Svasthavrttam (स्वस्थवृत्तम्) refers to the code of conduct to be followed by a healthy individual so as to preserve and promote his health and well-being. It is the widely discussed topic under Ayurveda. Various aspects of preventive healthcare and public health are discussed under Svasthvrttam in Ayurveda literature. It is believed to be one of the unique topics discussed exclusively in Ayurveda. It includes various topics like Dinacharya (दिनचर्या), Rutucharya (ऋतुचर्या), Vega dharana (वेग धारणम्), Sadvrttam (सद्वृत्तम्) etc that discuss specific diet or lifestyle related aspects under one major category which is an integral part of life of any individual.
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
The aim of Ayurveda knowledge is to preserve and promote the health of healthy individual and cure the disorders of diseased individuals. It is therefore clear that, the knowledge offered in Ayurveda focuses not only on the treatment of various diseases but equal emphasis has also been given on preservation of health in the healthy individual. Preservation of health refers to prevention of diseases by boosting the immunity and also maintaining the fitness. Since Ayurveda considers life of any individual as the union of Sharira (शरीरम्), Manas (मनः), Atman (आत्मा) and Indriyas (इन्द्रियाणि); health of an individual refers to the health of all these components of life. Thus, Svasthavrtta is also discussed with reference to the health and well-being of Shariram, Manas and Atman with Indriyas. When each and every component of life is given due importance, their union functions well and results in generation of good health and wellbeing of that individual.
आयुर्वेदस्य प्रयोजनम्॥ Prayojana of Ayurveda
Prayojana (प्रयोजन । ) of Ayurveda means the aim of Ayurveda. All the ayurveda acharyas have clearly explained the aim of Ayurveda in their treatises.
वत्स सुश्रुत! इह खल्वायुर्वेदप्रयोजनं- व्याध्युपसृष्टानां व्याधिपरिमोक्षः, स्वस्थस्य रक्षणं च ॥ (Sush. Samh. 1.14)
Acharya Sushruta opines that, the aim of Ayurveda is व्याधिपरिमोक्षः । Vyadhiparimoksha i.e. to alleviate the suffering of a diseased individual by eradicating the disease and स्वास्थ्यरक्षणम् । Svasthyarakshan i.e to preserve the health of a healthy individual by preventing the diseases.
प्रयोजनं चास्य स्वस्थस्य स्वास्थ्यरक्षणमातुरस्य विकारप्रशमनं च ॥ (Char. Samh. 30.26)
Hence, it is clear that Ayurveda focuses on both the aspects of health namely, curative and preventive. The methods of achieving health and longevity by not just treating the diseases but also by prevention of the diseases, have been described in Ayurveda indicating supremacy and the wisdom of ancient Rshis.
Acharya Charaka has frequently used the term Prakrti, Swasthya, Sukha, Arogya, Dhatusamya as synonyms of health. He stresses that disorder is disequilibrium of Dhatus and their equilibrium is health. Health is known as happiness while disorder is unhappiness.
॥ Need of Svasthvrtta
Need to understand and follow various methods to keep oneself healthy necessitates understanding svasthvrtta (healthy habits) described in Ayurveda. In ancient times emergence of Ayurveda also had roots in this need to get rid of diseases and stay healthy to attain chaturvidha purusharthas i.e. Dharma, artha, kama and moksha in life. Health is believed to be critical in working towards attainment of any of these purusharthas. In the absence of health one can not focus and succeed in any type of work required to fulfil basic needs or desires. Acharya Charaka has therefore quoted a sutra highlighting the need to remain free from diseases,
धर्मार्थकाममोक्षाणामारोग्यं मूलमुत्तमम् | रोगास्तस्यापहर्तारः श्रेयसो जीवितस्य च ॥ (Char. Samh 1.15)
And in order to enjoy the disease free state, acquire good strength and immunity one must take optimum care of his body-mind and life energies by self. There does not exist any other external appliance with the help of which one can achieve and preserve good health. It is thus stated that,
नगरी नगरस्येव रथस्येव रथी यथा | स्वशरीरस्य मेधावी कृत्येष्ववहितो भवेत् ॥ (Char. Samh 5.103)
Meaning: Like the lord of a city in the affairs of his city, and a charioteer in the management of his chariot, so should a wise man be ever vigilant in the caring of his own body.
निरुक्तिः ॥ Etymology
The term Svasthvrtta is composed of two parts viz. 'Svastha' (स्वस्थ) and 'Vrttam' (वृत्तम्).
स्वस्थः ॥ Svastha
- Swa (स्व) means - One's own, belonging to one self, innate, natural
- Stha (स्थ) means -To stand and live.
In total it means "Living one's own inherent life". Therefore, one who stands strong without any diseases and disequilibrium of Dhatus is called as svastha.
