Sunday, March 25, 2007

Diet cycles in Ayurveda

The Theory of Natural hygiene is the basis of the diet cycles in Ayurveda or the ancient science of medicine. We need to ingest, excrete and assimilate what we eat and drink. Therefore we divide the day into three eight hour cycles for the same.

Excretion or detoxification is the key to good health. This starts occurring from 4am to 12 noon. Therefore in this period it is mandatory on our part to consume foods which are easily digested and put no or minimal strain on the digestive system and at the same time make us alert and energetic for the day to begin. This is best done by fruits and fruit juices alone. Fruits consumed on an empty stomach get digested and emptied from the stomach in less than half an hour and give instant energy and alertness to the body.

From 12 noon to sunset is the time for ingestion. A meal containing raw vegetable juice, raw salad, sprouted salad and steamed vegetables is an ideal combination. In the evening a repeat dose of fruits along with raw unsalted nuts or dry fruits will give us the sustenance and energy to increase our output and work effectively. An early dinner preferably before 8 pm consisting a similar meal with a single cereal either unpolished rice or jowar bajri as the accompanying bread would be the correct combination.

A liberal quantum of sour lime with the meals, use of rock salt or sea salt and no water are the other features of this diet. Use of organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and sprouts is the ideal combination for a healthy life.

Exposure to sunlight in the morning and evening, holistic physical exercise using the techniques of Hatha Yoga and meditation one or two times a day are the essential life style modifications recommended.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Yoga & Orthopedics

Yoga & Orthopedics

By Dr. Vispi Jokhi M.S. Orthopedics

I would like to share with the reader my journey in the field of Yoga, which began eight years ago and will continue till my innings on earth is over. Yoga or union of mind, body and soul is truly India's gift to the world and today the sad fact is that we seem to be importing Yoga back from the West rather than exporting it. As an Orthopedic Surgeon, physical fitness was certainly high on my priority list, however the hectic life of Mumbai made me look for quick fix solutions. Gymnasiums, free hand exercises, brisk walks, swimming all came into my life, but with limited results. Often they became workouts, which left me tired instead of raising my energy levels. My scripture reading gave me an idea about the ancient system of Hatha Yoga of Patanjali and about the importance of all the eight limbs of Yoga. But my "scientific mind" in its arrogance was under the impression that Yoga was merely a series of contortions of the body called asanas, which had limited benefits. I thought that flexibility of the bones and joints was all that was needed and a few weeks of training was all that was required. I did not seem to have time for the half naked "tilak smeared"Gurus.

Eight years ago I went for a lecture-demonstration by Shri Zubin Zarthostimanesh, a Yoga teacher trained by the world famous Respected Shri BKS Iyengar. Shri Zarthostimanesh began with a humble prayer to sage Patanjali to invoke his blessings followed by his lecture. Health and physical fitness was transformed from a workout to a holistic artistic positioning or asana. While many in the audience were there to see the postures and applaud, I was there to see the practical application of yoga principles in day to day life. He showed us how the way we stood, sat, walked or slept had a direct influence on degeneration and disease. He emphasized the importance of all the eight limbs of Yoga and how one could reach a meditative state within the asana. I had found my Guru and was overjoyed. I asked Zubin to be my Guru and thus began my journey in the field of Yoga.

Orthopedic Surgeons and for that matter all physicians approach to disease is essentially one of fire-fighting in the form of symptom alleviation with a prescription, followed by repair or reconstruction (surgical methods). We need a paradigm shift from this approach to prevention and healing. Fractures and injuries are treated by plasters and surgeries along with painkillers, but the accompanying bed rest results in major muscle wasting and changes. Often my Guru calls bed rest as bed rust. Even while resting parts of the body, which are, injured it is possible to mobilize the muscles and joints around it to promote better physiological healing.

The importance of this aspect of healing is now being recognized the world over. Degenerative joint disorders like Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Spine degenerations, Ankylosing Spondylitis all can be treated very effectively by the ancient system of Yoga. Bone brittleness due to lack of calcium and Vitamin D is also effectively treated by asanas, which stretch every part of the body. Yoga has a role to play in the treatment of flatfeet, heel spurs, bunions and wrist carpal tunnel syndromes and tennis elbows.

In Yoga the therapy aspect usually consists of an initial positioning of the affected joint or muscle group in a manner that will alleviate the pain without aggravating the inflammation. Use of props like ropes, belts, bricks, walls, stools, couches and pommel horse like devices is the unique contribution of BKS Iyengar to the subject. These props enable a sick person to obtain the complete benefits of a posture without injury. For specific conditions like osteoporosis which is disease of life style Yoga is extremely effective since stretching of hip and groin regions is seldom effective in other forms of physical workouts.

