By Dr Oum Prakash ‘Oum’ and Parveen Chopra
Practical ways to stay healthy, culled from nature cure. o Since the body is made of five elements (tattvas), these five elements alone are harnessed in nature cure to restore health. Actually, the less talked about sixth element (maha tattva, or pure consciousness) is also put to work as in Mahatma Gandhi recommending Ram naam (reciting the name of the Lord) as a sure remedy.o Akash (space) is the subtlest of the five elements. This is at play during fasting, which creates a vacancy for the body to recuperate, repair itself. Fasting doesn’t mean a full day’s fast. If, for example, you have had a big lunch some day, skip dinner, and vice versa.o Nature cure has classified 13 vaigs (movements or nature calls), including sleep, sneezing, cough, urine, stool, tears and perspiration.o Repeatedly not heeding the call to pass stools results in constipation. If the digestion and elimination system is working optimally, a person should pass stools twice a day. Our system has no place to store what is ready to be eliminated. You eat at least twice a day, and each meal takes a certain number of hours to reach the elimination stage. The average Indian meal takes 22-24 hours, hi-fiber food needs even less, breakfast too is fast moving. Non-vegetarian food takes longer and an average American meal takes a whopping 65 hours. No wonder that 99 per cent people the world over pass stools only once a day. In the western world it is even less frequent. As a result, what should be thrown out but isn’t, rots and putrefies, releasing toxins, leading to all kinds of diseases.o Tyres around the stomach are a sign of digestion/elimination system gone awry. So, more than watching your weight, you should watch the girth in the midriff area.o Just like you take a bath to clean the body surface, your intestines also need periodical cleaning. In nature cure there is enema or colon bath: kunjar is a bath for the upper stomach. Colon irrigation, now available in the metros, pushes water up the intestine, using manual pressure with a pump, and reaches more of the 25 ft colon compared to enema which can reach only about 5 feet. Mud pack on the stomach area also sucks toxins from inside. Shankh Prakshalan from yoga is a drastic cleansing measure which should be used no more than once in six months. It involves drinking warm, saline water, doing a specific set of asanas, and going to the toilet. These steps are repeated till clear water starts passing out.o Vayu Tattva is important because of the copious amounts of air we breathe. Taking an average of 15 breaths per minute, we breathe over 21,000 times in a day. Carbon dioxide is breathed out as many times. But in faulty breathing, the exhalation, particularly, is not long or deep enough. So even if a trace of the carbon which should have been released stays after each breath, imagine the amount of accumulated carbon circulating in the blood, creating toxins in the body and depleting the energy levels.o Pranayama as a breathing exercise is good but not enough. It is better to correct the breathing pattern, which should become a habit. Watch how a newborn baby breathes-long and deep. Stomach goes in while exhaling, it moves up while inhaling. Even if the baby is under the quilt, you can still notice this heaving movement. To learn to breathe properly, do this: while sitting, standing or lying down, keep a hand lightly pressing the tummy, exhale and consciously see the stomach moving in, inhale and see it move out. Continue for 5 minutes. Repeat during the day as many times as possible. Continue for a week. Afterwards, the breathing pattern will spontaneously improve and become a habit.o Correct breathing will help in respiratory diseases, even digestive disorders, because digestion also burns oxygen. Since more oxygen will now reach each cell, the aging process will slow down.o Another effective cleansing breathing exercise goes like this. Breathe out, hold for as long as possible, then take 4-5 normal breaths. Now inhale, and hold for as long as possible. Return to normal breathing. Repeat the cycle a few times.o Now for the agni (fire) element. Take a sunbath for 15-30 minutes but only in the morning or evening when sunrays fall on your body at an angle and not vertically. More important, let the back be exposed 70 per cent of the sunbath duration-remember quadrupeds have their backs exposed to the elements most of the time. Steam bath and sauna are good too-just keep the head cool by wrapping a wet towel.o Exercise is fine. But even a half-hour brisk walk daily has a salutary effect. The walk after a meal should be leisurely.o If, after a meal, you cannot go for a stroll, keep