heat disorders. The breath of fire, is as the name suggests, warming to the body and is recommended for those kapha disorders or overweight individuals. The practice of pranayama also is used in preparation for meditation, as it has the effect of quieting and clearing the mind, and awakening the subtle and spiritual energies. Of course, few if any of these claims can be scientifically proven other than through the personal endeavors and experiences of the practitioner. As the adage states, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating". One of the most common and beneficial pranayama practices is the alternating breath. This is especially beneficial before meditation to calm the mind, or when having trouble failing asleep at night. It works on the principle that the right and left nostrils correspond to the right and left hemispheres of the brain, as well as to the channels of the spine (ida, pingala, and shushumna) mentioned earlier. There is a whole system known as swar yoga, which is based on this principle, and allows people to perform all daily functions at the time of maximum potential, depending on which nostril (and therefore brain hemisphere) is predominating. The method for alternating breath is as follows. First, with your right hand you should place your thumb on the right side of your nose, and either the index or middle finger on the left side of the nose. Close the left nostril with whichever finger you are using and inhale through the right nostril. Hold the inhaled breath by plugging the right nostril, and then open the left nostril and exhale through it. Now reverse the process and inhale through the already opened left nostril, plug and hold, and open the right nostril and exhale through it. This is considered one "round", and you should do ten rounds at one sitting. There is some controversy amongst teachers as to the length of time you should inhale, hold and then exhale. Ultimately it should be in a 1:4:2 ratio. In other words, you would inhale for 8 counts, hold for 32 counts, and exhale for 16 counts. However this can be dangerous if done incorrectly, and should best be learned under the direction of a competent yoga teacher. You might want to try something more comfortable like inhaling for 8, holding for 8, and exhaling for 8, and gradually increasing the count as you feel comfortable with it. The next item on our daily agenda is our meditation. When I speak of meditation I use the term in a very general sense. For some meditation might mean prayer, for others repetition of mantras (holy words or names of God), for still others recitation and study of scriptures, or for some the silent contemplation of themselves, nature or God. But basically it is a period to take time out of the day to acknowledge and contemplate a Higher Being or Cause. No matter what type of meditation one prefers, I definitely advise spending at least some time in quiet meditation with eyes closed, as most of us have so much visual, mental, and auditory commotion going on all day long that it is a great relief to the system to stop as much of it as possible, even for a few minutes. The actual health benefits of meditation may be arguable, but it is my contention that such practice helps to foster emotions and attributes of a higher nature including humility, compassion, sensitivity, and love. There are probably as many methods of meditation as there are practitioners. However, we will briefly outline the basics of several methods for the benefit of those who would like to start. It is worth noting, though, that in nearly any city there are qualified yoga and meditation teachers that can give you the benefit of personal instruction. A very common type of meditation which is easy for anyone, is meditation on the breath. In nearly all meditation techniques it is best to sit up straight, with head erect and spine in alignment. Don't make it so steel-pole rigid that it is uncomfortable, but definitely don't slump, either. If you can sit on the floor in one of the meditation postures (i.e. lotus, half lotus, or cross-legged), that is great. If not, sitting in straight backed chair is also fine. Generally it is not a good idea to lie down, as there is too much of a tendency to fall asleep. Sleeping and meditating don't go very well together, at least not at the same time. Now sit with your hands comfortably in your lap, preferably palms up, and close your eyes. Take a long slow inhalation, hold for a moment, and then let it forcibly come out. Do this three times to help you release any tensions. Now as you start to breath in and out, mark your breaths. This can be done by simply saying in your mind "one" on the in breaths and "two" on the out breaths..."one ... two ... one ... two..." and so on. Spiritual words or mantras can also be used, if one is inclined, which help by their spiritual sound vibrations. (Man means mind and tra means to deliver, thus mantra means to deliver the mind.) For instance, ham (pronounced hong like song) and sah (pronounced like saw). Ham is mentally chanted on the inhalation and sah on the exhalation. Besides