Category Archives: Introduction to Ayurveda

Introductory articles covering the main concepts involved in the Vedic Healthcare system – Ayurveda

Vedic Meditation FAQs

Summary: In depth answers to FAQs on Vedic Meditation, covering techniques such as Transcendental Meditation (TM), Sahaj Samadhi, etc. and comparing it with other, less effective forms of meditation such as concentration, contemplation, and mindfulness.

Q. Does Vedic Meditation involve concentration?

A. Most definitely not. It is completely effortless. Just as thinking a thought requires no effort, so thinking the mantra used in this technique requires no effort.

We may have heard that meditation involves concentration. Some meditation techniques, for example the Buddhist form of Zen, do involve concentration. However, these techniques are only suitable for use in monastic settings where there are experienced Masters to give daily guidance. Their real value lies at the instant when concentration actually breaks down and the meditator then gains a flash of transcendental insight. They are hard work and need years of practice to achieve results. Concentration techniques are definitely not for people in the West.

Q. Surely meditation involves at least some degree of contemplation?

A. Vedic Mediation does not require any degree of contemplation. Contemplation limits the mind to thinking about the ‘surface value’ of concepts, religious teachings, the lives of great saints, etc. rather than diving deeply into a settled, joyous state of restful alertness.  It may give insights for those involved in religious orders such as monks and nuns who already lead a very stress free lifestyle. However, contemplation has very limited value for those of us involved in the day to day world of work, family, etc.

Q. ‘Mindfulness’ has appeared quite frequently in the popular press. Is mindfulness a part of Vedic Meditation?

A. Again, the answer is definitely no. If anything, mindfulness, or rather ‘the witnessing of activity and thoughts’ is actually the result of a very settled state of consciousness or awareness. Being mindful does not in itself give a settled state of profound rest and relaxation.

 It is said that Buddhist meditation techniques, such as Vipassana meditation, involve training in mindfulness. Traditionally, in order to gain familiarity with these techniques it required ten hours of meditation a day over a seven week period – although this has been altered to a ten day course for Westerners.

There is some literature published that suggests being mindful may actually cause some problems – trying to split the mind so that ‘one half’ watches what the ‘other half’ is doing involves concentration and effort. Far better to first reach that settled state with an effortless technique and from that settled, stress-free state begin to witness thoughts and emotions as they rise and fall.

Mindfulness may have some value in enabling practitioners to be aware of emotions arising from certain challenging situations and to respond appropriately – rather than to just react. But it does not give the state of deep rest and relaxation that is obtained through Vedic Meditation.

Q. Why can’t I learn meditation from books?

A. Although Vedic Meditation Techniques involve no effort they are subtle and we need trained teachers for initial guidance and to provide the correct personal mantras. Most importantly we need them for checking our meditation and progress. Books and videos are no substitute. Furthermore, the teaching begins with a Vedic ceremony performed by the teacher and called a ‘puja’ which honours the lineage of Masters which have upheld the teachings for the benefit of mankind over many generations. There is a saying ‘well begun is half done’ and the puja ensures the student gets off to the best possible start.

Q. I’ve heard that ‘Om’ is a mantra. Why can’t I just chant Om?

A. There are two things we need to consider here. Firstly, chanting or ‘mantra japa’ as it is known in India, is different from meditation. It may have considerable value, but it does not take us to that quiet state of restful alertness. Japa done internally is better than chanting out loud. Better still is when the mantra becomes a very quiet thought. Best is when even the mantra itself is finally transcended!

Secondly, ‘Om’ (more correctly pronounced ‘Aum’) belongs to a class of mantras known as ‘reclusive mantras’. Repeating the mantra ‘Aum’ brings detachment – detachment from one’s work, detachment from one’s friends, detachment from one’s family and ultimately detachment from one’s own body. Whilst this might be fine for reclusive monks or nuns on a spiritual path and living in an ashram it is certainly not helpful for those of us engaged in worldly activities! Vedic Mediation uses mantras which belonging to the ‘householder’ mantra category – they bring benefits to people involved in the day-to-day world – without us having to give up anything!

