Were we to blindly believe all that is advertised, health, today, can be bought. From a profusion of physical trainers and equipment, to an array of products and powders, health can be acquired through a bench press or in a bottle.
Nothing is wrong with that. These are individual choices made based on how much time and resource each one has. Perhaps, a powdered shake can take care of our nutritional requirements. That is for each person to determine, as long as we are aware of the long-term effects of the products we consume. Also, what works for one may not quite work for another, since each body is unique with its own physical, mental and emotional rhythms. Which is where the definition of health becomes significant.
The World Health Organization defines health as ‘fit for work’. The emphasis is on mental and physical functioning geared to a professional orientation. If you can think through the requirements of your work, and can physically execute them, you are healthy.
The Indian approach to defining health is different in its very word―swasthya. The word consists of two roots―sva and astha. While sva means oneself, astha means to be centred. Health, then, is not just an absence of physical ailments and disease, or the physical-mental ability to function at work, but it captures a much larger and deeper field of being. It means to feel established and centred within.
The emphasis is on mind-emotion-body, an integrated feeling where a sense of connectedness lends clarity to our responses. It is to feel fit and to be firmly established in a central space within, from which a sense of fluidity and flow pervades thought and action.
A healthy routine
The Indian system lays great importance on natural elements as indicators for wellbeing. Traditionally, the sun is not only the symbolic witness to any marriage ceremony, but also considered the prime mover for the cycles of the body. We are advised to eat our first meal after the sun has risen and dine before it sets.
I know from experience that an early and light dinner does wonders to control and even lessen weight. The other is to stick to a fixed time for meals as much as possible. The body begins to expect food at a certain time, and if it is ignored, digestive juices turn to acids which eat into the intestinal lining. The result is acidity and other avoidable ailments.
The last is to take a short but routine walk, either in the morning or evening, after dinner if possible. A walk at the end of the day usually allows one to reflect on the day’s happenings and events. It is an exercise, however slight, in centering, collecting and gathering oneself, however subtly. For those who are more inclined, ten minutes of breath exercises or simple meditation can do wonders to bring things together into a more cohesive whole.
As our world becomes increasingly interconnected and global, powders and potions from all over may continue to tempt us into purchasing health. How many layers within we wish to be healthy is a matter of many things more than what may come in a bottle.