This is the time of year when millions are focused on their health and well-being. Whether it was over splurging during the holidays or the pandemic creating bad eating and living habits, many are looking for guidance they can follow. Practicing Ayurveda today can be a big part of a healthy lifestyle. Plus, understanding the most important things to focus on can help achieve even better success as well.
Here are the 5 most important pillars of perfect health:
Pillar One: Transcendental Meditation – The Transcendental Meditation technique is the first pillar for perfect health because it is the most effective at improving your health—more effective than any other natural approach to health. This is a strong statement, but there are over 700 scientific research studies and 350 are published in major medical journals. The health benefits include: reducing anxiety and depression, improving sleep, focus and memory. Regular practice can reduce one’s chance of heart disease, stroke and cancer by about 55%.
Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural, effortless technique that was introduced to the Western world starting in 1959 by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This technique was made popular when the Beatles learned about it in 1968. The TM technique targets your consciousness at the core of who you are above any other modality of healing.
It provides the deepest rest possible in the shortest amount of time. One twenty-minute sitting reduces cortisol, your stress hormone, by about 30-40% in comparison to an 8-hour night of sleep where cortisol levels only get reduced by about 5 %. Practiced for 15-20 minutes twice a day while sitting comfortably in a chair with your eyes closed, it’s enjoyable and can be easily learned by anyone at any age. The benefits are immediate and increase over time. The TM technique allows your mind to settle inward beyond thought to experience the source of thought—a state of restful alertness where your brain becomes more coherent and your body gains deep rest.
A simple analogy to understand it better is if you were to think of the ocean. At its surface it may seem very rough and turbulent, but if you go a mile deep it’s calm and quiet. This is similar to the mind. People complain that their minds are too active, and they desire to calm their minds so they can think more clearly. In TM, you will contact the quiet level of the mind. And when you come out of meditation, taking care of daily tasks becomes more effortless. Time seems to expand in the pool of calm that you created during meditation.TM often restores senses of inner peace and gives more self-confidence, creativity, energy, and the focus to everything you put your mind too.
Pillar Two: Diet and Digestion – A healthier diet will lead to improved physical health and also will increase happiness and enrich your life in so many ways. Food truly is medicine. But it’s not just about what you eat—it’s also about when you eat it and how well you digest it. Proper digestion is the key to good health. All experiences in life—mental, physical, and emotional—contribute to your digestive health. Some of the obvious signs of healthy digestion include clear skin, pleasant breath, good energy, and a balanced mood.
Poor digestion often leads to poor elimination—the first step in the path toward illness. Healthy, daily bowel movements rid the body of waste and prevent ama—a sticky toxic substance that can accumulate in the body and mind as a result of poor diet, weak digestion, or external pollutants.
Good digestion helps you assimilate the nutrients from your food, thus promoting ojas (vitality) and preventing ama (toxins) from accumulating in your system.
Here are the most fundamental principles of Ayurvedic eating to strengthen your digestive fire, or agni.
□ Eat three meals a day at around the same time every day. This way, your digestive fire is primed and ready.
□ Avoid snacking and grazing. It’s better to eat a full, balanced meal and then give your body plenty of time to digest and assimilate it. If you snack throughout the day, you never really give your body’s systems time to reset, which weakens agni over time and can lead to an accumulation of ama. Allow about three to six hours between meals to give your body adequate time to process the food.
□ Eat your biggest meal at noon. This is when Pitta is at its peak and your agni is at its highest.
□ Avoid eating when angry, upset, or anxious. Take a few deep breaths first and calm your system so it’s ready to receive food.
□ Avoid frozen foods, overly processed foods (like boxed breakfast cereal—even when it’s low in sugar), refined sugars and flours, and artificial foods, colors, and preservatives. These can all lead to the buildup of ama.
