June 2016 By Ravi Valluri Eating the right thing in the right way at the right time and in the right amount will safeguard our vital digestive system, and preserve our health and happiness, says Ravi Valluri Last year on the eve of International Yoga Day, I shared the stage with a remarkable woman. She held the audience spellbound with fascinating tales on dietary habits, and their impact on the human body. At 47, she was sprightly without a strand of grey hair, and blessed with a haemoglobin count of 17. The lady had once been afflicted with a grievous asthmatic condition, till she turned a vegan. Now endowed with enormous energy, she begins her day with several glasses of warm water with lemon. This, according to her, is the quintessential technique to ward off morning blues and create an alkaline condition in our bodies. “Eat only when hungry”, is her second mantra. And like Milind Soman (actor, model and a barefoot runner), she relishes eating fruits. Fruits need to be partaken as a complete and wholesome meal rather than as a supplement to the main course. Pity the stomach Foodies and epicureans, do we know what our stomach is and what is its size? This internal organ, in which a major part of the digestion takes place, is a pear-shaped enlargement of the alimentary canal linking the oesophagus to the small intestine, no larger than the size of our palms joined together. According to ayurveda, there are containments for air, liquids and solid in the stomach, each measuring one-third. Yet we stuff this delicate organ without mercy, resulting in suffering for our body and minds. Food should nourish our bodies, and not dispose us to fall prey to various ailments. An improper diet takes a heavy toll on the system of an individual. The architect of the Delhi Metro and Konkan Railway, Shri E Sreedharan, advocates light vegetarian food, long walks, yoga and a dash of spirituality for healthy and peaceful living. This provides him with immense energy to execute tasks on hand. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says there are four sources of energy (prana or chi): food, breath, rest, and a calm and meditative mind. Breathing techniques and meditation can be learnt only under the supervision of an expert. Humans can at least monitor the food they consume. That is in our hands. Recall the iconic movie, Piku? Bhaskor’s movements were severely crippled by an irritable bowel syndrome. Gandhiji (who maintained a strict diet regimen and walked to remain fit) advised his eldest son Harilal Gandhi (an alcoholic) to walk 15 miles a day to overcome dyspepsia. Personally speaking Excessive consumption of alcohol had a debilitating effect on my internal organs. I developed high blood pressure and suffered from fistula, for which I was operated. Having regained sobriety through various Art of Living programmes and the grace of the guru, my diet has radically altered. Once a doyen of junk food, today I do not even eat eggs. The consumption of alcohol and improper diet impaired my abdominal system. I realised that elimination is paramount for good health. Toxins are expelled through sweat, faeces, urine and breath. Disease strikes when these functions do not occur seamlessly. An impaired elimination process, particularly with regard to bowel movements, may result in arthritis and heart conditions. Thus taking care of the gut is crucial. The gut is also called the second brain. It hosts the solar plexus. With a healthy diet, regular practise of yoga (in particular the Surya Namaskar), breathing practices and meditation, an individual can develop intuitive abilities and sport a smile, instead of a scowl like Bhaskor of Piku. Many of us eat at a frenetic pace, barely chewing the morsel consumed. It is recommended to eat in a cool and calm place, and without the distraction of mobile phones, television, CD players, or laptops. It is essential that the previous meal has been digested in its entirety before consuming the next meal. Ayurveda strongly advocates not consuming water before and after the meal as it dilutes the digestive fire present in the stomach. Taittiriya Upanishad says, “From food (anna) verily, creatures are produced, whatsoever (creatures) dwell on the earth…For truly, food is the chief of beings.” Before we eat food, we need to bless what has been served. By reciting ‘Anna data Sukhi bhava’ we become grateful to the producer of the food – the farmer. In this process positive energy gets imparted to the food, making it easily digestible. Sitting in vajrasana on completion of a meal facilitates digestion. This is the only asana one can perform after eating. It may be mentioned that several South East Asian cultures favour sitting in a similar posture during mealtime. Different religions introduce fasting before, after or during religious festivities as it detoxifies the system and provides the abdominal chambers with adequate rest. So eating limited and healthy food, and exercising in a moderate manner provides a human with the required energy to fulfil his responsibilities. The various foods that we consume provide us with calories, vitamins, and proteins for our sustenance. But only the right type of food, cooked and consumed the right way, provides us with good health, nourishment and vital prana. About the author: Ravi Valluri is General Manager, Centre For Railway Information Systems, Secunderabad, and an Art of Living Teacher
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