What a pain!
The art of life these days is the art of avoiding pain? I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.50 years ago women and men may not have worked out in the gym, swam or spent hours golfing at the club or followed a GM or Atkins Diet. But still they surely burned up many more calories than their counterparts today and were healthy, wealthy and wise.
Our mothers and grandmothers burnt quite a lot of fat every day through their domesticated lifestyle; manually grinding pulses on the grinding stone or chutneys on the mortar and pestle, carrying water from the hand pump or well, washing clothes with a washing bat, cooking cleaning, scrubbing the floors. The men too led disciplined lives of hard work and a daily stroll at the end of the day.
We, in this age, consume a lot more calories as opposed to them. This could be the result of eating more junk food and also processed foods. Most meals were simple, served with vegetables compared to the exotic pasta, cakes and instant noodles today. Appliances such as kitchen machines, grinders, washing machines and dishwashers have also played their part in reducing the number of calories burned.
Women cooked on low fires and served meals on the floor. I do not remember my mom ever complaining of a backache and here I am already with a spinal fusion and a frozen shoulder to boast of. Today, we drive rather than walk, have freezers which mean fewer shopping trips and use supermarkets which provide everything under one roof. It is all a far cry from the olden days. I have fond memories of seeing my mom traipse between the greengrocer’s in the market, carefully selecting the best produce, be it an aubergine or a perfect guava, which would land in her pantry.
Women 50 years ago didn’t, however, have the benefit of 45 minutes on the treadmill or Zumba dancing or even a 30-minute yoga class. Their idea of relaxation was exchanging gossip when they stopped to enjoy tea and a biscuit while the kids played hopscotch in the lane.
Evening entertainment was not watching trashy, melodramatic soaps but involved listening to the radio (my dad loved the soft romantic songs and the plays on Hawa Mahal while we strained our ears to the latest songs on Binaca Geet mala every Wednesday) curling up with a magazine or snuggling in grandma’s bed to listen to her unbelievable stories from across the border. My dad had a wonderful voice and serenaded my mom with the choicest of romantic Punjabi ballads. Those were the days, sleeping under the stars and moon and the air smelling of jasmine and my dad’s lyrical notes. Sigh!!
People were much healthier then and slipped discs, sciatica, knee joint replacements, frozen shoulder, et al were unheard of. Technology has made us two-thirds less active than we were. It goes to show the importance of exercise in the battle to maintain a healthy balance. Yoga is being hailed by the west and we Indians haven’t yet realized the value of our rich lineage.
Exercise and diet are not the only things to radically change over the last half-century. Food is meant to be fuel for the body so if that fuel is not burnt off it turns to fat and that is why there is now an obesity problem. Walking is the cheapest and best exercise as it burns off the calories that we have consumed. Obesity can be calculated vis-a-vis to the number of cars in a family these days. Although many affluent people do use their brains and their legs; for e.g.…Anil Ambani jogs every morning even though he has a fleet of cars in his patio.
When we were in school we had to go through the PT class and other sports as it was compulsory and once back home, playing with my cousins was the norm. Kids these days hold the iPad or the tablet or worse the X Box and keep playing mindless games or watch cartoons on TV which hardly do anything to stimulate the mind.
As for meals, there was virtually no instant food. We had a hearty breakfast and home cooked lunch was served hot at lunch time in school by the dabbewali ( the lady who brought our lunch) in the dining hall. We arrived home at 4.30pm to hog again and burnt it all off in play. Sometimes it would be mother’s home made snacks or even the leftover rajma-chawal( a baked beans like curry and rice) from lunch. I don’t remember any ready to eat food and frozen food did not exist, we hadn’t heard of burgers n buns but had fresh milk bread for sure. Take-aways or a rare visit to a restaurant would always be the healthy idly-dosa or Thali meals.
Food is digested best when you sit on the floor and eat. Our parents and grandparents were used to sitting on the floor and had food along with the family. Yes, their diets were far richer than ours but they were fit and fine, so it takes only common sense to realize that sitting on the floor and eating was a health funda.This was an almost sacred ritual which was rarely broken. They used to sit in Padmasana or Sukhasana as it is also called. The first part ‘sukh’ means -at peace of body as well as the mind. Ayurveda says that eating with a calm mind helps better digestion and in some cases has even helped people relish food better and what better way to calm your mind then just simply sit on the floor and enjoy your meal with your family.
When we sit on the floor, not only the posture that is sitting cross-legged, helps in digestion, but also apart from that when the plate is placed on the floor in front of you we naturally have to bend forward to eat from the plate and go back to our natural position. This constant back and forth movement helps in the abdomen muscles being activated throughout the meal and leads to better secretion of the digestive juices making the food to be digested properly and quickly. Floor seating also helps circulation as the blood flows naturally through the heart to digestive organs in contrast to chair seating where the blood flow to legs. Therefore sitting on the floor and eating, affords you a healthy heart with strong muscles to help it cope with the pressures of daily life.
Designating a mealtime as a special activity helps you connect to your food and eat less. Constant grazers or those who ransack the fridge every couple of hours will only put themselves at a disadvantage. Eating at Buffets, one is hardly taking stock of what’s being consumed. On the other hand, this position the semi padmasana also enables us to eat slowly than in other positions which. in fact, give your stomach and brain time to cognate the signals of feeling full, thereby preventing overeating and bingeing. Now we have TV dinners which are a norm and the couch potatoes cannot blame the obese carbs stored in the body.
