Swasthya: Inner Balance
Conducted by Indica Yoga, this program was chaired by Dr. Vinayachandra, who pronounced that Swasthya is “One who stands in his own essential nature: this is someone who has health.” This same concept can be found in Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.3: Tada drashtuh svarupevasthanam: then the seer abides in itself, resting in its true nature, also known as self-realization. This sutra explains the ultimate result of yoga—the discovery of one’s true nature.
One’s true nature and state of health can be attained through the practices of Ayurveda, such as Dinacharya, Rtucharya, and disease prevention through proactive personal and public health. The panelists each took up one of these topics.
Dr. Vandana Rani of Amrita Ayurveda Institute spoke on Dinacharya. She explained the need for Ayurveda to work on inner balance. What is that inner balance? Inner balance is a mind that remains undisturbed in misery, does not have cravings, and has no attachments. This is found in the teachings of Sankhya philosophy of the Shad-darsanas: One who remains unattached in any circumstance, is a sage.
What is required to develop to such a state of inner balance?
- Stable internal systems, and equilibrium in an organism
- Psychological balance: with no stress, no depression. The heart and mind must realize that “we are strong”.
“We can find, keep, and strengthen inner balance, but it takes work and maintenance,” Dr. Vandana maintained. We all have thresholds and it’s important to recognize those. It is also imperative that we see inner balance as a continuous process, where we use our intuition and gut feeling to make ourselves receptive to act according to our needs.
Yoga and Ayurveda go hand in hand as the Science of Life (Ayurveda) helps you to become aware of yourself, at least at the physical level, and through that, the emotional and mental. After that, yoga brings you to the spiritual level awareness.
In Ayurveda, Swastham is Arogyam, a state free from disease. One must balance the internal and external environments through awakening the higher perception, and thus become in tune with nature. It’s about seeing oneself in the whole world, and vice versa: seeing the whole world in oneself. This is the same goal as in Yoga, explained through the various Yogic texts such as Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras. Through the concept of Arogyam, Ayurveda proposes the steps of attaining health is through promotion, protection, prevention, and preservation, similar to a 4-tier system of care. Such health is necessary to move into a yogic state of life and attain moksha. Ayurveda thus prepares the individual for Yoga, and Yoga prepares the individual for Moksha, which is the state of ultimate health.
One can find the balance in Ayurveda by recognizing one’s own physical proportions of the Panchmahabhutas, and the psychological proportions of the Trigunas. These combine to determine the varying quantities of the Tridoshas of each living being. We also have to recognize the Vikaram characteristics of these: that what impacts the physical impacts the psychological. The opposite is also true.
Understanding the importance of these aspects, we can then see that the different times of days (and seasons) are also filled with similar qualities, each in their own proportions. That is why Ayurveda prescribes a regiment of Dinacharya procedures, including (and not limited to):
- Healthy regiment
- Cleansing of sense organs, body, mind, etc.
- Agni Dhaatu
- Abhyanga, Vyama
- Balancing of doshas
- Meditation/ Savritta
All these combined support a lifestyle of spiritual practices.
Dr. Vandana continued to explain the order of Dinacharya, from the time of waking, and what its relevance is: Brahmamurutham, about 1.5 hours before sunrise, is when all living beings welcome the sun. The time is filled with Sattva guna, when the mind is pure, and so is the atmosphere. There is a shift in energy, and the body is ready to receive cosmic, spiritually-charged energy. In addition to discussing the Ayurvedic concepts, Dr. Vandana also gave examples of how medical science has researched various aspects of Ayurveda. Early risers, she stated, tend to have a lower BMI, which aids in reducing chronic issues.
After rising and meditating or prayer, evacuation should occur, because it clears out the excess vata energy. This is a function of the autonomic system. This is part of Achamana, purification of the body. Then drink water to have a rasayana effect. Perform Dhavana, Anjana, Nasya or Neti, Eye Wash, Oil Pulling, Gandusha, Abhyanga. All these help with emotional stability because it provides self-love and care, empathy for one’s own body and self. Furthermore, studies have shown that it delays aging, increases flexibility, and supports energetic nature throughout life.
Later, according to the prakriti and season, Ayurveda suggests vyayama practices, followed by udvartana powder massage, which mitigates Kapha dosha, increases peripheral circulation, and drains the lymph. The combined effect of all of these is a deeper, more rooted connection to nature, and living in harmony with the universe. After bath and meals, it is then the right time to start one’s profession, hopefully one that supports the rhythm of Dinacharya.
