Beneficial health information does not always have to come in pretentious, pontificating packaging. Sometimes learning just a few simple tips for more conscious living can make the most useful and positive changes in our lives.
To that end, listed below are thirteen understated yet profound tips for improving the quality of one’s health as well as assisting in that perennial task of getting an edge up on anti-aging and weight management.
1. Walking after you eat. Walking is actually a very powerful digestive aid. The Eastern Indian system of self-healing called Ayurveda advocates for “the journey of a 1,000 steps” after consuming food. The walk doesn’t have to be long; it just needs to be embarked upon after mealtime. So if you have a dog, take your fur-covered friend for a once around the block. Your pet will be grateful, and it will serve as a post-digestive gift to yourself. If you can’t walk, massaging the feet relaxes the body and strengthens the digestive system. There are many reflexology points on the foot that connect with our internal organs, thus bringing immediate benefit and support.
2. Waking up at 6am and exercising gets you the best return for your workout investment. This is especially helpful if you are large framed and prone to gaining weight easily. In Ayurveda, different times of the day have different qualities of energy. For most corpulent people, getting up early in the morning is absolutely the hardest most unpleasant task of the day, because the energy influence of 6-10am has a heavy, sedentary quality. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, overweight people will actually gain more weight the longer they sleep in past 6am, as this is when their metabolism is the most sluggish and energy conserving.
Getting up at 6am and working out counterbalances that natural slowing down, lethargic, weight gaining tendency. It puts one’s metabolism in fat burning mode rather than fat accumulation mode. If you are going to bite the bullet and work out routinely, getting up early and starting it first thing is the smartest way to maximize your benefits.
3. The body likes a temperature of 98.6 degrees, because the organs in the body function best at this temperature. As a matter of fact the body can even function well hotter than that, like when we get an infection and the body turns up the heat. But it does not like to get colder. Internalizing cold food and liquids stuns the organs by forcing them to run colder than they are designed to function. Think of the stomach as a pot that sits on your stove. You want there to be a consistent flame under that pot so that everything you put into it gets cooked thoroughly.
Refrigerators and ice machines are fairly new advents in the history of humankind. Our bodies have not historically evolved into ingesting cold foods and liquids. In addition to adverse effects on organ function, there are emotional repercussions from internalized lower temperatures as well. Ingesting cold cuisine shocks the stomach and spleen/pancreas, which in turn creates an emotional backlash of worry and anxiety. The habit of eating cold foods and drinking iced beverages may be behind your waking up at 4am worrying about various issues in your life.
Another point to consider is that when the internal organs get colder, that will cause a slowing down of the digestive system and its calorie burning efficiency, thus increasing weight gain from whatever is consumed. Consuming cold food and beverages literally freezes weight in the body, stunts the digestive system and promotes the release of cold-related emotions such as stress and worry. Drinking warm liquids and avoiding cold foods will assist you in gaining less weight as well as processing and releasing toxic emotions. So, if you have to have that ice cream sundae or root beer float, make sure you have a hot beverage that you sip frequently, giving your body a chance to warm up and recover before overwhelming the internal organs by lowering their preferred inner temperature.
4. Food combining is a topic that gets very little attention. Most people will go out of their way to buy and prepare an organic and nutritious meal. But if the foods are combined incorrectly the internal results can be disastrously unhealthy. There are many food-combining rules that can be refined indefinitely and endlessly, making them too rigid and hard to follow. For the sake of simplicity we will focus on some elementary points.
Do not combine fruits with grains, meats or vegetables. Fruits are mostly water and take about an hour to digest. Grains, meats and vegetable matter takes about three times longer. So when fruits are combined with these slower digesting foods, they will putrefy within the digestive tract. This means that even if you eat organic cereal with organic milk, and throw on some organic fruit, the whole thing will become a toxic mess in the body.
Fruits have their own food-combining rules as well. Citrus fruits should not be combined with non-citrus fruits. Melons and strawberries should be eaten by themselves and never mixed with anything else. That means that strawberries and bananas may taste great together, but your body will not benefit from the combination. Melons and strawberries go in the “eat them alone, or leave them alone” category.
Ayurveda calls mangoes the “Queen of fruits,” and mangoes are immune to the rule of fruit combining. According to Ayurveda the mango is the only fruit that can be combined with other foods and not become toxic. So enjoy that mango lassie with a guilt-free conscious.
Ayurveda calls asparagus the “King of Vegetables” and says if you are going to eat only one veggie, make it asparagus. It is a deeply detoxifying and nutrient enriched food. Asparagus is a pricy vegetable, but if you treat food as medicine, this is one dish well worth considering.
