Anti-Ageing through AYURVEDA
In Ayurveda the lifespan has been defined as the time period between the birth and death and has been divided into three stages – the childhood, the middle stage (the youth & middle age) and the old age. The childhood is marked by growth, the middle stage is marked by more growth and optimization of the physical and mental capabilities and the old age is marked by slow and progressive degeneration of the physical and mental capabilities. The childhood is dominated by Kapha Dosha, middle stage by Pitta Dosha and the old age by Vata Dosha.
In Ayurveda old age is called Jara.
It is of two Types.
1. Akala jara- premature aging
2. Kalaja jara- timely aging
Akala jara is due to the non-adherence to the fundamental laid by Ayurveda regarding diet & lifestyle like taking improper diet, sleeping during the day, not doing any physical work or excessive physical/mental work, improper handling of emotional upheavals, indulgence in excessive sexual activity, taking excess alcohol (smoking, drugs etc) and not following the daily and seasonal regimens as propounded by Ayurveda.
Ayurveda has answers for delaying the inevitable changes of old age that can optimize the physical and mental abilities of the old person and also to deal with the old age problems.
For delaying of ‘timely ageing’ and prevention/cure of ‘untimely ageing, Ayurvedic texts advocate the use of herbs called Rasayana or the rejuvenators.
The use of Indian goose berry (Amla), terminalia chebula & their compounds like Chyavanprash, Agastya Rasayan (jam like formulations), Tinospora cordifolia (Giloy), Garlic, Semicarpus anacardium (Bhallataka), long pepper and also regular use of milk (for Pitta body type), ghee (for Vata type) and honey (Kapha body type) are described for the purpose of ‘rejuvenation’.
Apart from the rejuvenation therapy Ayurveda has effective guidelines, treatment modalities & specific medicines to help one age keeping the physical and mental abilities intact to the maximum extent.
Let’s take a look at them:
1) Taming the Vata: old age is dominated by Vata and most of the degeneration occurring in the old age is attributed to Vata, so Ayurveda very aptly insists on the use of fats both externally and internally in the form of vegetable oils like gingely, mustard, olive etc and clarified butter & butter (in moderation as per the condition of the digestive capacity and body type) right from the childhood, through middle stage and more so in old age. The use of fats in external therapy in the form of body massage, nasal insufflations, head and foot massage, ear filling etc help regeneration and rejuvenation. The use of vegetable oils & ghee in the diet as per the digestive capacity and the body type of the person go a long way to keep the circulatory ,muscular, skeletal, nervous and reproductive and endocrine systems to work efficiently.
2) Exercise & Diet: We do not have to wait for the old age to inculcate the right dietary and lifestyle changes. They have to be included right from the childhood. But specifically in old age a soft, nutritious, balanced diet as per the digestive capacity and a little lesser in quantity than one eats in the younger age. Inclusion of nuts, soups and fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy products for the nutrients and fiber content is advisable. Inclusion of isabgol husk to take care of constipation is beneficial and is an effective remedy. Use of purgatives is not advisable as they increase dryness of the intestine. Enough fluids are also essential to avoid constipation. Small and frequent meals rather than big meals are useful in avoiding indigestion and acidity. Use of carminatives and digestives like ginger, black pepper, garlic and turmeric is useful to take care of lack of digestive juices that is present in old age.
Daily exercise as per the capacity and focusing on increasing the flexibility & mobility of joints is indicated.
3) Sun Bathing: Exposure of back to the sun for at least half an hour is essential to take care of the Vitamin D. Ayurveda advocates sun salutation and oil massage for the purpose. A regular massage and exposure to sun is thought to strengthen the bones as osteoporosis is a major health risk in old age.
4) Taking care of Vision & Hearing: Doing specific yoga exercises like ‘tratak’ and specific breathing exercises like alternate breathing, kapal bhaati, Bhramari etc are useful to improve vision and hearing. Use of nasal insufflations of oil, washing the eyes regularly with ‘Trifla‘ water, massaging the ear lobes and surrounding area and filling the ear with warm gingely oil is thought to keep the vision sharp and hearing appropriate irrespective of one’s age.
5) Taking care of Respiratory & Circulatory Systems:
A regular breathing exercise Pranayam is recommended for taking care of respiratory and circulatory system. An aerobic workout in the form of a walk, mild exercise, yoga etc is also advocated. Use of herbs like Terminalia arjuna, Tulsi, long pepper, Amla etc along with the correct diet is highly beneficial for the health of the lungs, blood vessels and the heart.
6) To improve Memory & Cognitive Ability: Ayurveda advocates the use of medicated ghee, nuts, head massage, nasal insufflations with almond oil to improve memory and cognitive abilities. Use of Nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachio, and seeds like that of pumpkin, water melon, musk melon etc are also thought to improve the memory and function of brain in old age. They should be used regularly.
7) Taking care of Mental, Social & Spiritual Health: Ayurveda suggests reading of good literature, good conduct and good company (and of course abstinence from the vices like drug, tobacco & alcohol abuse) to enhance the mental faculties (the satva). It also advocates giving something in the form of service to the society to enhance the sense of achievement and fulfilment and also to increase socialisation as per one’s capacity.
This goes a long way to ward off depression and loneliness which cause further deterioration of the mental faculties in the elderly. Use of meditation techniques and yoga is highly recommended for realization of the self and spiritual health.
Old age is inevitable but use of guidelines and remedies given in Ayurvedic Texts can definitely work towards decreasing the suffering related to the old age and make our lives worth living and productive.
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