A major difference between physical exercise and yoga is that muscles contract and shorten during movement, whereas they expand and lengthen during movement of the joints. The relation of the psyche with the soma and the role of the mind in healing cannot be over emphasized. In the system of Yoga the suffering patient learns to relax and copes with his disease much more effectively.

An important aspect of Yoga and its application to the field of sports is often over-looked by our sports medicine specialists and coaches. Yoga has the advantage of incorporating active and passive exercise regimes wherein the injured part can be protected. The most important aspect of Yoga for a sportsman is prevention of injury by preparing all muscle groups for the actual game or sports event. Contrary to the public perception Yoga can be very dynamic and can prepare a sportsman for fast and rapid activity. Asanas are useful for rapid recovery after the game or event.

On a personal level, I started Yoga as a physical workout and got good relief from aches and back pains. Slowly, the asanas penetrated to areas of my body, which I was never aware of and the effort in achieving the poses became less than before. At times I did end up with pain when the stiff body refused to yield, but my Guru always sent us home from a session of Yoga pain-free and full of energy. I learnt to sequence my poses in order to access to both the physical and physiological body and in moments of real relaxation reach as close to single pointed mind as possible. It is at these times, which come almost daily in my practice, that I truly achieve Yoga or union of body, mind and soul. Yoga for me became an indispensable tool for revitalizing and healing my body. Eight years is still a short time and I am sure, as the years go by its benefits will multiply exponentially.

Many of us start Yoga or a work out and after some time leave it because we stagnate or seem not to progress. To make sure we do not do that we must continuously assess our intentions and goals. From alleviation of medical problems to a mere physical work out we need to increase our intensity and penetrate from the outer layers of our body skin muscles and bones to the physiological parts and then to the emotional and other aspects of uniting body mind and soul to achieve bliss. For this to occur a conscious slowing down leads to an inner awareness of the pose.

A regular practice of Yoga about an hour a day is essential and I can assure all the readers that this time is truly well spent. Preventive medicine consists of major life-style changes. A healthy vegetarian natural diet, yogic postures, reduction of needs, living for others and slowing the pace of life are some of the major steps required to achieve good health.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Viveka or Discrimination

The most natural thing that we do as soon as we meet a person or a situation in life is form an opinion based on our past experience. This is what we call being judgmental. Is Viveka or discrimination the same as judging or different? It is actually a judgment with a difference. On earth man is on top of the chain of evolution because he has the faculty of discrimination which gives him the power to choose between right and wrong, good and evil. It is correct use or abuse of this faculty which enables him to reach the sublime heights of divinity or plunge into the depths of despair.

Most of us live in this world superficially as slaves to our senses and fail to look at ourselves and persons around us as manifestations of the divinity which pervades each and every object. That is the reason why we have connotations like fair, tall, elegant, smart, good looking etc. seen as positive attributes and the opposite as negative ones. We tend to select our friends and favor our acquaintances based on these qualities. One thing leads to another in India race, religion and class become the basis of the worst use of negative discrimination in society. A closer look at life will easily tell us that appearances are very deceptive and we need the quality of Viveka or discrimination with consciousness to realize right from wrong.

The wise say we must not be biased or judgmental in our dealings with persons. Does that mean we should not decide right from wrong? Should we be indifferent? The answer to this is that we must judge but with viveka or discrimination based on our identification with the divine unchanging Self rather than the constantly changing superficial person of the world. The wise see themselves in all and all in themselves. The detached judgment prevents us from unduly favoring the ones appearing good and discriminating against the ones appearing bad. Our judgment will be free from lust, fear and anger and will be fair and correct. One must become a humble instrument in the hands of the Lord and become one with the universal consciousness. This will enable one to distinguish right from wrong.

All conflicts and violence in this world arise from the inability of individuals, groups, religions, classes and nations to rise above selfish differences. Human beings commit crimes against each other and destroy themselves and mother earth when overcome by jealousy, anger, hatred and lust. The wise or the ones who have true discrimination or viveka overcome these negative qualities and are able to see the divinity in each and every creation of God.

We cannot change overnight since man is a creature of habit. The first thing we need to do is to stop impulsively and superficially reacting to any situation. A pause and an awakening of ones consciousness by any means are needed. Looking within oneself and recognizing the Self within through meditation is essential. Use of a mantram to awaken this consciousness is the emergency brake needed to prevent us from being swept away by the surge of negative emotions. Patience and a slow considered approach will prevent us from jumping to wrong conclusions. An unselfish look at the situation where we put others before self is the hallmark of a person with discrimination or viveka.