The bottom line when in doubt about food combining: eating a kosher diet will always ensure the healthiest dietary combinations. (A kosher diet follows Ayurveda food combining.)
5. Eating root vegetables heals, supports and sustains the root chakra. All root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, etc. are medicine for the body’s root chakra energy system. The root chakra is an energy center located on the pelvic floor. It is all about supporting life and survival on the most basic of levels. Especially during times of extreme stress, when the body is under pressure, think of root vegetables as your first wave of medicine for the root chakra.
6. Laughing before eating relaxes and opens the gall bladder duct. Eating during a sales meeting, while emotionally upset or in the company of people you do not like or trust will cause the gall bladder duct to constrict and narrow.
When stressed or emotionally compromised this tiny duct between the liver and the gall bladder can be the first part of the digestive system to contract and the last to relax. If you have a history of gall bladder challenges, laughing and lightening up can be your best digestive aid.
7. Everyone wants better posture, but forcing that result by tightening the back muscles is not the best way to achieve that goal. A more efficient way to achieve better posture is to lift up from the sternum, which expands the chest naturally, instead of tightening the back muscles. Then turn the thumbs outwards and back when you stand or walk. This will gently rotate the shoulders back and correct slouched posture without over correcting.
8. Ayurveda suggests that any organ that is exposed to the air needs oiling on a daily basis. Edgar Cayce also agrees with Ayurveda in suggested there is value in placing a few drops of organic castor oil in each eye just before going to bed. By the time you wake up the body will have completely absorbed the oil and your vision will be clear and refreshed. Beyond lubrication, another advantage to castor oil in the eyes is that it supports the liver. According to the Eastern systems of self-healing the eyes are connected to the liver. When the body is forming in the uterus the eyes and liver develop at the same time from similar tissue. When the liver is ill, such as with some forms of hepatitis, the eyes will become a discolored yellow. So whether or not the eyes are windows to the Soul, they are definitely a window to the health of the liver. When we stare into a computer or television screen for long periods of time or spend too much time in the sun, the eyes can overheat the liver energetically. Castor oil, when applied externally, is energetically cooling and will literally pull the excess heat out of the liver and the eyes. When castor oil is taken internally it is heating, that is why taking a spoonful or two of castor oil will inspire a bodily waste evacuation.
There is an Ayurvedic oil especially designed for the nose. It is called “Nasya” oil. This oil is to be used in the morning and evening. One lays on a bed or floor with the nostrils pointing upwards. Then 5-7 drops are placed in each nostril and inhaled deeply, driving the oil back up into the nasal cavity. In addition to lubricating the nasal passageways, inhaling this oil does wonders for clearing up allergies to animal fur and various forms of pollen. It also helps to ease shoulder and neck tension and stress.
There are several types of oil specifically for the hair, scalp and detoxifying the brain. Brahmi and Bhringaraj are the most popular. Ayurveda describes the head as actually having a type of energetic vent system. These oils enter the vents and lubricate not only the hair shaft and scalp but also the brain itself. These oils can be used individually or in a formula of half and half that can be mixed and combined to get the full spectrum of oilation benefits.
Ayurveda suggests that the movement of life itself is drying to the body. Since the skin is the body’s largest organ and has the most exposure to the elements, oiling the body head to toe before showering is recommended as one of the top three daily routines for a long and healthy life. Once in the shower do not soap the oil off. Allow the water to drive the oil deeper into the skin, and then towel dry as normal. The body is designed to clean itself from the inside out. Using the typical soap and water shower protocol will dry the top layer of the skin which compromises the body’s natural cleaning from the inside out. Oiling the skin supports the body in cleansing itself from the deeper tissues outwards.
The type of oil that one would use would depend on the body type of the person in question and their proclivity for imbalance. Almond oil is one of the few oils that can be used by nearly every person, although for best results, one should consult an Ayurvedic practitioner for an exact determination.
9. Getting to bed between 9:00pm and 9:30pm will provide a better quality of sleep. Our bodies go through natural cycles daily and nightly. The body is designed to begin to slow down at night in preparation for sleep. This why it is best to stop eating after 7pm, as the digestive system is slowing down as well. When going to bed with enough time to drift off to sleep before 10pm the body will be primed for the best recuperative rest. After 10pm the fire in the mind will start to rise and become more active. If you are awake and doing things, you will most likely experience that second wind and find yourself possessed by the need to just get that perennial “one more thing” done. Needless to say, as most people have already noticed from personal experience, the more active the mind, the more difficult it is to fall asleep.