Based in Paris, France, Dr. Abzeena Campana spoke on Rtucharya, a seasonal regiment. She, too, lead with the concepts of Swastha and Arogyam, showing that our physical bodies are fragile and can be influenced by many external factors such as the seasons, and in order to maintain health (Swastha), follow Rtucharya. There are six seasons of the world, and every region has its own geographical patterns.
- Spring (Vasant)
- Summer (Grishma)
- Monsoon (Varsha)
- Autumn (Sharad)
- Pre-winter (Hemant)
- Winter (Shishir or Shita)
There are also different climatic zones: Temperate, tropical, Meditteranean, Polar, Arid, and Tundra. Each region may merge or miss a particular season, based on its climatic conditions.
Seasonal changes, or Rtucharya, are part of the natural world. Take for example, a leaf. It has different states in different seasons. Humans too, need to follow such a system.
The basics of Rtucharya is that there are 3 dosha groups, which can been seen from all levels, micro to macro: cellular, organ, organism, and universal or cosmic. Each dosha has 7 properties each. It is important to note that these properties are not equal or opposite; they exist in harmony with each other. This is a homeodynamic science, a biorhythm. An example is the Circadian rhythm we are all now familiar with; there are many more types of rhythms, such as Circannual, Infradian, and Ultradian, to name a few. These are impacted by inputs and outputs, at all the levels.
As soon as we wake up, all sorts of factors influence us: for example, enzyme production, temperature, movement, blood pressure, and so forth. This causes the doshas to mix in different proportions. When there is less of a particular dosha, it is called Chaya; when there is more, or excess, it is Prakopa; and when the dosha has a normal balance, it is Prashama. There other concepts to the balancing of doshas in Ayurveda: Sthanasamshraya, Vyakti, Bedha, to name a few.
Solstices are extremely important times for transitioning to the new season or Rtu. The two important solstices are Sankaranti and Ayanam, because of how the sun’s energy interacts with the earth, where we are all living.
However, in each of the six seasons, each dosha has a stage (chaya, prakopa, or prashama). Accordingly, immunity varies, which means the practices, or charyas, needed for each season, on a daily basis (dinacharya) also vary. Every season has its own food, drink, relaxation lists, which can vary based on local topographical availability. Ayurveda also has a list of don’ts for each season, as well as useful therapies.
The final speaker, Dr. Chandramouleeswaran, discussed how Ayurveda can impact prevention of diseases, especially taking into consideration the current Covid situations around the world. Right now, we are living in polluted air and water, running behind animals. Ayurveda suggests detoxification, a concept not otherwise available in medical systems or lifestyles. Today, detox diets and practices are becoming popularized, and it’s important to give the right methods.
Ayurveda explains the reason for Shodhana therapies: the agni dhaatu will be stronger then. Ayurveda suggests that every season change, detoxification practices are beneficial to remove ama and mala. Dr. Chandramouleeswaran recommends that as opposed to specific dates, follow the local seasonal changes).
Shodhana is derived from ‘Shudh’ (clean). Shodhanas are the methods to expel doshas from the body. There are five types of Shodhana: Niruha, Vamana, Kayarekaa, Shiroreka and Asra visruti. Through the processes of these Shodhanas, the body becomes purified and strong: Sharira Suddhi.
Dr. Chandramouleeswar writes that “The doshas which have been mitigated... are likely to aggravate once again. Those doshas conquered by Sodhana therapy will never increase again.” This is because Shodhana therapies treat the main root cause. Sodhana Gunas are: elimination of mala, complete cure of disease, increase strength, increase complexion of skin, and have a long life. When this happens, benefits are multifold:
- Increase intelligence
- Strengthen the sense organs
- Stability of the tissues
- Increase digestive power
- increase longevity
Excessive dosha accumulated in a particular season or time has a particular time and season to be expelled, and the Shodhana practices should be administered accordingly. For any patient, the timing is also based on the nature of the vyadhi (disease). For optimal treatment success, Shodhana should be administered keeping in view the factors like the nature of Dosha, Oushadha, Desha, Kaala, Satmya, Agni, Sattva, Vayu and Bala of the patient. Post Shodhana therapies, Ayurveda prescribes specific do’s and don’ts to follow and avoid in order to fully reap the benefits of the therapies.
The doctor concluded by explaining that Shodhana therapies are useful for preventative care, and also for rebuilding health post illness, especially for those who are prone to disease.