Artificial Intelligence and Ayurveda

Merging Ancient Wisdom with Modern Technology

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the replication of human intelligence through machines that are programmed to think like humans. In other words, AI is a machine-based intelligence that imitates the human mind. Today, AI is applied in most of the fields including psychology, linguistics, business, healthcare, and social intelligence. Of these, psychology, healthcare, and social intelligence have always been part of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is the one of the oldest systems of medicine that originated in India. In recent past, efforts are made to integrate this with Artificial intelligence. This is an essential step forward to keep this 5,000-year-old knowledge stay abreast with time. There is much to be done to regularize the basic implementations of Ayurveda therapeutics. The efficiency of machines taking over the manual insufficiencies has the capacity to make every field more credible and compatible with international standards. Upgrading this healthcare system can significantly improve the user experience globally. As of now, Ayurveda is like an untapped ocean of knowledge. It is loaded with a variety of medical concepts and hypothesis. There are innumerable fields in Ayurveda that can be made more approachable through data mining and data analysis. Computing the available data of thousands of patients can simplify the process of personaliized treatments, that Ayurveda stands for.

AI is widely used as social intelligence to classify individuals into groups by observing and predicting the common traits of individuals with other members of the group. This is done by effective computing of systems that recognize, interpret and process human feelings, emotions, and moods. The classification of individuals is not new to the field of Ayurveda. In fact, it has always been the basis of deciding the personalized line of treatment for the patients. Ayurveda classifies individuals by observing people’s traits based on analysis of their Mind-Body Constitution(MBC). MBC analysis is calculated on the basis of the ratio of, what Ayurveda considers to be the three basic pillars of life, the doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) in human system. By collecting and systemizing this knowledge from ancient texts, the individual ‘Mind-Body Constitution Analysis’(MBCA) can be effectively upgraded, and have a global reach. Integrating AI with Ayurveda and computing the traits through MBCA for discovering similarities in behaviour patterns of individuals can complement the existing application of AI in social intelligence.

Today, because of the worldwide interest in holistic systems, Ayurveda is fast making its presence felt globally. So, merging this ancient wisdom with modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence is the only way for Ayurveda to move ahead effectively, steadily, and have a lasting impact in the global market.

One of the most researched success stories of pioneering Ayurveda is that of Padma Shri Shahnaz Husain. The exemplary works of Shahnaz Husain and its worldwide recognition needs no introduction. Once, while speaking in the British Parliament, she said, “The main reason for the international success of our beauty products is that they are based on Ayurveda. In the scenario of globalization, the challenge is to develop Ayurveda to compete in the international market. People abroad are well aware of the harmful effects of chemicals and the benefits of organic systems like Ayurveda. So for the globalization of Ayurveda and to compete in the international market it has to be combined with Artificial Intelligence.”


Inclusive Path of Health

Over-dependence on a single system of medicine has broken the backbone of human health. People are largely dependent on allopathic system of medicine. The truth is that no medical system is perfect but is an approximation of perfection. Our health sector is as fragmented and complex this day as it never was in past centuries. The solution primarily lies in an inclusive path of health wherein drawbacks and limitations of every system are accepted and worked upon. Segregation has to be replaced by inclusiveness.

What is Inclusive –

Inclusive means all-embracing. Inclusiveness brings a sense of belongingness, which means all knowledge is mine. Exclusive means restricted, which is choosing between ‘this’ or ‘that’. Healthcare becomes more effective when it is inclusive. Exclusiveness segregates the knowledge into ‘mine’ and ‘theirs’. ‘Not mine’ or ‘Theirs’ does not mean it will not have effect. All knowledge has effect. All the ancient paths of knowledge, including Ayurveda, are inclusive. There was no conflict or clash between the health sciences of ancient civilizations. Extensive trade routes of ancient world helped the physicians of those times to learn from one another. Ayurveda texts were being translated into Greek by the time of Hippocrates (460 – 370 B.C), who was familiar with the works of Indian physicians. Although Hippocratic Oath still exists, the basic principles of Greek medicine that integrates body, mind and soul have been assigned the footnote status in the medical schools today. The healing therapies of the East were also inclusively interwoven. They shared many common principles for long and healthy life like ethical conduct, healthy diet, daily as well as seasonal routines. The innovative and inclusive approach of Ayurveda is evident from the fact that this science is as relevant today as it was at the time of its inception.

