|| श्री दिग्विजयपठ्ठाभिरामो विजयते || || हरिः सर्वोत्तमः वायुः जीवोत्तमः ||
|| श्री दिग्विजयपठ्ठाभिरामो विजयते || || हरिः सर्वोत्तमः वायुः जीवोत्तमः ||
Hope you are all enjoying summer and enjoying the new found freedom that has come with the phased reopening. Summer months are also wet months in the GTA with much of the rainfall recorded during July and August months. Hot, humid days come with their own advantages and disadvantages. While the longer days make it easier to pack more activities during the day, the sultry weather weakens our digestion and creates a breeding ground for various insects and bugs. Ayurveda has dietary and lifestyle prescriptions for rainy months. Chief among them is avoid leafy greens during this time. If you can take it up a notch, it is best to avoid all fruits and vegetables for a duration of a month. If you recall (no pun intended) most salmonella outbreaks and salad green recalls occur during this time of the year. If you are feeling sluggish and ..meh then this recipe should perk you right up. It is an excellent digestive, helps improve taste, alleviates constipation. Quathita as it is called, is boiled and spiced buttermilk. Quatitha (pronounced kva-thi-taa) means that which has been boiled.
All you need are a few simple ingredients:
1 tbsp ghee/virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground dry ginger
1/2 tsp dry mango powder (optional)
2 cups homemade buttermilk/takra
Black salt to taste
Heat oil/ghee in a 1 quart sauce pan/pot on medium heat. Add cumin when the oil turns hot. Allow to splutter and reduce the heat to low. Add in ground black pepper and dry ginger. Stir well so that the spices are gently fried in oil until fragrant. Pour in buttermilk or takra (you can look up takra recipe in previous blog). This is not to be confused with store-bought buttermilk. This is a thinned down version of homemade yogurt. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, approximately 10-15 mins on low heat. If the buttermilk is not well fermented and is lacking in sour taste then you may add dry mango powder to impart some tartness. Otherwise, the sour taste of buttermilk is good enough. Turn off the heat and add salt to taste.
Serving suggestion:Serve with steaming hot cooked rice.
Eat well, keep safe, stay well.
Sluggish digestion? Try this recipe.
21600. That is how many times we breathe on an average everyday, for the most part without our conscious effort!
...mukhyapran kruten shatshathadhikyaekvimshatsahasrasankhyak shwasroop hamsa mahamantra japen tatha mukhyapranpreriten...
What is prāṇa?
It is derived from two sanskrit root syllables pra (foremost) and ana (minute singular element which lies at the foundation of everything). It is pronounced as prANa. Prāṇa is the life-supplying cosmic energy of the universe which is omnipresent and omniscient, working on all levels of mind, body and life. Everything in the cosmos is dependent on prāṇa. The flow of prāṇa is the most important pillar of our health. Prāṇa is the most dominant force in a human body. It controls the three doshas. It is the subtle form of vata without whose aide no dosha can move or function. In other words, all functions of our body are in direct control of prāṇa and consequently, no disease can occur without its aide.
Where does prāṇa reside?
Nabhisthaha Pranapavanah Sprishtva Hrit Kamalanantaram , Kanthata Bahirvinaryaati, Patum Vishnu Padamritam .Pitva Chambara Piyusham Punarayati Vegatah, Prinayana Dehamakhilam Jivayana Jatharanalam - Acharya Sarangadhara
Prāṇa resides in nābhi (navel), rises up from Lotus (heart) to Kantha (trachea), goes out and drinks nectar of Vishnu’s lotus feet (oxygen with inhaled air) and enters body again filling it with vital force and provokes the digestive fire as well as giving life in every proper breath. In other words, the personification of life-breath, the God of Wind Vāyu residing within us in subtle form does this job in all sentient beings as a service to Lord Supreme, Maha Vishnu. That's right, the most important function on which our life depends is not done by us! From the easily curable hiccups (aka hikka in āyurveda) to the harder to treat stroke, diseases of deranged prāṇa occupy a wide spectrum. Anoxia (lack of oxygen in the dhatus/tissues), anoxaemia (lack of oxygen in the blood), dyspnoea (distressed breathing), hyper apnoea (increased breathing) are all diseases of prāṇavaha srotas (channels carrying life-breath).