Q. If Vedic Meditation is both natural and effortless why can’t people naturally reach this state?

A. A few people can actually reach this state without learning to meditate! Literature has many examples where this state of heightened awareness or restful alertness is described. A classic example is from an old man sitting on a veranda saying ‘sometimes I sits and I thinks, other times I just sits!’. In addition, a few of us might glimpse the transcendental state very briefly at the junction between the waking and sleeping states – just as we are going to sleep or waking up.

Q. Can we actually prove meditation gets rid of stress?

A. Yes! There has been a lot of research done on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation which showed there were many positive physiological correlates to this mental process. The research was published in prestigious medical and physiological journals. Some of the research was done at Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire when the UK Transcendental Meditation movement was based there. Many indicators of stress, such as blood pressure, galvanic skin response, the presence of stress hormones in our bloodstream, etc. all showed positive benefits for a large number of people practising these techniques.

 The person who brought TM to the West, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, really changed our perception of meditation from being something esoteric to something that was scientific, systematic and had many day to day benefits for Westerners.

Q. What’s the difference between TM and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation?

A. Practically there is very little difference. Both techniques come from the same tradition of Vedic Masters.

The TM technique was introduced to the West by the now deceased, self-realized Master, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. His commentaries and talks on the ‘Science of Being’ and ‘The Mechanics of Consciousness’ were enlightening and enjoyed by many scientists.

Sahaj Samadhi Meditation was introduced to the West by the self-realized Master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. He founded the Art of Living organization, which is a large NGO with headquarters in India and bases throughout the world. Sri Sri has given many talks on the ‘Art of Living’ and he has a unique way of making ancient Vedic wisdom seem relevant and interesting to to-days world. He is also a lot of fun!

Both TM and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation are effortless, easy to learn, natural techniques taught in a very similar format and with an almost identical ceremony (puja) honouring the same tradition from which they both originate.

Q. What exactly is Vedic Meditation?

A. Basically it is an effortless technique using a meaningless sound or ‘mantra’. In it we think the mantra in the same effortless way we think any other thought. It does not involve any intellectual understanding or study. Although no effort is involved the process is quite subtle and needs experienced and well trained teachers to deliver the technique and to subsequently check the progress of our meditation. It is often called ‘Transcendental’ because the mind crosses over from the field of the senses to a quiet, natural and restful state of deep relaxation and tranquillity.

All the disappointments, rejections and doubt we have encountered over our lives gives rise to deep seated stress in our nervous system. By repeatedly meditating for 20 minutes twice a day we start to dissolve those stresses and therefore lead happier, more fulfilled lives. The precise mechanics of stress release are explained with useful analogies in the mediation courses.

Author note: Although it needs no effort I would say that we need a certain degree of initial self-discipline to just sit down for twenty minutes in the morning and evening to meditate. Once we start noticing the benefits then meditation becomes second nature. Being able to contact this state not only brings relaxation, on a good day it can also bring a sense of great joy!

Q. If TM and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation are so beneficial and natural why aren’t they free?

A. We tend to value what we pay for. In ancient India it was possible to learn these techniques without paying any money at all. However, the student was expected to do some voluntary work at the ashram of the Master before being instructed. In this way there was an energy exchange, if not a financial one. In which case the student had worked for, and therefore valued, the techniques.

Authors note: My initial experiences with TM were very good and things then went rather ‘flat’ for a while. Because I’d paid for it I was determined to ‘get my money’s worth’ and kept on doing it! Looking back I must say that it is the best investment I’ve ever made!

Q. What’s the procedure for learning TM and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation?

A. Roughly the same. The steps are as follows – attendance at an introductory talk where the benefits of the practice are explained: a short ceremony or puja to honour the tradition together with personal instruction from a qualified teacher: checking of the meditation process (maybe also with a group of people who have learned on the same day or weekend): some simple explanations of the mechanics of the process and how stress is released.

