Table of Contents
What Is Dirgha Ayushya (Longevity)?
Dirgha Ayushya means long and healthy life. The Hindu culture strongly advocates the need for blessings from elders or those with spiritual knowledge. Dirghayu Bhava is one of the best blessings to bestow upon others. It means ‘to be blessed with long, fruitful life and is intended to enhance the longevity of the person who receives the blessing.
But blessings are not the only means to achieve a long and healthy life. Adequate efforts towards maintaining good physical health, a relaxed and calm mind, and a spiritually elevated soul are ways to have a long and healthy life. The ancient Hindu scriptures describe several methods and practices that help to prolong one’s life successfully. Prolong does not imply an eternal life. Practices like Yoga, Panchakarma, and meditation help enhance your life quality and add a few more years to it.
The use of advanced technology and research in the field of healthcare is responsible for the increasing lifespan of healthy individuals significantly. However, people living several centuries ago did not enjoy these modern benefits. They relied solely on natural ways to keep good health and enjoy a robust life.
The Indian sub-continent is the birthplace of many such natural ways and methods that are still used by people all over the world. These methods were either taught by scholars of the olden era or known to people who studied the ancient Hindu scriptures.
What Does Bhagavad Gita Mention About Dirgha Ayushya (Longevity)?
The Bhagavad Gita is revered as a guiding light to live a practical life. Among the many lessons that the Bhagavad Gita imparts is the one on increasing your lifespan. The eighth shloka of the seventeenth adhyaya of the Bhagavad Gita is as follows.
rasyāḥ snigdhāḥ sthirā hṛidyā āhārāḥ sāttvika-priyāḥ
It translates as follows.
A person on the path of achieving good virtues prefers soft, nutritious food and tastes nice. Such food enhances one’s lifespan, happiness, and health and offers satisfaction.
Here, Lord Krishna describes the contribution of appropriate eating habits in living a longevity. The need to keep your diet under control is a strong base for the concept of fasting that people of several religious faiths follow.
There are others in the Bhagavad Gita that stress the benefits of Kumbhaka Pranayama. Lord Krishna >mentions in several chapters of the Bhagavad Gita how Kumbhaka Pranayama is a great way of increasing life span. It is also a way to cleanse one’s internal system and step closer to spiritual progress.
Chapters one to six of the Bhagavad Gita lay emphasis on the process and benefits of Kumbhaka Pranayama to lead a healthier and more fruitful life. Bhagavad Gita also describes the essential role of meditation and Yoga in enjoying a healthy and long life span. Ayurveda, the ancient medicinal science of India, finds special mention in the Bhagavad Gita. Regular practices of Ayurvedic principles are the key to enhancing one’s lifespan.
What Does Ayurveda Say About Dirgha Ayushya?
Ayurveda is an ancient branch of medicine that originated centuries ago in India. The word Ayurveda is Sanskrit for ‘science of life.’ Authentic literature detailing the practices followed in Ayurveda is abundantly available. Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita are two of the most revered texts pertaining to ancient Indian medicine. Two physicians of the same name wrote these texts detailing the surgical and medicinal practices prevalent during the olden era.
The science of Ayurveda believes in the principle of the three Doshas. Doshas are abstract traits that shape up the physiology of every person. Each dosha is apparently a combination of some of the five elements of nature (Earth, fire, wind, water, and space). An imbalance in either of these doshas causes the accumulation of harmful toxins within the human body. Timely treatment of the imbalance restores the correct order of health.
Ayurveda stresses the importance of diet for longevity. Various books written on Ayurveda describe techniques of processing food items before consuming them. These techniques enhance the existing nutritional value of the food.
Ayurveda supports the concept of the conscious and intangible Atma or soul. The soul is the third and the indestructible dimension of each human life, the other two being the mind and the body. As long as the soul is free of any chaos, life can continue to flourish. By reducing mental stress, anxiety, and negativity, one can keep their soul satisfied. Ayurveda also advocates the importance of Yoga and meditation to keep the physique and mind healthy. When there is a balance between the mind, body, and soul, a person will enjoy a long and fruitful life.
There are several scientifically backed methods that help in internal cleansing and purification of the body and mind. Ayurvedic scholars living centuries ago discovered and developed these techniques that help to enhance the life span.
What Is Panchakarma?
