Gray hair and wrinkles can be a testimony of wisdom. But in a stressful world we often get caught up in equating our worth with productivity that could weigh on us post-retirement. Everyone, at every stage of life is a gift to the world. That said, aging does bring preventable and costly health challenges that we need to face squarely, from heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, arthritis, dry skin, falling hair, cognitive decline, stroke and cancer. There is also the possibility of depletion, loneliness and ageism. So, how can we look after ourselves better to ensure we are physically and mentally stronger as we age?
Ayurveda is a holistic mind-body science which supports people through a comprehensive approach to live a healthier life right into their sunset years. It emphasizes that aging (Jara) is a natural process just like the seasons. It does acknowledge natural degenerative changes but recommends prevention, building resilience and an anti-aging regimen through its branch, Rasayana, or rejuvenation to maintain and enhance body functions and mental faculties.
Five Ayurvedic benefits for aging and later stages of life
- Living in harmony with nature enhances our lifespan, the quality of longevity and restores circadian rhythms. Aging is considered the Vata stage of life and steps for balancing Vata are outlined to manage various disorders.
- Aging and community support – Ayurveda emphasizes our role in society and our relationship with ourselves, our families, community and nature to be of utmost importance. We honor the grace, wisdom and wealth of experience of elders passed down from generations and accord them respect and a high place in society.We walk in their footsteps guided by their advice, light and blessings.
- Mental health – Community support and a relationship with ourselves promote mental health. Fostering a healthy sense of self through the practices of Sadvrutta (positive lifestyle changes) and meditation alleviates loneliness. Life is a journey of self-discovery and Ayurveda helps us know ourselves, our Prakriti (our unique constitution) and how to align our life accordingly. It also helps anchor our purpose through focusing on dharma (duty), artha (material benefits), kama (enjoyment) and moksha (freedom or liberation).
- Physical health – Ayurveda helps in managing the challenges of aging like degenerative issues, joint and lung disorders, sensory organ depletion and metabolic disorders through individualized consultations.
- Rejuvenation and enhancing immunity – One of the eight branches of Ayurveda, Rasayana outlines lifestyle, formulations and therapies to boost general immunity, strength and support geriatric care. Another branch, Vajikarna deals with virility and can help with a healthy love life as we age.
Managing the unique challenges of the Vata stage of life
According to Ayurveda, everything in nature including ourselves is governed by functional energies called Doshas (read more here). Childhood is Kapha, puberty through adulthood, Pitta, and old age, the Vata stage of life. Vata is the cold, rough, mobile, light, subtle and dry, the energy of movement composed of the air and ether elements. When Vata is out of balance it aggravates existing depletion and degeneration. In women, menopause is generally considered the beginning of the Vata stage.
Vata imbalances include: general fatigue, lowered energy, feeling cold, rough or dry skin, falling and thinning hair, digestive disturbances, variable appetite, constipation, arthritis, decreased sexual urge, vaginal dryness, anxiety, insomnia and/or sensory organ depletion.
Vata is balanced by
- Following a routine
- Restorative sleep
- Hydrating well
- Having a warm, unctuous diet and avoiding raw, uncooked or processed foods
- Avoiding cold foods and beverages
- Favoring sweet, sour, and salty tastes
- Keeping warm
- Adequate, strengthening exercise and Yoga
- Nature walks
- Reducing stress
- Taking care of the sense organs and gums through practices like Nasya (application of 1-2 drops of oil or ghee in the nostrils),Karna Poorna (oiling ears that are wax free), soothing music, sun protection and Netra Tarpana (eye wash), oil pulling, avoiding too much screen and blue light exposure and meditation Abhyanga or self-massage
Other Ayurvedic practices that support aging
Other Ayurvedic practices that support aging
1. Prevention and Disease Management
- Personalized management based on the Rogi’s Prakriti and imbalances or Vikrati.
- Natural rhythms – A daily and seasonal regimen, Dinacharya and Ritucharya.
- Three pillars of health- Nutrition, sleep and a balanced lifestyle.
- Skin and beauty management through practices and personal care products that focus on inner, outer and lasting beauty.
2. Enhancing vitality and rejuvenation
- Rejuvenating lifestyle improves Sattva (the clear, truthful, joyous quality of the mind) through wholesome, light food, yoga, exercise and meditation.
- Vitality or Ojas is attained through nourishing all the tissues or Dhatus with a good lifestyle and nutrition that includes fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, dates and honey.
- Rasayana formulations are immuno-modulators and antioxidants that promote rejuvenation like Amalaki, Guduchi, Yashtimadhu, Ashwagandha, Brahmi, Amalaki Rasayana, Chyawanprash etc. (Do consult an Ayurvedic professional before taking herbal supplements).
- Cleansing therapies, the chief one being Panchakarma, promotes cellular regeneration and autophagy.
3. A consciousness based approach
- The individual self connects with the unified field of consciousness to regain health. Events, aging, degenerative stress hormones and free radicals impact the body but the ‘self’ is a pure witness.
- Ayurvedic philosophy deals with the spirit continuing beyond lifetimes. The body ages, but spirit is eternal. Personal faith determines whether we believe life is finite, however, faith in something higher than us, call it universal consciousness, divinity or nature grounds us as we age.
Devise your anti-aging plan with us
Health practices at any age enhance the quality of aging, the earlier the better. We welcome you to devise your ‘anti-aging’ plan with us!
- An Ayurvedic consultation – You can set up a consultation at any stage with one of our highly experienced Vaidyas who will provide you an individualized protocol with dietary, lifestyle suggestions and formulations. We are with you at every stage of your journey and you can schedule regular follow ups as required. (Not sure what to expect in an Ayurvedic consultation, read more here).
- Panchakarma therapies and allied support – You would also have access to our seasonal cleanses, classes and personalized, powerful Panchakarma therapies!
According to Vaidya. Jayarajan Kodikannath, life begins with the first breath, ends with the last breath and all the Ayurvedic practices are there to support our healthcare at each stage in the interim. As the number of older people in the population grows, our life spans lengthen and chronic diseases abound, paying attention to the quality of longevity is ever more important; a gap that Ayurveda can easily bridge.