How to proceed  –

The drawbacks and limitations of any system of healthcare can be worked upon by creating an inclusive path of health. This can be done by officially introducing Ayurveda in all medical schools of India. It is found that a subtle integration of the two systems has always existed. We’ve witnessed an underlying use of Ayurveda by allopathic physicians wherever and whenever the modern medicine limits them. The limitation of allopathic system is that, besides emergency management and surgical interventions, there is no finite treatment for most of the chronic diseases. Be it hypertension, diabetes or any other, the medicines are to be continued throughout life. The underlying use of Ayurveda can be exemplified from the fact that, even about three decades back, ‘Liv52’ – an Ayurvedic medicine – was conveniently used in prescriptions by allopaths in India. Majority of people, till date, think that Liv52 is an allopathic drug. It is common to find at least one Ayurveda herb in 90% of prescriptions by allopath specialists. A majority of these doctors apply the concepts of holistic wellness (Ayurveda) for themselves. This subtle and veiled acceptance needs to take the shape of a gross integration.

Ayurveda is synonymous to wellness. Relevance of Ayurveda is of extreme value in management of current scenario of health, but at the same time it is important to make it understandable, so that people are able to associate with our ‘Indian approach to health management’. There is a need to translate the tradition of Ayurveda in day-to-day life. Ayurvedic medicines and lifestyle not only act as catalysts for modern medicines but they also reduce their side effects. Along with investment in allopathic system of healthcare, it is equally relevant to create a technologically sound space and investment for Ayurveda. In this age of over-specialization, where patients get treated by multiple specialists, official acceptance of holistic approach of Ayurveda can bring on an inclusive path of health.

Health is Universal

Health is Universal – that which applies to all. It has no east, no west. The age of information and technology can be equated to the age of consciousness. This means that this age believes that the ultimate truth is not physical but much beyond the physical. Indian culture is known for its ‘Darshana Philosophy’. ‘Darshana’ means ‘to observe’. So, an important aspect of Indian culture was to observe with one’s ‘Inner Eye’ to realize the depth of Universe. This was not any bizarre exercise but a vision for truth, and ‘Truth’ is Universal. Existence of Universe is not random but is governed by cosmic laws. The functioning of these laws involve a deeper science. Ayurveda is the extension of this culture and is a science that deals with both, ‘Health’ and ‘Life’. Health is the first step in life, so it becomes all the more important to be in good health.

Today, intellectuals are thinking of bringing ‘Science’ and ‘Spirituality’ together. But this is not a new concept, but was the original concept of evolution which has been forgotten with time. Ayurveda is a living proof for this. Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems of healthcare which brings science and spirituality together. It is a ‘Science with Consciousness’. It focuses on ‘Health and Healing’ along with ‘Disease and Treatment’. In order to go further into a lesser known subject like Ayurveda, it is important to have a basic clarity of its concepts.

The drawback in the world health sector today is the path of ‘exclusiveness’. It is a tendency of modern mind to think in terms of either ‘this’ or ‘that’. This means, “I will do this thing. I will not do anything else”. All the ancient paths of knowledge, including Ayurveda, are inclusive. Including all the systems of healthcare brings a sense of belongingness, which means all knowledge is mine. All knowledge has effect. Healthcare becomes more effective with inclusiveness.

Conclusion – Technically, all the systems of healthcare are beneficial for health. People across the world need to be aware of all the available options before they make their choice.