Q. Do I have to give up anything or change my beliefs to practice Vedic Meditation?

A. Absolutely not. We don’t need to sit in any strange yoga positions, become a vegetarian or give up alcohol in order to reap the benefits. However the techniques do require that we have abstained from non-prescribed drugs for typically a couple of months before learning. Vedic Meditation is a technique not a belief system, so we don’t need to change any religious beliefs or practices.

Q. Why is there a puja during the personal instruction?

A. The puja (a short ceremony) is part of the teaching process, not the technique itself. The ‘student’ is asked to quietly witness the puja while the teacher performs it. The words are said (or ‘chanted’) in Sanskrit – the ancient language of the Vedas (from which the techniques and mantras are derived). Sanskrit is said to be the language of nature itself. The puja simply honours the tradition of masters who have preserved the knowledge of these techniques for millennia. The puja merely helps the teacher get in the ‘right space’ to deliver the teachings.

Authors Note: From my own experience the puja seemed to connect the present with the ancient past. I realised I was receiving something rare and precious, something which had withstood the test of time and was of extreme value. That’s another reason why I’ve kept doing it for over 40 years!

Q. What’s the difference between an ‘official’ TM teacher and an ‘independent’ TM teacher such as found via the Meditation Trust?

A. Even before Maharishi’s death in 2008 the International TM organisation had started to fragment. After his death the organisation was controlled by his family. Around this time many TM teachers who had been loyal to Maharishi started to offer the technique independently of the organisation’s control and often at a substantially lower cost. As far as learning the basic TM Technique or Vedic Meditation is concerned there is no difference between an ‘independent teacher’ and an ‘official TM teacher’ linked to Maharishi’s organization.

Vedic Meditation

Summary: Vedic Meditation is a simple, natural, effortless and easily learned practice which can bring about a profound state of deep rest, relaxation and healing. This article examines the many benefits of Vedic Meditation, the major differences between it and other forms of meditation and the key features and techniques that make this life-enhancing system truly unique.

Ayurveda views the regular practice of meditation as being of great value in the maintenance of good health. Although there are many different types of meditation practices currently available, only a few specific techniques can be easily used by Westerners to bring about a profound sense of deep calm and inner peace. These stress reducing practices can be described collectively as ‘Vedic Meditation Techniques’ and they all have well proven, health promoting benefits

In the West we often think of meditation as involving some form of mind control, ‘Zen like’ concentration, visualisation, mindfulness or contemplation. Unfortunately none of these practices gives the profound state of deep rest needed for the release of stress and the healing of our physiology. However this state of ‘restful alertness’ can easily be obtained with no effort through Vedic meditation.  Almost unbelievable – but true!

Benefits of Vedic Meditation

People who practice Vedic Meditation on a regular daily basis frequently report the following benefits:

    • Feeling less stressed throughout a busy day
    • Improved sleep patterns
    • A sense of inner calm with less ‘reactions’ and more ‘thoughtful measured responses’ to challenging situations
    • Improved relationships
    • Increased creativity
    • Better health – particularly for stress related problems such as high blood pressure
    • More frequent experiences of happiness and spontaneous joy throughout the day
    • Improved decision making

Whilst it may seem unlikely that such a simple, effortless technique would produce these results there’s considerable research to prove that this is indeed the case.

Vedic Meditation Techniques – an Overview

Before describing what Vedic meditation actually is, it is helpful to describe what it is not!

    • Vedic meditation is most certainly not concentration or mind control
    • Vedic meditation does not involve visualisation or using one’s imagination in any way
    • It  is not a mindfulness technique (where we are encouraged to ‘watch our thoughts’) neither is it ‘positive thinking’
    • Vedic meditation is not a guided mediation technique , neither is it mantra japa
    • Vedic meditation does not involve contemplation either
    • We do not need to sit in any special yoga posture or position in order to practice it
    • Vedic meditation does not require any changes in our religion or beliefs

So, having discussed what Vedic meditation is not, we will now examine some of its unique features.

