Ayurvedic Approach to Modern Lifestyle & Stress

Today we hardly find time to pay attention to our health unless something goes wrong with it. The word “improper lifestyle” indicates irregularity in all the components of the lifestyle. The way we eat, perform exercise, take rest, play, behave with others, think, plan, drive a vehicle, sleep, carry out our routine work and commitments and the total living style etc. are all included in the term ‘lifestyle’. Our values for our own health care, job, self esteem, relationships with our family members and others would change totally when we adopt this fast and competitive lifestyle.

On one hand we try to be more comfortable and on the other we face the challenging situations in our life. When the result of the adopted lifestyle is not as per the expectations, modern man adopts an easy way of escapism by taking narcotics like tobacco, cigarette smoking, charas or ganja, alcohol and soon becomes addicted to these drugs. The lifestyle which leads to more and more tensions and unhappiness as well as psychosomatic ailments like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, depression etc., is definitely an improper lifestyle. particularly the food habits (junk food consumption), insufficient sleep or rest and hyper-reactivity to every stimulus as well as poor interpersonal relationship and no control on emotions. Luxurious lifestyle increases laziness, lack of exercise on one hand and occupational hazards due to tight schedule and mental pressure on the other.

Doctors have mentioned that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol produces double trouble i.e. it will saturate the receptors and also decrease the number of receptors which metabolize and remove cholesterol from the blood stream. These lifestyle factors can activate all the mechanisms, known to cause coronary heart disease and heart attacks. In other words, what we eat, how much we exercise, whether or not we consume tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, how much do we relax, will affect our ability to respond to stress. Our inner environment is conditioned by nature to cope with an acute stress better than a chronic stress. Emotional stress is mostly chronic in nature. When an individual is struggling hard to meet his basic life demands and living such irregular life, he is more susceptible to emotional stress due to failure or frustration. When stress mechanism is chronically affected, the same response which is supposed to protect us in danger now becomes harmful as we do not relax and come to the base line or the normal level. The levels of adrenaline and nor adrenaline remain high, causing anxiety, insomnia, spasm of the coronary artery, increased levels of Cortisol which build up the blockages in the arteries more rapidly. After a few years of continuation of this lifestyle, when the body is unable to tolerate, the immune system is greatly impaired and therefore the natural body resistance to the infectious diseases is reduced. Most of the muscles including the large muscles and the smooth muscles of the alimentary system, the coronary arteries and even the fibers of the heart muscle constrict due to chronic or intense emotional stress. Stress also decreases the level of HDL ie. a good cholesterol.

Thus it is seen that the stress is the product of our nonstop reactions to the stimulations from the external environment as well as the type of internal thinking process. In the search of happiness all of us have adopted revolutionized high technology and yet we are not satisfied with our own standards of living. This gives rise to anxiety and unrest in mind. That is why we are unable to face the stressful situations and easily fall pray to diseases. Maintenance of a positive health is the only solution for this, i.e. healthy condition of body, mind and spirit. Such well being chiefly depends on the body-mind equilibrium. Yoga and Ayurveda have suggested long back an ideal life style (dinacharya) which establishes a flexible relationship between ourselves and our surroundings thus making ourselves stress-proof.

Yoga is a powerful system which coordinates our scattered feelings, inner peace and relations with others in a systematic way so that we become aware of many things inside us. Yoga techniques are based on the stretching principle which would create balance in all the opposing factors and to bring about equilibrium, peace and unity in body and mind. Yoga teaches us how much should we respond to a stimuli in what way and then how to relax again. This is why now the emotions are unable to stir us as before. Yoga gives us a different kind of viewing ability during any situation. Pranayama mainly involves special breathing techniques so as to balance our body and mind. Now the emotions would not be able to influence your mind or disrupt harmony in body functions. The energy level is enhanced which can help the process of healing and thus the maintenance of health. Meditation directs this energy for developing strong will power and better creativity. The meditator can observe equanimity in all the aspects eg. achievements and non-achievement, pain and pleasure, comfort and discomfort etc. and can employ proper visualization to open our heart and feelings for effective healing.

