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The Yogic Basic Principles (Yoga hygiene)

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This Chapter is divided into the following five sub-sections, namely

(i) Yoga hygiene
(ii) Yoga diet
(iii) Fasting
(iv) Yoga therapy &
(v) The glands

Let’s deal with them in details:

Yoga Hygiene

Yoga is a way of life. A yogi leads a disciplined life. The aim of a yogi is to totally eradicate all forms of tension – physical emotional and mental. Thus a yogi acquires mental poise and physical fitness. However, the route to this evergreen life of happiness can be assured only if the yoga practitioner observes a preparatory exercise of the body and the mind.

The best part of this exercise schedule and of the yogic postures is that they can be adopted by all. Moreover, the yogic practices have been scientifically proved to be hygienic and logical. If you practice the yogi postures according to their set rules you will not suffer from any side-effects.

Here are the nine mandatory yogic hygienic practices:

Usha Pranam;
Call of Nature;
Bathing;
Water;
Sleep;
Regular Habits;
Vices;
Moderation; &
the need to conserve energy.

(i) Usha Panam

Usha Panam means having the first refreshing beverage immediately after one gets up from bed in the morning. Usha Panam incorporates preparation of the body for taking the beverage through the processes of teeth cleaning and face washing.

Usha Panam refers to the drinking of a glass of warm water after brushing of the teeth.

Prepare the Usha Panam by adding two teaspoonful of pure honey into the water. You can, of course, add a few drops of lime juice. But use the lime juice only if it does not cause throat irritation.

Advantages

Lime and honey are natural food. The concoction will have any harmful effects on the body. On the other hand, the beverage is beneficial for the entire body.

Usha Panam facilitates regular movement of the bowels. As a result, constipation is cured.

Usha Panam consumed early in the morning increases peristalsis.

(ii) Call of Nature

  • Prior to commencing the yogic exercises, ensure that you have attended to the call of nature.
  • In fact, answering the call of nature immediately after you rise from bed and do Usha Panam.
  • You should practise the asanas only after excreting all the waste and toxic materials form the body.
  • Call of nature includes clearing of the contents of the bowels and the bladders.
  • Of course, if you are suffering from constipation, you can do the asanas before evacuating the waste materials from the body.
  • With constant practice you will be relieved of constipations as well.

(iii) Taking Bath

Yogic asanas should be practised after your body is clean. Therefore, the best means to make your body clean is through the bathing process. Bathing refreshes the mind and the body by reducing mental and physical tension and fatigue.

Here are the advantages of bathing in water having the normal (36 degrees centigrade) temperature:

  • Bathing is necessary to keep your skin clean. Bathing makes your skin healthy by removing the sweat. Bathing also reduces heat.
  • It further stimulates circulation. Moreover, bathing invigorates the nerves, promotes digestion, promotes appetite and induces hunger.
  • You will also reduce the chances of contracting cold if you bath daily.
  • In fact, in a hot and sultry day, bathing twice (especially when you are feeling tired or fagged out) will instantly refresh your mind and body.
  • Your accumulated toxins will be got rid of.
  • It is always advisable to bath in the morning and that too before sunrise.
  • You should, in fact, bathe daily at least once throughout the year.
  • However, in summer you can bathe twice.
  • The water used in bathing should neither be too hot nor too cold.
  • Else the normal temperature of the body will be adversely affected. Moreover, extreme temperatures sap the energy in your system.
  • The ideal temperature of the water used for bathing should be between 36-37 degrees centigrade.
  • Nonetheless, one should ideally use cold water for bathing purposes.
  • Cold water stimulates blood circulation.
  • Of course, in cold weather, the water can be made slightly warm.
  • Remember that bathing in normal temperature is really invigorating.
  • On the other hand, long hot bath sessions are quite injurious to health. Such sessions reroute blood from the brain.
  • If you are unaccustomed to bathing in cold water, you can start making it the habit in the summer season. After that you can continue the habit the entire year.
  • But don’t commence the habit in the winter season.
  • If your constitution is weak or if you are accustomed to bathing only in warm water, try gradually reducing the temperature of the water you bathe with to finally get accustomed to bathing in cold water.
  • Take a bath only when the ski is dry and not when it is damp.
  • Also remember not to take a cold bath especially when you are feeling cold.
  • In such situations, go for the cold bath after you warm up your body a bit after doing some exercises and then cooling it off.
  • You should never pour hot water on your head. It has adverse effects on the brain, eyes and the hair.
  • If you are keen to take a plunge, first wet your head; next follow it up with your hands, feet, legs, arms, abdomen, chest and your back.
  • Yoga postures can be begun immediately after a head bath and that too in cold water.

