Food and Health
Food has been given a very significant place in our lives because it is our primary requirement. It is our basic need because it is the source of mental and physical energy. The food that we eat, not only effects our body and the efficiency of our mind but directly effects our nature and habits. The Knowledge of balanced diet is therefore indispensable to "Good health".
"Balanced diet" has also been discussed in Yoga science. However its reference is not akin to the diet tables provided to us by the modern day dieticians giving daily requirements of fat, proteins and minerals etc. We will discuss briefly the relation between Food and health.
"Aahar" ( Sanskrit for food) as described in Yoga.
Aahar or food not only means the intake of food orally but it also incorporates the air and the sunlight received by us through the pores of our skin.
The energy requirements for all our physical and mental activities is derived from the food we eat. The brain requires 20 volts of power for its day to day functioning which is assimilated from glucose and oxygen. Excessive intake of food requires more energy for digestion. Energy is limited, the surplus consumption of energy by the digestive system means less energy for all our mental activities. The excessive temptation towards food is accompanied by our dwindling intellectual activities. Would any sensible man like it ?
According to medical science anger, moodiness, immoderacy of temperament, short temperedness are diseases of the human mind. They originate due to an increase in the percentage of uric acid in the body which is caused due to the reduction of enzymes in the body which in turn depend upon a balanced diet.
According to Yoga science a balanced diet is important but what is more important is excretion. Food is essential as it is the source of all life activities. The body absorbs the essential ingredients from food and then excretes the waste. But if there is any imbalance in the food intake, it results in disrupting this natural process. The large intestines are not the only place where waste accumulates, it does so even in each and every tiny cell of the body. Modern dieticians believe that good health requires 80% Alkaline acids and 20 % acidic ones. Excessive eating, eating at short intervals and eating without hunger i.e. lacking the appropriate knowledge of food results in increase of the concentration of the acidic ........ acidic... are negative and alkaline. .......are positive elements.. In order to maintain the right proportion between the two a third important aspect comes into picture, which is Anshan( fasting).
According to yoga science human body organs such as kidney, heart and liver are capable of functioning for a span of 300 years. But due to improper food intake their life span decreases. The digestive system is over burdened when there is an excessive acidic elements in the body. Ways have been suggested to excrete the foreign particles in the body, they are-
2) Restrained eating.
3) Forgoing the desire of the taste buds.
It is true that energy is derived through food, but then dullness is also caused due to excessive eating. Eating more than what is needed by the body reduces the benefits of food. To digest food the digestive organs will have to work more, the energy of the body is thus lost on this and the other body organs are thus deprived of this essential body energy. Due to the excessive work load the discretory organs become weak and are unable to perform their functions, and so a lot of toxic waste accumulates in the body. To give rest to the digestive system it is important to fast (Anshan). At least once a week it is important to give the digestive system some rest. Not every body can perform a full day fast, for that purpose restrained eating(unodari) or overcoming the temptations of the taste buds ( Ras Parityag ) can also be a solution. Some other factors that can determine the healthiness of your internal organs are age, seasons, exercises etc. In addition to all this the place and the way the food is taken is also very important. Food should be eaten in healthy, clean surroundings, it should not be eaten under any sort of stress, sorrow, anxiety of any sort, nor should food be eaten in an untimely hour. If any body eats under such circumstances then the food will not get properly digested.
In ancient days people kept a fast on full moon nights. The astrologists believe that human mind gets directly effected by the moon. Curiously enough according to many researches it has been found that the number of crimes committed on full moon nights is much more then ordinary.
Why is it is so?
This means that the moon has a direct impact on human body. The reason is that human body is consisted of 80% fluids. And moon is a well known to effect the motion of water on earth, on full moon nights there are high tides. Henceforth the human body is most effected on a full moon night. It is believed that during these days the mind and the body should be given adequate rest and a good way to perform this is Fasting. If we have want to keep our digestive system healthy then we will have to understand the importance of food. A day before performing Dhyana (meditation) a light meal should be taken. On fast days it is advisable to drink lukewarm water , lime water or a fruit juice. The next day breakfast should be very light preferably something liquid followed by a light lunch as well.
