As mortals of the 21st century, we continue to globalize in every aspect of life. Using technology and automation, we have found a simpler alternative to almost everything – from how we cook to how we eat. But as the purists would highlight, this ease of leading life in the modern times also has a price that we all must pay.
According to the ancient Ayurveda texts, the human body is made up of five main ‘pranas’ or life energies, and these five elements correspond to each finger on our hand (the thumb indicates fire, index finger correlates with air, middle finger indicates sky, ring finger stands for earth and little finger indicates water). When we eat with our hands we usually join our fingers and thumb to eat, this is actually a ‘mudra’, a hand gesture used in traditional dances, yoga postures that is said to balance the flow of energies within the body.Therefore when we eat, we are putting together all the five elements and energizing the food we eat, so it helps keep us healthy by keeping all the life energies in balance. Eating food with hands is an Indian Vedic tradition. While in the modern society, eating food with hands is considered to be unhygienic and unsocial and hence looked down upon. However, according to the traditional scriptures and knowledge, it is more hygienic than eating with a spoon or a fork since it balances all energies for the body.
So is the modern civilization likely to be missing out on things, when people use cutlery and other implements to guide the food to their mouths? Let’s analyze the traditional practice a little more in detail.
Eating with your hand helps in improving digestion: Touch is one of the most strong and often-used sensation of our bodies. When we touch our food with our hands, the brain signals our stomach that we are about to eat. This in turn, readies the stomach to digest the food it will receive, aiding in better digestion.
Promotes mindful eating: Eating with one’s hands requires you to pay attention to what you are eating. You often need to look at the food and focus on what you are putting into your mouth. Also known as mindful eating, this practice is considered to be much healthier than eating using cutlery, which is more mechanical. Mindful eating has a large number of benefits for the health of a human being and one of the most important benefits being that it improves assimilation of nutrients from the food you eat, enhances digestion, thereby keeping you healthier.
The age-old traditions that have been passed onto generations have a scientific basis, which has been lost over the generations due to the proliferation of the western culture and their way of life. As an example, traditions dictate that when we sit down to eat, we are supposed to sit cross legged on the floor – this cross legged posture is actually an ‘asana’, a posture adopted during yoga. This is called ‘sukhasana’ or a ‘near padmasana’. The name means a posture for good health or the lotus posture. Sitting in this posture calms the mind, applies pressure on to the lower spine that facilitates relaxation.
Therefore, when we sit on the floor, not only the posture, that is sitting cross-legged helps in digestion, even when the plate is placed on the floor in front, we tend to bend forward to eat from the plate and then go back to our natural position. This constant back and forth movement helps in the abdomen muscles being activated throughout the meal leads to better secretion of the digestive juices (acids), helping the food to be digested properly and quickly. So if you think about this one act, a person is not only eating, but also doing yoga at the same time. That is why it is said that yoga is actually a way of leading life and not a focused session based activity.
Let’s see what the ancient scriptures have mentioned about water intake.
Today, in most of the cities of the modern world, water is filtered, treated with chemicals to purify and then supplied to the houses. In instances where this does not happen, each household is compelled to install their own water purification unit to free themselves of ingesting bacteria and other heavy metals that is generally found to contaminate water. In such a world, speaking of drinking water stored in a copper vessel might sound antiquated. However, when water is stored in copper vessels, it is supposed to kill all microorganisms present in the water like viruses and bacteria.
It may sound intriguing, but when water is stored in a copper vessel for hours, copper, in traces gets dissolved in water. This process, known in scientific parlance as the “Oligodynamic effect”, and has the power to destroy a wide range of molds, fungi, algae and harmful microbes due to its toxic effects on living cells. The copper content of water which reaches a level of about 190 micro gram per liter is well within the permissible limits set by the WHO and thus remains safe for drinking. Also, copper is an essential micronutrient required by our body at a level of about 1mg per day. The best way of meeting the body’s need of copper intake is by taking water stored overnight in a copper vessel. Two liters of the water can supply approximately 40% of our daily requirement of copper.
Water stored in a copper jug is good in many ways for our health and well-being. It stimulates the brain, promotes bone strength, aids in digestion, regulates body fat, is anti-carcinogenic, regulates functioning of thyroid gland, prevents joint pains, aids in hemoglobin synthesis, maintains acid-alkaline balance in body, helps in improving fertility and conception related problems, prevents white patches on skin, helps in healing of internal wounds and slows down aging due to its antioxidant property.
In our lives filled with stress and with lack of time on our hands, it is important to be aware of the age-old traditions and inculcate them into a daily routine wherever possible. This would help us co-exist with nature, keep our bodies free of ailments, thereby helping in building a society that is healthy in all aspects of mind and body.