How do we obtain prāṇa?
- vibrationally through marmas and nādis
- through breath
- through exposure to natural elements like sun and fresh air
- through food and water
- sāttvik foods are prāṇa-promoting while tamasik foods are prāṇa-depleting;
- through senses.
Some of the typical signs of low prāṇa include, but not limited to, lack of mental energy, memory lapses, lack of enthusiasm, physical tiredness /lassitude, lack of curiosity, lack of motivation, impaired/shallow breathing, tactile dysfunction, loss of smell (another cardinal COVID symptom), impaired sensitivity to touch, sight, hearing etc.
Some of the factors affecting low-prāṇa include:
1. Overworked and undernourished senses i.e., improper utilization of sense organs
2. Overactive mind, mental stress
3. Consumption of prana-depleting foods
4. Shallow breathing
5. Physical stress / overexertion
6. Lack of exposure to natural elements
7. Injury to marma points
8. Blocked or obstructed nādis
Here are some tips to enhance prāṇa, especially for COVID positive folks in home quarantine. I may sound like a broken record but I think it needs to be emphasized.
1. Include prāṇa-rich foods in your diet. Eat easily digestible foods like freshly prepared moong-dal kichari.
2. Do not wear masks while at home. Wearing masks restrict the flow of prana. Use masks only when you have to.
3. The environment is supercharged with sāttvik vibrations at the twilight hours. Wake up early to take advantage of this time, step out into natural surroundings and breathe well and breathe deeply. Green outdoor spaces are prāṇa-rich. An indoor dwelling, especially a Vāstu non-compliant home cannot match the prana levels of outdoor space.
4. Eliminate stressors from your life, both physical and mental to the extent possible. If television is causing you stress, turn it off. We can live without television.
5. Avoid over-exercising. Avoid exercise between 2pm and 6pm.
6. Protect vital marma points from physical stress or injury vis-à-vis head, temples, throat, heart, urinary system, rectum, reproductive system. These are all seats of prāṇa.
7. Avoid prāṇa-depleting foods - a bag of chips is devoid of prāṇa for instance, even if it is vegetarian.
8. Do not talk excessively. We expend energy every time we speak. Let us conserve our vital energy for useful conversations.
9. Do not listen to loud jarring music, negative news
10. Do not constantly stare at devices. The texts say that we should not stare at anything that is bright and shining for too long. The authors must have had foresight that we would get hooked to gadgets today!
11. Practice conscious breathing. Bring your attention to breath every time you find yourself in a stressful situation. Pace yourself. One breath at a time. Things will fall into place.
12. Inhale a piece of camphor when you experience shallow breathing. Camphor is a natural bronchodilator.
13. Apply a couple drops of sandalwood oil on your temples and massage gently (no pressure, just gentle strokes in circular motion). Inhale the aroma if you are stressed. Sandalwood oil is an excellent stress buster and balances overworked senses.
14. Light a small piece of camphor at home and move it around the living quarters if you are worried sick about airborne pathogens. Camphor destroys airborne pathogens. If you do not wish to set off the fire-alarm then just keep a small piece at a few strategic corners at home. Camphor is very volatile so it will evaporate without leaving much residue. It is highly combustible so make sure it is kept them away from heat source.
15. Listen to soothing music, devotional music that is pleasant.
16. Most importantly, be positive, have faith and surrender to the will of God - all things that mighty MukhyaprAna dEva in anjali mudra teaches us. Every morning when we wake up, let us offer gratitude to the God of Wind, Vayu Deva for breathing life into us. Take one day at a time. The providence has a plan for all of us. We are all being taken care of.
