5 healthy inspirations for you from Mahatma Gandhi’s life

health.india.com| Updated: Oct 02, 2013, 18:09 PM IST

Pavitra Sampath

October 2 is Gandhi Jayanti.

The father of our nation, Mohandas Karamchand ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi is arguably one of India’s most revered figures around the world. His teachings of ahimsa and non-violent civil disobedience rings true to this day and has inspired generations across the world, individuals as great as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and current White house incumbent  Barack Obama.  On the occasion of his birthday, we look back at five Gandhian nuggets of wisdom that can help  you live a more well-rounded life:

Fasting: Gandhiji fasted on a number of occasions, and one of his most memorable one was in Delhi – which carried on for 21 days – for the unity of Hindus and Muslims. While we definitely don’t expect you to fast for those many days, practising it once a week can definitely help detox your body. Fasting as we all know has definite health benefits – it gives your body the time to detox, use up unused sources of nutrition like fat, cleanses the stomach, helps it cope with any infections that might be present and can help relieve constipation. According to Ayurvedic principles, one should fast for at least one day in the week, and the type of fasting should be based on the person’s dosha – vata, pitta or kapha. In general it states that a vata person should not fast aggressively as it can cause more harm than good and people with pitta or kapha bodies can afford to fast more aggressively, to see benefits. (Read: Understanding Ayurveda: Know thy Doshas)

The Mahatma’s diet:  ’The body was never meant to be treated as a refuse bin, holding all the foods that the palate demands,’ he had famously said. His Brahmacharyan way of life led him to believe that our diet should be healthy and was also a key part of  learning self-restraint. He experimented with a variety of diets throughout his life and went completely vegan for six years refusing to even touch milk products. Finally, he gave in to his doctor’s demands and starting consuming goat milk which he found strengthening. In time he would include a host of milk products in his diet, realising the folly of his youth. His everyday food comprised a litre of goat’s milk, 150 gm cereals, 75 gm leafy vegetables, 125 gm other vegetables, 25 gm salad, 40 gm ghee or butter, and 40-50 gm jaggery or sugar. Any modern-day dietician would be hard pressed to find a healthier, all-rounded diet!

Also, in this day and age, with obesity rates spiralling out of control we would do well to heed his advice on diet and control our gluttony. And there’s quite a case to be made for following his vegetarian diet, after all it helped him vanquish the most powerful empire of its time.

Non-violence: One of his most memorable teachings, Bapuji professed that non-violence or ahimsa  is the path to freedom and the best way to achieve your goals. So how does this translate to your life? Well, you might not be physically violent but we all know that certain stressors do tend to push us towards the edge. The principle of non-violence teaches us that being patient and calm in the face of a crisis is the best way to handle a sticky situation. So, the next time you are cornered into a tough corner, remember to be calm and think clearly. This not only reduces stress, but also beats conditions like hypertension and heart disease. Not to mention the added benefits of helping you fight off the temptation to smoke, drink or binge eat due to stress. If you are a person who gets exasperated often, try meditation or deep breathing to help you cope with the situation.

Early to bed and early to rise: Though Gandhiji himself needed only four to five hours of sleep, he believed that this pattern of sleeping early and rising before sunrise is the best way to optimise one’s body and mind. Wondering what you can learn from this? Well, the human body requires enough sleep to rest and repair itself. So get enough shuteye every night. Waking up early helps you gives you more time at hand, to do the umpteen things you normally don’t have time to; like working out. The best part about this cycle is that when you workout in the morning your body responds optimally and you will be able to sleep well at night!

Walking: The Dandi March, spearheaded by Bapuji was probably the most well known movements to oppose the salt tax. He walked a whopping 390 kilometres in protest and even though he started with only a few, Gandhiji was soon followed a crowd of over 10,000 people and we would do well to follow Bapu’s lead. Walking is probably the most beneficial cardio workout. It keeps the heart rate up, burns calories, and strengthens your core, thigh and calf muscles. Studies have shown that walking for just about fifteen minutes a day, helps keep conditions like diabetes and heart disease at bay. So, just like the Mahatma indulged in walking – be it walking up a flight of stairs, around your office building or just making it a regular practice to go for walks around your neighbourhood garden – it could be the best thing you could do for your body.