Simple steps to use our discrimination or viveka in perfect harmony with our consciousness which is part of the universal consciousness can usher in an era of universal peace. Every individual step taken in the use of viveka or discrimination is a step towards ultimate freedom.

Responsible Actions

Responsible Actions by Dr Vispi Jokhi

By Dr. Vispi Jokhi

August 25, 2006

In the humdrum of daily life we do many things, which seem trivial, innocuous and insignificant but adding them up they can have a Force Multiplier effect. I have no claims to be a preacher but in the spirit of karmayog I try to make every decision on the basis of three questions.

Is my action ethical? By this I mean is it morally correct? Is it a truthful, non-violent, unselfish act?

Is my action ecological? My action must be least harmful to mother earth. In fact it should conserve mother earth.

Is my action empowering? All the changes I bring into my life must enable me enhance me spiritually and take me on the path to freedom.

Quoting the first verse of the Isha Upanishad:

The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of All.

The Lord is the Supreme reality.

Rejoice in Him through renunciation.

Covet nothing, All belongs to the Lord.

Thus working you can live a hundred years and attain full freedom.

The improvement we want in the world must begin with each one of us. There are many ways in which we can make a difference. From my own life I want to share with my readers the force multipliers that can make a difference. These are all practical actions easy to incorporate in our day-to-day lives.

Our very first act of morning ablutions can be a force multiplier if we use a half tank flush system in our toilets. This can save water to the tune of 15 liters every single use. When we brush our teeth, shave or even wash our hands, keeping the flow of the tap of the tap moderate and the duration of the flow not more than required makes for substantial water saving. Using only a bucket of warm water in tropical India is an act inspired by Gandhi who while bathing in the Sabarmati river decided that he had a right only over what he needed for his bath and the water downstream belonged to those who lived downstream.

Similarly use of electricity sparingly and use of power saver CFL lighting is actions, which are ethical and ecological. When we leave a room we can do others and ourselves an invaluable service by switching the lights and fans off. Opening and closing refrigerators as infrequently as possible is another responsible action. Use of clean fuels, car-pooling and public transport when possible are more such responsible actions.

All these choices are empowering since they give me the inspiration to be unselfish. It makes me realize that whatever mother earth gives us is really a shared bounty for common use and enjoyment but certainly not for my indulgence.

The choice we make in use of eco-friendly products beginning with articles of personal use like tooth-pastes, soaps, belts, shoes, cosmetics free from animal products are responsible acts of humanity. We are created as intelligent beings more powerful than our animal brethren and we are thus duty bound to protect the lesser creatures on earth.

I was meant to eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and sprouts and a diet based on these foods enable me to live a healthy life causing the least damage to the environment. Awareness of the cruelty that goes in the name of the meat, fish and poultry industry made me decide my choice of food I ate and products used. The principles of the 3 R’s Refuse, Reuse and Recycle became my mantra when it came using plastic poly bags. Gradually I have minimized the use of poly bags. Segregation of garbage into dry and wet garbage and the conversion of wet garbage to manure was my humble contribution to the food chain.

The realization of the inter-connections of my actions with my spiritual progress became a part of my consciousness. Although these actions were on a physical plane they increased my thirst for knowledge. Being a man of “science” books and reading became my source of knowledge. Mere letters were never enough. True knowledge was I realized was to be found not from without but from within. Therefore stilling the mind is presently my priority. The practice of Yoga and meditation are my aids to realize my true nature and to reach the divine principle of existence.

The Lord shows the path to those who search for knowledge but we all need guidance. In these choices I was helped by my teachers. My Guru in absentia is Mahatma Gandhi, whose life example is constantly before my eyes. I am indebted to my Yoga teacher Guru Zubin Zarthostimanesh and to my guide in matters of nutrition Dr. Vijaya Venkat. For meditation I follow the Eight Point Programme of Sri Eknath Easwaran available on the website Beside them there have been innumerable guides.

I continue relentlessly in my quest for making my actions selfless and more responsible and the illustrations above are by no means complete and exhaustive. If they were they would not empower me to take further steps on the path of knowledge. I realize fully that there is an invisible hand of the Lord who is the real doer and I am a mere instrument of change in his hand. I dedicate this action of writing this essay to the Supreme Lord. In the true spirit of karmayoga I offer my thoughts to my readers. I would like to hear from you your feedback and comments on my offering.

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