Next topic – ‘Inclusive path of Health’


Twelfth Post – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’ – December 2020

Research says that human mind comes up with sixty thousand thoughts each day. Our mind is a chatterbox that chatters non-stop within. It is capable of picking up random thoughts and linking them to create a chain of thoughts. One thought triggers the next and creates an inter-connected chain of internal script. Ayurveda says that the mind is a field of thoughts and the body is a field of molecules. Field of thought always needs an inner or outer object of reference. Outer object means people, situations, desires, etc.; inner object means self-referral. When inward bound, the thoughts connect with inner silence, which reduces mind-chatter.

Let’s see how the mind chatters by creating links –

Bob Ross’s voice is so soothing.”

“I love bob cuts.”

“My last haircut was in New York.”

“I am craving New York style pizza.”

“Should I order pizza for lunch?”

In the above mind-chatter, there are linking threads that randomly connect the thoughts. The purpose of meditation is to break these linking threads. Restricting the progression of thoughts can bring about a restful alertness.

What is Restful Alertness?

After conquering a wild boar in the jungle, our early ancestors were able to retire in a safe place, where they allowed their minds to become quiet and their bodies to relax. But while restoring their energy, they remained alert, ready to respond to the environment if necessary. There was a relaxing alertness they possessed while resting mentally and physically. Stopping mind-chatter leads to restful alertness.

How to stop mind-chatter and achieve restful alertness?

Meditation helps in slowing down the mind-chatter. With regular practice, we can eventually stop it. During meditation, the associating link between the thoughts is taken off and is replaced by a new object of attention. This new object of attention could be a mantra chant (sound meditation), one’s own breath (breathing-awareness meditation) or a visual symbol (imagery meditation). These replacements engage our attention and create a “gap” between the links of thoughts. This gives a fractional blankness to the mind, which creates a field of inner silence that is required for restful alertness. But these replacements (mantra/breath/image) lack the emotional connect, so it becomes difficult to stay for long in these gaps. With practice, as one learns to connect with the mantras, the gap between the links of thoughts increases. This gradual increase in gap slows down the linking of thoughts thus reducing mind-chatter. The mind begins to experience an inner silence that connects it with the cosmic intelligence and rejuvenates it.

Myths about Meditation –

A common myth states that meditation means ‘no-thoughts’ in mind. It is wrong to believe that mind should be absolutely quiet while meditating. Thoughts are the natural expression of a conscious mind, so they are meant to flow. They cannot be restricted or forcibly stopped. There is no other way but to accept the flow of thoughts while meditating. The key is to enter the gap (dissociating link) between the thoughts through meditation and try to stay there as long as easily possible. This is the way all modes of meditation (healing music, healing sound, healing touch) function and allow the access to inner silence.

Another myth states that meditation time means simply ‘doing nothing’. On the contrary, meditation is a process of doing the right thing to reduce mind-chatter. This  ‘doing’ lays the foundation of much needed restful alertness in today’s fast-paced life. Meditation regulates and slows down the breathing. It relaxes the body and reduces mental anxiety. It slows down the oxygen consumption so the heart is required to pump less blood. This regulates the blood pressure and allows the mind and body to be calm and in restful alertness.

Ref. – ‘The Wisdom of Healing’ – David Simon.

Other Posts – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’

Jan2020  ;  Feb2020  ;  March2020  ;  Apr2020  ;  May2020  ;  June2020  ;  July2020  ;  Aug2020  ;  Sept2020  ;  Oct2020  ;  Nov2020  :  

‘Mind Chatter’ is the last post of ‘Reloading Mental Health’ series which began in January 2020. For further queries – /
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Gastrointestinal Immunity

Eleventh Post – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’ – November 2020

Ayurveda says that there is an intrinsic intelligence in every organ and every cell of the body, that includes the stomach and intestine as well. Mental strength and metabolism are strongly interconnected. They have a direct impact on each other. Gastrointestinal immunity plays a major role in strengthening the physical as well as mental immunity. A strong GI immunity boosts a positive mental health and vice versa.