their intrinsic benefit through their particular sound vibration, ham and sah also have meanings. Ham means "I" and sah means "He" or "that", the translation being that "I am He", or "I am That", allowing us to recognize our union with the spiritual nature. Another meaning of the words combined, hamsa, is swan. In the Vedic literature, the swan is a symbol of spiritual life, as it is seen peacefully swimming on placid lakes. The swan is also said to be able to separate milk from water, drinking the milk and leaving the water behind. This is meant to be analogous to living in the world enjoying the higher material and spiritual things of life, while leaving the lower material elements behind. Another meditation method using spiritual words is a more passive meditation technique. The others are more contemplative, requiring concentration. This type involves picking your mantra such as om (rhymes with home), hari (huhree), or even Jesus, Allah, or Krishna. In this method you don't really concentrate on the word, but let it just appear naturally and innocently in your mind. Don't force it, but let it just be, and you be with it. In any of these methods, if your mind is carried away by other thoughts, don't chastise yourself mentally, but gently bring your attention back to the mantra or breathing, and continue. At first you will probably find your mind wandering consistently, but as you practice, gradually you will find your mind settling down and a peaceful feeling coming over you. Eventually this will carry over more and more into your non- meditation time, and you, and others, will start to notice a difference. One meditative practice which is claimed to have a more physiological benefit is known as tratak. This is the practice of staring at a flame. The flame is prepared by placing a cotton wick in a small lamp of ghee (clarified butter), or vegetable oil. The lamp is lit and placed approximately eleven inches before the seated practitioner at eye level. The practitioner stares at the flame with both eyes wide open and unblinking until tears come to both eyes. At this point the eyes are closed and focused upwards between the eyebrows, and concentrating on the after image of the flame until it disappears. The flame is not looked at again for at least 20 minutes. Theoretically this practice works toward the decalcification of the pineal gland, considered by some to be the master gland of the body. The pineal gland ossifies around the age of puberty to 16 years of age, after which many modern scientists and biologists consider it a secondary gland. However in yoga science, this gland is said to rule all the others and that it is also related to the awakening of very high spiritual understanding in the individual. Since it is considered to be sensitive to light, the practice of flame watching acts to decalcify the pineal, allowing it to function properly for both its material and more subtle purposes. Quiet meditation has also been shown to have a very beneficial physiological effect. A number of studies performed by leading institutes have demonstrated that during meditation there is a marked decrease in metabolic rate, oxygen consumption, and cardiac output, with an increase in alpha brain wave activity. (Alpha waves are associated with less linear thought patterns, more abstract and meditative processes.) It was concluded to be beneficial for patients of high blood pressure, hypertension, insomnia and many others. All from an ancient daily practice. FOOD IN AYURVEDA To those interested in natural health, there is no question as to the importance of food - "you are what you eat". Even the western medical system appears to have a concern for proper nutrition, although advocates of a natural organic diet would scarcely agree with the western orthodox view of nutrition. The Ayurvedic system of diet, however, is somewhat unique in its approach. Though it does, for the most part, suggest more natural wholesome food, unlike many other natural health systems, it does not advocate the same healthy foods for everyone, especially when ill. Rather it is divided by constitution. For instance someone suffering from kapha disorders would be advised against taking fresh sweet fruits as this would increase kapha. Or one with vata disorders is not advised to take raw vegetables but rather cooked vegetables only, as vata is cool by nature and often vata disorders are accompanied by an inability to digest raw foods. Following is a listing showing some of the approved and discouraged foods according to each constitution. This list should not be considered a strict dietary regimen, but rather as a guideline for increasing balance and harmony. The principles of diet in Ayurveda are fairly complex and are based not only on constitution but taste, aftertaste, energies, etc. VATA DIET Vata individuals should take wheat, brown rice, and basmati rice and should avoid oats, barley, millet, corn, rye, and buckwheat. Kidney beans and tofu should be the only beans taken. All nuts are okay if taken in small quantity. All seeds are also fine. Dairy products are good for vata