    • Firstly, Vedic meditation is a totally natural, effortless, simple technique. A great Vedic Saint said of it: ‘anyone who can think can also meditate’
    • The technique can be practised sitting comfortably and easily in a chair with eyes closed – preferably for 20 minutes twice a day
    • Vedic meditation is a mantra based technique. A mantra is a meaningless sound or Sanskrit word that we think effortlessly – just like we think any other thought. In this system personal mantras are given to individual students by fully trained teachers
    • These techniques have withstood the long test of time and come from an ancient tradition and lineage of fully self-realised Masters. This tradition is honoured by the teacher during  the instruction phase by a simple Vedic ceremony or puja
    • Vedic meditation has many scientifically proven, well documented, health promoting, stress busting benefits
    • These simple techniques can be practised anywhere – unlike guided meditations which need a player of some type
    • The techniques are easy to learn –  usually students become competent within a few hours (although some ‘checking’  in the first few months of practice with an experienced teacher is often helpful)
    • Vedic meditation is a universal teaching that can benefit people of all ages (there are special ‘walking techniques’ for children). It works irrespective of their race, culture or religious beliefs

Vedic Meditation Techniques – Details

In order to meditate the Vedic way we first need a personal mantra. We can only get that via a trained teacher and one-to-one tuition. Vedic meditation is also a subtle technique where we really need a teacher on hand to remove any obstacles and answer any questions we might have.  However, here is the outline of the process – but it is not a substitute for personal tuition!

Firstly, we sit comfortably and easily and then close our eyes. It is better to not have eaten a big meal just before meditation or be ravenously hungry either. When we close our eyes, we notice some degree of quietness, some silence.

We then think the mantra in the same effortless way we would think any other thought. The mantra is really the vehicle on which the mind rides to those quieter levels of thinking. The mantra has subtle charm, so the mind follows it easily.

After a while we might notice that we are thinking about other things, for example, planning our day, work, family, etc.. This is perfectly natural! So at this point we gently reintroduce the mantra and the cyclical process, which is a natural mechanism for stress release, starts all over again. We do this without making any effort.

Towards the end of a 20 minute session, we might notice that our mind has settled down and our thoughts have become quieter and less intense. We might also feel a bit more relaxed in ourselves. Job done!

During meditation, it is perfectly OK to sometimes be thinking thoughts, sometimes be thinking the mantra, and sometimes be thinking both of them at the same time! Some people also find the mantra becomes louder or softer or morphs in some other way. No problem, we just ‘take it as it comes’. The key principle is that we never make an effort.

The above outlines the general procedure we use in the Vedic Meditation Technique, but we really need a personal teacher to answer our many individual questions – which naturally arise when we begin to meditate for the first time.

How to Learn Vedic Meditation

Although Vedic meditation is simple it is also a subtle technique, so it cannot be learned from books or YouTube videos. The personal mantra given to the student needs to be chosen by a skilled and experienced meditation teacher.

There are currently three key providers of these techniques in the West. All originate from the same Vedic tradition and all are very similar indeed (although costs may differ). Firstly, there is ‘Sahaj Samadhi Meditation’ taught by the Art of Living Organisation (founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar). Secondly there is the ‘Transcendental Meditation’ (TM) ™ technique taught by followers of the now deceased Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Thirdly (following the fragmentation of the official Transcendental Meditation Movement) there are now a number of independent teachers of these Vedic Meditation techniques who are not affiliated to any particular organisation or movement – you can find them via the Meditation Trust.

 

Vata, Pitta, and Kapha Explained

Summary: This article explains the key Ayurvedic principles Vata, Pitta and Kapha. It looks at the seven possible combinations of these doshas and their effects on our mind-body type.

In Ayurveda, the major constitutional types are made up from combinations of the three key Ayuvedic principles or doshas: Vata (V), Pitta (P) and Kapha (K). Unfortunately there are no words in the English language which directly correspond to these terms. In addition, these principles can be difficult to understand as we can’t directly see them – only infer their presence.