Some examples of prāṇa-rich foods are:
1. Fresh, plant-based foods
2. Organic foods
3. Non-gmo foods
4. Local produce, locally grown with minimum shipment
5. Food that is freshly-cooked. Eat within 2-3 hours after cooking.
6. Sāttvik foods
7. Food cooked in open fire, especially using firewood
Some examples of prāṇa-devoid foods:
1. Tamasic, rājasic foods (meat, alcohol, coffee, tea, soda, caffeinated beverages, chocolate, energy drinks, stimulants, eggs, cigarettes etc.)
2. Frozen foods
3. Microwaved foods
4. Heavily processed foods with long shelf-life - everything under "ready-to-eat" line falls in this category
5. GMO foods
6. Non-organic, chemically treated produce
7. Onion, garlic and allium variety
8. Refrigerated foods
9. Stale or rotten foods
10. Overly cooked and reheated foods
There has been an onslaught of ready-to-eat products, packaged foods, appliances like refrigeration, microwave ovens into the Indian market within the last decade or so. Not to mention the ubiquitous coffee-tea vending machines in all corporate offices, especially call centers. It is an introduction of a lifestyle that is completely alien to the people of India. Can we see how devastating this advent of commercial food technology has been for a country that was largely used to eating fresh, local, organic?! The land that taught the world how to breathe is now gasping for breath. Of course, it is not a precipitating factor but it has certainly contributed to a prāṇa-devoid lifestyle. Help India breathe again. Help everyone breathe again. Let us support the local, organic movement. Buy local, buy fresh, eat fresh.
The atmosphere is super-charged with prāṇa during twilight hours
The purpose of this blog is to shed some light on some of the basic do's and don'ts to bolster immune system. One of the most frequently asked questions asked is - what should I eat to boost my immune system. Well, guess what? We are living in an age of overabundance and we are all overeating. To add some magic potion to our already rich lifestyle is not the intent of this blog. Consider this as a page out of a book called dinacharya or daily routine. These some of the most basic of rules that should be adhered to, and according to the texts violating these rules amounts to ill health - guaranteed. Best of all, it costs us nothing to implement these simple hacks. It does require willingness to commit and discipline to follow-through, however. So without further ado, here comes...
1. Wake up before sunrise, ideally about an hour or two before sunrise called Aruṇōdaya kāla. Waking up early revvs up our metabolism and burns off excess fat or toxins circulating in our body. This is a must. It is not optional. Sleeping after sunrise amounts to offending Sun who provides life energy to all living beings.
2. Do not consume anything at twilight hours. These are hours at the intersection of day and night (dusk), and night and day(dawn) known as sandhya kāla. These are sacred times of the day dedicated for meditation and contemplation activities. Our body is not capable of digesting food at an optimal level at these hours. Eating at these hours leads to āma/toxins which sets off the disease process. Even if you are taking prescription meds, avoid taking them during these hours. In fact, one should avoid sex, sleep, study and recapitulation at the twilight hours. These time periods lasts for about 2-3 hours after sunrise and 2-3 hours around sunset. If that seems like a long stretch then at a bare minimum avoid consuming anything 25 mins before and after sunrise-sunset times. Ideally, the hour when sun is at its peak on the horizon known as madhyāhna kāla is also considered sacred and not ideal for consuming meals. So begs the question what is the ideal time for consuming one's meal in a day. That ideal time is known as sangava kāla which operates roughly between 10 a.m. and noon - subject to minor change based on seasons. If for some reason we are unable to eat during this time then the next best time window to eat meals is between 2pm and 4pm. Do not eat at both times. Pick one of the two time windows and stick to it regularly.
3. Do not eat during night time or rātri kāla. This period roughly operates for about 7-8 hours and varies depending on season and geographic location. Typically, it operates between 10 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. Currently, for Toronto it is between 10:20 pm and 4:45 a.m. and for say for Bangalore, India it is between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.