Head Bath

  • Head bath refers to bathing the top of the head and the body and not just the head alone.
  • Head bath is beneficial to the mind and refreshing as well.
  • Moreover, a head bath before the yogic exercises stimulates uniform blood circulation throughout the body.
  • Above all, head bath is also ideal for ensuring diversion of oxygenated blood supply to a particular section of the body whenever it becomes necessary.
  • In extreme cold weather, it won’t be possible to have even the friction bath. Then you should at least wash your face, hands and feet.
  • After the yogic asanas, bathe after at least 15 minutes.
  • This gestation period helps subside perspiration, cool down the body, and also normalize the body temperature.
  • A bath after performing the asanas will definitely give you a refreshing sense.
  • Oil bath should be taken also after 15 minutes of the yogic exercises.

Alternative to Head Bath

Suppose for some reason you cannot have a head bath, then you can start practising the yogic exercises after carrying out the following friction bath or a good wash as indicated below:

  • Use a rough towel.
  • Dip it in cold water.
  • Wring the towel partially.
  • Use this towel to give your body a vigorous rubbing.
  • Go over your body with the towel a second time after rinsing it in cold water once again.
  • In case you start feeling cold, then proceed part by part.
  • Then dry the body with a rough dry towel.

(iv) Water

Since water is one of our most essential requirements, and also because it is the carrier of many ailments, we should be double careful as to the quality and hygiene of the water we drink. Here are certain interesting facts about how water can be beneficial for our body.

  • Water is a cleansing agent. It cleans our entire physical system.
  • Water is also a laxative.*
  • In fact, simple plain water cures indigestion and constipation.
  • Drinking water should always be boiled, cooled and filtered before consuming it.
  • The best means to preserve the boiled and filtered drinking water is an earthen pot.
  • Iced water impairs digestion. So avoid drinking extremely cold water.
  • You should daily drink adequate amount of water.
  • If you take meals sparingly, you can substitute it by drinking lots of water in between the meals.
  • The quantity of drinking water can be increased or decreased according to individual requirements and the season.
  • The ideal strategy is to drink water two hours after having any meal.
  • After that keep on drinking water every two-three hours.
  • Nonetheless remember that drinking surfeit of water immediately before or after meals can be quite disadvantageous. It will dilute the digestive juice.
  • Also remember that you should not wash down your esophagus any solid food with liquid of any kind.

(v) Sleep

  • Sound sleep is the panacea for physical and mental fatigue. Moreover, many ailments also get cured in undisturbed deep sleep. Your tissues and organs get the much-needed rest while the energy batteries located deep within your body get recharged.
  • Our body develops only while we sleep during the night. So ensure that you have sound and deep sleep.
  • This is despite the fact that our bodily functions slow down during sleep.
  • The bodily functions that become sluggish during sleep are our body temperature, blood pressure, metabolic rate, heart rate, and muscular activity.
  • Our body also requires less oxygen as we sleep.
  • Mentionably, sleep duration varies as per the vocation, age, habits and way of life of particular individuals.
  • The hardest way to get sound sleep is by tossing and turning in bed trying to get sleep.
  • Your sleep will be sound only if you are not tense and your mind is relaxed and not tense while retiring.
  • But, if you are fagged out (tired totally) you will fall asleep immediately after retiring or after resting your head on the pillow.
  • You will be able to get sound sleep like a child by working hard during the daytime.
  • Don’t work right up to the last minute you want to retire for the night.
  • Yoga asanas check lethargy.
  • Moreover, yogic exercises ensure sound and deep relaxed sleep.
  • What is more yogic asanas also obviate the possibility of long sleep duration which brings in its wake lethargy.
  • The best way to induce sleep is to breathe correctly. Your breathing postures and rhythm can be corrected only by the Pranayama exercises.
  • You can also practice meditation (already explained in the Padmasana section to have sound sleep.
  • Savasana (dealt in detail in Chapter-13) is also beneficial for inducing sound sleep.
  • It’s not the duration but the relaxation and depth of sleep that matters.
  • As your age advances, sleep duration decreases.
  • Eight hours of sound and deep sleep is adequate for middle-aged persons and youths as well as children
  • However, if you are above 60 years of age, you won’t be needing the duration of sleep that is mandatory for middle-aged people or youths and children
  • You should retire for the night at 10 O’ clock and sleep till four in the morning.
  • Mentionably, the first few hours of sleep are the most refreshing.
  • What actually matters is the sleep should be refreshing your mind and body.
  • Different occupations require various duration of sleep.
  • The best hours of sleep are in those before midnight.
  • Once you wake up in the morning don’t linger in the bed.
  • However that does not mean that you should jump out of the bed after waking up.
  • Instead stretch your body a little prior to getting up from the bed.

