Yoga and Holistic Health

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Holistic health is a concept where in one looks out for total health. Yogic concept of health is also based on the same holistic approach. Yoga means integration, to join with each other, to become whole, total and complete at all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

It is heartening to note that more and more people are now becoming conscious of holistic health. Holistic health is a concept wherein one looks out for total health rather than fragmenting it into physical, mental or spiritual health, Yogic concept of health is also based on the same holistic approach. Yoga means integration, to join with each other, to become whole, total and complete at all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.At physical level, yoga improves the functions of all the systems in the body and obtains desirable integration amongst them. Yoga also improves the co-relation and co-operation within various aspects i.e. conscious, semi-conscious and unconscious states, of the mind and makes the mind to function as one whole well integrated unit. Spiritually, yoga enables the individual soul to merge into the universal soul i.e. attain “Kaivalya”. On the physical level, yoga betters the synthesis of the body, mind, living force, which in turn, improves the total personality by bestowing it holistic health.

Indian Concept of Body and soul

Indian philosophy presupposes the concept of rebirth in which it is believed that the “soul” is immortal and it leaves body when the person dies and enters into a new body when the person is reborn. Thus, the body is considered as the vehicle of ‘Atma’, the soul.

In Kathopanishad, the ‘Body’ is equated to the chariot, and the ‘Soul’ as its master. The ‘intellect’ is seen as the charioteer and the ‘mind’ as ‘reins’, which it holds. The ‘Senses’ are the horses and the ways – the ‘objects’. It is, therefore, said that the body is really the prime medium for fulfilling the goals of life. Here the term ‘body’ needs to be taken as well integrated personality.

Some Definitions of Health

Health is defined in various ways.

According to Ayurveda: Health is that state in which there is a proper balance in three ‘Doshas’, thirteen Agnis’, seven ‘Dhatus’ and ‘Malakriyas’ resulting into the experience of serenity at the levels of body, mind and soul.

World Health Organisation defines: Health as ‘a state e£ well-being: Physical, mental, social and spiritual and not a mere absence of infirmities or diseases”

Yoga Vidya Niketan considers health as a reflection of the optimum and smooth functioning of all the systems of body with maximum integration prevailing amongst them.

Main factors affecting health and favourable impact of yoga there upon.

Health, ill-health quality, longevity of the life, etc. depend on the following five factors:

  • Heredity
  • environment
  • intake
  • activities/expression
  • rest

Of the above five factors, one does not have much control on the first two i.e. heredity and environment. A person usually gets physical or mental disorder due to the fact that such disorder/aoverilment runs in his/her family. People not only get money and property through inheritance but also faulty and ailing genes for which have to suffer a lot in their entire life if proper precautions are not taken well in time to guard there against. Few may perhaps able to change a little environment, but it is rather not possible for human being to change the heredity to suit one’s concept of health. Activities/expression and rest, however, can be controlled to a great extent and achieve holistic health to the maximum extent possible.

Intake

( See also : Food intake for holistic health )

Food is the main important constituent of ‘Intake’. However, there are many things which we take into our personality from outside. Various sound vibrations, words, etc. are taken in through ears; and knowledge of visuals, taste, smell, and touch is received and taken into our personality through eyes, tongue, nose and skin respectively. Similarly, various subtle mental constitutes, thoughts, emotions, behavioural attributes, spiritual imprints, virtues and vices etc., are also ceaselessly received and taken in from outside into one’s personality. All these gross and subtle ingredients form part of the factor called ‘Intake’, which to a great extent determines the quality of one’s total health.

It is, however, true that the protection, development and maintenance of our personality largely depend upon the intake of solid and liquid food and also the air. One should, therefore, remember and scrupulously follow various well-known guiding principles regarding how much to eat, how to eat, when to eat and what to eat. For disease free, holistically healthy ‘Satvik’ living one should take ‘Satvahar’, ‘Yuktahar’ and ‘Mitahar’ comprising of fruits, vegetables, fresh food, pure and fresh water. Further, following the directive i.e. ‘excess’ be avoided in everything. Items of food, which are excessively hot, cold, spicy, sweet, dried, salty or sour, should be excluded.

Similarly, decayed, spoiled, foul, smelling, dirty, items of food/drink do not find place in ‘Satvik’ diet. The diet should also conform to the concepts of ‘Yuktahar’ and ‘Mitahar’, i.e. it should be appropriate to all age, sex, professions, environment, body shapes, capacity, traditions, needs, situation place of residence, etc. and it should be optimum and proper to adequately meet the requirement of a person concerned.

The ideal time for taking breakfast is between 8 & 9 in the morning, lunch in between 10 & 12 in the noon and dinner between 7 & 9 in the night. Depending upon thirst, one should drink clean and potable water in optimum quantity. There should be sufficient time left for digestion in between two intakes. There is no harm in making suitable changes in this schedule depending upon the situation and need. After eating considerable amount of food, it is not advisable to undertake hectic or strenuous activities. Hence, one should not resort to exercise, running, swimming etc., immediately after taking heavy food. Walking few steps slowly or taking afternoon nap i.e. siesta which help in better digestion of food.

