According to the Charaka Samhita, one of the classical Ayurvedic texts, we enter our Vata phase of life around 50 years of age. Ayurveda teaches us that our first act on this planet is the Kapha stage (from birth until puberty); the second act is the Pitta stage (from puberty until menopause or age 60); and the third act is the Vata stage, from menopause (or 60 years of age) until our death.
Vridhavastha (old age or Vata stage) is the last part of the lifespan and is mainly characterized by degenerative changes. As the Vata in our constitution increases, we experience a range of physical and mental changes, including dry skin; declining cognitive abilities; muscle weakness; the body’s diminishing ability to rejuvenate; weaker digestion; increasing presence of tremors and tics; deteriorating lubrication in the tissues and movement of the joints; and enhanced anxiety.
According to Ayurveda, Jara (aging) is not a disease but a natural phenomenon, like hunger, thirst, or sleep. But people don’t want to grow old. I often hear conversations around aging, the transformation in the body, diminishing self-image, and ageism in the workplace of those 40 and older. Certain procedures to “look young” were previously only accessible and applicable to celebrities and the privileged. But I now see regular people wanting Botox, eyebrow lifts, hair implantation, and other similar procedures to preserve their impression of youth. We can’t fight one of the most natural transformations in the world: getting older. By 2030, one-fifth of the world population will be over 65 years old.
The Power of Subtle Essences in Ayurveda
While addressing aging, Ayurveda takes into consideration prana, ojas, and tejas. These three subtle essences that work together to promote health and vitality can be linked to their respective doshas.
- Prana, or life-force energy, is associated with Vata dosha.
- Tejas, which brings out our inner radiance and courage, is associated with Pitta dosha.
- Ojas is our immunity and strength, necessary for longevity, and is associated with Kapha dosha.
If tejas is aggravated, it burns away ojas. This reduces immunity and ends up overstimulating pranic activity. What does aggravated prana do? Ayurveda tells us that it produces degenerative disorders in the dhatus (tissues). On the other hand, what happens when there is a shortage of tejas? It leads to production of unhealthy tissue and obstruction of pranic energy. You can see how important it is to keep not just the doshas balanced, but also the subtle essences for good health and aging.
Timely and Untimely Aging According to Ayurveda
Vridhavastha (the oldest stage of life) can be of two types: If it manifests between 60 and 70 years of age, it is considered expected and timely. But untimely aging can occur before the age of 60 due to aggravation of doshas, primarily Vata and Pitta.
What causes Vata and Pitta aggravation? Disregarding the three pillars of health in Ayurveda: diet, sleep, and proper management of sexual activities. The Ayurvedic tastes also affect untimely aging. For instance, excessive and singular use of the following tastes in the diet: sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Diminished ojas could also cause the doshas to become aggravated.
Ayurvedic Tips for Aging
Use rasayana: The process of degeneration increases with age, and maintenance of normal functioning requires special efforts in later life. This rejuvenation or traditional Ayurvedic therapy restores the body's vitality to its fullest capacity. Interestingly, the scope of rasayana therapy is not just restricted to Ayurvedic herbs and formulations, but also includes holistic lifestyle changes as well, which a trained Ayurvedic professional can map out for you.
Follow dinacharya: Establishing a daily routine is great for keeping us connected to the circadian rhythms of the day. The Vata stage of life is also accompanied by a sense of emptiness. (Remember, ether and air elements dominate old age.) When your body and mind know they can rely on certain things happening, it creates stability and a sense of calm, and it gives you a purpose. Setting up a sleep schedule, meal timings, and hearty routine will impact your overall wellbeing.
Try panchakarma: Panchakarma is a series of cleansing rituals that is designed to the patient’s specific needs. Consisting of five cleanses, they are all tailored to fit your needs and current doshic imbalances.
Follow Ayurvedic principles of eating: Diet or ahara is the foundation of Ayurvedic healing. In general, make lunch your largest meal. Eat warm, spiced meals. Avoid foods that create constipation, gas, and bloating. Eat unctuous and freshly cooked meals. Even untimely aging may be preventable if the person follows Ayurvedic principles of eating for their dosha.
Hydrate: The Vata stage of life leads to an increase in dryness, so drink more warm water. Iced drinks are a big no, as they diminish agni (digestive fire).
Live in harmony with nature: Ayurveda reminds us that we are a miniature of nature. Spend time in nature, be it bird watching, walking, or simply sitting and connecting with Mother Earth. Nature helps lower stress and anxiety. Also, honor your own innate nature, be it connecting with your community, turning inward, exploring the spiritual path, playing chess to keep your mind sharp, or taking a yoga class with your tribe … stay true to yourself.
Use movement as medicine: Always check with your doctor what kind of movement is best for you. But stay mobile—be it through yoga, stretches, walks, swimming, or another exercise you enjoy. Maintaining strength and balance is key to avoiding falls. Movement also builds mental resilience.
Meditation: We know that mental flossing offers an array of benefits. But did you know that meditation can slow the aging process?
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.
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