Tackling Insomnia (Sleeplessness)

Where to Sleep

Sleeping in a dark room is ideal as it provides the much needed rest to the eyes and nerves.
Moreover, a dark room is the best possible mans to get sound and deep sleep.
Also seek a serene environment to sleep.
Your bed room must be reasonably warm and well-ventilated.

The Ideal Bed

  • The bed should be considerably firm.
  • Your bed should be able to support your normal back curves.
  • The pillows mustn’t be too high.
  • Or the spine will remain uncaringly curved.
  • The bed mustn’t be too soft.
  • Too soft a bed will sag in the central portion once you lie down on it.
  • This will cause some of the muscles to remain tense during the crucial sleeping moments.
  • A thin pillow will be ideal.
  • Else, your spine and neck will be twisted while your back ligaments and nerves will be unnecessarily stretched.
  • Wear just the minimum of loose-fitting clothes.
  • The bed clothes must be neither too light or too heavy.
  • Lightly drape your body.
  • Never cover your face while sleeping.

Factors hampering sound and deep sleep

Prior to retiring for the night avoid stimulating drinks and/or spicy food.
Don’t make drug-induced sleep a habit. It may turn out to be quite dangerous. Moreover such a forced sleep is not at all restful and never as stimulating as a naturally induced sleep.
Tablets or pills and tranquilizers are basically depressants. They also have several toxic side effects, spur addictions and there are also acute withdrawal syndromes.
Cut down on physical and emotional tensions before going to bed in the night.
Don’t have a heavy meal in the night. Else your slumber will be disturbed.
Also avoid late suppers.
Drinking and eating late into the night hampers sound and restful sleep.
Never have a long noonday nap. You may otherwise wake up in the middle of the night and then pass restless hours during the remaining part of the nighttime.
In Fact, too much sleep during the daytime is a common cause for insomnia during nighttime.
If you feel sleepy during the daytime, you may doze off in a reclining or a horizontal position for about an hour or go for a catnap at the same time every day.
Nonetheless, daytime dozing is never restful. But, such a short nap may be refreshing for the remaining part of the day.

Strategies to induce sound sleep

Sound sleep is always determined by the daily circadian rhythms.
Hence always retire for the night at a pre-determined time especially in the night.
Also wake up at a fixed time in the day.
You can make this a habit by training your mind to sleep and wake up at pre-determined times.
Set up a routine and stick to it. This will help you to chalk out a rhythm and a pattern. .
It will also aid you in regulating your sleep.
Know that excessive or untimely sleep is always harmful.
A consistent sleep rhythm in the night-time can be ensured once you stick to a set time to wake up and arise from the bed.
Longer duration of disturbed sleep is not the point. What matters is the duration of sound and deep sleep.
If you regularly burn the midnight oil or stay awake till late into the night, this practice or habit may be counter-productive.
So go to bed early (10 O’ clock) and arise early (4 O’ clock) to awake refreshed.

What not to do…

Never over-stress your mind with physical or/and emotional tension before going to bed.
Relax every organ and muscle of your body. Get rid of every tension before going to bed.
Free your mind from the anxieties of the day.
Don’t carry the worries of the day.
Don’t view, listen to or read anything that excites you or make you tense and disturbs your sleep.
Never lie half awake or half asleep. Else your mind will revolve around the day’s events or the problems of the next day.

Means to have sound sleep

Suppose you have problems having immediate after hitting the bed. Suppose you toss in bed after retiring in the night. This can be overcome by chalking out a daily regimen of exercise. This is how to go about it:

Take a fast pace long evening walk. This will naturally induce normal fatigue and also bring about sleep quickly.
Another method for inducing sleep is to have a warm bath 15 minutes before retiring to bed.
Wash your feet in cold water. Wipe them clean. This will surely induce sound and deep sleep.
Moreover, practice deep breathing for about 15 minutes before finally retiring for the night.
Follow it up with Bhastrika Pranayama or Anuloma Viloma but always on an empty tummy.
Sleep will not oblige you until you are relaxed. So, always compose yourself before going to bed in night.
Always drift away to sleep in a relaxed manner.
You can also practice conscious and voluntary relaxation in Savasana. This will help induce deep and sound sleep.
In extreme situations try out this strategy: Think of an open grazing evergreen field. Imagine that there are 100 sheep grazing in that field. Now slowly count backwards from 100 to 0. Relegate the sheep you count to the background. In most of the cases, you will be overcome with sleep by the time you reach 50.
As you doze off, just ‘let go’ of your body and sink into a peaceful slumber. This will lead to a good night’s sleep. You will then experience a sense of well-being as you wake up.

