शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम् I
śarīramādyaṃ khalu dharmasādhanam
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]his phrase from Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam means ‘body is the instrument for doing good deeds’. In today’s world we can modify a bit to suit our purpose to mean ‘a healthy body is essential for undertaking everyday activities’. It is an indisputable fact that only if we are healthy can we compete in the rat race that life has become in present times. It is of course not very difficult to find solutions for leading a healthy life in our ancient scriptures.
“Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it.”
– Josh Billings
Our forefathers, it turns out, had covered almost every aspect of human life and have handed down techniques to lead a happy and healthy life. Yoga, meditation and healthy eating habits are all a part of the manual handed down through generations. The celebration of International Yoga Day in June this year has brought the focus back on Ancient Indian practices for good health. In recent times the popularity of Ayurveda is also on the rise and Indian sees a sizeable number of foreigner tourists coming to the country for Ayurvedic treatments.
Ancient medical texts:
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that ancient Indians were well versed in various fields of medicine. Charakasamhita and Susrutasamhita are the oldest known texts on medicine written by Charaka and Susruta respectively. Medicine has been divided into eight branches in Ayurveda including surgery, paediatrics, toxicology and even ENT among others. This amply proves that ancient Indians were much ahead of their times in the field of medicine too.
Religion was used as a tool to promote almost all kinds of practices and health practices were no different. Here are some practices, with pronounced health benefits, which we have been undertaking since centuries.
- Every temple has an outer courtyard which devotees use as a path for Parikrama or circumambulation. The size of the courtyard varies from temple to temple and devotees oven go around the courtyard several times. This was possibly our ancestors’ idea of brisk walking.
- The Surya Namaskar is more than just a series of yogic postures. It has tremendous health benefits. Today researchers have extolled the benefits and importance of Vitamin D. It is also a well known fact that early morning sun is the best source of Vitamin D. In view of this Surya Namaskar assumes greater significance with respect to the health benefits it offers.
- Thoppukaranam, meaning doing squats while holding your ears, has been an ancient practice among the Tamil people. This is particularly done to appease Lord Ganesha. Now many doctors and therapists in the West have started promoting this as a form of exercise for brain development. They call it super brain yoga.
- Yoga in itself has found many takers in India today. It has, of course, been popular in the West for quite some time now.
- ‘You are what you eat’ is a popular adage and watching what you eat has gained importance in today’s fast paced world where stress and lifestyle diseases have been afflicting several people across all ages. That is why Pandit Vishnu Sharma says in Panchatantra “संतापयन्ति कथमपथ्यभुजं न रोगाः” (Santapayanti kamapathyabhujam na rogaah) meaning ‘How can one be unaffected by diseases if one eats food not conducive to one’s health’? Ayurveda classifies food into Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic and recommended different types of food to different people based on their profession. It is interesting to note that people are increasingly turning towards vegetarianism or veganism in order to lead a healthier lifestyle.
- Meditation is amongst the most ancient of Indian practices. It was used by the seers to awaken latent powers. In today’s world, meditation techniques are being used for relieving stress and relaxing the mind. A relaxed mind is an essential pre-requisite for a healthy body.
This is not to say there are no takers for what has now come to be known as ‘junk food’ but awareness about health practices has been increasing day by day. More and more people are now opting for healthier practices.
We live in an age where each of us is racing against time to achieve our goals. Everyone including school children are stressed about something or the other. Life has become a bag of tensions. It is, therefore, necessary to imbibe some of these practices to lead a healthier and happier life.
Josh Billings aptly describes the importance of good health when he says “health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it.”