I often hear this question whenever I insist a patient will keep a strict routine.
By routine I mean specific sleeping patterns, eating and drinking patterns and so on. Knowing this is crucial for curing disease and I will outline here the reasons for it, including quotes from the Ayurvedic texts, and some of my understandings.
Vagbhat, the author of Ashtanga Hridyam says:
“The healthy person should wake up during Brahma Muhurta to protect his life.” (Sutrasthana, 2.1).
To those who are not familiar with the Indian terminology, Brahma Muhurta refers to few hours in the early morning (3-6 AM). Within those hours, meditation, study, and understanding Brahma, are advised to be practiced.
According to Ayurveda, we humans, are part of the Cosmos. In fact, we are depicted as the Microcosmos of the Macrocosmos. Whatever is there in the universe is present within us as well. The universe is consistently in routine, and has certain rhythm. One can see the routine of day and night, routine of seasons, and so forth. One should understand the same thing is happening within us humans as well. Our digestive system is stronger and times, and weaker at others, our senses and mind are stronger at times and weaker at others. Therefore, it is advised to wake up early in the morning, before the sun rises, in order to get in rhythm with the universe.
Why do we sleep? Can’t one stay awake at night?
Of course we can, however, that will not be a healthy choice. We go to sleep when our senses, mind and motor organs are tired of getting information from the outside world, and require their rest.
Charaka says: “Sleep is one of the three supporters of life.” (Sutrasthana, 11.35), and continues to enlighten: “When the mind, including the sensory and motor organs, are exhausted and they dissociate themselves from their objects, the individual sleeps.” (Sutrasthana, 21.35)
By these statements, one can clearly understand the importance of sleep. Adequate amount of sleep is necessary, however, it does not mean to over sleep. Sleep increases Kapha dosha, so sleeping during the day is not advised as it will aggravate Kapha. Sleeping a lot, or during the day will also produce Ama, hence will affect digestion. Sleeping during the day is permissible only to the elderly, children, users of intoxicants, and some more specific cases.
Night is made for sleep, as one can see in the universe. Hours of sleep preferably are 10 pm maximum, and to wake up before sunrise.
As mentioned above, the individual follows the universal cycles as it is one and the same. In Ayurveda, we look at the sun as a symbol, and an indicator for the state of our internal Agni (digestive power). When the sun rises, we tend to get a bit hungry and so we eat breakfast (around 8 AM). When the sun reaches the mid-sky, scorching its sun-rays, we feel hungry and eat our dinner (preferably 1-2 PM), this is the time to consume the larger meal of the day. When the sun sets, however, still in the sky, we feel hungry for supper (around 6-7 PM), which should include light food and preferably no protein. After the sun sets, no solid food should be consumed. Drinks are permissible.
Failing to follow these rules will result in digestive issues at the beginning and further problems later.
Most people think water is not being digested, and that is just moves in the system and flow out. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Whatever will enter the digestive system will be digested, water included. It is very important to mix the water we drink with the saliva in mouth before swallowing it. As we know, the digestive process is starting with the saliva.
Agni in our body is composed of digestive juices; drinking water will certainly dilute it. When the digestive juices are diluted, the digestive process is weakened and forms ama. In order to avoid it, water should not be consumed an hour prior to eating food, and an hour after it. That way, the digestive process will not be affected.
Exercise is healthy, isn’t it? Why shouldn’t I exercise a lot, and be very healthy?
Unfortunately our body doesn’t work this way. One should exercise, however over exercising is not advised. Over exercise has its toll on the body, except from physical injury, breathing system will be affected, and digestion as well.
So how much exercise is good?
When one feels sweat is coming to the forehead, exercise is enough. When one starts to pant, exercise is enough. When one has a bit of thirst, exercise is enough. Exercise is best done in the morning after evacuation. For example: in Yoga we practise Surya Namaskar, which is sun salutation, how can one practise it at night? There is no visible sun.
To sum it all, please follow these rules for a healthier life. I am sure one can understand why a routine is so important now, and why adjustments are not always acceptable.
- Charka Samhita.
- Ashtanga Hridyam.
- Vaidya Sumit Kesarkar.