people (taken warm - no ice cream or cold milks). Sweet fruits are good, but dry fruits, apples and melons are best avoided. Vegetables should be cooked, not raw. Good vegetables include beets, carrots, asparagus, sweet potato, radish, okra, onion, and hot peppers. Vegetables to avoid include potatoes, tomatoes, beans, squash, mushroom, peas and leafy greens. All oils are good for vata people, as are all sweeteners and spices (except white sugar). For non-vegetarians, chicken, turkey (white meat only), seafood and fried or scrambled eggs are good. Beef, rabbit and venison should be avoided. PITTA DIET Pitta individuals should take wheat, basmati rice, oats, and barley, and avoid millet, brown rice, corn, rye, and buckwheat. All beans should be avoided except kidney beans and tofu. No nuts or seeds except coconut and sunflower seeds. In dairy, milk, ghee (clarified butter), and unsalted cheese are okay, while yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, and salted cheese should be avoided. Sweet fruits are good while sour fruits are not. Fruits to be taken include mango, orange, pears, plums and sweet pineapple. Fruits which are best to avoid include grapefruit, olives, papaya, peach, persimmon, banana, and sour pineapple. Sweet and bitter vegetables are best and include asparagus, cabbage, cucumber, potato, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom and leafy vegetables. Pungent vegetables should be avoided including hot peppers, radish, tomato, carrots, beets, onion, and garlic. Olive, sunflower and soy oils may be taken by pitta individuals, but almond, sesame, and corn should not. For pitta, all sweeteners are okay except molasses and honey. No spices except coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, turmeric, and very small amounts of black pepper. For non-vegetarians, chicken or turkey (white meat only), egg whites, rabbit and venison may be taken, while beef, seafood, and egg yolk should not. KAPHA DIET Kapha people should eat rye, corn, millet, barley, buckwheat, and basmati rice, and should avoid white and brown rice, wheat, and oats. All beans may be taken by kapha people except kidney beans and tofu and they should take no nuts or seeds except sunflower. The only dairy to be taken is ghee and goat's milk. Dry fruits should be taken including apple, pomegranate, pears, persimmons, and cranberry. Sweet fruits should be avoided including banana, melons, coconut, dates, figs, papaya, orange, plums, and pineapple. Pungent and bitter vegetables are best including hot peppers, radish, asparagus, beets, broccoli, potato, eggplant, squash, mushroom and leafy greens, while kapha types should avoid sweet and juicy vegetables including cucumber, okra, sweet potatoes, tomato, and cauliflower. Kapha people should avoid all oils except almond, corn, and raw honey. All spices are good except salt. And for non-vegetarians, chicken or turkey (dark meat), rabbit, venison, and eggs (not fried or scrambled) may be taken, and seafood and beef avoided. Although in Ayurveda there is concession made for those who wish to partake of a non-vegetarian diet, still it is recommended that for maximum physical, as well as spiritual health, the strictly vegetarian diet is considered supreme. Another aspect of the Ayurvedic diet is when to eat. First is the time of day. As we mentioned earlier, the period between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm is the pitta period, when the sun is highest and the fire of digestion strongest. This is considered the best time to eat and to eat the largest meal. Smaller meals may be taken in the morning and/or the evening, but one should not eat until the previous meal has been digested, or approximately three hours for a light meal and six hours for a heavier meal. Also one should not eat for at least three hours before going to bed, nor before sunrise or after sunset. How to eat is probably more important than when and what you eat. Food is not merely a combination of chemicals, vitamins, minerals or enzymes; it contains many more subtle energies as well. Food should be looked on as spiritual nourishment in addition to material sustenance. it is stated in the Vedic literature that those who are peaceful or spiritually inclined, eat only that food which has first been sanctified by spiritual love, and that those who merely cook and eat for their own sense gratification are eating only sin. In other words, every act connected to the intake of food must be performed in an attitude of love, both for the source of the food (be it God or Nature), and for the eater of the food (be it oneself or others). Negative emotions of anger, hate, guilt, etc. while preparing food can very deeply affect the nature of that food, just as those same emotions can wreak havoc on the digestion and assimilation by the eater. On a subtle level, emotions and thought patterns are considered to have a very real and quasi- physical nature of their own, which can influence other objects and individuals. Through understanding of this principle, one can observe his own emotions in relation to various activities and endeavor to maintain a more loving and spiritual attitude, for his own and others benefit. Before ending there are several other more mechanical aspects of eating that should be brought up. First, how much should one eat? Two formulas are recommended, although they are basically the same in principle. They are that one should fill the stomach with: 1.) 