Ayurveda does not demarcate a separation between mind and body. There is constant communication between mind and gut through the nervous system. When the mind is balanced and relaxed, the GI system receives healthy messages from brain and is able to extract the required nutrients for strength and energy, the appetite becomes perfect, and the metabolism works efficiently. When the mind is disturbed, the GI system loses its efficiency. There are significant case records of heartburn when people are under stress and of diarrhoea when they appear for exams. Change in appetite is another expression of mental health. We tend to lose/increase appetite when sad.

Ayurveda considers human body as inseparable from the environment and is called ‘Anna-Maya Kosha’, which means ‘the layer made out of food’. Through the gut we ingest energy from the environment to create our physical form (Anna-Maya Kosha) and sustain it’s functioning. Eating with awareness creates a cellular and mental connection with the food and surroundings. Silencing the mind while eating enhances emotional health. A supportive psychological therapy can alleviate both digestive and psychological disorders. Emotional and psychological healing leads to a healed gut. Addressing the real areas of stress in life and making meaningful changes increases GI immunity.

Ref.: ‘The Wisdom of Healing’–David Simon ;  ‘Perfect Digestion’–Deepak Chopra

Other Posts – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’

Jan2020 ; Feb2020 ; March2020 ; April2020 ; May2020 ; June2020 ; July2020 ; Aug2020 ; Sept2020 ; Oct2020 ; Dec2020 .

Hugging The Tree

Tenth Post – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’ – October 2020

Once upon a time there was a disciple and his guru. The disciple was very fond of his guru and visited him regularly. On every visit he had a lot of problems to tell his guru. He would say, “My family life is not going well. My kids don’t listen to me, and my wife keeps on arguing with me. In professional life, my boss never appreciates my hard work and I am not given my raise that is long overdue. My increasing tension and anxiety doesn’t allow me to sleep at night. I am stuck with life and do not know how will things move.”

Even though the guru tried to help him out many times, the disciple found it hard to take in the advice. So one day, the guru climbed up a thorny coral tree and cried out loudly, “Help! Someone help me! These thorns are pricking me!”

The disciple came running. Seeing the guru embracing the tree, he said, “What foolishness! You are the one hugging the tree. Just let go!”

The guru refused to listen. The disciple said, “The tree is not holding you. Let go and come down. Your pain will then go.”

Immediately, the guru let go and climbed down. He walked over to the disciple and said, “This is exactly what you are doing. You are the one who is holding on to the problems. I have told you several times that they will not be able to get you unless you give them permission. But you are unprepared to understand. Just as the tree lacks the capacity to bind us, so is the case with the problems in the world. We are the ones who have bound ourselves to them. If we work on solutions, we will be released of bondage instantly.”

How to release the bondage –

We find that intellectuals today are working on bringing ‘Science’ and ‘Spirituality’ together. Retrospect shows that the process of evolution has never separated the two, and Ayurveda is a living proof for this. It is a holistic system of health that binds science with spirituality and addresses the unity of mind, body, and spirit. Yoga and meditation have always been an integral part of Ayurveda – the latter being the physical counterpart of the former. While Ayurveda is for health and wellbeing, Yoga and meditation are for realizing the higher consciousness through inner silence and focused breathing. Yoga and meditation provides us with contentment that brings clarity to the mind, strengthens the spirit, and makes us self-reflective. Taking out minimum of 30 -60 minutes per day for focused breathing and meditation allows us to let go the thorny tree that we are consciously or unconsciously hugging and suffering.

Source: ‘Wisdom of Healing’ – Dr. David Simon, Zen stories

Other Posts – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’

Jan2020  ;  Feb2020 March2020 April2020  ;  May2020  ;  June2020  ;  July2020  ;  Aug2020  ;  Sep2020  ;  Nov2020  ;  Dec2020 .

Seek Help

Ninth Post – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’ – September 2020

 Once upon a time a young girl and her father were walking a forest path. At some point, they came across a large branch on the ground in front of them. The girl asked her father, “If I try, do you think I could move that branch?”