‘Lying as they do in the gap between mind and body, they resemble nothing that exists in our Western scientific framework’ D Chopra, ‘Perfect Health – The Complete Mind/Body Guide’

The Three Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha

  • Vata governs bodily functions involving movement (Key word: ‘Movement’)
  • Pitta governs bodily functions concerned with heat, metabolism and digestion (Key word: ‘Fire’)
  • Kapha governs the structural aspects of the body and its fluids (Key Word: ‘Structure’)

Each of the three doshas is present in all of us, present in every living cell and present in every organ of our body! However, from an Ayurvedic perspective some organs are more associated with a particular dosha. For example, our stomach is associated with the ‘digestive fire’ element of Pitta, our continuously beating heart with the movement aspect of Vata, and our skeleton with the structural aspect of Kapha.

If we begin examining some of the dosha’s associations we find: Vata is linked to breathing, movement, the nervous system, and the process of elimination of waste products.  Pitta is linked with strong digestion, energy, sharp intellect and good speaking ability. Kapha brings strength and endurance, mental stability and patience.

Before making any lifestyle, dietary or treatment advice Ayurveda’s greatest strength lies in its ability to classify everyone into one of seven major mind-body types based on the combination of the doshas V, P and K

So everybody (really: ‘every body’) will fall into one of the following seven categories according to which principles are naturally predominant in the individual’s mind and body. In Ayurveda this inherent natural balance is called one’s ‘Prakriti’.

If only a single dosha predominates the person will be described as having an inherent nature of Pitta, Vata or Kapha (often referred to as ‘pure Vata’, ‘pure Pitta’, etc.):

P or V or K

Often two doshas predominate, giving rise to categories:

PV (or VP):   PK (or KP):   VK (or KV).

Occasionally all three doshas are at the same level, giving rise to the final category of:

 VPK

Ayurveda views anything that causes a change in this natural balance as potentially harmful. This disturbance could be due to many factors, such as improper diet, weak digestion, emotional disturbances and even environmental factors such as excessively hot, cold or windy weather.

In order to better explain the principles of Vata, Pitta and Kapha let us now examine the observable characteristics of people who just have a single dominant dosha – that is ‘pure Vata’, ‘pure Pitta’ and ‘pure Kapha’ mind-body types. It sometimes helps to ‘picture’ the pure dosha stereotypes. For example, a pure Vata type would probably apply to a ‘stick-thin’ fashion model whereas a pure Kapha type would probably apply to a large framed dark-haired motherly figure. People with a fiery personality and red hair are often Pitta types.

The following section lists the main physical and mental characteristics of these pure, single-dosha mind-body types:


Main ‘Pure Vata’ Type Characteristics

Vata Physical Characteristics

  • Light build and frame
  • Irregular hunger and digestion
  • Energy comes in bursts, perfoms  actions quickly
  • Talkative, fast speech
  • Dry Skin
  • Tendency towards constipation
  • Aversion to cold and windy weather

Vata Mental Characteristics

  • Learns very quickly, but also forgets quickly
  • Tendency to worry and exhibit nervousness
  • Can be vibrant, imaginative, excitable, moods change quickly
  • Light and interrupted sleep, tendency to insomnia
  • Dreams often are fearful, and involving flying, running, escaping

Main ‘Pure Pitta’ Type Characteristics

Pitta Physical Characteristics

  • Medium size frame and build
  • Strong digestion, can experience sharp hunger and thirst
  • Performs activity at medium speed
  • Articulate, can be good public speakers
  • Hair is often blond, light brown to reddish , tendency to hair loss
  • Pale skin, maybe with freckles
  • Aversion to sun and very hot weather

Pitta Mental Characteristics

  • Medium time to grasp new information
  • Tendency towards anger, aggression, arguments
  • Often holds strong opinions, likes challenges, strong intellect
  • Medium duration of sleep
  • Dreams can be fiery and hot, waking up hot and thirsty

