By Life Positive
How do gurus and spiritual preceptors stay happy and healthy?
Swami Chidananda, Head, Parmarth Ashram
Swami Chidananda’s diet is simple and healthy. Having grown up in the Himalayan jungles, he has not developed a taste for salt, spice, or ghee. He eats his food cooked with a very little salt, very little spice (mainly just cumin, turmeric, and a little salt), and very little oil/ghee. He doesn’t eat fried foods and eats sweets very sparingly. A normal day’s diet would consist of:
Breakfast: dahlia, almonds, and hot milk. Mid-morning: a glass of freshly squeezed vegetable juice.
Lunch: One or two very simple vegetables (most likely a green vegetable or squash), mung dal, rice, chapati, yogurt, and salad.
Dinner: One simple vegetable, mung dal, chapatti, or rice.
Before sleep a glass of hot milk.
Except for the glass of juice midmorning he never snacks between meals.
He walks every morning in the jungles for about an hour. He is in excellent health. His devotees in the USA who are doctors give him an annual check-up and have said that although he’s 55, his body is much, much younger. In 55 years he’s never had an illness or taken any medicine.
He observes silence 14 hours each day, from 10 pm to 10 am every day and again from 2:30 – 4:30 pm.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Founder, Isha Foundation
With his hectic travel schedule, Sadhguru does not follow a fixed daily regimen. He is vegetarian, his meal comprising more vegetables than cereals. When vegetarian options are not easily available, particularly when traveling, he does occasionally have seafood. He eats twice a day: at around 11.30 a.m. and around 7.30 p.m. His sleeping hours are erratic, but rarely exceed more than two to three hours every night.
His daily ‘maintenance practice’ is one Surya Namaskar (over which, he says, he takes 40 minutes) and ‘20 seconds of yoga’ (His rationale: ‘Kriya is neither about the body nor the breath. You don’t know how to activate the energy body, so you use breath and body as a means. But if you don’t have that limitation, you can activate it in a very short time.’)
When he is in the ashram, he’s often to be seen joining the inmates for a fierce game of evening volley-ball.
Dr. Pranav Pandya, Head, Gayatri Parivar
Dr Pandya is an early riser and wakes up at 3.30 am. On waking, he drinks two glasses of lukewarm water. After his ablutions, he meditates till 5.30 am.
After that, he takes 10 almonds soaked overnight in water. His first meal of the day is at nine am. It consists of two chapattis, dal, salad, seasonal vegetables, sprouted pulses. He drinks 10-12 glass of water in a day and takes only herbal tea.
does not have lunch and has his next meal at five pm, which follows the same pattern as the morning meal. He prefers fruits, milk, and juices above all else.
His choice of food is based on the principle of the ayurvedic credo – hitbhuk, mitbhuk, ritbhuk. Eat what is beneficial to the human body, which satiates hunger, and which is in accordance with seasonal changes.
His exercise programmed consists of a brisk evening walk in his university office and 20 minutes of walking and running on a treadmill. He also does a 10-minute routine of Pragya yoga, a set of 16 asanas specially derived from Surya Namaskar to keep body parts and internal organs fit.
After doing Pranakarshan Pranayam for 10 minutes, and anilom vilom pranayama for five minutes, he meditates on the brilliance of the early morning rising sun while mentally chanting the Gayatri mantra for 40 minutes. He also deeply contemplates the five sheaths of the human body (panchkosh Jagran sadhana) for half-an-hour.
‘Getting up early and going to sleep early is essential for good health,’ he asserts.
Baba Hardev Singh, Head, Sant Nirankari Mandal
A firm believer in simple living and high thinking, Baba Hardev Singh eats only vegetarian food. His meals are simple and limited – sometimes consisting of only a single chapatti. A game lover, he is a keen trekker and loves to play volleyball. Regular exercise, especially a brisk walk in the morning or evening and sometimes jogging, is key to his regimen. During his annual visits to Mussoorie in summer, he occasionally undertakes cross-country treks. He enlivens these occasions with a game of football with his devotees. He also practices yogic exercises such as pranayama on a daily basis.
Baba constantly meets people from all communities and walks of life in India and abroad whose sufferings he tries to mitigate. He believes that the love and devotion of his disciples keep him fresh and enthusiastic despite his long tours, which would otherwise be tiring.
Mumtaz Ali, Founder, Satsang Foundation
Mumtaz Ali or M as he is known adopts a diet that is preferably vegetarian, in moderate quantities. The food should not be too much, nor too little. He eschews all extremes.
His exercise regimen consists of 30 minutes of yoga asanas, and pranayama early in the morning daily and walks in the evening.
therapy for good health consists of yoga and meditation. Emotionally, he chooses not to hate anybody and not get affected by anybody’s hatred. The spiritual corollary to this is to consider all living beings as sparks of the Divine Fire and to consider all as one.
the single most important thing to stay healthy is to rise early in the morning, sleep early at night, and trust in God.
Dada J. P. Vaswani, Head, Sadhu Vaswani Mission
Says Dada, ‘Man is a complex of body, mind, and soul – and all these three aspects of his being must be integrated, for man to lead a happy, healthy, harmonious life. Therefore, I spend at least some time in silence, every day – praying, meditating, and/or repeating the Name Divine.
‘I usually consult four personal physicians – Dr. Quiet, Dr. Diet, Dr. Laughter, and Dr. Sunshine! Stay close to nature, for you can absorb good health vibrations from it. Water and walking are the vitamins one must take regularly. I eat a simple, vegetarian diet. My food is largely sun-cooked, i.e., mostly fresh fruits and raw vegetables.
‘Practice purity and prayer; always be positive in your approach and attitude to life and its problems, and hand your life over to God in simple, childlike faith – and all will be well with you!