Her father replied, “I am sure you can, if you use all your strength.” The girl tried her best to lift or push the branch but she was not strong enough and couldn’t move it. She said with disappointment, “You were wrong dad. I can’t move it.”

“Try again with all your strength”, replied her father.

Again, the girl tried hard to push the branch. She struggled, but it did not move.

“Dad, I cannot do it”, said the girl.

Finally, her father said, “Young lady, I advised you to use all your strength. You didn’t. You didn’t ask for my help.”

Our real strength lies not in independence, but in interdependence. Seeking help and support when we need it is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of wisdom.

Different locks must be opened with different keys – Chinese Proverb

Discussion or exchange of ideas can give flexible insight to deal with physical and emotional problems. Lockdown in COVID19 has shifted the over-busy lifestyle to a comparatively empty one. This shift has opened new arenas of mental illness. Though exhausting, majority preferred the former lifestyle. This is because keeping busy is easier than confronting inner silence. Ayurveda counselling along with essential herbs can balance Vata and rejuvenate the nervous system. Imbalanced Vata Dosha emotionally manifests as nervousness, anxiety and fear. These can be taken care of by re-channeling the energy. Seek Help.

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Jan2020  ;  Feb2020  ;  March2020  ;  Apri2020  ;  May2020  ;  June2020 July2020  ;  Aug2020  ;  Oct2020  ;  Nov2020 Dec2020  .

Law of Jante

Eighth Post – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’ – August 2020

The ‘Law of Jante’ is a set of rules endorsed by Scandinavian society, which describe the way that all Norwegians (and other Scandinavians) behave. Scandinavia is a cultural-linguistic sub-region in northern Europe that comprises of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Denmark has international honor of being the happiest nation on earth. This is because of Jante Law, which is about acceptance of being average, putting society ahead of the individual, not boasting about individual accomplishments, and not being jealous of others.

Unlike the rest of the world, which is built on foundation of high achievements, being average is well accepted by the Danish. Striving for more reduces happiness index. With the freedom from stress of being someone special, there comes an urge to enjoy life, just as it is. The sense of acceptance brings along a safety and comfort of being who you are. It digs in a natural creativity, wherein people are able to do their own stuff without being judged or labeled as outcast.

Evolution of Law of Jante –

The law of Jante was first formulated in 1933 by a Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in his satirical novel ‘A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks’. Inspired by the existing culture of his Danish native town Nykøbing, Sandemose created a fictional Danish town ‘Jante’ in his novel. In this imaginary town of 1930s he laid down a set of rules called the ‘Law of Jante’ or ‘Janteloven’. These were ten laws that enabled people to remain grounded and described the ways to preserve harmony, happiness, uniformity and stability in the town.

The Law of Jante – The ten rules –

  1. You’re not to think you are anything special.
  2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
  3. You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
  4. You’re not to imagine yourself better than we are.
  5. You’re not to think you know more than we do.
  6. You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
  7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.
  8. You’re not to laugh at us.
  9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
  10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

Ayurveda endorses the concept of individual disparities based on ‘Mind-Body Constitution’. This says that each individual is unique and has a distinct place and role in the existence as a whole. To look inwards and focus on the strengths without getting influenced by the surroundings brings out the best in each individual. This eliminates the delusion of comparison and replaces it with acceptance of the way one is. Social media has created a constant desire to be noticed and appreciated. There’s a delusion of winning at every cost. The ego forces people to become that ‘special someone’ who is better than everyone else. This plays a huge role in lowering the happiness quotient.

As Jante Law is part of all Danish education, children learn these rules very early in life. Schools have no competition. Social life of children is the main focus. Children work in groups to help the students who are not as good. Danes believe in intimacy, warmth and social gatherings. This helps them spend quality time with family and friends. This kind of system does away with problems of comparison and negative traits in people, as there is no room for selfishness, greed and vanity.