(vi) Regular  Habits

  • Habits are easy to form but rather difficult to change. Habits form from repetition of certain acts.
  • Hence if you build up any good habit, persevere with it till it becomes a second nature with you. So always adopt habits that are hygienic.
  • Hygienic habits are imbibed during childhood.
  • Since such hygienic habits become second nature as we gain in age, out guardians should  keep a constant watch on our habits and rectify the irregular ones. *
  • Moreover, bathe, eat food and exercise at pre-determined hours.
  • Go to bed early (at the most 10 O’ clock) and wake up with the birds.
  • This schedule is also ideal as it gives you adequate time to perform the morning ablutions and exercise when there is a serene environment and you too are relaxed – mentally and physically.
  • Your bowels should move regularly and naturally at fixed time only.
  • Cultivate the habit of defecation the moment you arise from bed in the morning.
  • Follow it up with teeth brushing. Fresh water should be used to rinse your mouth several times.
  • The half-closed eyes should also be splashed with plenty of cold water.
  • Blow clear your nostrils one by one. After that clean them with a wet handkerchief or light towel.
  • Finally wash your feet.
  • Remember that you should commence the yogic asanas only after performing these hygienic habits.
  • After you wake up one of the nostrils may get slightly blocked. Don’t worry for it will become free after you start the yogic asanas.
  • But if this is a chronic syndrome, practice Anuloma Viloma Pranayama after completing the toilet hygiene.
  • Always rinse out your mouth before and after every meal.
  • Before retiring for the night, always wash your hands and feet. Moreover do brush your teeth as well.

(vii) Tackling Vices Effectively

  • If you are a regular practitioner of yoga, your vices will get greatly minimized.
  • Your lifespan gets shortened once you get hooked to vices.
  • Vices lower the efficiency of your body organs.
  • To give up vices you should have a strong will power. Such a strong mental mindset will be developed only through Pranayama and meditation. They strengthen your mind and psychology.
  • Once you drift away from any vice don’t even get near to them a second time.
  • Say ‘NO!’ to vice the first time ever!
  • Never take stimulants.
  • Stimulants increase the pulse rate and the blood pressure as well.
  • Intoxicant drinks dull the mind and the senses. So, always stay from them.
  • Tobacco must be a taboo for the dedicated yogic practitioner.
  • Tobacco raises blood pressure by constricting the smaller blood vessels.
  • Tobacco also increases the workload of the heart.
  • Smoking must be given up. Smoking causes many serious ailments like various forms of heart diseases and also lung cancer.
  • A smoker gives up smoking million times. The reason why he again returns to smoking is that he lacks the requisite will power and dedication.
  • Avoid strong coffee.
  • From tea, our body absorbs the acid-forming stimulants theophylline, caffeine and tannin.
  • Coffee also has a similar acid-forming stimulant called caffeine which stimulates the liver to release stored sugar.
  • Never drink coffee or tea on an empty tummy. If you must have coffee or tea in the morning, first gulp down a cup of warm water.
  • Later in the day, drink tea or coffee only after you have some food.
  • If you must have coffee or tea, always go for only lighter concoctions of these beverages.
  • Don’t have tea or coffee before going to bed, you have frequent urination at night.
  • Too strong or too much of tea and coffee will lead to nervous tension, high blood pressure, stomach disorders and constipation.
  • Besides you also experience depression, palpitation, restlessness and nausea besides such unpleasant side-effects like abnormal rise in body temperature, heart beat and also frequent urination and insomnia. You may also lose appetite. Your body rhythm may also be disturbed.

(viii) Moderation

  • Moderation in everything is the key to a healthy living and a hygienic lifestyle.
  • Every yogi remains always alert not to do anything in excess.
  • Irrespective of whether you are in indulging in pleasures of the flesh, sleeping, eating, talking, drinking or working, perform them within the acceptable limit.
  • So, lead a regulated life.
  • Moreover, a yoga practitioner should never take too much of medicines.
  • The Asanas and the Pranayama postures will help a yogi practitioner to remain mentally alert and physically fit
  • (ix) Conservation of Energy

    • As a yoga practitioner, never squander your energy in fruitless activities – physical and mental.
    • Stay from unnecessary work requiring too much exertion or indulgence.
    • Always conserve your energy.

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