Ayurveda also insists upon cultivation of a Satvik nature ie. noble, honest and selfless attitude for ideal mental health. Patanjali, the father of Yoga has advocated four important things to be observed, viz. Friendship (maitri), Compassion (Kanma) Joy (Mudita) and Forgiveness (Upeksha). When we are friendly with everybody there cannot be any anger, hatred or jealousy in our attitude which otherwise would lead us to the social isolation, a negative emotion. Compassion and forgiveness are the most powerful tools to develop an ideal positive attitude of love. This will keep us free from sense of isolation.

Ayurveda uses same philosophy when it comes to create balancing diet plan. If one is Vata predominant, because he may be thin/slender with dry skin and always feeling cold – warm, moist and heavy foods like soups, stews, oatmeal and warm herbal teas will be ideal for him. If one is well built, with moist skin complaining about weight gain, congestion and swelling then light, warm and dry foods such as toasts, grilled veggies, baked foods and broiled fish will be his soul food. If one is medium built, organized, with warm, ruddy complexion then salads, cooling fruits and a mildly spicy foods are the right choices for him. It is not what but who is eating makes all the difference. Ayurvedic nutrition revolves around the individual.

Ayurveda is the only science focusing on combining the six tastes in each meal to make it tasty, delicious, balanced and medicinal. Sweet taste helps to build tissues in the body while sour taste restores acid base balance. Salty is responsible for maintaining mineral balance and pungent improves digestion and strengthens digestive enzymes. Astringent stops bleeding and gives tone to the body. Bitter works as a natural antibiotic, antiseptic and it purifies the body. Adding six tastes into your food is the right way to make food medicinal, delicious and low in calories. The right touches of sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter help to make food Prakriti specific. e. g. Vatas should avoid eating bitter greens, because it aggravates Vata, but Pittas thrive on those greens, because it cools down the heat. Ginger, garlic, jalapenos and chilies make Kaphas happy by reducing congestion and helping lose weight, but give Pittas ulcers or irritability. Sweet potatoes will make Vatas feel grounded, but may make Kaphas lethargic.The same food makes one person happy and another sad. This is why it’s important to eat according to your Prakriti.

Ayurveda is all about doing the right thing at the right time. It recommends guidelines – daily and seasonal – that help to make our daily activities more productive and to create peace with the changing seasons to stay balanced, so we can enjoy the enchanting fall colors, breathtaking spring blooms or cool summer hikes. During the day, at certain times, certain Doshas (natural energies) predominate. Accordingly Ayurveda recommends daily guidelines for us to follow and make our days purposeful and productive.
For example, morning begins with Kapha predominance, so you may sneeze or sniffle in the morning or your allergies may get worse.Kapha time is a high endurance time, so you get more work done. If you start your day early, your whole day’s work will be done by noon or 1:00 pm. Pitta dominates around noon, so you get hungry and if you don’t eat, you get angry. This is the best time for digestion and metabolism. Vata stands next in a line. It is the best time to head to the gym or a yoga class.

Daily Routine Tips

  • Get up before sunrise. Meditate in the early morning and make a “to do” list.
  • Eat a lighter breakfast in the morning.
  • Make lunch the main meal.
  • Avoid sleep after lunch in day.
  • Exercise in the early morning or evening.
  • Bedtime should be around 10:00 p.m.

Seasonal Variations

As Doshas revolve around the day, they revolve around the seasons too. Spring is the Kapha season, while Summer is marked with Pitta predominance. In fall and early winter we have to follow a Vata balancing lifestyle. You rightfully change your clothes according to the season. Your favorite summer attire may be – cotton t-shirt and shorts – to cool you down. As fall approaches, you change into warm-ups and sweaters to keep your body warm. Your winter jacket is warm and heavy because Vata is cold and light as compared to your spring jacket which is warm but light because Kapha is cold and heavy. Henceforth, If we follow an Ayurvedic seasonal routine, we can be free of many diseases, and feel our best.


More by :  Dr. Shilpa Yadav

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