Main ‘Pure Kapha’ Type Characteristics

Kapha Physical Characteristics

  • Heavy, solid, powerful build
  • Slow digestion, mild hunger
  • Good strength, stamina, endurance, with slow actions
  • Slow speech, maybe with a deep voice
  • Dark & greasy hair, smooth oily skin

Kapha Mental Characteristics

  • Slow learners but with excellent long term memory
  • Very relaxed, ‘laid back’, tranquil, loving, forgiving
  • Tendency towards inertia
  • Long, heavy sleep
  • ‘Romantic’ dreams

Please remember that the above lists just describe the characteristics  of pure V, pure P and pure K types.

Many of us however have two dominant doshas with the third dosha taking something of a back seat in our makeup. For example, in one person P and V might be dominant over K, in another V and K dominate P, etc.

Taking a VK type as an extreme example, we might think that the overall outcome would be a homogenous blend of the two types –  just like red and green light would combine to make an orange/yellow color. So, as a pure V type has a slim frame and a pure K type a heavy build, we might logically expect a VK type to have a blend of these two – namely a medium build. Unfortunately things are a little more complex.

In practice a  VK type may exhibit either a V or a K trait in their physical build (but not usually a mixture of both). They might also exhibit either a V or a K trait in aspects of their personality (but not a bland mixture of both.) The same goes for different patterns in their digestion. Depending on external circumstances and at different times, a two dosha type may also switch between one dominant dosha trait and another!  At this point we are getting beyond the scope of this introductory article – a really good description of the two and three dosha types is given in Deepak Chopra’s book ‘Perfect Health’ – highly recommended.


Additional Information

1. Article giving an Introduction to Ayurveda

2. FAQs on Ayurveda FAQS 1, FAQs 2, FAQs 3

Better Sleep with Ayurveda

Summary: Simple ayurvedic advice for all mind-body types on achieving better sleep

Ayurveda recognises that our natural sleep patterns are largely determined by our mind-body type. For example, a ‘pure’ Vata type will have a tendency towards light, interrupted sleep with the possibility of mild insomnia: ‘pure’ Pitta types usually sleep a moderate length of time (e.g. around 8 hours) but can wake up hot and thirsty: ‘pure’ Kapha types usually experience long and heavy sleep. However, whatever our body type, we can all benefit from the advice Ayurveda gives for getting a good night’s sleep.

      • Try to go to bed at the same time each day. Having a regular routine helps pacify the Vata element. An out of balance Vata can lead to insomnia.
      • Leave at least 2 to 3 hours between the end of a light dinner and going to sleep, so our food is properly digested before we rest. Going to sleep on a full stomach creates problems.
      • Ayurveda suggests the ideal bedtime is around 10pm, the theory behind this suggests that this is towards the end of nature’s daily Kapha period. This is conducive to rest, sleep and rejuvenation. If we leave it much later we get into nature’s Pitta period, which is not conducive to sleep. It means our natural tiredness goes and we start of experience more energy keeping us awake.
      • Spend the evening after dinner in a reasonably restful way. A short walk (eg 10 to 15 minutes) is useful. Activities such as reading, listening to music or pleasant conversation are ideal. If we watch violent or frightening films we have to ‘digest’ them too. Even the news before bedtime can be disturbing.
      • Leave at least an hour before bedtime free from any focused activity, such as planning, looking at emails, social media, etc. The type of mental activity needed to process or respond is not conducive to sleep. If this activity is screen based then the white colour of the screen is also detrimental to sleep, this is because the white colour tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime.
      • Choose an evening environment with soft, warm lighting. In technical terms the colour temperature should be ‘warm white’, e.g. 2700K or less, rather than a ‘daylight’ colour temperature, e.g.  4 – 5000K or more.
      • Although we shouldn’t have dinner within a few hours of going to bed, a drink of warm milk taken just before bedtime helps calm the mind and nourishes the body. We can add herbs to the milk to aid sleep – e.g.  a couple of strands of pure saffron, and Ayurvedic herbs such as Gotu Kola. If we add a teaspoon of ghee it also helps with mild constipation. A pinch of ginger helps digest the milk too.
      • We can also use aromatherapy oils in our bedroom provided they have the specific property of reducing Vata.
      • Getting a good night’s sleep is also dependent on our activities during the day and getting the right amount of physical exercise is important for sound sleep. What’s ‘right’ depends on our body type. For example, Kapha types need far more physical exercise than do Vata types.
    •  
      • Learn to meditate! Almost everyone who learns to meditate notices an improvement in their sleep patterns. Contrary to popular opinion meditation is not difficult and requires no concentration – we just sit comfortably and easily with eyes closed. Rest assured in the knowledge that if we can think, then we can meditate! It is that easy. What type of meditation should we choose? Vedic meditation techniques (based on the effortless use of sanskrit mantras) such as Sahaj Samadhi, Transcendental Meditation (TM) and their equivalents are ideal. Failing this, there are lots of very good guided meditations from the Vedic tradition (e.g. from the enlightened saint Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) on YouTube.