Sandemose made no claim to having invented the rules of Jante. He simply sought to formulate social norms that had stamped the Danish and Norwegian psyches for centuries. We, too, can learn from this and attempt to make the principles of Ayurveda a part of our education system to bring our children closer to culture. This will help them eliminate from future the many delusions of life. Progress does not mean forgetting the culture and teachings from the past. Progress means taking advantage of the knowledge of past and using it to create a new present and future.

It’s the neglect of timely repair that makes rebuilding necessary – Richard Whately

Other Posts – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’

Jan2020  ;  Feb2020  ;  March2020  ;  April2020  ;  May2020 June2020  ;  July2020  ;   Sep2020 Oct2020  ;  Nov2020  ;  Dec2020  .

Rein your horses

Seventh Post – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’ – July 2020 –

Quote ‘Charaka Samhita’ – an ancient Ayurveda text –

Ego (ahankaar), intellect (buddhi), mind(mann) and memory (chitta) are the four constituents of the inner wisdom (antahakarana)

– ‘Ego’ identifies the Self with the body as ‘I’

– ‘Intellect’ controls decision-making

– ‘Mind’ controls resolution or will

– ‘Memory’ deals with remembering and forgetting

The Doshas – Vata, Pitta Kapha – govern and regulate the physical and mental functions, thus guiding an individual to make choices.

Analogy –

– Human body is the chariot

– Individual self is the owner of the chariot

– Intellect (Buddhi) is the charioteer

– Mind is the reins

– The five senses are the horses

– World experienced by the senses are the tracks on which the horses tread

A chariot is used to move forward in a journey. A journey needs a track and a destination to make it meaningful. The way we live in this world is the journey.  The self is influenced by the senses. Most of the time we are absorbed in decorating the chariot than keeping it in an efficient working condition. Unless one has a disciplined mind to control the senses, it is likely to be led astray. It needs intelligence to make the journey through life goal-oriented and successful.

Each person (owner of the chariot) can enjoy the journey of life only if the horses (the five senses) are well directed by the charioteer (intellect) through a good control of the reins (mind). It is only with this control does the charioteer takes the chariot to the desired destination. We may encounter many charioteers on the same track but none has the power to rein our horses.

You are perfect, whole and complete even in your countless imperfections  – Bhagwad Gita

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Jan2020 Feb2020March2020April2020May2020;  June2020

Aug2020  ;   Sep2020   ;  Oct2020  ;  Nov2020  ;  Dec2020  .

Breathing in COVID19

The efficiency of lung functioning cannot be overlooked in COVID19. As per Ayurveda, the ‘life-force’ or ‘Prana’ or ‘Oxygen’ must flow effortlessly into every cell of the body. This happens via breath. Breath ventilates the lungs. Along with other precautions, it’s essential to take care of the way we breathe in and the quality of air in COVID19. Exercise is one of the essential routines of the lockdown schedule. It stimulates the blood circulation and oxygenates the system. Exercise can either induce anxiety or eliminate it, depending on the breathing technique. Incorrect breathing leads to inefficient ventilation of lungs, leading to stress on mind and body. Correct breathing technique during exercise harmonizes the mind and body and brings calmness and rejuvenation into each workout.

Focused breathing and focused workouts increase the efficiency of lungs. The best way to consistently breathe into the lower lobes of the lungs is through nasal breathing.

Nasal Breathing –

Nose is refined breathing equipment that is designed to work like a piston. It also makes the air less dense. Nasal breathing filters and moistens the air before it reaches our lungs. The swirling action of nasal breathing creates a whirlpool, which propels the air into the small and distal alveoli of lungs. This allows the oxygen to reach the lower lobes of lungs.

Lobes of Lungs –

The upper lobes of lungs are governed by sympathetic nervous system, and the lower lobes are governed by the parasympathetic. Both these systems work in synergy for efficient functioning of the body. The function of sympathetic nervous system is to get active when exposed to stress. It moves into a ‘fight-or flight’ mode to protect the body and mind from stress. It’s a war like situation where sympathetic system triggers the endocrine system to secrete anti-stress hormones.