4. To the extent possible limit your meals to one meal between sunrise and sundown. If you are starting out to make this a habit then do it at least on Sundays. For those of us in the northern locations like in Canada this can be tough during summer months given long days and brief nights. However, it is doable in other seasons. Replace fruits for second meals until you get the hang of it.
5. Exercise should be done compulsorily by those with good bodily strength and those who consume rich food from December to May (avoid exercise during hot summer months and rainy/windy season). Ideal time for exercise is during mornings and evenings. Avoid exercise between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
6. Main regular meal-times. It is important to have a daily schedule, especially eating and sleeping. Stick to a schedule religiously.
7. Do not eat/drink while standing up. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position while partaking meals. Drinking while standing amounts to drinking intoxicants say the texts.
8. Some other days when food should not be consumed are: a) on 11th lunar days b) during eclipses.
9. And, lights out at the onset of rātri kāla/night. Go to bed two hours or so after sundown. For those living closer to equator, 9pm is the ideal time and for those further up north about 10pm. Our body repairs itself the most between 10pm and 2 a.m. and we lose this incredible benefit if we do not get our snooze at this hour. Hence the term beauty sleep. But beauty sleep can offer age-defying benefits only if it is done during rātri kāla, not if it is done at other times. Going to bed on time is as important as getting up early.
rāmō rājamaṇiḥ sadā vijayatē rāmaṃ ramēśaṃ bhajērāmēṇābhihatā niśācharachamū rāmāya tasmai namaḥ ।rāmānnāsti parāyaṇaṃ parataraṃ rāmasya dāsōsmyahaṃrāmē chittalayaḥ sadā bhavatu mē bhō rāma māmuddhara ||
The second line of the verse implies that Lord Rama slays all those who are niśāchara i.e, those who stay awake at night. Sage Viswāmitra's words, not mine! If we do not wish to die an untimely death then we should not keep vigil at night. So all the night owls, please take note. Remember pulling that all-nighter to get your report out in time at work or at school? Well, it will not come to save us when a pandemic hits or otherwise!
On that note, may Lord Rāma offer his healing touch to all those who are suffering and those in pain. Prayers for all those who are hurting and grieving.
We laud all the front-line health workers who are doing their best to help people in distress and they should be lauded, no doubt. But IMHO, there are many silent warriors of yester years who showed us the path to avoid ill-health altogether. Their contribution is timeless and priceless. Yes, we may have found vaccine and some drugs. But taking 10 steps back and putting two steps forward is not progress! From Ashwini Kumaras to all the sages and illumined minds of Vedic India, you are indeed the true warriors. My humble obeisances to all those who have contributed to preserving the timeless tradition of Ayurveda.
Simple hacks for building immunity
Today marks the auspicious occasion of Dhanvantari Trayodashi aka Dhanvantari Jayanti, the day of manifestation of Lord Dhanvantari, the promulgator of Āyurveda, primordial healer and physician. According to the ancient texts, Lord Dhanvantari appeared from the ocean on this day during what is popularly known as Samudra Manthan i.e. the churning of the ocean by the demigods and the demons. He appeared with a pot of elixir/nectar of immortality (amrit) due to which He is also referred to as Amritakalashahastā.
Dhanvantari Jayanti and its observance is not just dedicated to Ayurvedic practitioners, it bears significance for the entire world community and those who seek well-being. Most ancient texts of Āyurveda dedicate at least a chapter or two in commemoration of Lord Dhanvantari and narrate the origin of Āyurveda, even when the authors remain nameless with utmost humility in an effort to honor the tradition, a divine tradition (daivī sampradaya). What comes through clearly through the narration in each of the texts is that the tradition of Āyurveda was intended for universal good and well-being. The tradition of Āyurveda continued uninterrupted for hundreds of years in the Indian sub-continent and its knowledge spread far and wide across various parts of the world transmuting into different healing practices through the silk route.
But the pure tradition of Āyurveda and its knowledge was able to survive only under the aegis and patronage of select kings of India after the practice was willfully oppressed and condemned by the British as heretic and heathen during their colonial rule.
