19 Jun The Five Tenets of Health
by Dr. Claudia Welch
With a crazy percentage (and that article only includes percentages of the leading causes of death; there are many other causes that we’d have to add in) of disease being caused by poor lifestyle (stress, overwork, too much or too little exercise, etc.) and poor diet (too much processed food, salt, sugar, eating on the go, etc.), the answers–the things that REALLY cure these diseases are not usually more, costly or different herbal formulas, drugs or remedies.
Because our lives are comprised of individual days, we can consider the foundation of health to be a healthy daily routine.
I am a fan of medicine that is as free, effective and accessible to everyone, as far as possible. I know this is not always possible: many, many people face great challenges when trying to practice implement even the basic tenets of health. There are people that cannot afford whole foods; people that live in fear for their lives; people physically unable to exercise and people that do not have choice over what they are exposed to in their environments. In such conditions, talking about these following tenets can sound hollow. However, I believe attempts to practice and support these tenets, for ourselves and others, is effort not wasted.
Eastern medicine teaches that energy follows focus: if we focus on something, we feed it energy, so feeding the Good–even looking for the Good, feeds it. To this end, this article outlines–in plain language without the use of specialized vocabulary from Ayurveda, Chinese medicine or Western science –the five possibly most common foundational practices of health, and provides a resource for free support to implement them, even a little, to whatever degree we are each able.
The tenets we focus on are ones that, in our experience, the widest numbers of health care practitioners we’ve consulted with from Western and Eastern medicine agree are fundamental to gaining and maintaining good health. We understand there are cases where there may be disagreement about one or more of the tenets. In those cases, we find it useful to communicate with your personal health care provider to determine what is best for you.
Five Tenets of Health
- Nourishment: including healthy quantity and quality of nourishment from food, drink & our senses (that is, from smelling, tasting, seeing, feeling/touching, and hearing)
- Living in integrity: that is, aligning our actions with the voice of our innermost essence, to the best of our abilities
- Stress management: including healthy quantity and quality of sleep and calmness of mind
- Activity: including exercise and rest at the right time, in the right quantity
- Minimizing harmful chemicals in our homes, offices and lives in general: for example, in our personal health care and cleaning products
Here’s a bit about each of these tenets:
It is easy to remember that we receive nourishment from food and drink, but we receive nourishment through all five senses which, in turn, nourish our perspectives, minds and bodies. Each sense organ is nourished by the quality and quantity of stimulus to which it is exposed: our ears to sound, our skin to touch; our eyes to sight or form; our tongue to taste and our nose to smell.
The form, feel, taste and smell of the food and drink we ingest nourishes at least four of our senses and significantly affects our health. Unless you have worked out a different diet with your personal health care practitioners that differs, the following dietary principles generally support healthy digestion:
- Mostly whole, freshly cooked foods, especially vegetables, fruits grains or beans, with minimal animal products and as minimal an amount of highly processed foods–including packaged, canned, sugary and frozen food and drinks as possible .
- If you do enjoy raw, cold or heavy foods, consuming them in the middle of the day or in warmer seasons rather than early morning, evening or cooler seasons.
- Warm drinks, including room temperature water, sipped throughout the day and with a meal, but not just before a meal.
- Chewing food thoroughly, in a calm environment and mood
- Taking a deep breath after swallowing the last bite of a meal, before going on to the next activity
- Eating meals at regular times every day
- Eating only when hungry
- Starting the morning with a cup of hot water
- Eating neither too much nor too little
Avoid or Reduce:
- Cold or carbonated drinks, including water, especially during mealtimes
- Snacking between meals
- Eating when full or when there is no appetite
- Highly processed foods (like pre-made frozen, canned, packaged or fast food or food that contains ingredients that are complicated to pronounce—that most of us would be at a loss to identify)
- Cold or raw food, (fruits, veggies, salads) in the morning or evening. Moderate amounts in the middle of the day or hot seasons is okay.
- Deep fried food
- Refined sugar
- Caffeine, especially coffee–especially non-organic coffee–if you have anxiety, insomnia, stomach pain, diarrhea, tender breasts or menstrual pain
- Alcohol, especially if you have lumps in your breasts or a family history of certain cancers, including breast cancer
- Meat in large amounts, especially non-organic
- Eating while anxious or upset
- Smoothies that contain powdered, concentrated, highly processed ingredients, like soy isolate powder, especially in the morning
- Fruit or fruit juice within ½ hr. of any other food
If you are having indigestion:
- Try chewing on a thin slice of fresh ginger with a spray of lime juice and a pinch of rock salt (if you do not have high blood pressure—otherwise omit the salt) before meals.
- Fresh ginger tea in morning
Some questions to ask ourselves related to nourishment:
- How are things going with my relationship with food? It is possible, even with busy lives, to make improvements, if improvements need to be made. What, if any action is needed, can I do to support better nourishment from my diet and relationship with food?
- Am I receiving too much or too little nourishment for each of my five senses or for my spirits? Am I receiving good quality nourishment for my senses and spirit? What– if anything needs to be done– can I do to support healthy nourishment for my senses and my spirit?
- The medicine of subtraction can be as powerful as the medicine of addition–sometimes more powerful. Is there something I can subtract from my diet or sensory experiences (what I see, hear, taste, touch, smell) that could make my life better?
Living in integrity
Living in integrity: that is, aligning our actions with the voice of our innermost essence, to the best of our abilities
Often it doesn’t take courage to live a life in which we feel trapped–it simply takes fear that everything will fall apart if we were to stop. When we do this, we can have a nagging feeling that we are wasting our lives– or living ones we don’t fully want to be living. This creates a background level of stress that can wear on health of body, mind and spirit, thereby contributing to chronic and acute diseases related to stress.