I find a stark difference in people’s posture around me these days especially, in the Gurudwara.(Temple) I do not remember any of my parents or uncles and aunts ever sitting on chairs while praying or while partaking langar in the Gurudwara.A few years ago it would be sacrilegious to even think of sitting on a stool in the Gurudwara and now we have elaborate sofas and chairs for those who cannot sit on the floor. And believe me, the numbers are growing and the age limit is going down too. I have seen women in their 30’s too, sitting on a chair rather than squatting on the floor. I have had spinal fusion and I find it difficult to sit on the floor as well, but I absolutely loathe it. I remember watching salt and pepper haired uncles who walked erectly but held on to a stylish, carved walking stick in the park and I used to wonder why they held it. But now I see every other person holding onto all sorts of surgical walking sticks, stands, walkers, you name it (tremendous potential for business there).
I have seen women exchanging clothes and jewellery many times but recently at a funeral gathering I witnessed a funny scene in the Gurudwara(temple); one of the ladies was uncomfortable sitting on the floor and was rubbing her back and the lady next to her, suddenly ripped out a sleek back brace from under her dress and asked her to try it on! Now we talk about neck, back, knee joint braces instead of designer shoes and bags!
Indeed as we have “progressed” in every sense possible there have been many areas where we have lost too, we have found easier and lazier alternatives to everything from how we eat to how we poop. There were no attached baths to the rooms in the not so distant past and the bath and toilet were always a distance away from the main house. Squatting was the best way to an easy stool and good to lubricate those knees. The western pots only make one constipated and prevent you from working those knees. Knee pain only happens to older people is a myth. I don’t remember anyone in my family hoarding toilet time for more than five minutes as there was always someone waiting outside for their turn. Now, everyone has their own private glamor rooms attached to their bedroom and western style with health faucets and toilet rolls to make it easier. If the older generation is taking the newspaper or magazine then the young uns tug along their mobiles, iPads, tabs and even their laptops to the loo.A cousin of mine has this huge pile of newspapers and magazines beside his throne and spends at least a couple of hours ruminating on it while my son takes his heavy duty Dell laptop as company to the commode and my super harried niece enjoys her cuppa tea in there as she doesn’t get a moments peace outside! Agreed that great ideas do germinate on the shit-pot but for that, you only need to take your mind there isn’t it?
People of all ages now suffer from knee pain due to injury or exercise or even brittle bones. It could also start as mild pain that slowly becomes chronic. Being overweight can put you at higher risk for knee problems and that is a fact. Every extra pound you carry adds about five extra pounds of pressure on your knees when you go up and down stairs. If you need to shed a few pounds, talk with your doctor about healthy ways to lose weight. Knee joint replacement has become the latest urban acquisition and I have seen so many people around me who have gone through it. Not that it is a sure fire way of putting you back in the joggers park, as some surgeries have gone awry and the patients can only writhe in discomfort.
Do you remember your granny or your mom complaining of backaches, except when age had caught up? Back pain is an all-too-familiar problem that can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that leaves you incapacitated. It can come on suddenly—from an accident, a fall, or lifting something heavy—or it can develop slowly, perhaps as the result of age-related changes to the spine. Regardless of how back pain happens or how it feels, you know it when you have it. And chances are, if you don’t have back pain now, you will eventually. It is the anathema of our sedentary lifestyle.
Although back pain tends to be a universal complaint, middle-aged people are more likely than younger and older folks to have back pain that’s related to lifestyle. By the time you reach middle age, your bone strength, muscle elasticity and muscle tone start to decline. The discs in your spine become drier and less flexible, making them less able to cushion your vertebrae. The degeneration also can make the spinal canal, the passageway that carries your spinal cord narrower. All these can lead to low back pain. Low back problems also can occur because of a lack of exercise.
Pain is a pretty scary fish to fry and who can know that better than me! I have been through hell and back with my spine. For most of history, medicine had bigger, scarier fish to fry than treating aches and pains. Turns out it’s more important and more difficult, weirder even than anyone imagined half a century ago.
People with severe unexplained body pain are bounced around doctors and chiropractors like they are in a pinball machine, serially misdiagnosed and mistreated, often never finding a single doctor or therapist who recognizes the problem, or has a clue what to do about it. I had to take seven opinions and still went through a wringer.
Overweight people have an increased risk for back pain. This is especially true for people with extra weight around the mid-section, which pulls the pelvis forward; creating stress on the lower back. People carrying extra pounds also may experience sciatica and low back pain from a herniated disc or a pinched nerve caused by compensating for the weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise not only reduces existing back pain but also can help prevent many types of back aches and pains. Snap out of a sedentary lifestyle as lack of exercise can cause or worsen back pain because of increased stiffness and weakened muscles.
All parents should lead by example and gentle forms of exercise, such as yoga, Pilates, swimming, riding a stationary bike or walking should become a part and parcel of our daily routine. Our body too is like a car, if you want it to run well early in the morning, you have to warm it up.Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live. I sincerely believe that our body is a temple and we should worship and revere it as we will not get spare parts for it.