Recently at Pune my wife and I were fortunate enough to meet a renowned master of Ayurveda. He was an elderly gentleman of around 60-65 years with an impeccable reputation as an Ayurvedacharya. It was vouched by many that he can tell the exact number of blocks in your arteries just by checking your pulse (Nadi Pariksha).
We were lucky to get his appointment even though it was one of his ‘off’ days. After doing our ‘Pulse Diagnosis’ (in which fortunately no blocks were declared), we got some time to talk with him. My wife asked him, “How come some people though very old still have a very alert and attentive mind, whereas some people lose the alertness of mind and enthusiasm even at the age of 50 -55 years?”
His answer to this question was an eye-opener.
He explained that, as per Ayurveda the body is made up of seven ‘dhatus’ (seven constituents):
- Rasa – Blood serum, lymphatic fluid
- Rakta – Blood cells
- Mamsa – Muscle tissues
- Meda – Fat tissues
- Asthi – Bone tissues
- Majja – Bone marrow and nerve cells (Brain neurons, spinal cells)
- Shukra – Reproductive cells (Eggs & Sperm cells)
Ayurveda has beautifully explained the process of digestion. Ayurveda says that it is the fire (Agni) element in our body which helps in digestion. The digestion process is similar to a distillation column of a refinery. In a distillation column, different constituents get separated from the feed at different temperatures. Similarly during digestion separation of different nutrients from the food takes place at different intensities of fire (Agni). At low levels of ‘Agni’ the Rasa dhatu is produced. For producing Rakta a little higher amount of ‘Agni’ is required. Mamsa requires still more amount of ‘Agni’. And so on. Shukra requires the maximum amount of ‘Agni’ (energy).
Now with age, if we do not take proper care, this ‘Agni’ gets diminished. Suppose the ‘Agni’ in our body is just sufficient to convert food to ‘Meda’(fat) but not sufficient to generate ‘Asthi’ (Bones), then there will be accumulation of fats. Bones will not get sufficient nutrition. Bone problems will start. At the same time nutrition to bone marrow, nerve cells as well as reproductive cells will get affected. Brain neurons will start showing degenerative changes. Memory, attentiveness and alertness will reduce.
So the key to good overall health is proper digestion. If you don’t want to lose your vitality with age then you have to keep the fire inside you burning. How to keep this fire burning? The Ayurvedacharya suggested simple lifestyle changes and told that the key to maintain the ‘Agni’ was very simple – keep walking. .
He said that every day one should take ‘nature walk’ for minimum 45 minutes (at a stretch). Exercise inside a gym or any other type of yoga cannot be substitute for this ‘nature walk’. We have to walk in an open unprotected environment for 45 minutes. He said that the hormones released by the body when exposed to unprotected environment are different than those released under the protected environment.
He also insisted that we can have heavy breakfast and lunch but try to minimize or avoid our dinner. We can have fruits and liquids for dinner. We should keep a gap of minimum 3 – 4 hours between dinner and sleep. We should reduce the intake of wheat because wheat flour produces ‘Gluten’ which is not good for digestion. Roti of Jawar, Bajara, Makai or Rice can be taken in place of wheat roti. We should not drink lot of water immediately before or after meals. Only small sips of water should be taken during meals. Water can be taken 15 minutes before meals or 30 minutes after meal.
I have followed these simple steps since last few weeks and I am already feeling much more energetic and lighter.
This interaction with the Ayurvedacharya compelled me to read some more on Ayurveda and ‘Agni’.
More About ‘Agni‘ in the coming post.