10. Menstruation wisdom. This tip is just for women. Avoid a strenuous workout the first 3 to 4 days of your menstrual cycle. The menstruation process is one of the more profound ways the female body detoxifies. Working out is all about building the body up; detoxing is about supporting the body in releasing. These are widely divergent activities. When you exercise during the menstrual cycle you are telling the body to both build up and let go. Energetically this is very confusing to the body’s natural intelligence.
Also avoid bodywork such as deep tissue massage or Rolfing above the waist. The energy flow of the body changes during menstruation. Bleeding, from an Eastern perspective, is a fire event, and fire naturally rises. This upwards energy flow is not ideal during the menstrual cycle so the body naturally shifts the energy to flow downwards for this localized fire event. Endometriosis, from the Eastern perspective, is caused by the fire energy flowing back upwards, instead of flowing downwards during the menstrual cycle, thus taking the endometrial tissue with it.
When a woman engages in any activity that brings the body’s energy attention upwards, it is in direct conflict with the body’s natural downward shift of energy flow during menstruation. This downward energy movement is designed to help purge the toxic blood down, out and away from the body. Women prone to endometriosis need to be especially carefully in preserving this natural downward energy flow and not confuse the body by directing energy upwards. This means even avoiding the upwardly inhaling the nasal oil in addition to any energy work done around the head. Foot reflexology and bodywork downwards along the legs is fine, since it will encourage a downward movement of energy.
11. A tongue scraper is a simple and low cost health feature everyone needs to keep with their toothbrush. At night while we sleep one of the many things the body is doing involves detoxifying. All of the body’s internal organs are connected to the tongue. This is why Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine practitioners ask to see the tongue. From examining the shape, color, pits, dents or other topical features, a good alternative health practitioner can discern a great deal of information about the overall health of the body.
In the morning after waking up the best way to start the day before eating and drinking is to use the tongue scraper. Start as far back as is comfortable and bring the tongue scraper forward. All the discolored material that is scraped off the tongue are toxins the body has taken the time during the night to bring up through the internal organs and push out through the tongue. Using a tongue scraper is also a very effective way to make changes in your diet, by seeing directly the next morning what your body is discarding on the tongue as toxic and non-useable. The tongue can be lightly scraped until the residue is no longer appearing on the scraper. Usually this is about 10 times. Then clean the tongue scraper as you would your toothbrush.
12. Swishing sesame oil in the mouth for ten minutes will enhance dental hygiene. Statistically India is the country with the highest number of diagnosed cases of diabetes. Yet it has the lowest cases of dental decay. Swishing organic sesame oil in the mouth for ten minutes has been a time-honored way of improving oral health. This can be done while watching television, reading, washing dishes or any activity that does not also involve talking. This only needs to be done once a day, and is best to do before bed, as it will also help keep the mouth from drying out while sleeping. A dry mouth will encourage the growth of bacteria. The magic number is ten full minutes, and then spit the oil out. Do not swallow.
13. CCF tea is the ultimate beverage for a long and healthy life. Take equal amounts of organic cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. Boil for 3-5 minutes, then strain out the seeds. According to Ayurveda this tea formula has long been valued as the best tonic for what ails you. The combination of seeds is a great digestive aid as well as internally cleansing. There is a saying in Ayurveda that nothing bad can happen to you if drink enough CCF tea. Freshly sliced ginger can also be added and boiled with the seeds to add a fire balancing digestive quality. The tea by itself is slightly bland so honey and lemon can also be added to make the taste more interesting.
Summary: When making changes in your diet and lifestyle it is also best to start out with what is easy and simple. Making changes gradually is the best way to ensure that you can incorporate beneficial habits routinely as well as keep your life balanced by not overwhelming yourself with too many changes too quickly.
Also remember that food is your first wave of medicine. When you are grocery shopping for yourself and family, if what you are throwing into your shopping cart is not useful as medicine to the body, don’t buy it.
These tips are designed to be a simple, quick and easy way to bring some profound improvements to the quality of your life with the least amount of effort. Remember, radiant health and a balanced lifestyle start and build on itself with every conscious choice you make.
Vaishali is the author of Wisdom Rising and You Are What You Love . Vaishali learned to transform her life from the threat of two terminal disease diagnoses, domestic abuse and financial devastation. She is a columnist for the Huffington Post and has appeared on The Dr Oz Radio Show and Oprah, where she is an international health and wellness speaker.