Health Horizons: An Ayurvedic Approach to a Healthy Life
- Washing the face
Washing the face in all seasons with fresh cool water immediately after leaving the bed cleanses the eyes, nose, mouth and face, also relieves early morning dullness and brings freshness. In winter lukewarm water can be used instead.
- Water intake on an empty stomach
At least one to four glasses of cool water should be taken after washing the face in the morning. Water should preferably have been stored in a copper container overnight. Obese people should drink warm water to ‘speed up’ the metabolism and in general it is also recommended during winter. Drinking cool water in the morning is beneficial and stimulates the digestive tract. It helps in smooth and regular elimination of feces in the morning, which is essential for the removal of body toxins and thus provides protection from ailments. This is known as ‘usahpana.’
Also Read: Home remedies from the kitchen pharmacy
In the morning water should be taken in a sitting position. Drinking water while standing may lead to knee and joint pain. It is best to drink water in an upright position, where the whole body weight is on the feet. Some people prefer drinking tea instead of fresh water for smooth bowel movement, but its action is very different from that of water. Tea, being a hot and stimulating liquid, mimics the effect of water. Tea pressurizes and stimulates the bowels, causing expulsion of wastes, but there is a subtle difference. The effect of tea on the bowels wanes after sometime and the person again suffers from constipation. Besides, the caffeine and tannin present in coffee and tea harms the stomach and intestines. Cold water, on the other hand, has no side-effects. Only people suffering from cold, cough and sore throat should take lukewarm water.
Early morning, clearing of the bowels is essential after drinking water. Every person should make it a regular practice. Modern, busy and stressful living causes many people to suffer from lack of regular and proper bowel movements in the morning. The rush to reach the workplace on time also contributes to the problem. People do not give sufficient time to the activity and the bowels are not cleared properly. Besides, eating heavy and Vata causing food (heavy pulses, fried foods) accumulates flatus and also obstructs the fecal movement in the intestine. As a consequence, only after a little elimination, one feels that the bowels have been cleared. Later, one needs to repeat the process. Some people need to clear the bowels three or four times every morning. Indigestion, lack of sleep, stress, anger, depression and imbalanced emotions can all lead to this problem.
Excessive intestinal gas formation causes pressure on the heart leading to an increased heartbeat. Prolonged constipation and flatus leads to serious ailments like chronic cold, bronchial asthma, piles, joint pains and arthritis. It also leads to loss of appetite, flatus, indigestion, headache, depression, self-pity, discomfort, restlessness, fatigue, lethargy and insomnia. It is hence essential to properly clear the bowels every morning. Several precautions should be taken like avoiding or reducing a heavy diet and Viata-causing foods (heavy pulses, kidney beans, Bengal gram, black gram and fried foods). Intake of green leafy vegetables (spinach, chenopodium and fenugreek leaves), bottle gourd, angled loofah and yams; fruits such as apples, guava, papaya, currants and figs; and other fiber-rich foods should be increased in the diet. If one needs to clear the bowels more than once, it should not be avoided. To alleviate constipation and other abdominal ailments permanently, perform kapalabhati pranayama regularly in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Cleaning of teeth
After ablution, the next healthy habit includes the cleaning of teeth.
- The teeth should be cleaned with twigs (datuna) that have bitter, pungent or astringent qualities because they protect the mouth from oral diseases and related bacterial infections. Twigs with sweet, sour and saline tastes aggravate kapha and should be avoided. The best teeth cleaners are margosa (nima) and gum arabica (babula) twigs. Other trees whose twigs can be used on the basis of taste essence and their action on oral hygiene are smooth-leaved ponga (karanja), peacock tail (malati), Indian kino tree (asana) and prickly chaff flower (apamarga).
- The twig (datuna) should be carefully selected. It should be 6 inches long so that it can be held firmly and can also easily clean the tongue. It should be as thick as the little finger, erect or straight and fresh with the bark adhered to it. Very slender or very thick twigs are not feasible. A thicker twig will injure the gums. The front end of the twig should be soft (not dry and hard) so that it can easily be fashioned into a brush with a little chewing. It should be straight and not twisted. Even today millions of Indians use such datuna (twigs) to clean their teeth.
- The movement of the twig (datuna) over each tooth should be from top to bottom and vice-versa. This cleans the teeth thoroughly and does not damage the gums. Tooth powder or pastes formulated from many Ayurvedic herbs can be used with the twig or separately. This morning activity cleanses the teeth, tongue and mouth. It keeps bad breath in check, makes the teeth clean and strong and also stimulates the taste buds(3). Nowadays, various kinds of tooth brushes and toothpastes arc available for sale and arc used more than naturally available twigs. There are many good tooth powders for this purpose as well. One should not use the same brush for a long time and for protection from oral disease, brushes should be kept in hot water for some time so as to kill the bacteria present in the after use brush.
A white coating on the tongue, if has appeared overnight should also be cleaned after the teeth. This is the residue of ama, either from last night’s meal as food gets deposited on its surface or due to a deeper imbalance. If not cleaned regularly, there may be an unpleasant odor and the sense of taste is reduced. The twig used to brush teeth can also be used to clean the tongue from the back side. Tongue scrapers made of wood, gold, silver, brass, copper and steel can also be used. The scrapers should be soft, smooth, curved in the center and flexible. The edges should not be sharp or pointed as they might cause injury to the tongue14‘.
It has been suggested that cleansing of teeth with a twig (datuna) should be avoided if one is suffering from indigestion, nausea, bronchial asthma, fever, stroke or paralysis, excessive thirst, stomatitis (mouth ulcers) and ailments of the heart, eyes, head and ear, as there is a possibility of aggravation of disease if twigs are used under such conditions.
(Excerpted from the book ‘A Practical Approach To The Science Of Ayurveda: A Comprehensive Guide For Healthy Living’ authored by Acharya Balkrishna)