India is the birthplace of several methods and techniques that help to maintain and restore good health. Ayurvedic scholars living in the olden era developed these techniques. One such technique is Panchakarma. Panchakarma means ‘five activities’ in the English language. The science of Ayurveda describes five distinct techniques for internal cleansing of the human body. Each method has a detoxifying effect on the human mind and body. Panchakarma includes:
- Vamanam: Vamanam is a procedure to induce emesis (vomiting) using natural methods. This helps to clear out the accumulation of harmful digestive byproducts present in the mouth, stomach, and duodenum. Forced vomiting also helps to expel phlegm accumulated within the trachea.
- Virechana: Virechana is performed to cleanse the entire intestine from the duodenum to the anal opening. Patients who need Virechana are administered Vamanam treatment first, followed by a few days of oil massage therapy. Only after a thorough medical evaluation is done are patients given herbal drugs to induce purging. The process of purgation is controlled to prevent dehydration. Once all the toxins are eliminated from the body, Virechana is said to be successful.
- Anuvasana: Anuvasana is a form of enema performed to remove fatty toxins from the lower intestinal portion. Special oils are used to lubricate the anal canal to stimulate it, which leads to subsequent evacuation of the lower intestines.
- Nasyam: Nasyam therapy includes administering herbal infusions or oil into the nasal cavity and expelling them via the mouth. The entire procedure is performed in a controlled manner under the supervision of an Ayurvedic physician.
- Astapana Vasti/Basti: Basti or Astapana Vasti is an enema done for therapeutic purposes. It has a positive effect on digestive function. Basti helps in detoxifying the gut and maintains good physical health.
Panchakarma treatment works on improving the functioning of almost every system in the body. Complete cleansing and internal purification of the body allow your physique and mind to function well. Panchakarma is one of the methods described in Ayurveda to enjoy a longer and healthier life span.
The modern-day concept of steam and sauna therapy is comparable to Panchakarma. A sauna room has a controlled environment with bearable temperature, and it is filled with purified steam. People can relax in sauna rooms for a specific time duration, depending on their requirements. The steam allows internal cleansing of the respiratory passages, ears, eyes, skin, and other organs. Though working differently, both sauna and Panchakarma aim to provide a rejuvenating experience by detoxifying the body.
The Role Of Yoga And Meditation For Dirgha Ayushya
Yoga is one of the few holistic forms of exercise that positively affects physical, spiritual, and psychological health. It also has a therapeutic action on a myriad of disorders. Regular practice of Yoga ensures healthy blood and lymph circulation, strong muscles, and bones, an active heart, robust digestive and respiratory systems, to name a few. When all of your body tissues function in a flawless and coordinated manner, you enjoy longevity. Yoga prevents the physical disintegration of tissues by improving their oxygen supply.
Meditation and Pranayama are integral parts of Yoga. Both these practices have proven their efficacy in releasing pent-up stress and negative emotions from one’s mind. Panchakarma cleanses the physical body from within, and meditation and Pranayama cleanse the mind and spiritual being from within. It is always easier to attain longevity when one is spiritually, mentally, and physically healthy. Many Indian Yogis and learned people practiced Yoga to elevate themselves spiritually and seek long life. Even today, in the holy Hindu cities of Benaras and Uttarkashi, there reside Sadhus (learned holy men) who have managed to live over a century merely with the practice of Yoga, Pranayama, and meditation.
Meditation is one of the core values of the Buddhist religion. Many Buddhist monks residing in the hilly Himayalan areas enjoy a long and healthy life owing to their dedication to meditation.
Correlation Of Religious Practices With An Increased Lifespan
Fasting is a prevalent concept among several religions. Occasions like Ekadashi, Chaturthi, Mahashivratri make for very important fasting days among Hindus. Muslims observe Roza, which is a month-long strict fast, before partaking in Eid festivities. Followers of Jainism are equally diligent about fasting. Jains celebrate Paryushan annually during the monsoon season, during which they observe a strict fast.
Every religion attaches some tradition or cultural importance to fasting. In the olden days, fasting was also a way to maintain a healthy diet. Eating in a controlled manner or not eating at all for a limited time does not harm your body. In fact, it allows your digestive system a much-deserved break.
