Ayurveda, the ancient system of medicine which is almost 5,000 years old (and is the origin of yoga) has a wealth of knowledge that has been tried and tested and passed on through generations. Western science is coming around to prove so many of these ancient findings in recent years. (Did you know that Sushruta Samhita, a 5,000 year-old comprehensive Ayurvedic text is the oldest known surgical text and describes in exquisite detail the examination, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of numerous ailments?) Interestingly, although yoga is practiced by tens of thousands of people around the world, many basic simple tenets that are part of the complimentary Ayurvedic lifestyle end up not receiving any limelight!
1. Best way to clean out your colon! – Proper elimination is one of the basic core foundations for a healthy digestive system and good absorption of nutrients. It has been believed for ages that a person who has a well-balanced digestive and eliminating system has the ability to “go” easily and within minutes.
To aid this process and allow the body to make use of its natural urge, a squatting style toilet has been used for centuries. In fact, constipation in a huge percentage of cases can be avoided by just switching to a squatting style toilet! Now, people all over the world who are constipated are advised to squat for a couple of minutes before going to the bathroom or to use a squatting stool. This simple and efficient method can take a little while to get accustomed to but can go a long way in preventing constipation and hundreds of other gastrointestinal problems.
2. Sitting on the floor is active sitting – For centuries, people around the world sat on floors either cross-legged or in a squatting position. If you are a yoga practitioner, this will make complete sense to you. When you sit on the floor (whether it’s Vajrasana, Sukhasana or any other yoga pose), you actually engage many of your muscles as opposed to when you sit on a chair. When your feet are below your heart (as in a position when sitting on a chair), the blood circulation is being directed to your feet, as opposed to when you sit cross-legged on the floor where your heart receives the benefit of better circulation!
Because of the fact that our generation is surrounded by chairs and couches, we’ve lost the ability to sit for longer stretches on the floor. Nevertheless, it’s enormously rewarding to incorporate ways to sit on the floor whenever you can and worthwhile to explore cushions and backrests to aid active sitting on the floor. By sitting on the floor, we strengthen the lumbar region of the body, reducing back pain and discomfort. The hips open, making our pelvis and legs more flexible. Core muscles are strengthened, and the ankles also get gently stretched. Floor sitting also helps promote mental calmness, soothes frazzled nerves and is said to aid one’s creative imagination.
3. Eat with your legs crossed – This is such a simple and beautiful art still practiced by millions of people in countries in Asia. All you need is a low table on which you can put your food and a little rug to sit on. When you sit down to eat in this position, your digestive juices are concentrated in your stomach and prepared for digesting the food you eat. You also somehow respect your food even more and will tend to not overeat.
4. Get your hands dirty – Eating with your hands is pure joy! Long before cutlery was in the picture, people used their hands to feel the food they were eating. (No case of burned tongues from food that was too hot.) The energy centers at the tips of your fingers make contact with your food, increasing the energy vibrations of what you put into your mouth, and make the experience more real for you.