To create health for yourself, there are three fundamentals you need to take care of – food, activity, and rest.
When it comes to food, one of the most important aspects that you must be conscious of is how quickly a certain type of food digests and becomes a part of yourself. If you eat something and it does not digest within three hours, it means you have eaten food that should either be avoided or reduced in quantity. If the food moves out of your stomach within three hours, it means that even if it is not the best food, it is still something your system is able to handle.
If you go to bed with a full stomach, it puts pressure on other organs in the abdomen. This will also lead to various kinds of health issues.
If you maintain a clear gap of five to six hours between one meal and the other without having anything in between, cleansing will happen on the cellular level. This cleansing on the cellular level is most important for a healthful life. If you are over 30 years of age, two good meals a day will suffice-one in the morning and one in the evening.
There must be three hours after the evening meal, before you go to bed. If this includes at least 20 to 30 minutes of light physical activity – such as simple walking – your system will largely be healthy. If you go to bed with food still inside the stomach, it generates a certain level of inertia in the system. Physiologically, this inertia is like an acceleration towards death. Death is ultimate inertia.
Another dimension is that if you go to bed with a full stomach, it puts pressure on other organs in the abdomen. This will also lead to various kinds of health issues. For that reason too, it is very important that before you go to bed, the food you have eaten has moved out of the stomach. As you sleep in different postures, the stomach should not put pressure on other organs at any point.
When it comes to activity, one simple thing that we need to consider is that our body is capable of bending forward, bending backward, and twisting to both sides. This much activity must happen in some kind of form. Classical hatha yoga is the best way to do it, and a scientific one. If classical hatha yoga is not yet part of your life, you must somehow make sure that every day, you bend forward, backward, twist to both sides, and squat so that the spinal column is stretched. This is a must for everybody on a daily basis if you want to keep the entire system healthy – particularly the neurological system, which will otherwise be an issue as one ages.
The volume of rest that an individual person needs is determined by various factors. One important factor is the type and the volume of food that you consume. You must experiment with different types of foods and see which ones make you feel heavy, and which ones leave you light and agile. If you make sure that at least 40% of your diet consists of fresh vegetables and fruits, there will be lightness in the body.
What the body needs is restfulness, not necessarily sleep. It is a misunderstanding to think that sleep is the only way to rest. Even as you sit or stand, you can either be in a state of restfulness, in a state of agitation, or in a state of inertia. If you are in a lively state of restfulness, every moment of your life, the volume of sleep you require will decrease.
In yoga, we look at the human system as five sheaths or layers. Every aspect of the human system, including the mind, is seen as body, and yoga is a technology to transform it. These five layers of the body are called Annamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Vignanamaya Kosha, and Anandamaya Kosha.
Anna means food. Your physical body or Annamaya Kosha is basically the food that you have eaten – small or big is your choice, but it is a heap of food nonetheless. As there is a physical body that you have gathered from outside, there is a mental body. The mind is not in one particular part of the body – every cell in the body has its own memory and intelligence. This mental body is known as Manomaya Kosha. The physical body is the hardware – the mental body is the software.
If you bring the physical body, the mental body, and the energy body into proper alignment and balance, you will not have any physical or psychological ailments.
Hardware and software cannot do much unless you plug them into quality power. The third layer of the body is called Pranamaya Kosha or energy body. Physical body, mental body, and energy body are all in the realm of physicality, but on different levels of subtlety. To use an analogy – you can clearly see that a light bulb is physical. But the light it diffuses is also physical. And the electricity behind it is physical as well. Light bulb, light, and electricity: all are physical but differ in subtlety. Similarly, the physical body, the mental body, and the energy body are all physical but differ in subtlety.
The next layer of the body is a transitory body that is known as Vignanamaya Kosha. It facilitates the transition from the physical to the non-physical. It does not ascribe to any of the physical qualities, but at the same time, it is not yet completely nonphysical either. The fifth layer is called Anandamaya Kosha, which in English translates as “bliss body”. This does not mean there is a bubble of bliss in you. We call it bliss body because in our experience, whenever we touch it, we become blissful. Bliss is not its nature, bliss is what it causes for us. Anandamaya Kosha is a nonphysical dimension which is the source of everything that is physical.
If you bring the physical body, the mental body, and the energy body into proper alignment and balance, you will not have any physical or psychological ailments. I could show you hundreds and thousands of people who have come out of their health issues – particularly chronic ailments and psychological problems – simply by creating the necessary alignment within themselves. It is misalignment that causes all kinds of problems. When the body is at ease, there is no disease.
Only if you bring the first three layers of the body into alignment, there will be a passage and a possibility of touching Anandamaya Kosha, where blissfulness becomes a natural state of being. Not blissful about something in particular – simply blissful because that is the nature of life.