Observing fasts has become even more indispensable in the modern era of fast foods and caffeine-fueled lifestyles. ‘Intermittent fasting is a concept of regulating your food intake by designing a fasting and eating schedule suited to your health needs. 16/8 fasting is among the most popular types of intermittent fasting. It includes restricting food intake only during 8 hours of the day followed by complete fasting for the remaining 16 hours.
The concept of fasting proves that a healthy diet does not depend only on controlling your food portions but also the time of the day when you eat. Too long or too short intervals between two consecutive meals are unhealthy. Balancing the type of food you eat and the time you eat both help shape your health and attain long life.
A pilgrimage is an expedition that shows the path for spiritual and religious progress. Pilgrimages are an essential part of almost every religious faith. The destination of a pilgrimage is often a spiritually blessed place with calm and serene surroundings.
Being a part of such an environment is therapeutic and helps in the internal purification of our physique.
People follow all types of rituals when they are on a pilgrimage, including taking a dip into a river or a similar water body. The act of washing one’s body by taking a dip helps to clean the dirt and dust accumulated within the skin. People consider the water at such holy places to be blessed. Many places of Hindu pilgrimages have hot water springs where people take dips. The water from these springs helps to rejuvenate and detoxify the skin.
People who go on pilgrimages return with robust health, a renewed vigor, and purpose in their lives. These factors help them to enjoy a more fulfilled and longer life.
The Long Life Of The Okinawa Community
Okinawa island is a part of the Japanese Sovereign. The people residing here are blessed with long life than most other communities. The environment, genetic structure, diet, and lifestyle of Okinawan residents are the key to their long lives. While the first two factors are not in our control, we can certainly monitor our own diet and lifestyle and live healthier lives.
The Okinawa people consume little fats and more carbohydrates in their daily diet. With many plant-based products, soy products, whole grains, and freshly caught fish, the Okinawa diet is among the world’s healthiest foods. Many food items of Okinawan cuisine have high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are directly related to slowing down the process of degeneration, thereby enhancing ife of people. The culture of Okinawa island equates food with medicine. Therefore, a lot of herbal ingredients that are beneficial for health are a part of their cooking.
Along with healthy food choices, the Okinawan community is blessed to be surrounded by nature. This allows them to breathe less polluted air and keeps their oxygen supply optimum. Statistical data proclaims that several residents of Okinawa have lived for over a century.
But it is not only the Okinawa community that achieved this feat. Ancient scriptures of many religions have narrowed down the average lifespan of people to more than a hundred years. Various factors, including lifestyle, diet, and exercise, contributed to the extensive longevity of people.
Old Is Gold
Change is the only constant in the way the world works. Times have changed, and so has the lifestyle of people. But in the transition from old to new, some utility lifestyle habits have been lost. Below are some of the habits people of the olden era followed to enjoy a long and fulfilling life.
- Exercise: Everybody is a fitness enthusiast nowadays, but how many of us go beyond the conventional method of gyms and fitness clubs? Waking up before sunrise and performing Yoga or some similar physical exercise was an integral part of life in the olden era. People invariably chose to perform their morning exercise in the courtyard of their house or an open-air environment. Breathing natural air while performing exercise allows to increase the oxygenation of tissues and prolongs their natural degeneration.
- Using Copper Vessels: Using copper vessels for cooking and storing food was a regular practice in the earlier days. People even stored drinking water in copper vessels. The idea was to allow the beneficial properties of copper to seep into the food and water. Consumption of food stored in copper vessels allowed people to lead a healthy lifestyle and longevity.
- Practicing Daanam: It may seem unrelated, but the act of giving to the needy contributes to your good health. Daanam (charity) allows you to experience the joy of helping others. Positive emotions like joy stimulate the release of an enzyme called endorphin. It has a positive effect on physical and mental health.
- Daily Routine The practice of having an early dinner followed by early bedtime was very common earlier. Some people stick to this practice even in modern times. Eating a light dinner before sunset, allowing as much time as possible between dinner and bedtime, going to bed early, and waking up at the crack of dawn are healthy habits. It isn’t easy to follow such a routine in today’s action-packed life, but one can always try.
All these habits helped maintain good physical and psychological health. When you are healthy, your mind and body stay rejuvenated for a longer time. This is the secret to longevity.
Longevity is about the number of years of life and the quality of life. Practicing healthy habits will allow you to add more years to your life and also make it more satisfactory.