□ Don’t eat a large meal in the evening, especially right before bed. At night, your body performs crucial rest-and-repair functions so you’re ready to start the day fresh. Give your body several hours to digest dinner before hitting the hay; otherwise you’ll be burdening your digestive system. If you find yourself hungry before bed, have a cup of warm milk to tide you over.
□ Sip warm water throughout the day to keep your body’s channels of purification clear. It’s helpful to sip warm or room-temperature water during meals, too.
□ Keep your digestive fire kindled by avoiding foods that dampen its flames, such as cold foods, ice-cold beverages, ice, leftover food, highly processed foods, frozen foods, and canned foods. These things can all lead to ama.
Pillar Three: Sleep – One out of three people in the U.S. do not sleep well. They either have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Even those sleeping many hours without interruption will often say they don’t feel refreshed upon waking in the morning.
The quality of sleep will dramatically affect how a person feels the next day. In Ayurveda, the texts say, “The day begins the night before.” Even modern medicine understands the importance of a good night’s sleep. Many with major health habits experience poor sleep patterns. This correlation of a good night’s sleep with good health is too obvious to ignore.
Getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep is great for the body. Staying up late is unhealthy and will impact your health over time. You don’t have to be in bed by 8 p.m., but be in bed by 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. at the very latest. If you stay up later, you will catch a second wind and falling asleep becomes harder.
Ayurveda says that being asleep by 10 p.m. helps the efficiency of the metabolic processes that occur between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. that night. All the nutrients you consumed throughout the day will get assimilated and used for fuel the next day. By missing this opportunity, your digestion is ruined, which you already learned is the key to good health. If you start getting to bed earlier, there will be a noticeable increase in the quality of your life.
Pillar Four: Movement: Yoga and Exercise – Finding out how to best maintain strength and flexibility throughout your life without having to be a professional athlete or spending hours each week at the gym is a technique once mastered can make an incredible difference in your overall health and well-being. Yoga, stretching, strength training, and some type of cardio-vascular work a few times a week will reduce your risk of pain and injuries as you age.
Everyone knows that we need to move our bodies for optimal health; however, too many people are not getting the exercise they need. Many doctors now say that sitting is the new smoking. What they mean is that if you are sitting all day long at your job, it is equivalent to being a smoker in terms of the negative effects on one’s health.
Since the type of yoga I recommend is more settling, it can be done any time of day, even before bed. The same guidelines for exercise in terms of when to eat also applies to yoga. Do not perform yoga positions on a full stomach and wait a half hour after a snack.
Pillar Five: GMO and Health – The importance of organic food, non-GMO foods, and environmental pollution that we may consume, or which might affect our bodies is so important to understand as there are definite ways to promote health and reduce your risk of disease.
Most people have heard of the term GMO since GMOs have often been in the news in recent years. GMO foods reportedly may not be good for our health. GMO foods have many negative effects on people’s health (even though many GMO supporters strongly disagree with this assessment).
Our main recommendation will be that it makes the most sense to favor an all-organic diet to reduce the risk from GMO foods. When people have switched to an organic diet, they often have noticed amazing improvements in their health.
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. The term GMO can apply to both plants and animals. Genetically modified organisms are developed through manipulations in a laboratory, where genetic engineering alters the genetic material of an organism.
The most common reasons food producers create GMO foods are to improve the resistance of the crop to herbicides (chemicals to kill unwanted weeds and plants) or to create an insecticide within the crop itself (an engineered part of the plant that kills unwanted insects trying to eat the crop).
Understanding and mastering these pillars of good health will help you gain the added benefit your body needs now and in the future. And you’ll find even small steps done regularly will help you on your way to “perfect health.” These tips should definitely help.
Laurina Carroll is an Ayurveda health educator who specializes in holistic lifestyle management and more. She is also the author of the recently released book, Perfect Health for Busy People: A Maharishi Ayurveda Guide to Enjoying a Longer, Happier Life. It’s an easy to use guide for living a healthy balanced life the Ayurveda way, no matter how hectic your schedule. More information can be found here. https://yourayurvedaconsultant.com/