Here is the brief glimpse into the early origin of Āyurveda which has stood the test of time for the benefit of humanity as narrated in one of the texts.
एकदा देवराजस्य दृष्टिर्निपतिता भुवि | तत्र तेन नरा दृष्टा व्याधिभिर्भुशपीडिताः ||
तादृष्ट्वा ह्रुदयं तस्य दयया परिपीडितम् | दयाऽऽद्रेह्रुदयः शक्रो धन्वन्तरिमुवाच ||
धन्वन्तरे ! सुरश्रेष्ट ! भगवन् ! किञ्चिदुच्यते । योग्यो भवति भूतानामुपकारपरो भव ॥
उपकाराय लोकानां केन किं न कृतं पुरा | त्रैलोक्याधिपतिर्विष्णुरभून्मत्स्यादिरूपवान् ||
तस्मात्त्वं पृथिवीं याहि काशीमध्ये नृपो भव । प्रतीकाराय रोगाणामायुर्वेदं प्रकाशय ॥
इत्युक्त्वा सुरशार्दूलः सर्वभूतहितेप्सया । समस्तमायुषौ वेदं धन्वन्तरिमुपादिशत् ॥
अधीत्य चायुषो वेदमिन्द्राद्धन्वन्तरिः पुरा । आगत्य पृथिवीं काश्यां जातो बाहुजवेश्मनि ॥
नाम्ना तु सोऽभवत्खयातो दिवोदास इति क्षितौ । बाल एव विरक्तोऽभूञ्चचार सुमहत्त्पः ॥
यत्नेन महता ब्र्ह्मा तं काश्यामकरोन्नृपम् । ततो धन्वन्तरिलोकैः काशीराजोऽभिधीयते ॥
हिताय देहिनां स्वीया संहिता विहिताऽमुना । अथ विध्यार्थिनो लोकान्संहितां तामपाठयत् ॥
Once, Indra (lord of demigods) took a look at this world and saw the people suffering greatly from diseases, this sight made his mind filled with compassion and he addressed Dhanvantari thus, “You Dhanvantari, the best of gods, the worshipful, let me speak a few words, you are the best person to help the people of the world; Vishnu, the Lord of the three worlds did help the people by your fish incarnation etc., in the past. So go to the world of men, become a king in Kāśī (kingdom/city), propagate āyurveda in order to destroy diseases.” With these words the lion king of gods, desirous of the welfare of all living beings, taught the entire science of life.
Dhanvantari came to this world and took birth in the house of the king named Divodāsa. When he was still a boy, he became an ascetic and worshipped Brahma by hard penance. Pleased with it, Brahma made him the king of Kāśī then he became reputed as Dhanvantari the kāśīrāja (king of the kingdom of Kāśī). He composed a treatise of his own for the benefit of the people and taught it to his disciples also.
Later, sage Vishwamitra through his divine powers learned about Lord Dhanvantari’s appearance as kāśīrāja and prompts his son Suśruta to go to Dhanvantari and learn Ayurveda. Complying his father’s request Suśruta went to Kāśī along with a hundred sons of other sages who were eager to study with him. Suśruta was the first among them to compose a text which became well-known as Suśruta samhitā.
Reference: Bhāvaprakāśa, translated by Prof. K.R. Srikantha Murthy
This story is a reminder that the disease burden of the world is not a new phenomenon as the current pandemic would have some of us believe. The cycle of life on this planet is eternal. So too is the cycle of disease and healing. This story is a reminder that the divine powers are always working to uplift humanity even as we falter. It is yet another clear demonstration of the unbounded compassion of the Divine.
On the occasion of the upcoming festival of lights Deepavāli, let us pray for the light of wisdom to enter our lives to dispel all darkness and ignorance that shrouds our being. It is the ignorance that leads us to our downfall, and it is the light of wisdom that leads us to the truth and goodness. And Deepavāli is an observance to remind us all that goodness always trumps evil. And in that spirit, wishing all those who celebrate a joyous and meaningful Deepavāli.