One line which enshrines the secret of health for me is kam khao, gham khao i. e., eat in moderation, and control your temper; do not react, do not disturb your peace of mind.’
Krishnananda, Founder, Manasa Foundation
Says Guruji, as he is known among his followers, ‘I am 68 years old. I took up meditation 30 years ago and have been teaching meditation and Shambala principles for the last 20 years.
‘I practice ancient physical yogic exercises two or three days a week. I have a heavy breakfast (puris, uppittu or idlis) in the morning, a light lunch (ragi balls with sambar and fruits) at 1 pm, and a very light dinner (two chapatis with dal) at 7.30 pm. I take two or three half-cups of coffee.
‘I meditate in the early morning (3.30 am to 5 am) and in the evening (6.30 am to 7.30 pm). I spread love, experience light, and stay in astral links with the rishis most times. I receive spiritual energies from the light and the rishis.
‘The single most essential thing to stay healthy, I speak with experience, is having positive thoughts always. Thoughts rule our lives.’
Rishi Prabhakar, Founder, Siddha Samadhi Yoga
Rishi Prabhakar's food habits are basic and simple, consisting of a larger part of raw and natural foods. In addition, he has a substantial quantity of fruits and standard South Indian fares such as curd rice or sambar rice.
Every morning, he practices asanas and pranayama. He also meditates for close to two or three hours daily. The guru does not adhere to a fixed schedule and follows the wisdom of his body, choosing to sleep and wake by its dictates. Sometimes, he is awake through the night; other times, he opts for an early night.
On the few occasions that he falls ill, his preferred treatment is giving the body rest. In cases of extremity, he might take homeopathy medication. On the whole, he enjoys enviable health. The secret of his success, he says, is non-doership. No matter how arduous the activity, non-doership makes it effortless.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder, Art of Living Foundation
Sri leads a natural and simple lifestyle. He eats light and simple food, determined by the ‘Prakriti’ and ‘prana’ of the food. His food philosophy is ‘Have no breakfast or just one fruit. After breakfast, work awhile… Have a full lunch. After lunch, rest awhile… Have a light dinner. After dinner, walk a mile…’
Sri Sri sleeps very little as he spends most of his time meeting people. He gets up by around 4 am in the morning and does some yoga, pranayama, and meditation. Sri Sri lives in the present moment and thus, everything he does contributes to his physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual fitness.
is perfectly healthy despite a heavy schedule and extensive traveling. He says perfect health means being centered in the Self. ‘To attain a perfect state of health, one has to be mentally calm, steady, and Emotionally soft. The state of healthiness has to flow from the innermost of your being to the outermost and vice versa’.
Hansaji, Director, The Yoga Institute, Santacruz, Mumbai
Says the ebullient Hansiji, ‘Good health is a natural phenomenon. We are born healthy, and we should ensure that we live a simple life in order to maintain this health. The essential thing is to maintain balance and joy in our lives so that as we move on in our lives and our metabolism slows down, we can still enjoy good health.
I begin my day at five in the morning…I take a morning walk for about 45 minutes and eat a breakfast of fruits and milk. Through the day, I eat every four hours, in quantities that allow me to feel hungry every four hours. I consume lemon juice, a little while into the morning, and lunch is a simple meal comprising chapattis, vegetables, and a glass of buttermilk. Evening, I tend to have something light like chakra, and dinner is again a simple vegetarian meal. I believe it is essential to have fruits for at least one meal a day.
‘I sometimes take a walk in the evening too, but I structure my day in such a way that I am engaging in physical activity at all times. If I sit for too long, I tend to walk for a kilometer thereafter, and if I stand for too long, I tend to sit down cross-legged. I sit cross-legged at most available opportunities, even in theatres, auditoriums, etc.
I adopt yoga in my daily life…it is this practical approach that we teach in our institute. I do my pranayamas as I wake up, and bend forward/backward while having a bath. Also, most of my counseling sessions occur while walking.
For emotional health, it is essential to living for others, do good to others. When we live for others, we feel a sense of joy. Maintaining a balance, avoiding stress, and anxiety helps us become caring and giving individuals. I sleep from 10 in the night to 5 in the morning. I don’t fast or go on spiritual breaks, but I tend to tune off at different parts of the day, whenever possible. Lastly, the most important thing to maintain good health is to keep a balance!’
Jaya Rao, Founder, Vedanta Vision
This well-known teacher of Vedanta observes, ‘The most important thing to maintain good health is to keep a calm mind. This arises from the fact that when the mind is stressed out, physiological activities of the body are on overdrive. As a result, digestion, respiration, and other body functions cease to be normal. This results in disease…disease is really the dis-ease of the mind.
‘My day begins at four o clock in the morning, with meditation, thinking, and study of the scriptures. This is followed by a walk, and then yoga, after which I go on with my other day-to-day activities. I spend between 6-8 hours of sleep, but the key is to sleep as early as possible.
‘To maintain good health, I essentially believe there must be an integrated approach to feed the body, mind, and soul. The body should be exercised daily – yoga, pranayamas, and any cardiovascular exercise, like a walk. The mind should be refreshed with positive thoughts. There should be a conscious effort not to think negatively of other people. Spiritual knowledge should also be imbibed daily, a thinking, questioning, and inquiring spirit should be adopted…the self should be cleansed of impurities daily.
‘Eating habits should be regulated. I follow a balanced vegetarian diet and avoid oily and fried foods. I recommend the intake of healthy, sattvic food. I don’t fast. I believe in eating regulated amounts throughout the week. However, this does not take away from people who do fast. I am not rigid; Vedanta is not against enjoyment, and so I do deviate occasionally.
Essentially, for any disease, prevention is better than cure. One should not wait for symptoms to arise. And even if they do, it is essential to nip them in the bud.’
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