1/2 food, 1/4 liquid, and 1/4 air; and 2.) 1/3 food, 1/3 liquid, and 1/3 air. Secondly, how do you tell when you're done eating if you shouldn't eat until stuffed? Here, it is considered that the first eructation is the body's signal that eating should cease. Lastly, what do you do for poor digestion? Ayurveda has many ways to approach this, however there are several simple remedies that we may mention. A number of spices are beneficial to the digestion including anise, black or red pepper, cumin, cardamom, licorice, and most notably, ginger. In fact ginger is the foremost of all herbs to use to enkindle the digestive fires. An excellent pre-meal appetizer is to eat thin slices of fresh ginger root which have soaked in lemon juice, another beneficial product for the digestion. If this seems to be too great of an endeavor, than simply chewing and swallowing a small piece of fresh ginger root will do nicely. SLEEP Now that we have gotten up, exercised, meditated, and eaten, a few words should be said about sleeping. Sleeping with the head towards the east and south are considered superior, as they are in balance with the magnetic fields of the earth. Kapha and vata people should sleep on their left side while pitta people should sleep on the right. The reason for this is that the left and right nostrils are governed by the lunar and solar influences respectively. Therefore by sleeping on the left side, the right nostril will open bringing more heat to the body; and sleeping on the right will open up the left or lunar nostril, bringing a cooling effect. To a certain extent, the amount of sleep needed will be according to the individuals needs and health, however, there are some guidelines according to age, which adjusts every seven years. A child of one to seven years requires 10 to 12 hours of sleep. For the next 7 years, 8 to 10 hours. In the third seven years (14 to 21) 6 to 8 hours. A man in his fourth seven years (21 to 28) requires 5 to six hours. A person of 28 to 35 (fifth seven years) requires 4 to 5 hours. A man in his sixth seven years needs 3 to 4 hours, and anyone beyond that should require very little sleep. These figures reflect the time for those in perfect health. CONCLUSION Ayurveda is a science which merits research. We cannot consider it a perfect science as many of the original texts were, and still are, lost for many centuries, thus leaving us with many holes in what was once a very thorough philosophy. But there has been a recent resurge in interest in Ayurveda with the growing discontent in modern allopathic medicine, both amongst the people of India and those of the West. Some research and experimentation has already been done, but how many more could be benefited if the whole range of Ayurvedic arts was studied and delineated to the advantage of all. It is our request to the sincere students of natural health that they take an open minded look at the art and science of Ayurveda and adopt that which they feel appropriate, for themselves and humankind. Completed on the Purnima (full moon) of the month of Sridhara Appearance day of Sri Rohininandana Baladevaji August 11, 1984 OM TAT SAT BIBLIOGRAPHY Charaka Samhita, by R.K. Sharma and Bhagwan Dash. Chowkamba Sanskrit Series Office The Hidden Secret of Ayurveda, by Robert Svoboda. Trishula Publications The Science of Tridosha, by B. Bhattacharyya. Health Research Dhanwantari, By Harish Johari. Rams Head, Inc. Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing, by Dr. Vasant Lad. Lotus Press ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Aja Thomas works to blend East and West toward healing all levels. He utilizes the Ancient Ayurvedic techniques with Western modalities including iridology, Herbalism, and Nature Cure. Dr. Thomas feels that a 'band-aid' approach to healing, no matter what type of therapy, is insufficient to remove disease. Total health is an incorporation of body, mind, and spirit, and therefore must be approached on all levels if there is to be true healing. It is a journey directed toward total healing from within. Dr. Thomas received his Doctor of Naturopathy Degree from the International University in Australia. His training in Ayurveda came through Dr. Vasant Lad's Charaka Association of Ayurvedic Medicine, and by studying the works of Drs. Dash, Thakkur, Svoboda, Lad, and others. He has studied iridology with Dr. Bernard Jensen, and is a Certified Iridologist. In 1975 in Vrndavana, India, he received Brahmana Gayatri Diksha initiation, authorizing him to teach the Vedic Sciences. Presently teaching and counseling in Portland, Oregon, Dr. Thomas would be pleased to hear from you. Write c/o: ATMA P.O.-Box 06381 Portland, Oregon 97206

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank