Ayurveda explains how to act in ways that support life, and includes lifestyle guidelines to maintain optimum health and balance. Successful use of recommendations depends on the ability to know exactly what is good for us and the motivation to act on what we know. This is why a peaceful mind is so important. So many of the following lifestyle suggestions have, as their primary focus, to refine the quality of the mind.
Meditation: the endless number of demands on our time and attention keep our minds constantly active. In addition, the negative influences from our environment create fear and confusion. These influences cause our mind to be confined to a superficial level where it is either too scattered or too dull to experience the vast physical, mental and emotional resources that lay hidden within us. This may explain why scientist estimate that most people use only a small fraction of their mental potential. The limitless possibilities that exist in the subtler levels of awareness remain inaccessible except to a calm, settled mind. Meditation causes us to become increasingly sensitive to the needs of our bodies and spontaneously start to make choices which promote health.
Rest: staying rested is another key aspect of Ayurveda lifestyle which promotes peace in the mind. Fatigue is a major contributor to the mind’s loss of “knowingness”. Most of us notice how inefficient and dull we become after a night of little sleep. It seems to take an hour to accomplish what we would normally do in ten minutes. This is, unfortunately, all too common an experience since the demands of modern life. A major key to staying rested is: Go to bed early and wake up early. If we sleep when nature sleeps and wake when nature wakes, we attune our lives to nature’s cycles instead of resisting them. So much energy is needlessly expended in resting out of the natural cycles of life. This allows the body and the mind to release stress and toxins.
Exercise: Ayurveda prescribes two types of exercise to enhance the quality of our lives. The first is cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, which stimulates muscle metabolism and increases oxygenation. It also strengthens and improves muscles and fat tissues, along with the performance of the heart and circulatory system. It is essential to take your vikriti (imbalance) into account when performing this sort of exercise. Kapha vikriti, for instance, generally needs an intense amount of exercise, whereas pitta vikriti can handle only a moderate amount. Vata vikriti should exercise less than Kapha or pitta, because Vata becomes easily aggravated by too much activity. Vyayama, which means gaining energy by exercising, is the second form of exercise recommended by Ayurveda lifestyle. This definition implies that there is a category of exercise that gives energy to the body rather than causing it to expend energy. The three specific forms of vyayama are called surya namaskar (sun salutation), yoga asanas, and pranayama. Unlike aerobic exercise, these stretching and breathing exercises are done in a very slow and gentle manner, and serve to lower cardiovascular activity rather than speed it up. after their performance, we actually feel more light, invigorated and clearer than before.
Sensory experience: we have already started that what we take in though the senses powerfully influences the mind. Attention moves from the mind out through the senses and the sense organs to the objects of perception and back again. If the objects of attention are either under-stimulating or toxic, they can disturb the mind’s natural equilibrium and directly or indirectly damage the body. Consequently, the senses play a key role in maintaining balance in the mind and body.
Daily routine: Ayurveda makes recommendations for our daily routine, called dinacharya. Anyone can follow this simple set of directions to maximize their health regardless of the season or their particular vikriti.
- Wake up early, preferably at sunrise
- Urinate and defecate upon arising
- Scrape your tongue and brush your teeth
- Drink a glass of warm water
- Perform oleation of the body
- Take a warm bath
- Do asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (alternative nostril breathing) and meditation
- Exercise according to your prakriti
- Apply ghee or sesame oil to the nostrils before going out
- Do not restrain natural urges such as yawning, sneezing or urinating
- Eat fruit and herbal tea for breakfast. If you feel hungry, eat hot cereal.
- Engage in activity that brings you joy
- Eat your main meal at noon in a quiet, settled atmosphere
- Do not overwork
- Reduce rushing, worrying and overeating
- Treat yourself gently and lovingly
- Meditate at the end of your day’s activities
- Eat a light meal in the evening
- Go for a walk
- Retire early