New Man : New World: [10] Physical Health

Published: 19.12.2008

Naturopathy, Ayurveda and other systems have given a lot of attention to hygiene or health science. In medical science, therapeutics has been highly developed, but it will be no exaggeration to say that health science has developed much less. The science of remaining healthy and the science of treating diseased people are two different things. Even though allopathy has put forth the principle: “Prevention is better than cure.” It has been given much more attention and emphasis in naturopathy and Ayurveda.

Who is healthy?

Let us first concentrate on health science. Since earliest times, man has wished to remain healthy and not fall ill. But who can be called healthy? According to Ayurveda, he is healthy whose sense organs and soul are in a state of felicity. Perfect equilibrium between the three forces controlling all bodily and mental activity (doshas) viz. phlegm, bile, wind (kapha, pitta, vayu) and a parallel equilibrium of biological combustion are the hidden symptoms of good health. The visible symptoms of good health are a happy mind and uncontaminated sense organs.

Physiological Viewpoint

Let us look at the issue from the physiological point of view. He is healthy whose digestive and excretory systems function properly. One eats, assimilates the required elements and excretes the rest. If this happens, man may be regarded healthy. Let us go a step further. He is healthy whose nervous and endocrine systems function properly. Let us go still further and analyse the word 'healthy' also. In the ancient view he is healthy whose skeletal system is good, for the entire body rests on the bones. Jain Yoga puts it succinctly thus: Depending upon the quality of his bone structure, man can become proportionately knowledgeable, and meditative knowledge and meditation are assessed on the basis of the bone structure.

Our physical health is very critically dependent on the spinal cord (sushumna). The spine has 33 vertebrae. The more flexible they are, the better the health of a person. If the spinal column is bent, it is a sign of deteriorating health. Our grey matter, the bone marrow contains a large part of inherited traits and knowledge. The health of the marrow determines the quality of knowledge, meditation and health.

Health - scientifically speaking

What should we do to preserve our health? While discussing it the first thing to consider is our food. In modern scientific language, balanced food is essential for health. There are scores of tables relating to balanced food, which comprises vitamins, salts, alkali, carbohydrates etc. But it is not enough. The principles enunciated as part of Preksha Dhyan are very useful for health also. One of them is eating moderate quantities of food. Merely taking balanced food is not enough; it should also be moderate in quantity. Even nutritious food taken in an excessive quantity damages health. Further, food should not only be tasty, but also beneficial. Its benefits will have to be judged from a number of angles. One of them is the avoidance of inimicals. There are foods, which should not be taken together, for example, oil and milk do not go well together and similarly muskmelon and milk are inimicals.

Consideration of Age

Ayurveda has considered age in terms of phlegm, bile and wind. Up to the age of forty phlegm predominates, thereafter bile predominates up to seventy and in the third and final stage it is wind that predominates. Those who are above seventy are bound to harm their health if they eat things causing the formation of wind.

Consideration of Time

Let us consider health in relation to time. The first quarter of the day is phlegm dominated, the midday bile dominated and the third quarter or evening is wind dominated. Therefore if things like muskmelon or guava are eaten in the evening, it will be difficult to avoid illness. It means one should know which food would be useful at what time of the day. Those who eat after sunset are also wrong, because the digestive system cowers in the absence of the rays of the sun. It again proves that it is not enough to take balanced food.

Consideration of the Science of Svarodaya

Now we can treat health from the point of view of air breathed through the nostrils, the Science of Svar. It requires food should be taken when the right nostril (svar of the sun) is operating. Food eaten during the operation of the left nostril (svar of the moon) will do no good even if it is nutritious. Water should be drunk while the moon svar is on and food should be eaten while the sun svar is on.

Food must be justly earned

Proper food is that which has been earned through just means. Such food has purity in it. Our health is related not only to material substances, but also to our attitudes and mental states. Food earned through evil means, guile, deceit, fraud and crookedness has a harmful effect on the body. Judged by this criterion, it is difficult to identify people unaffected by these evils. Even our (Jain ascetics') food comes from other households. Even proper food should be subjected to further improvement by taking it only when one is very hungry. Wealthy people rarely observe the above principle. Wherever and whenever they go, they are served attractive things to eat and drink. They hardly worry about the number of times they eat. Such a practice proves extremely harmful to health.

Avoid being reactive

Everyman has the tendency to react. There is no man who will act but not react. But sometimes the reactions are very fierce and aggressive. They throw the digestive system in turmoil. One of the principles of good health is to restrain reactions, practise indifference and avoid extreme reactions.

Health and Friendship

Another element of good health is friendliness. Once a man gets used to becoming hostile, he begins seeing an enemy in everybody. He becomes obsessed with the desire to pull others down, to wipe them out, or to teach them a lesson. Such a hostile temperament is inimical to health. Hostility is mental poison. Heart attacks and cancer are psychosomatic diseases. Behind them the main cause is bad thoughts and enmity. These causes act as internal poison and render the body diseased. Only those people can stay healthy who observe friendliness towards others.

Thought Activity

One more element of health is thought activity. It means while eating, all concentration should be on eating. No other thought should cross the mind at that time. According to Charak, the mind should be happy and free from all worries while eating. It is a symptom of health.