On the other hand, the function of parasympathetic system is to reverse the effects of sympathetic nerves by calming down the system, balancing the hormones and bringing back the mind and body in a normal state. Majority of blood supply is in the lower lobes of lungs. Along with this, the nerves that calm, rejuvenate, regenerate the body are also in the lower lobes of the lungs. But the irony is that most people never breathe into these lower parasympathetic dominant lobes.

What is ‘fight-or-flight’ response?

An emergency or a ‘fight-or-flight’ situation can range from hearing bad news or coming face-to-face with an animal. An emergency stimulates the nervous system and forces it to maximize its activity. This triggers a fight-or-flight response in it. Body’s first essential requirement to survive in an emergency is air. Thus to increase the oxygen flow and hyperventilation of the lungs mouth breathing is initiated as the first response to imposed stress. Suddenly the mouth opens for quick upper chest breathing (gasping). The upper lobes of the lungs, dominated by sympathetic nerves, become hyperactive. Human body is not designed to face emergencies on regular basis.

Exercise Aversion –

Now days, our body responds to exercise as an emergency. The nervous system gets maxed out even during moderate exercise. This emergency response during each workout not only produces anti-stress degenerative hormones but also creates a negative emotion towards exercise. Gasping or mouth breathing is a common breathing pattern for most people during exercise, thus triggering a constant fight-or-flight response. This constantly hyperventilates the upper lobe and stimulates its sympathetic nerve activity. In contrast, the parasympathetic nerves in the lower lobes that calm, rejuvenate and regenerate the body remain inactive. To make exercise fun again it is essential to replace the degenerative emergency response with a rejuvenating calming one.

Rib Cage –

The rib cage is meant to function as ‘elastic recoil’. This means a constant contraction and squeeze on the heart and lungs throughout the day. Ideally, it must be like twelve rib-like cleavers that massage heart and lungs up to 28,000 times a day. When this happens, a natural calming influence stays throughout the day while dealing with stress. But due to incorrect breathing over long periods, the rib cage has actually become a cage, making it very difficult to breath into lower lobes; thus forcing us to breath through the mouth into the upper lungs and triggering a minor but constant emergency.

Because of the years of lower rib cage constriction nasal breathing is likely to be difficult at first. Nasal breathing during workout may not be possible the very first day but it becomes easier within two or three weeks. Eventually the rib cage can be converted from a cage to twelve rib-like cleavers that massage the heart and lungs.

Ayurveda Workout – The correct breathing –

For nasal breathing, exercising the lungs and increasing the flexibility of rib cage, it is essential to breathe comfortably. As mentioned earlier, Ayurveda says that the ‘life-force’ or ‘Prana’ or ‘oxygen’ must flow effortlessly into every cell of the body. For this, each breath has to be deeper, longer and slower than the prior one. The aim is to take this experience of comfort to higher levels of exertion.

Begin the daily walk with a slow pace and deep nasal breathing for the first ten minutes. Then gradually increase the pace making sure to maintain the flow of breath. There comes a point when nasal breathing becomes difficult. There is an urge to take a mouth breath. When this happens, it means that the body is being forced into an emergency response to maintain that pace. Slowing down at this point is essential. Without thrusting any further pressure on the body, concentrate to recapture the deep and long flow of nasal breath. Once re-established, gradually increase the walking pace keeping the focus on increasing the resilience of the body. When the breathing again gets labored and there’s an urge for mouth breathing, slow down again on the cue, constantly re-affirming the focus on increasing stamina and not on creating an emergency. Soon the body gets accustomed to a higher level of a natural and more permanent fitness.

The same breathing pattern applies to all other workouts.

Regular exercise is essential for overall health, but too much of exercise affects the immune system negatively. Working out as per the requirement of body helps. The requirement of the body varies according to the ‘Mind-Body Constitution’ of each individual. Everyone needs to choose the exercises according to their respective mind-body constitution.

Source: John Douillard – Founder & director of ‘The Life Spa Ayurveda Retreat Centre’, Colorado. For more information visit his website