This is probably best described in the Ayurveda lifestyle concepts and code of health. It is not a code for asceticism. The stress is on personal hygiene, nutrition, diet, procedures, and medication. All these seek to correct imbalances in the human body, which are the root causes of any disease.
The emphasis is on elegant attire and ornaments, social relations, physical activity, sexual enjoyment, agreeable company, and more. The psychological well-being of an individual was regarded as a valuable aid to healing. There are separate chapters on rejuvenating drugs and sexual enjoyment, which, culturally and to some sections of society, appear to be out of tune with Hindu morality.
Ayurveda stresses aligning treatment with the personality of an individual. This aspect of treatment is called Sattva avajaya treatment (Sattva means “mind,” and avajaya means “bringing under control”). The effort of the physician is to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
The human personality, according to Ayurveda, is determined by not just the physiology but also the psychology of an individual. The brain, nervous system, hormonal secretion, and individual personality make up an individual’s personality. Three types of personalities are identified in Ayurveda. These are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.
Personality type is associated with the nature or Prakriti of the person. Each personality type is further subdivided into subtypes. There are seven types of Sattvik personalities, six types of Rajasik personalities, and three types of Tamasik personalities. Treatments are modulated according to the personality type and subtype of the individual.
Similar concepts of life and lifestyle are enunciated in Traditional Chinese Medicine fundamental principles. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), health problems are outcomes of imbalances in our diet. Diet, a combination of herbs and food, is the first option to treat an ailment.
Unlike the Hindu concept of healthcare described in Ayurveda, where the focus is on vegetarianism, small amounts of animal and seafood protein with substantial quantities of grain and vegetables are recommended in Chinese cuisines. Excess of any food type is frowned upon in this system. The emphasis, here, too, is on balance.
The balance between Yin and Yang is emphasized in TCM. Dietary therapy helps to balance Yin and Yang and nourish the life energy—qi—and blood. It helps restore the smooth functioning of organs and the meridians. (Meridians are pathways in the body through which qi flows). The disease is said to be caused when there is a blockage in the meridians, and the energy flow to various organs is impeded.
Food has four properties. These are also referred to as energies of food—cold, cool, warm, and hot. There is another category—neutral foods with no energetic temperature. Cold/cool foods such as watermelon and salad greens are said to clear heat and fire in the body, cooling the blood and eliminating toxins.
Warm and hot foods are garlic, chicken, etc. These strengthen Yang, invigorate blood, and eliminate colds. Neutral foods are bridges or harmonizers and help bring balance to the body. Warm and hot foods are recommended when an individual suffers from a cold-induced condition; cold and raw foods should be avoided. The reverse recommendation is made when heat-induced conditions prevail in the body.
TCM recognizes five tastes: sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salt. Each taste is said to have a function. Sour foods constrain sweating, stop cough, and relieve diarrhea. Bitter foods help expel toxicity and clear heat. Sweet foods tonify and harmonize the body, relieving pain and spasms. Pungent foods invigorate the blood. Salty foods nourish blood and yin.
Food energy flows through the meridians in the body, nourishing the organs. Salty foods such as seaweed affect the kidney. It is transported to the kidney, taking the kidney and urinary bladder meridian. The kidney is impacted by black-colored foods such as sesame seeds, mushrooms, etc.
Orange-colored foods such as carrots are sweet and strengthen the spleen and stomach meridians. Green-colored foods are associated with liver and gall bladder meridians and influence the organs of this meridian. Pungent and white-colored foods are associated with the lung and large intestine.
Each food is associated with a meridian and an organ. TCM believes that ailment conditions are treated with food appropriate to a specific meridian and its associated organs. The emphasis is on recommending the right food, which will help restore any imbalance in the body.
Alcohol, sugar, and greasy fried foods are regarded as bad. These are Yang foods. When consumed in excess, they deplete the Yin. In TCM, as in Ayurveda, dietary recommendations relate to the seasons.
The impact of food is specific to an organ. Each food is classified as cold, cool, warm, and hot. These characteristics of food are given importance when recommending a diet. Foods and herbs are used to benefit the individual. They help tone and nourish, clear and purge, and regulate the flow of qi in the body.
For example, chicken soup is recommended in food therapy to treat chronic fatigue, mutton soup to treat blood deficiency, garlic for dysentery, etc. Diets are a combination of herbs and food. These strengthen, assist, reduce, subside, and counteract various body conditions.
Many of these ancient lifestyle concepts are now getting validated through modern scientific studies. For instance, the mind plays an important part in health management. De-stressing is regularly impressed upon.
The concept of lifestyle and good health is a vast and complex subject. I have tried to summarise the issue above. There is much more to it.
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