Restraint in speaking

Another element of health is restraint in speech. The whole day should be calculated in terms of periods of silence and those of speaking. In fact there are three ways of dissipating our energy and one of them is excessive talking, the other two being excessive thinking and excessive activity. Thus restraint in speaking is also an important sign of good health.


Ayurveda speaks of three secondary supports of health. Breath or vital energy is the main support, which helps us preserve health. It has three secondary supports: food, sleep and continence. Sleep is extremely important. Without it, health is inconceivable. Even a day's loss of sleep disturbs everything. In modern times, sleeplessness has become a widespread problem. Even as tension is a universal disease, sleeplessness too is acquiring the same proportions. Sleeping pills are manufactured to treat it and the sales are so enormous that the manufacturers are multi-millionaires.


The third secondary support is continence. Today we witness a topsy-turvy situation. Instead of continence we have free sex. People wonder at the phenomenal and constant increase in the number of hospitals, doctors, medicines and researches. And yet diseases are multiplying. Thousands of animals and birds are being killed in the name of research, just for the sake of keeping the humans healthy. Despite all these, newer and deadlier diseases like cancer and AIDS are appearing. Earlier, the incidence of tuberculosis was also much more limited. It was deemed to be a princely disease, not affecting the common people. A few of the emerging diseases have not yet been identified. One factor, which is at the back of them all, is lack of restraint of the sense organs.

Reliance on Medical Treatment

Self-restraint in terms of continence does not mean restraint on only the reproductive organs. Brahmacharya is a term of very wide scope. It implies restraint on all the five sense organs. Our health cannot be good if we do not learn how to control these sense organs. The number of hospitals in all big cities is constantly increasing. Even then, not all patients are getting the expected curative treatment. The reason is that we rely on medical treatment, not on health. We do not know the method of staying healthy. At the slightest indication of disease we rush for getting medical treatment. The right thing to do is to first give careful attention to health.

Development of Health Consciousness is necessary

In the context of Preksha Dhyana the development of health consciousness has been given a serious thought. Development of health consciousness is as essential as that of spiritual consciousness. Understanding the ways of keeping good health is a prelude to staying healthy and avoiding the need for medical treatment. Though all diseases are not the result of our actions, some of them are and their proper treatment is possible only through spiritual cleansing. Seasonal ailments are quite common. But we can save ourselves from many dangerous diseases if we know the rules of good health and practise them.

Yogic Postures

Preksha Dhyana prescribes Yogic postures and rhythmic breath control. There are some methods of meditation like Vipassana that prohibit Yogic postures, but we consider them indispensable. We believe that meditation without yogic postures results in the weakening of the digestive system. Meditation entails a high expenditure of energy, which is only natural because concentration involves considerable use of vital energy. In that state, the digestive system will be thrown into disarray if yogic postures and rhythmic control of breathing are not practised. That is why Preksha Dhyan insists on yogic postures. These postures are useful for both preservation of health and therapeutic purposes. But why should we think of therapeutics in the first instance? We should practise yogic postures for preserving health. We should choose postures, which would preserve health, keep the digestive, elimination and respiratory systems functional and preserve the balance of the nervous system and of the endocrine secretions.

Rhythmic Breath Control for Health

There are two types of Pranayama, one meant for the body and another for meditation. We have to take care that rhythmic control of breath is not exclusively for the body, but also for meditation. Otherwise, the mind can grow more fickle.

All of you have passed the Test

Here is an incident, which relates to the ancient Takshila University. The Acharya told the disciples, “Go and explore for a whole year the region at the back of the University in order to identify the root of a herb having no medicinal property.” After spending twelve months, the disciples returned empty-handed. The Guru said, “How come, none of you could discover even one herbal root having no therapeutic use?” The disciples replied, “No Gurudev, we could not, despite our best efforts.” The Guru was pleased and remarked, “You have all passed the test.”

As there is no herbal root without at least some medicinal property, there is no yogic posture that does not have a therapeutic effect. Properly understood and practised they can prove extremely useful. If we think about the body in the light of the contributory factors of health - yogic postures, rhythmic control of breathing and mental purity, we may be able to enjoy good health and vitality.

Edition 2005
ISBN No. 81-7196-019-7

© Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
210 Deendayal Upadhyay Marg,
New Delhi-110 002

Edited by:
Muni Dhananjay Kumar

Translated by:
Prof. R.P. Bhatnagar

Published by:
Kamlesh Chaturvedi
Adarsh Sahitya Sangh,
210 Deendayal Upadhyay Marg
New Delhi

Printed at:

R-Tech Offset Printer Delhi-110032

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Ayurveda
  3. Body
  4. Brahmacharya
  5. Concentration
  6. Consciousness
  7. Deceit
  8. Dhyan
  9. Dhyana
  10. Doshas
  11. Guru
  12. Gurudev
  13. Jain Yoga
  14. Meditation
  15. Pranayama
  16. Preksha
  17. Preksha Dhyan
  18. Preksha Dhyana
  19. Science
  20. Soul
  21. Sushumna
  22. Yoga
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