वृत्तम् ॥ Vrtta
Vrtta (वृत्तम्) means practice, action, mode of life, conduct, behavior. Therefore, mode of life or conduct to be followed by a healthy individual to remain healthy is discussed under Svasthavrtta.
स्वस्थ परिभाषा ॥ Definition of word 'Svastha'
Ayurveda has defined the term Svastha and clearly explained what 'svasthya' means to Ayurveda. Ayurveda acharyas had recognized the importance of equilibrium of functional units like Doshas (दोषाः), Dhatus (धातवः), Malas (मलाः) and Agni (अग्निः) in maintaining the health. Thus, while defining the term 'svasthya' (स्वास्थ्यम्) attention has been paid to all these factors. Acharya Sushruta has defined the term Svastha as below,
समदोषः समाग्निश्च समधातुमलक्रियः। प्रसन्नात्मेन्द्रियमनः स्वस्थ इति अभिधीयते।। (Sush. Samh.15.48)
Meaning: Svastha means the one who has equilibrium of doshas, agni, dhatus and well balanced mala activities (in body) along with energetic/well functioning atman, indriyas (इन्द्रियाणि) and manas (मनः) (all collectively).
In the above definition, physical, mental and adhyatmik (spiritual) health has been explained. Health does not mean only the absence of disease but it means that manas and atman should also be Prasanna (energetic/active/happy). Complete psycho-somatic equilibrium is the key to Svasthya (health). Therefore Ayurveda recognizes svastha not just at the level of physical body. Ayurveda considers individual as the union of body, mind and energy (Soul). Thus svasthya also depends on well functioning of all these components of one's life which has been stated clearly in the definition.
प्रशस्त पुरुष लक्षणानि ॥ Prashasta Purush characteristics
Along with the term svastha, acharya Charaka at one place described the features of a person which make him strong and immunocompetent. He has clearly mentioned that individuals who are too lean or obese are usually sick with some or the other ailment frequently. They are also intolerant towards many climatic factors like heat, cold etc. Further it is also seen that if the same disease affects lean and obese both at a time, the obese person is bound to suffer more than the leaner one. Thus both these states are not desirable. Therefore having appropriate amount of mansa and meda dhatu in body is one of the important criteria for immunity building in one's body. In this reference, the features of the person having appropriate amount of mamsa dhatu have also been described and the commentator Chakrapani of Charaka Samhita has called such individual 'Prashasta purusha'. Prashasta means admired and purusha means an individual (human being). This refers to the state of optimum health or fitness of any individual due to optimum amount of mamsa dhatu and few other components critical for god health. Acharya Charaka has given features of such individual and revered him as 'Prashasta purusha'.
सममांसप्रमाणस्तु समसंहननो नरः| दृढेन्द्रियो विकाराणां न बलेनाभिभूयते||१८|| क्षुत्पिपासातपसहः शीतव्यायामसंसहः| समपक्ता समजरः सममांसचयो मतः||१९|| (Char. Samh. 21.18-19)
Meaning: A person with a balanced proportion as well as appropriate tone of the muscles and firmness in (sensory & motor) organs is not overcome by the onslaught of disorders. Such people can tolerate hunger, thirst, the heat of the sun, cold and physical exercise. Their agni (digestive fire), digestive function and muscle metabolism is in a state of equilibrium.
चरक संहितायाम् स्वास्थ्यचतुष्कः ॥ Svasthya Chatushka of Charaka Samhita
Acharya Charaka has named group of 4 adhayays as 'Swasthya chatushka'. All these 4 adhyayas are predominantly dedicated for describing the measures to prevent diseases, preserve and promote health of an healthy individual.
Adhyayas in Swastha chatushka are as follows,
- Matrashiteeya Adhyaya (The proper quantity of food and daily regimen for preserving health)
- Tasyashiteeya Adhyaya (Seasonal regimen of diet and lifestyle)
- Naveganadharaniya Adhyaya (Non-suppressible and suppressible natural urges and other factors for health)
- Indriyopakramaniya Adhyaya (The Disciplinary Protocol for Sense and Motor Organs)
॥ 3 point focus under Svasthvrtta
In order to preserve and promote positive health one must follow code of conduct described in svasthvrtta. This code is primarily focused on 3 points that are integral part of life of any human being. The rules and practices related to these points are the subject of entire svasthavrrta in Ayurveda. These 3 points are,
आहाराचारचेष्टासु सुखार्थी प्रेत्य चेह च| परं प्रयत्नमातिष्ठेद्बुद्धिमान् हितसेवने||६०|| (Char. Samh. 7.60)
Meaning: Intelligent person desirous of well-being in the present world (birth) and the world after death should strive his level best to follow the correct regimen of diet, code of conduct and deeds
Therefore, the entire subject of svasthvrtta is focused on
- Activities and
- Practices that can help one to preserve equilibrium of dhatus and promote positive health.