The following advice for good sleep comes from a sister subject of Yoga and Ayurveda, namely Vastu

      • Vastu says that it is best to sleep with our heads pointing towards either the South or the East – never the North. This is something which can be applied relatively simply by changing the orientation of our beds. This makes a noticeable difference to sleep patterns. If we are unsure of directions, then we can either get a compass, or see where the sun is at midday and use this position to determine true South.
      • Modern Vastu experts suggest keeping our sleeping area reasonably free from strong magnetic (or electromagnetic) fields – so probably best to avoid electronic equipment such as clocks, battery chargers, transformers,  phones, etc.  in close proximity to our heads when we are sleeping

Additional advice for good sleep comes from modern science

      • Make sure our bedrooms are sufficiently dark at night. Modern cities have a lot of ‘light pollution’ at night (e.g. from street lights, traffic headlights, advertising, security lights). This can seriously disturb our sleep patterns.  Fitting a blackout blind is a simple solution.
      • It is best to avoid using our bedroom for any activities other than sleep and sex.  This includes doing any planning or work related matters, watching films, using our computer, responding to emails or social media interactions, etc. This is so we only associate the bedroom with sleep and not any other activity.
      • Avoid coffee, tea and other stimulants for four to six hours before going to bed. Alcohol should be avoided too for a period of 3 hours before bed time.  Although it initially makes us feel drowsy, it then disturbs our sleep after a few hours later. (Ayurveda attributes this to the fact that alcohol increases Pitta dosha – thus acting as a stimulant which, when combined with the natural Pitta period late on in the night, makes us wake up fully alert!)

Additional Information

1. Article giving an Introduction to Ayurveda

2. FAQs on Ayurveda FAQs1, FAQs 2

 

Ayurveda – Top Tips for Meal Times

Summary:  Simple Ayurvedic tips for mealtimes that promote excellent digestion and therefore contribute significantly to our overall health and wellbeing.

In Ayurveda, proper digestion is regarded as being of paramount importance. In fact, Ayurveda acknowledges that the disease process often starts with the toxic by-products of poor digestion. So, anything that helps maintain a healthy ‘digestive fire’ (Agni) promotes health; anything which ‘puts out’ or disturbs the fire does not.

Ayurveda says that our natural ability to digest food depends to a large extent on our body type. For example, ‘pure’ Vata types have irregular hunger and digestion; ‘pure’ Pitta types have very strong digestion (they can also experience intense hunger and thirst): ‘pure’ Kapha types have a slow digestion and rarely exhibit strong hunger. However, whatever our body type Ayurveda gives sound advice on how we can improve our digestion.

Ayurveda gives us simple tips for mealtimes – if we follow them we can help maintain a healthy digestion and so avoid the root cause of many diseases.

