* Eating yoghurt at night is considered quite harmful in Ayurveda, because yoghurt is ‘heavy’ by nature and tends to block the subtle channels of the body. At night, the tendency is for the subtle channels of the body (called ‘Srotas’), to close down anyway, so yoghurt tends to be poorly digested and leads to heaviness and dullness.
Anyway, the reason we should try to make any lifestyle change gradual, is that any drastic change to the body (even ones towards a more healthy or wholesome way of life) can disturb the body on a subtle level. A critical understanding in Ayurveda is that each cell has its own ‘memory’, and the ability for us to maintain our more wholesome behaviour (e.g. eating less fatty food, exercising more etc) comes about more easily and naturally the more we can enliven the correct memory of our body cells. This is best done in small, gradual steps. So if you are looking to make some substantial change in your diet, lifestyle or exercise regime, do it in small (1/4) steps. E.g.
Step 1 – just change 25% of your behaviour over the first week or two (keeping 75% what you are currently doing).
Step 2 – change another 25% over the subsequent few weeks (keeping 50% of what you are currently doing).
Step 3/4 – Repeat until the change is complete. For example, someone who smoked two packets of cigarettes a day, but wants to quit, would simply cut down to 1.5 packets for a week or two, then to a packet for a couple of more weeks, then half a packet etc. Similar for reducing alcohol or taking on a new exercise regime (in the case of exercise or taking on a ‘good’ habit, you would increase by 25% every couple of weeks or so).
If you make gradual changes over a couple of months, rather than over a week, you will be far more likely to have restructured and re-enlived the correct cellular memory of healthy behaviour and thus be able to maintain the diet or lifestyle long-term.
5. Go for a ‘Pilgrimage’ (i.e. Change Your Environment)
Another key wisdom Dr Raju mentioned, was for people experiencing little improvement in a health condition, despite having a really good diet, exercise regime or taking herbs for an extended period or for people who feel they are ‘doing all the right things’ but still experiencing some health difficulties.
He said, in this situation, one of the best things to try is to simply change your environment. E.g. going on a mini holiday, a pilgrimage to some new place, or simply doing what you have been doing in a different environment. Ideally, this should involve being close to the ‘natural’ environment – fresh air, natural water sources, in a forest etc).
The reasoning is that different parts of nature (water, trees, air, oceans etc) have different healing properties, and it can be that we have just missing out on one particular quality or aspect of nature’s healing influence. After Doctor Raju mentioned this, the gentleman in the audience recounted how for 20 years he had been suffering chronic knee pain that nothing would fix. He went to India and went for a dip in the ‘Sangam’ – the confluence of three holy rivers up in the North. He said that five minutes after heat of the river, his knee pain had disappeared, and it has never returned.
While obviously this is an exceptional example, changing our environment wherever possible, particularly when it brings us closer to a natural energy source, alone can bring about marvellous healing benefits.
6. Say Thanks from Your Actions More Than your Words
One of the main things to hit me during my time in India, was that Indians rarely said “thank you”. I thought this was quite strange at first, but after a few weeks, I realised that it was nothing to do with them not being grateful for things. It was just that in their culture, they believe it is more important to ‘show‘ one’s thanks and gratitude. If someone does something really nice for someone, they may not say thank you, but a few days later when the person least expects it, they will receive some beautiful little gift or a thoughtful little token to truly ‘show’ their thanks. It reminded me of the old saying, “actions speak louder than words” and I thought it was a good reminder for us in our busy lifestyles here.
7. Divert the Mind Away from Illness/Disease (Focus on Health)
Interestingly, by far the most consistent teaching of Doctor Raju’s, had nothing to do with diet, exercise, special herbs or behavioural routines. Almost every time he was asked a question, his answer related in some way to the importance of shifting our minds attention away from illness and disease, and towards health. He explained that to enjoy our best health (and to give ourselves the best chance of healing if we are currently experiencing some health condition/disease) is to re-enliven what Ayurveda calls ‘SMRITI’. Smriti means memory – the memory of health. We need to remind ourselves on the deepest level of cellular memory, what it was like to be healthy. So while we get inundated with messages of sickness and disease in our Western cultures, we need to always try to divert our minds attention away from these messages, and remind ourselves of how it is to feel good. Ask yourself, ‘when was the last time I felt really great? If you are experiencing some health condition, when was the last time you can remember not having it? Where possible, try to re-create the same state of mind, and even the same/similar environment (including people associated with), which can then help recreate the same state of physiology.
* As many of you know, someone very close to me is currently going through a major health challenge, and I can assure you, when every week there is another specialist to see, medical test to hear about or procedure to undergo, it is certainly no easy task to keep diverting one’s mind away from illness. Of course, like everything, just do the best you can.
So the final and most important message of Dr Raju’s, was as best you can, divert your mind away from the trials and tribulations of poor health, to the memory and experience of good health. ‘The more we focus on seeing the light, the more the darkness disappears’.
* My deepest thanks to Dr Raju for his wonderful wisdom.