REENA SINGH takes the help of the Bhagavad Gita to explain the importance of eating, behaving and acting right – and its impact on your health
Blame it on greed, that astoundingly low emotion that the Vedas and several spiritual texts have been warning us against since centuries. The formula is simple: Out of greed is born desire, out of desire comes attachment; attachments lead to anger and out of anger comes stress — that turbulent, sleep-depriving emotion that sets off an endless cycle of suffering and illness.
Take recourse to some fundamental Gita gyaan to understand what it is about life that you must change to bring about a positive turn in your life. That will keep you happy and grounded and free from stress, anxiety, and depression – all of which translates at some stage to very real physical and serious mental illnesses.
There is firm advice from Krishna listed in verses 1, 2 and 3 of chapter 16 of the Bhagavad Gita about what constitutes a saintly nature and what makes up a demoniac nature. In simple words, we all have to strive to eliminate gross emotions such as ahankar, lob, krodh, and vikaar from our life. In other words, bid goodbye to ego, greed, anger, and imbalanced thoughts.
In practical terms, it means giving up all forms of desires and materialistic pursuits. Then what do you do when you have time on your hands? Quite simple really: Instead of heading into a mall and splurging on shopping and food, choose to walk among nature and exercise every day. When you exercise is not important, so long as you do it daily. Put on a smile on your face as you do it. It isn’t a chore. It is actually simply one of the best gifts that you can have for free – green grass, trees, natural morning or evening breeze as you spend time outdoors. Makes you cheerful and happy.
Eat wisely. Your plate should contain two parts solid food and one part liquid. The fourth part should be empty. So, never overeat and don’t eat so many wrong foods that your life is all about indigestion and a bloated stomach. Everybody knows what a stomach full of unhealthy food can do to your mood.
Follow a routine of pranayama, mantra, yoga asanas and meditation daily. Make that at least five times a week. Some pranayamas are an absolute must such as kapaalbhaati, anulom-vilom, deep breathing and bhraamari. Do them gently at your own pace. Be especially careful when it comes to kapaalbhaati. Get yourself a yoga instructor till you are confident of doing the routine on your own. And while you are at it, spend some time reading up the deeper meaning of yoga, such as what Patanjali meant by the eight paths to yoga in his Yoga Sutras.
Don’t watch TV late into the night or even while you have your meals. Choose carefully the programmes you want to watch and throw in comedy shows for some healthy laughter. Avoid violence or disturbing content even if your untamed inner voice tells you that just five minutes of watching some titillating content won’t kill you. The aim of recreation should be to energise, and never to disturb.
Sleep two hours after your dinner. You need eight hours of sleep. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep shorten their life by as much as 10 years. Take this seriously.
If health is important to you, then incorporate these simple, easily do-able changes in your food, sleep, recreation habits, and thoughts. The Bhagavad Gita makes this point: “While concentrating on objects of the senses, a person develops attachment to the sense objects; from attachment desires are born, from desire anger arises” (chapter 2.62).
Health issues eventually come with greed. It is our greed for taste that causes us to eat mindlessly simply to satisfy our taste buds. That eventually leads to weight and obesity and lo, then get ready to welome ill-health.
As Krishna tells Arjuna, there is a way out if you take to yoga and meditation: “The yogi should…practice yoga to purify the heart by controlling his mind, senses and activities and fixing the mind on one point.” (6.12)
Studies show that just 10 to 12 minutes of a meditation routine can bring stress and our BP down by as much as 12 points. Verse 17 of chapter 6 of the Gita advocates yoga. “He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.”
We don’t need an expensive gym membership or equipment to learn yoga. You don’t have to read the Gita either, unless there is an inner calling to read all of it. Follow a guru on youtube if you find reading the Gita intimidating. What you need to learn are not the verses but the message and to dwell on it. Once you understand it and make it a part of your internal system, you will benefit immensely. That’s a guarantee.
Reena Singh has more than 37 years’ experience in senior editorial positions in The Times of India (TOI) and Genpact. She was Deputy Editor with TOI’s spiritual newspaper, The Speaking Tree, where she spent nine years.