Before Our Meal

      •  It’s good to eat meals at the same time every day. This means the natural rhythms of the body synchronise with our mealtimes so we start to feel hungry prior to a meal and our body gets ready to digest it.
      •  We should eat our biggest meal around midday, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. At this time our internal ‘digestive fire’ is greatest and so digestion is strong. You may have read ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.’ Ayurveda says this is rubbish. So our biggest meal should be around midday – although this may not be easy to achieve in many modern work environments.
      •  Our evening meal is best consumed a few hours before bedtime – say, around 7pm at the latest. This leaves sufficient time to digest the food before going to sleep. Partially digested food, according Ayurveda, creates toxins. The build-up of toxins is responsible for long term health problems.
    •  
      •  We should always eat sitting down in a comfortable and settled atmosphere. We should not eat when we are walking around or driving (rationale: walking while eating disturbs the Vata dosha).
      •  Ayurveda advises against snacking or grazing between meals. The addition of more food an hour or so after a main meal starts up the whole digestive process again. We should only eat when we have a reasonable hunger or appetite and give the system a complete rest between meals. Typically this would be from 2 to 4 hours after a light meal and from 4 to 6 hours after a heavy one.
      •  Most Ayurvedic experts say it is better to avoid drinking anything for half an hour before and for half an hour after a meal (rationale: the drink dilutes the digestive juices).
      • We can increase our digestive fire and appetite by consuming a small slice of fresh ginger (ideally with a sprinkling of salt on top) about 10 to 15 minutes before we eat.

During Our meal

      •  We should have our full attention on what we are eating, not on the TV programme, not on the computer screen and not on our phone (rationale: if distracted, our senses are unable to fully enjoy the food – so we may over-eat, eat too quickly, eat without chewing properly and  maybe eat without fully appreciating the  food).
      •  It is good to eat with family, or friends, or people we like. It is better to avoid arguments during mealtimes as unsettled emotions do not promote good digestion.
      • Some experts  say we should avoid all drinks with a meal, while others suggest it is acceptable to drink small sips of warm water with a meal (emphasis on ‘small’).
      •  Ayurveda also says:  never have ice cold drinks with a meal (rationale: the cold puts out the digestive fire). Never have carbonated drinks with a meal (rationale: the bubbles create ‘wind’ which disturbs the Vata dosha). So, combining both of the above points means never, ever, have ice-cold carbonated drinks with a meal!

After Our Meal

      •  After eating we should sit for a few minutes, and then have a short walk (e.g. 5 to 10 minutes) to help digestion – even if this means walking around the office, or up and down stairs at home a few times.
      •  We can also maintain our digestive fire and help it to burn toxins in the body by drinking small amounts of warm water throughout the day (except near mealtimes). However, pure Pitta types might want to follow this advice with caution, particularly in very hot weather. It is usually best not to drink anything that is cold (it decreases the internal digestive fire – Agni.)

General Advice for Meals

      • Well-cooked, plant based food is usually easier to digest than meat. White meat is also easier to digest than red meat. If you need to eat red meat consider adding cayenne or chilli peppers to help with the digestion. Raw vegetables are very difficult to digest and disturb the vata (wind) element!
      •  Ayurveda favours the consumption of freshly prepared, well-cooked food. It does not rate frozen food, tinned food, pre-packaged or microwavable meals, or any form of highly processed food. Ayurveda is not saying we should never eat these, but we should just be aware they do not contain as much ‘life force’ as freshly prepared meals.
      •  It is beneficial to incorporate all of the ‘six tastes’ classified by Ayurveda into our meals – if not present in every meal, then at least we should be exposed to all the six tastes in the meals taken in a single day. This often helps prevent overeating which can arise as our body tries to satisfy its needs for these tastes (if they are not present, we unconsciously eat more just trying to find them).
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      •  If we are going to drink milk, then either drink it on its own and not with a meal, or drink it only with other foods Ayurveda classifies as ‘sweet’. Heating milk makes it more digestible.