स्वस्थवृत्तांतर्गताः विभिन्नाः विषयाः ॥ Contents of Svasthvrtta
The actual code of conduct, diet, lifestyle recommendations, precautionary measures, do's and dont's to preserve and promote positive health are covered under the umbrella topic of svasthavrttam. One can find various topics like dinacharya (daily regimen), Rtucharya (seasonal regimen), aharavidhi (healthy food habits), sadvrrttam (ethical social code of conduct) which are an integral part of svasthavrrttam propounded by Ayurveda acharyas. These include specific diet and lifestyle related guidelines, do's and dont's. These factors are believed to be those environmental factors which have potential to lay foundation for disease development in an individual. These factors when left unattended or neglected either sometime or for long time can hamper the immunity of that person and make him/her prone to multiple diseases. Thus when these guidelines are meticulously followed and observed, result in preservation of health and promotion of well-being. Following are the Svasthavrtta practices,
दिनचर्या ॥ Daily regimen (Dincharya)
Dinacharya (दिनचर्या) refers to the daily regimen of an individual recommended by ancient Ayurveda scholars so as to preserve and promote health and well-being. Ayurveda acharyas have provided the guideline on what activities should one perform throughout the day, their sequence and the exact time when these should be performed in order to maintain the balance of body energies. Ayurveda recommends that, in order to be optimally healthy we should tune the bodies to the nature's master cycle which in turn regulates the various other rhythms. Briefly, it is the disciplined daily routine of an individual which ensures optimum health, fitness and also prevention of lifestyle related disorders.
ऋतुचर्या ॥ Seasonal Regimen (Ritucharya)
Ayurveda has put forward various guidelines and regimens including diet and lifestyle components to acclimatize to seasonal enforcement easily. This helps individuals to maintain homeostasis of internal environment of body, despite fluctuating external climatic conditions. These guidelines and seasonal regimens are known as ‘Rtucharya’ (Samskrit: ऋतुचर्या). Observance of such behavior, lifestyle and dietary modifications is immensely useful in preventing diseases which might develop due to seasonal variations and individual's poor immunity. Naturally, Rtucharya forms integral part of preventive healthcare described in Ayurveda and is one of the exclusive subjects in this traditional system of medicine. Main theme of this topic is to make people aware concerning the methods to live in accordance with the environment.
वेगान् न धारयेत् ॥ Non suppression of natural urges
The term vega (वेगः) in Ayurveda indicates natural urges of body that are manifested in the form of some rapid impulse generated by body. Generally these impulses are generated to throw out some metabolic wastes accumulated in the body. Some impulses are generated to fulfill the metabolic requirements of the body. Thus vegas are simply called as natural urges of the body which are generated almost on the daily basis in any individual. These urges could be either to expel the wastes like feces, urine, flatus in the form of defecation, urination or to fulfill the requirements of food, water in the form of hunger, thirst etc. Since many of these urges are expressed in the form of rapid movements of internal body structures, speed or velocity is their innate nature. If a person tries to forcibly suppress or generate these urges that leads to significant damage and harmful events in the body. Such repeated attempts consequently lay foundation for development of multiple diseases. Therefore, Ayurveda has given tremendous importance to the Vegas of body and studied their effects on health in depth.
सद्वृत्तम् ॥ General rules of conduct for the well being of society: Ethical Regimen
The 3 main causes for development of any diseases are considered as Prajnaparadha (प्रज्ञापराधः। intellectual errors and offense against wisdom), inappropriate exposure of sense organs to their objects and inappropriate occurrences of various seasons/ times of the year. Sadvrtta is a behavior that keeps individual from taking inappropriate actions that may result due to Intellectual blasphemy. Thus, Sadvrtta is considered as the preventive aspect of health.
It is also believed that, by incorporating the ethical and moral values in daily activities one can avoid untoward consequences leading to stress, anxiety and emotional breakdowns and help prevent their negative impact on health. Good personal conduct provides good health and a control over individual senses and desires. Emotional imbalances caused due to Prajnaparadha, interrupt the social conduct of a person leading to psychosomatic disease. Thus, it is required that, each and every part of the society follows this conduct in order to maintain one's own health as well as to help maintain peace, safety, stability in the society which is important for the welfare of the entire human race.
Aharavidhi in Ayurveda refers to the code of eating food. It includes guidelines on eating food for getting best results from food that is consumed. These guidelines are advantageous for healthy as well as sick individuals. These should be followed even if the best suitable food is to be consumed which is supposed to give favorable outcomes.
Precautionary Observances in sexual activity
Precautionary measures against untimely old age
Conduct and Practices realization
- Sushruta Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutra 14)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 30 Sutram 26)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 9 Sutra 4)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutra 15)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 5 Sutra 103)
- Sushrut Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 15 Sutra 48)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 21 Sutra 18-19)
- Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 7 Sutra 60)