a hot water bottle next to the stomach for a while to aid the jathragni (digestive fire).o Never take a bath soon after having a meal-it will be like pouring water over fire.o Modern life has given us many unhealthy conveniences such as airconditioning which stifles perspiration. To compensate, sit in the sun for half an hour everyday, or take an occasional steam bath, or use dry friction before a bath to open skin pores. Incidentally, talcum powder closes the pores-it’s counterproductive.o Let’s now look at the applications of the jal (water) tattva. Drink 8-10 glasses of water in a day. The way some South Indians drink water-pouring it down the gullet without the tumbler touching the lips-is not recommended. Water should be sucked in with the tongue, taking small sips. It should be preferably warm, or room temperature. If yours is a predominantly raw food diet, you will need less water. Not drinking water with a meal is a fine principle (because it would dilute the digestive acids), but no harm in taking small sips-after all, your meal does have liquids in the form of curries, etc-because then it becomes part of the meal. If you are chewing well, the food is not spicy, and the vegetable dish is a curry, you would not need water. But do drink a glass an hour after the meal.o Which parts do you wet first when taking a bath, is a ticklish question. The answer is: put the first mug below the navel. In a bathtub, begin with the hips, then the feet. The head should be the last. Bath water should be neither too hot nor too cold-room temperature is right. Bathing Indian-style with bucket and mug is not particularly advantageous over the bath tub way. Just fill the bath tub with fresh water and sponge the body. Take a shower afterwards.o Coming to the last element, prithvi tattva. Watch out for these five things to ensure right food and correct eating.o Quality: Food should be predominantly raw, natural, unpolished.o Quantity: Stop before you feel full. Some nerve centre in the brain that monitors fullness gets its signals from the lower jaw-how many times it moves. So if you chew every morsel 32 times, even 16 times, you will eat the right quantity. Chewing gum can help those who overeat.o Intervals: There should be a minimum gap of three hours (less time after breakfast) between meals, and no snacking in between. It is like with the pressure cooker-you put in all the stuff together, close the lid, and not even a pea can be smuggled in now. Once you eat a meal, a complex set of successive processes is put in motion. Even taking a small bit later will force the digestive process to begin all over again.o Combination: If possible, avoid protein and carbohydrates together; that is, don’t take milk and chapatti, or dal-roti or dal-chawal. Just replace dal with vegetables. Dal is best consumed sprouted. You are free to placate your deity with chappan (56 items) bhog, but keeping the variety to 2-3 items per meal will please your stomach, if not the tongue.o Environment: You ask a person who is toiling hard, and he will point to the stomach: Paapi pet ka sawal hai (I work for two square meals a day). But the same person doesn’t have the time to enjoy his meals or have them in peace. Give your meal 10-20 minutes of undivided attention. Convers-ation at the dinner table too should be limited to a hushed ‘pass the salt, please’.o Proper rest and relaxation should be woven into the daily routine.o Always sleep in as few clothes as convenient. To keep warm, use a blanket or quilt as required, but don’t cover the face which disturbs proper breathing. Also ensure cross-ventilation in the bedroom.o Prefer to sleep on your left side-it has to do with the position of some valves connected to the stomach as well as principles of swar yoga (left or right nostril breathing).o Ensure that your child doesn’t sleep all curled up like a figure 3, which stunts height gain. Make him or her lie straight, spread out. One principle is that the more ground area you cover while sleeping, more grounded/rested you will be. You must have occasionally slept while sitting in a chair-in Mumbai local trains commuters even learn to sleep while standing-but the quality of rest in such postures is poorer compared to the rest gained during sleep lying down.o Laughter and entertainment are important for unwinding. Entert-ainment doesn’t mean watching those complex, edge-of-seat potboilers where the daughter-in-law is forever plotting against the mother-in-law, or vice versa. If you must watch television, prefer the comedies as on Sab TV, or the Laurel-Hardy kind of slapstick, even Tom and Jerry chases on Cartoon Network.
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