A meal should be divided into four parts, two parts for food, one part for water and one part for air. This means that one should eat less then stomachful. After eating the stomach should feel light because then there is not too much pressure on the digestive system. There should be atleast 3-4 hour difference between every meal, otherwise the digestive juices will not be formed and the digestion would thus remain incomplete thus resulting in constipation. The waste will get collected in the large intestines and kidneys and cause acidity. Sometimes patients suffering with gas problem complain of having heart trouble, this is merely due to gas. This might result in breathing disorders, the immunity sytem of the body gets reduced and the mood becomes irritable.
Another way to keep the digestive system healthy is by overcoming the desire of the taste buds.
1) Sugar 2) Salt 3) Milk 4)Ghee 5) Oil are to be taken sometime and other times they should be avoided. For example a day should be assigned for avoiding all foodstuffs in which excess of ghee is present, other days should be assigned for avoiding salt or milk or oil etc. If the percentage of any of these has increased then by performing this the ratio of same would get balanced once again. At least once a week the same should be performed conscientiously.
There is a deep founded relationship between the sun and our digestive system as well. The digestive system becomes slow and weak during the night. Avoid taking food an hour after sunset and if at all keep to very liquid diet. According to Medical reports 10 percent of the population today suffers from acidity. In one time too many different type of food stuffs should not be taken. The reason for this is that the digestive system does not have the capacity to digest so many different type of food Ras (properties).
Eating a proper diet is also an art but today the life in the metropolitan cities has become so automated and mechanical that the food we eat and the way we eat has also become mechanical. Todays man is so busy that he has time for everything but time to eat. While eating he is performing multiple functions like reading the newspaper, working, watching television or listening to and solving family or business problems etc. By doing this the mind will not be involved with the act of eating only the teeth and the stomach will be performing a function. The most important thing that has to be taken care of is that food should be eaten in a calm and relaxed state of mind. If the mind is tensed, angry, worried, anxious, or if the food is taken very late at night then such food will not get properly digested or not produce the digestive juices properly. Just like our body needs health tonics so also does our mind. The food has direct impact on our mind and our thinking. The mind is related to electric waves and chemicals. These chemicals are formed from the food we eat. The food we eat directly effects the body chemicals, these in turn effect all our mental activities which effect our day to day behavior, thoughts and ultimately actions/personality. This is all inter-related and goes in a circle, until and unless this art is not properly understood we can ameliorate our health and ultimately our personality.
"Food" should also be linked to "Preksha", while having food only food should be eaten meaning complete attention should be paid to it. Right from the first bite that is eaten and chewed observe and feel the different taste of the food, then feel the food passing down the throat food pipes to the intestines and the stomach. By doing this ones awareness towards food will also get increased, our chewing capacity will get increased, the work that our teeth and jaw is to perform will not be left on the intestines. We will become more cognizant to the taste and the values of the food we eat, upon practice we can even get to know which taste belongs to which particular food. By mixing other things in vegetables, salad, milk or any other food stuffs to increase the taste of same we will actually reduce the natural values of the food. Gradually with time one can even appropriate the right values of food product. We will be able to perform the function of a doctor for the self, we can get to know which food has what effects on the body.
The circle of life directly depends upon food we eat, just from the food one takes it is easy to know the personality of a person. Only the food which has been taken with the right knowledge Hit, Mit and Satvik (ie taking what is good for the self, the quantity, and its effect on the body into consideration) is actually healthy. Keeping this into mind, factors such as climate, ones age, place and the requirements of ones body have to be kept in consideration. Quantity means the awareness of what has to be eaten in how much quantity. Even if ambrosial food is taken in too much quantity it will take tyhe form of poison. The food which relaxes the mind and gives no immoral thought is innately good or Satvik./The food which gives placidity and because of which no scathing thoughts come the mind is satvik food.
For a better and healthy living the practice of taking good food is of vital importance to the body, by and by as the practice of good food increases so also do the juices in our body undergo a change. With that there is a major change in ones thinking and behavior and thus a beginning to a new and beautiful life. Then one can freely say that whatever has not happened till now has finally happened.
From the works of Acharya Mahapragya
Compiled by Vidya Jain