“Drink solid food and eat liquid food” is one of the very important rules regarding food intake. Eating in hurry without chewing the food properly means giving invitation to indigestion and many diseases/ disorders relating to the process of digestion and excretion. Like solid food, water is second most important ingredient of a diet. Water constitutes about 70% to 80% of our body, e.g. it is 90% in blood, 40% in bones, 75% in muscles, 63% in kidneys, 60% in liver and 80% in brain. The water is required for proper cleansing of the body from outside and inside. Hence it is necessary to take 5 to 6 litres of water daily in various forms of diet. “Eat when hungry, drink when thirsty and respond immediately to the urge of releasing excreta i.e., “urine and faeces”, is the main key for health. The third essential and unavoidable ingredient of diet is the oxygen-rich air.

Person can live without food for days, without water for some hours but cannot live even for few minutes without the life-force, the oxygen rich air. Intake of air is thus very important for living. It is therefore, very essential to keep our breathing passage clean and open by resorting to Pranayama, like Ujjayi and Bhastrika and yogic cleansing processes like Kapalbhati and Rubber Neti that the life giving breathing process continues efficiently and properly without any effort. We must also fully develop our lungs capacity and keep respiratory system in an excellent condition so as to ensure that the air breathed in is pure, full in living force, non-polluted and quite sufficient. One should, therefore, keep one’s nostrils clean, move in open place having clean air and take special care of breathing passage and respiratory system. Proper in take of air is indeed a soul of any diet.

Activities/Expression
The concept of ‘Vihar’ i.e. Activities/Expression is not limited only to physical movements or activities. Like diet, the concept of ‘Vihar’ is also all pervasive. It includes all gross and subtle both physical and mental activities done consciously or unconsciously, psycho-somatic behaviour, thoughts, manifestation of emotions, receipt and projection of desires, love, anger, malice, lust, greed, infatuation, pride, jealousy. In other words, all physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual activities, processes and relations as also gross/subtle transactions and behaviours of an inner and outer personality are included in the under concept of ‘Vihar’.

Rest
Rest is the mother of rejuvenation. It is an appropriate way and easiest mean to achieve health and strength, enhance capabilities, recoup wear and tear, increase physical and mental enthusiasm, augment virtues, develop personality, etc. Animate and inanimate both need rest. For living rest is a renaissance for rejuvenation. Physical, mental and spiritual rest is absolutely necessary to human being for successful life. One gets physical rest primarily from sleep and relaxation. The mental rest is received mainly from entertainment, literature, arts, hobbies, etc. One gets spiritual rest from Yogabhyas, meditation, Satsang, adoration, worship, reading, sacred books, muttering prayer, faithfully recollecting and meditating on sacred name, complete surrender to god etc. Such balanced and all round rest means proper rest. The life of a person who gets such becomes disease free and holistically healthy.

The above mentioned three factors viz. take Intake, Activities/Expression and Rest help immensely in developing happy and healthful personality. Yoga has tremendous power of stimulating and strengthening one’s discriminating intellect which possesses capacity of differentiating between what is not desirable for one’s own health. Yoga also augments the levels of one’s will power and the powers of determination and perseverance due to which yoga – sadhaka becomes capable of actually acting upon the decisions taken on desirable tenets pertaining to the three controllable factors of health viz. Intake, Activities and Rest, which lead steadily but surely to a stage of holistic health. Yoga, thus acts as a powerful catalyst for synthesizing the favourable effects of these factors for promotion of holistic health.

Yoga helps in avoiding three things and keeping body and mind healthy

No-use, Over-use and Mis-use of body and mind need to be avoided. Body must have minimum required physical activities to keep it fit, flexible and free from any ailment. Similarly, the mind should also be used properly and regularly at optimal level in positive way to keep it calm, peaceful and free from any disorder. Yogabhyas – particularly Asanas, Bandhas, Mudras, Pranayamas and meditation practices ensure regular, proper and optimum use of all the faculties – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

Importance of Psycho-Somatic Urges, Reflexes, Responses, etc. for Health and impact of Yoga in Normalizing them

This refers to Psycho-somatic urges, reflexes, responses, etc. These urges should neither be curbed nor suppressed brutally, upsurged artificially with excessive efforts. The involuntary urges and reflexes are experienced by every individual all through a day. Some of these are essential for healthy living and some are the indicators of the disorders in the body and mind. They are as follows:

Speciality of Health
Health is not available in market. It is not commodity that can be purchased either in a specialist’s clinic or in a pharmacist’s shop or even in a reputed hospital – you can acquire it only by following Nature and abiding by its law. It is said – by money.

You can purchase food but not hunger,
You can purchase water but not thirst,
You can purchase a bed but not sleep,
You can purchase glasses but not sight,
You can purchase tonic but not strength,
You can purchase medicines but not health.

Please remember that continuing and maintaining ideal “Holistic Health” is more important than acquiring it and Yoga make it happen easily at all the three fronts i.e., acquiring, maintaining and developing the “Holistic Health”.

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