Ayurveda’s 3 Pillars of Health
In Ayurveda, there are three pillars of health: ahara (food), nidra (sleep) and brahmacharya (balanced sexual drive). When all three are in balance, they make for a properly nourished, adequately rested and sexually healthy human being. Lacking this critical balance, the individual will suffer from a myriad of disorders, ranging from headaches to infertility.
Food is the best way to prevent disease and optimize health. Ayurveda has complete recommendations about the preparation (samskar) of food, the time of its intake, avoiding unwholesome (apathya) foods and recognizing wholesome (pathya) foods. There are guidelines on how to steer clear of incompatible combinations called viruddha ahar, which generate toxins in the system (such as mixing fruits and dairy, or fish and milk, or salt and milk). The ancient Ayurvedic texts teach us about the way these food toxins act upon the body, and how those toxins can be digested or metabolized by special diet protocols called aam pachana.
There are classifications of foods, including the relevance of foods and recipes in common disorders, such as digestive complaints, colds, coughs, parasites, etc. There are special regimens for pregnant and lactating women, geriatric needs, foods to nourish children from the day of birth till adulthood, fertility protocols, convalescence diets, and much more.
Once an individual understands Ayurvedic fundamentals and its science of food, life is transformed. The concepts of pathya and apathya apply not only to food, but also to behavior. There is an extensive general list for both categories and specific details as per prakruti (natural constitution), vikruti (disturbed constitution), agni (metabolic capacity), ritu (season) and vyadhi (specific disease), kala (age) and bala (strength) of the individual. It is the individual’s personal responsibility to make choices that are beneficial to his or her condition, that do not promote disease, and in fact, endow the body with strength, immunity and longevity.
Healthy Conduct and the Science of Positive Behavior – Sadvritta & Achara Rasayana
Socio-moral, healthy behavioral recommendations in Ayurveda fall under the heading of Sadvritta (noble code of conduct incorporating health attitudes and behaviors). Sadvritta conceptualizes health gained and nurtured from a larger perspective of life that is lived in balance. There is respect for the immediate environment and natural laws, and an ability to live with psychological health and interact in a socially healthy manner. This prevents mental and psychosomatic disorders, since the Ayurvedic tradition is aware that abnormal interpersonal relationships produce psychological stress, which in turn cause psychosomatic disorders.
Achara Rasayana is a special teaching to all human beings – a timely message from the sages, which lays down ethical rules, and teaches the consequences of self-destructive actions and thought processes. Personal transgressions, sinful acts, avoidance of responsibilities and duties, etc. are the root causes of psychic, self-afflicted misery, such as anxiety, worry, anger, regret and others.
Thus, for optimum health, good conduct and proper personal behavior in every sphere of life is advocated. Ayurveda conceives of health as a large holistic canvas, where the myriad dimensions of human existence – physical, mental, sensorial, social and spiritual – contribute towards an interconnected whole. Only when all aspects of the human being are aided to experience well-being, can disease really be prevented and health protected.
A Co-Creative Process
In Ayurvedic medicine, people actively participate in their own healing. The individual understands the rhythms of the living system and its bio-forces. Informed by knowledge of the wholesome and unwholesome, one can begin to apply it to daily life, thus cooperating with natural laws instead of trying to resist them. A whole gamut of choices and options are possible. These choices, along with their immediate and long-term consequences, ultimately allow the individual to understand and consequently deal with perhaps an inner mental world of resistance, patterns of destructive behavior, habits of laziness, addictions, etc.
When we begin to work at this deeper level of awareness around our health, we embrace knowledge and life skills that actively prevent disease, by positively promoting health and well-being. The net result is a society made up of healthy individuals, now in charge of their own health and taking ownership of any disease they manifest. They are actively sculpting a life around optimum lifestyle, foods, behaviors, thoughts and practices that gift the being with happiness, balance, vigor and enthusiasm for living life to its fullest potential.
This is a great thing because it teaches us how not to fall sick, which is the need of the hour. More and more people are turning to the comforting refuge of Ayurveda, with its warm, nourishing and heartening teachings to both prevent disease and promote health. These choices and practices can be adopted inside our homes, kitchens and hearts to restore some critically-needed power to self-determine the course of our health.
Thus, Ayurvedic practices impact not only physiological rhythms, but are also imbued with insights on how to promote well-being in the individual’s psychological, social and spiritual realms for complete wellness.
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