Sometimes the medicine of subtraction can be even more effective than the addition of a medicine. It can take tremendous courage to stop doing something we are doing that is out of alignment with our innermost essence.
Ironically, it may require tremendous courage to live the life we most want to be living, according to the voice of our innermost essence. Living the life we most want to be living does not mean everything will be easy but, when we live a life to which we are committed in body, mind and spirit, our chemistry changes, benefitting all three.
Some questions to ask ourselves related to living in integrity:
- Am I living the life I want—in the deepest way—to be living? What step can I take to better align with that life? OR:
- What fear, attribute or situation is standing in the way of living the life I want to be living, right now? Is there a right action to take regarding this? Is it right to stop doing something that contributes to my feeling trapped? Is it right to wait and do nothing? OR:
- Is there something I am doing, believing or thinking in my life that is at odds with my inner knowing –causing a feeling of anxiety, constriction or pain? Is it right to stop doing it? What, if any, action is needed to address this?
- The medicine of subtraction can be as powerful as the medicine of addition–sometimes more powerful. Is there something I am doing that does not align with my inner knowing that I could take away?
Stress management, including healthy quantity and quality of sleep and calmness of mind.
Stress affects every organ and system in the body and affects–and is affected by– every aspect of our lives.
Some questions to ask ourselves related to stress management:
- Am I getting enough quiet time, rest, time to repose and rejuvenate or to simply do nothing? In this world, with so much emphasis on doing and becoming something, it is easy to neglect our relationship with stillness, and with that innermost essence that throbs within it. What, if any action is needed, can I do to support my relationship with rest, stillness and my innermost essence?
- When we ask, “What can I do to support good sleep habits?” we often think about adding an herbal remedy or a simple trick. And these may often fail to work as well as we’d like. Often making life changes that reduce stress and increase joy is a strategy that works best long term. Because of this, actions that help sleep the most often look like they have nothing to do with sleep. This means that it often yields better results to identify the stressors in life and ask, Where can I reduce stress in my life? or, How can I increase joy in my life?, and act accordingly.
- The medicine of subtraction can be as powerful as the medicine of addition–sometimes more powerful. Is there something I am doing that is causing me stress that I can remove from my life?
Simple tip for managing stress:
- Breathe deeply, allowing the lower abdomen to expand on the inhale and return to the core on the exhale. Breathing deeply like this helps energy and emotions circulate and move smoothly throughout the body and mind and it helps strengthen the lungs. Breathing like this is a medicine in and of itself. Breathing like this at least five minutes morning and evening can help the nervous system settle. When we feel any tight areas in our body we can try “breathing into” those areas until they feel free and easy. If emotions come up, it can help to continue to focus on the breath, rather than on the emotions.
- Reflect on the tenet related to living in integrity. When we are able to do that, sometimes that can relieve background stress.
Activity: including exercise and rest at the right time, in the right quantity
While we often focus on exercising or doing more, sometimes we may ignore our body’s need for less. It is easy to think that we should exercise longer or harder, or do more than what we feel the spirit for, on any given day. Conversely, while many of us find ourselves overstimulated and are often acutely aware of this, sometimes we may find ourselves stagnating in one way or another, either subtly or in more obvious ways.
Some questions to ask ourselves related to activity:
- Am I getting enough or too much activity, exercise, or movement in my life? Can I listen honestly to my innermost essence and hear what kind and intensity of action, movement or exercise is needed at any given time–whether that is less or more or none? Am I willing to act accordingly?
- Am I getting enough physical, sensory, intellectual, emotional or spiritual stimulation in my life? What, if any action is needed, can I do to support this?
- One of the foundations of health is a healthy daily routine. Am I getting what I need from my daily routine? Is there something I could add to or subtract from it that I feel would support balance? Is there something that is working surprisingly well?
Minimizing harmful chemicals
Minimizing harmful chemicals in our homes, offices and lives in general: for example, in our personal health care and cleaning products.
There are potentially endocrine-dispruptive chemicals in the majority of home cleaning products like dish or laundry detergent, air fresheners or dryer sheets and personal care products like shampoos, conditioners, soaps, or even “natural” scented perfumes or oils, incenses or lotions. We can guess that an ingredient may be harmful if we cannot identify where it comes from or find it hard to pronounce. Often endocrine-disruptive chemicals are hidden too in vague ingredient names like, “parfum” or, “fragrance”. These chemicals are toxic not only to humans, but to the environment.
Some questions to ask ourselves related to minimizing harmful chemicals:
- Do I know what is in the products I use? Am I limiting my exposure to synthetic chemicals in processed food, personal care products and cleaning products to a sane degree? What can I do to support this?
(Many people buy shampoos, soaps, detergents, “natural” perfumed or, “essential” oils etc. from the health food store and think they must be okay, when they include some sneaky chemicals. pp224-234 of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life discusses these chemicals and their effects. There is also a site —GimmeTheGoodStuff–that explores products that do not have the sneaky chemicals. We do not get paid or commissions for recommending that. We just find it useful. And a book —Slow Death By Rubber Duck–that is entertaining as well as informative about how we ended up with so many sneaky chemicals and their effects).
To support all people in our health and healthy relationship with these tenets of health, we offer free, live, “Good Company Meetings” –open to all– to share our experiences with these tenets.
If you would like an Ayurveda health consultation with one of our tutors–who can do remote consultations, and who are also facilitators for the Good Company Meetings, you could contact either Ivy Ingram or Emily Glaser RN, BSN, who also offers Jyotiṣa consultations. We have a list of other Ayurveda practitioners too. Just contact us for that.