Ayurveda “The Science of Life”
In all high cultures women and men were considered to be wise after having completed their 50th year of age — not only because of their white head. Their life experience and the knowledge acquired made them to be advisors and mediators for the family and the social community. They were highly esteemed and respected.
In today’s society, high performance and youth are in the driver’s seat. Wisdom of the seniors does not seem to be important any more today. If you believe what communication media says, old age is a phase of life that is not very attractive to seek, as it is characterized by decay and disease. If there is any possibility, people try to escape from it. The network of beauty industry and surgery advertise with wrinkle free smiles symbolizing eternal youth. The dream of immortality accompanies the human race as long as we can trace back in history.
“Health at high age is like sunshine in late autumn.” Chinese proverb
Ayurveda divides into three major stages of life, subject to which are the Tri-Doshas, Vata (elements ether and air), Pitta (elements fire and water) and Kapha (elements water and earth). Each of those life phases provides own learning curves and development phases for a person that have to be mastered. Each of them has its challenge and its significance. In childhood, which is characterized from Kapha energy, the physical tissues are developed, as well as the sensations and Ojas. Kapha disturbances such as a cold, bronchitis and feverish infections are typical for this phase of life and may be cured by a special Kapha calming way of life. In adulthood, when the Pitta dosha is predominant, it is the time for ideals and visions, the professional career, starting a family and securing existence. During this phase of life, short-term diseases such as inflammations, fever and diarrhea can occur.
Enhanced mental horizon
Old age, under the influence of Vata energy begins similar to puberty with radical changes. In women these are announced on the physical and mental plane through menopause. In men this change often means a loss of physical power and a beginning mid-life crises. For both sexes this process is often painful as it clearly shows to take leave from youth.
The influence of Vata dosha, which is manifested in this phase of life on the physical plane through the constructive principle, may find expression in loss of power and a decreased regeneration ability of the tissues. The subcutaneous fatty tissue is reduced, the skin depending on its constitution tends to wrinkles and dryness, the flexibility of the musculoskeletal system is diminished and the susceptibility to chronic diseases (osteoporosis and neurological symptoms) increases. On the physical plane this phase of life leads to a reduction of power, however on the mental and spiritual plane it is the time where perception begins a different view on life. Emotions are no longer brought to a boil under the pressure of hormones and the spirit becomes more relaxed. The collected experiences of life widen the spiritual horizon. There is a shift in interests. Spiritual topics about the divine, life and death come into the focus of attention.
Pay respect to seniority
The time has come to give “high age” the position it really deserves: respect because of the manifold experiences, the wisdom of life and the mastered journey through life. Themes such as mortality, age and death should be freed from the taboo of silence and instead should be honored as a place in the cycle of life. In Ayurveda it is not the material or professional success that is put in the balance at the end of life — it is the overview of the experienced life, the spiritual essence that brings inner contentedness. Spiritual interests and perspectives are the essence of a fulfilled life in old age. The preservation of the mental and physical vitally cannot be considered separately, they are in a constant interaction with each other.
“Old age takes up a different perspective on life”
The renowned American Ayurveda specialist David Frawley says: “Whoever wants to master the mind, also has to master the physical body, the senses, Prana and the reality of the world in which we all live. Ayurveda purifies and heals the body and the spirit. On the other hand, self-realization of Yoga depends on a pure body and mind”. Seen in this way Ayurveda is the basis of Yoga and Yoga is the fruit of Ayurveda.
Physical and mental purification
In Ayurveda regular physical and mental purifications are recommended for a physical and mental fitness. This includes a balanced, Vata supporting and Vata reducing diet and way of life. Yoga and meditation are also part of this as well as the intake of special herbal preparations (Rasayanas) in order to support the structure of the specific tissues in this phase of life and to nourish Ojas, vital energy.
Rasayana – regeneration, vitalization, rejuvenation and renewal of the seven Dhatus (body tissues) are regarded as a unique treasure in Ayurvedic medicine. They may be of herbal, mineral and metallic origin and their formulation and applications are described in the ancient texts.
Seen from the mental plane, aging is strongly bound on time. But – what is time? The perception of time is dependent on subjective viewpoints and is experienced very differently.
In 1979, Ellen Langer, psychologist and professor at Harvard University, made an interesting experiment: all the subjects of this experiment had exceeded 75 years of age and spent one week in a holiday resort, which for this purpose was equipped in the style of the Fifties in all details. They were asked to behave as if they were twenty years younger.
The result of this study was impressive: there was an obvious rejuvenation of the male and female participants who followed this time experiment. Their skin and bodies were lifted and they walked more upright. Their memories, their eyesight and their manual abilities improved. Their bodies had apparently saved the memory of the time twenty years ago and followed this journey through time. In current researches on topics such as “aging respectfully” or “aging from a holistic point of view” one encounters scientific studies, promoted projects for planning phases, medical definitions and analyses. Much money is invested for elderly persons and the impression arises that aging is a disease.
You are as young as you feel
The attentive observation of Professor Langer’s experiment can evoke another perception and a different experience of age and time. It reminds of the indwelling resources of self-healing that lie dormant in everyone, and trains our self-perception for those.
It is often said: “You are as young as you feel”. What if the feeling is saved in our cells by remembering youth and physical aging is positively supported and makes aging desirable with vitality, health and performance and all its advantages? We should always be aware of our personal responsibility for aging. Ayurveda offers a rich repertoire to prepare to the advantages of aging and to nourish and preserve joy of life. There is no reason to fear “not to be of value any more” or isolation and loneliness. It is rather a question how to celebrate the experience, sagacity and wisdom, to lean back and harvest the fruits of life!
Healthy and fit at old age
The progression of the aging process depends on the individual constitution, the way of life and food. Important are:
- Much warmth, nourishing oil massages, sufficient rest and recovery periods
- Avoiding stress and excitement
- Loving and stimulating relations, mental exchange
- Training and maintaining free will
- Regularity in lifestyle
- Yoga, meditation
- Intake of Rasayanas (look for advice from a competent medical practitioner or Ayurvedic doctor)
- Easily digestible, nourishing, warming and humid food
- Avoiding cold meals and indigestive meals, little raw food
- Drinking sufficiently (warm)
- Spices: dill, sage, parsley, cardamom, fennel seeds, ginger, saffron, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and nutmeg
- Animal products should only be eaten at lunchtime (i.e., poultry, cottage cheese, cream cheese, butter, cream and yoghurt.)
- Salads may be eaten for lunch after the warm meal. They are very tasty and a good source of proteins when you add slightly roasted and salted nuts and seeds.
- Especially warm meals such as soups, vegetable stews (carrots, sweet potatoes, avocado, pumpkin, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, beets, peas, celery, leeks) or pasta (durum wheat) are recommended.
- Hot meals are highly recommended, i.e., porridge in the morning, the main meal at noon with animal protein and a warm soup or stew in the evening.
… to be continued.