There are different concepts about Ageing by ancient Ayurveda scholars. In this perspective article I would be explaining the view points of different scholars and the ancient thoughts on ageing gracefully.
Acharya Sushruta mentions Jara or old age as Swaabhavika. It is not a disease, but a natural phenomenon just like hunger, thirst and sleep. The Sanskrit word Swaabhavika means natural.
He mentions about 2 types of old age or Jara.
- Kalaja Jara – old age occurring when efforts are taken to protect the body to prevent from wear and tear in the form of food, drinks and rasayana or rejuvenation therapies.
- Akalaja Jara – happens when no efforts are taken to maintain our shareera or body.
The incidence of few diseases is more in the period of old age. Ayurveda has specifically described how to attain delayed ageing, how to prevent Akalajara Vyadhi, their treatment etc. In short Ayurveda has described how to age gracefully with good quality of life.
Classification of human life span according to Scholar Charaka –
|Jeerna||Ø 60 years|
Jeerna avastha is Old age as per Acharya Charaka. In jeerna avastha, detioration of dhathu (tissue), indriyas (senses), bala (strength), memory etc. takes place.
Vata dosha is predominant in this age and hence vata vyadhi (diseases due to Vata imbalance) are commonly seen in elderly persons.
Modern biological theories of ageing in humans fall into two main categories: programmed and damage or error theories. The programmed theories imply that ageing follows a biological timetable, perhaps a continuation of the one that regulates childhood growth and development. The damage or error theories emphasize environmental assaults to living organisms that induce cumulative damage at various levels as the cause of aging.1
Similar to the Damage/Error theory, ancient Ayurveda scholar Sharangadhara described sequential loss of biological factors in ageing. He describes that in age of 1-10 years balya or childhood is lost. Similarly, in each succeeding 10 years Vruddi, Chavi, Medha, Twacha, Drushti, Shukra, Buddhi, Karmendriya are lost respectively. 2
WHO defines Healthy Ageing “as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age”. Functional ability is about having the capabilities that enable all people to be and do what they have reason to value.
This includes a person’s ability to:
- meet their basic needs;
- to learn, grow and make decisions;
- to be mobile;
- to build and maintain relationships; and
- to contribute to society.
Healthy Ageing is the focus of WHO’s work on ageing between 2015 – 2030.3
Ayurveda advocates increasing lifespan by following –
- Dinacharya – Daily regimen
- Ritucharya – Seasonal regimen
- Sadvritta – Healthy practices for mind
- Shodhana – Detoxification and cleansing
- Rasayana – Rejuvenative therapies
Dinacharya refers to a daily routine that’s meant to maintain physical health. According to Ayurveda, establishing a healthy and consistent dinacharya allows the body to be in tune with the cycles of nature, promoting optimal wellness.
Ayurveda has depicted various rules and regimens (Charya), regarding diet and behavior to acclimatize seasonal enforcement easily without altering body homeostasis. The prime principle of Ayurvedic system of medicine is preventive aspect, can be achieved by the change in diet and practices in response to change in climatic condition. This is a very important aspect of preventive medicine as mentioned in Ayurvedic texts. This seasonal regimen is called as Ritucharya
There are certain codes of conduct to be practiced on workplace, society and family. These codes of conduct are explained under the title Sadvritta in Ayurveda. It includes compassion for all creatures, control of mind in physical, mental and verbal actions, applying wisdom in daily activities, and giving importance to other’s feelings.
Rasayana Thantra deals with methodology and medications to preserve youth, prolong life, promote intelligence and strength and give immunity to resist diseases.
In this era of pollution and adulterated toxic food consumption, bioaccumulation of pesticides, consumption of improper foods like refrigerated items (rooksha, shushka guna), daily consumption of fermented foods in form of dosa and idli; all these lead to unimaginable dosha sanchaya (accumulation of doshas) and ama (toxin) formation. Here lies the importance of Ritu Shodhana or seasonal detoxification.
A year consists of six seasons, namely, Shishira (winter), Vasanta (spring), and Grishma (summer) in Uttarayan and Varsha (monsoon), Sharata (autumn), and Hemanta (late autumn) in Dakshinayana.
Shodhana (Detoxification) therapies as per season –
|Vasanta (Spring) – Kapha which was increased in Shishira becomes liquefied by the heat of the Sun in Vasanta. It diminishes the Agni and gives rise to many diseases because of which Kapha should be controlled quickly||Vamana (Therapeutic Emesis) and Nasya (Nasal drops) are indicated.|
|Varsha (Monsoon) – Digestive fire or Agni is already debilitated by summer; it undergoes further decrease and gets vitiated by the doshas. Further vata dosha gets severely aggravated by the effect of thick clouds full of water, cold wind having snow, dirty water because of rain, warmth of the earth and amlapaka. Due to the poor strength of digestive activity, the Doshas start vitiating one another and cause many diseases.||Vasti or Enema to pacify Vata is indicated.|
|Sharat (Autumn) – When the person who is accustomed to cold season gets exposed to harsh sunrays it leads to pitta prakopa.||Virechana or therapeutic purgation and Bloodletting is indicated.|
Ritu Shodhana helps in decreasing disease morbidity. It can also help in preventing lifestyle disorders, hormonal imbalances and immune disturbances. It helps in pacifying the aggravated dosha in disease state and keeps the doshas in balance in healthy state.
The amazing benefits of Ritu Shodhana include decreasing environmental toxicants and bioaccumulated waste which are responsible for premature aging.
Article by Arya Krishna
- Jin K. (2010). Modern Biological Theories of Aging. Aging and disease, 1(2), 72-74.
- Sharangadhara Samhita (Jiwanprada Hindi commentary). Shailja Srivastava, editor. 3rd ed. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia; 2003. p.54.
- WHO – Healthy Aging