The human desire to stay young and live forever is age-old. There are have been any number of futile attempts made to achieve this. In the ancient Indian books called “The Puranas”, there are innumerable stories of penance done in vain to beget boons of immortality from Brahma – who is looked up to as Creator himself. Brahma says that even he cannot bestow such a boon on a mortal being as everything that is born must die.
Even today, people are trying to preserve their bodies using cryonics, misled with the hope of future revival, a crude attempt at “Eternity”. So, as everything that is born must die, let’s talk about how to live well and age gracefully. Even though our chronological age must progress with the passage of time, our cellular age can be slowed down, so that we look and feel younger than our actual age. If our health is good, then any age – no matter how old – can be joyful and fulfilling.
Many factors play into graceful aging :
1) Adopting a holistic diet: It is commonly known that as long as your digestive system is functioning well, you can enjoy a healthy life. Eating a well-balanced diet is very important to keep all the organs that aid digestion functioning efficiently. However, eating multiple times a day taxes the digestive system, as does eating hard-to-digest foods like meat. Caffeine and other strong nervous stimulants disturb the release of stored energy in the system. For peak functioning and endurance of the digestive tract, it is ideal to keep at least a 6 to 8 hour gap between meals, switch 40% of cooked food with live or fresh veggies and fruits, and avoid stimulants of all kinds.
2) Eating at the right times: Sleeping immediately or soon after a meal causes digestion to slow down and the food to stay longer in the stomach and digestive tract. Improperly digested food in the tract increases the toxin levels raising the risk of ill health. It also causes unnecessary inertia which slows the functioning of the system artificially, making the system work harder. Keeping a 3 hour gap after the evening meal before you sleep brings healthfulness to the system.
3) Eating according to your age: Eating 4 times a day and snacking in between is alright when we are young and still growing. According to yogic sciences, the body needs less food after we turn 30. Beyond this age, whatever we consume is used for body maintenance. So, eating 2 meals a day after 30 ensures health and vitality.
This is where the concept and practice of intermittent fasting becomes relevant. If those two meals are spaced 8 hours apart, the body will be fasting for about 15 hours overnight. At about the 10 hour mark, the body’s cleanse, repair, and restore functions accelerate greatly. For the cleansing to happen at the cellular level, it is important to maintain the above discipline when it comes to eating. Cellular cleansing is crucial for a healthful life.
4) Keeping the mind stress free: Stress creates toxins, which the body has to work extra hard to purge. Daily buildup of stress toxins can lead to ill-health and chronic ailments, which speeds up aging. Keeping the mind stress free through mindfulness exercises and breathing practices brings relaxation to the entire system.
5) Daily dose of Yoga and Meditation: Yoga and meditation is a proactive method of creating relaxation and enhancing the efficient functioning of the system. The heart rate of people who practice yoga and meditation is lower than the normal 72 beats per minute, which also slows down the aging process at the cellular level and keeps us feeling and looking young.
Besides the health benefits of yoga and meditation, there are spiritual benefits that one can reap. Daily practice connects us to the true essence of who we are, enhancing our awareness that we are not this body and mind, but Conscious beings on a human journey to realize our true Self. This awareness or understanding creates a distance from the body and the mind, making us less fearful of aging, diseases, and ultimately death itself. That feeling in itself brings a different kind of rejuvenation to the system.
However, as true as the above is, our body is also the only instrument through which we experience life and the world around us. As long we have the gift of this body, it is our responsibility to ensure that we live life to our fullest possibility. So we have to do what works well for the body to function smoothly so that we can extend the youthful feeling even as we age. It is just like maintaining any machine which needs timely tune-ups (yoga and meditation for us) and the right fuel (balanced and holistic diet for us) at the right time (timely eating for us). Understanding the factors that affect our body positively or negatively will bring a shift in our thinking of how to maintain our body, so we can enjoy life and all its gifts for a long time.
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