by John Peterson, M.D.
This June I'll be celebrating Father's Day within days of the birth of my first grandchild. Being on the verge of this next phase of life led me to reflect. I have been thinking about the stages of a man's life.
Childhood is Kapha time. I spent that time in a small Iowa town during the distant '50s, blissfully ignorant of the responsibilities that I would take on later. I didn't know anything about ayurveda as a kid, but I also didn't know about computers, video games, cell phones and Twitter. My friends and I had the run of the neighborhood. We spent hours each day in the neighborhood playing all sorts of games.
I haven't seen boys riding bikes and playing in our neighborhood since our son grew up. I don't think kids play outside enough anymore. That's something to consider, because from the ayurvedic perspective it's a big part of what boys need to balance the Kapha time of life.
Adolescence meanwhile sets the stage for the Pitta time of life — the time of finding your place in the world and taking on the responsibilities of work and family.
When I was in medical school I was fortunate to learn the Transcendental Meditation® program. This made my life more enjoyable and saved me from the stress-related illnesses that my father and grandfathers had.
Now I'm approaching the Vata time of life. In the ancient Vedic tradition, this was the time to take up the begging bowl and devote the rest of your days to spiritual development. I hope to avoid the begging bowl, but I find my wife and I spontaneously want to simplify our lives and be able to devote more time to family and the joy of spiritual evolution.
Since my training in Maharishi Ayurveda in the early '80s, my life has also been blessed with a supportive daily routine, including abhyanga (ayurvedic oil massage), asanas, pranayama, TM and the TM-Sidhi® program. Lunch is my main meal of the day, prepared with food that balances my constitution and the season. My wife cooks our lunch at home, using organic, vegetarian, non-GMO food that often is locally grown.
It's easier having an ayurvedic lifestyle when you're a team. Part of our team is the MAPI family of herbal preparations. For almost a quarter century I've been taking Amrit Kalash, that powerful traditional rasayana that gets rid of free radicals, supports the immune system and increases bliss.
MAPI has two other rasayanas for men to maintain balance and immunity. Men of all ages can benefit from Vital Man, an herbal compound that boosts the body's resistance to stress and environmental toxins. The twenty-four herbs in Vital Man help strengthen mind and emotions, purify the blood, improve digestion and help create healthy reproductive fluids.
Rejuvenation for Men creates energy by supporting formation of the seven tissues and enhancing ojas, the subtle substance that supports bliss and immunity. It strengthens the senses, promotes cellular regeneration and aids digestion, assimilation and elimination.
When men get out of balance, they can encounter problems in three main areas: prostate problems, sexual dysfunction and cardiovascular disease.
Prostate problems loom large for a majority of men as they age. Have a periodic prostate checkup and take Prostate Protection for prevention. Organic Genitrac helps balance the downward energy that regulates elimination. It aids digestion, assimilation and metabolism and nourishes all the body's tissues, including the reproductive tissue.
The prostate enlarges with age, which can cause urinary hesitancy, urgency, dribbling, slower stream, and nocturia (having to get up in the night to urinate). Prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, causes pain with urination and ejaculation. The incidence of prostate cancer increases with age. It has the same symptoms as enlarged prostate, with occasional blood in the urine or semen. If your PSA is high, your doctor will look for nodules while doing a prostate exam. Then he'll order a needle biopsy to examine the tissue for cancer.
For prostate and urinary tract problems, add these to your diet: barley soup, cumin and coriander water, asparagus, sweet juicy fruits, pomegranate juice, coconut and coconut water. Avoid lifting heavy weights, over-exercising, excessive travel, riding horses and excessive sexual intercourse, especially after a big meal.
My family practice is full of aging baby boomers. Every day I address concerns about men's sexual health. For thousands of years ayurveda has been a respected source of knowledge concerning male potency and fertility.
Ayurveda describes seven dhatus, or tissues, that are created in a sequence from our food. The final dhatu is shukra, the reproductive tissue. The great masters of ayurveda warn us to use it wisely. If shukra is healthy, then ojas is created, which supports strength, immunity, spirituality and bliss. If shukra is released in excess, then ojas is depleted. On the other hand, if natural urges are suppressed and semen builds up and becomes stale, this can also lead to problems, such as prostatitis. For householders there is a happy medium: enough sexual activity to ensure marital togetherness, but not too much to deplete ojas.
A good daily routine in harmony with the cycles of nature is the foundation of sexual health. Don't eat a large meal before bedtime, as that leads to the production of impurities, or ama, which clog up the shrotas, or channels of flow. It's also important to address elimination problems and to identify and treat digestive imbalances.
Milk enhances shukra. If you can digest it, then drink warm milk at bedtime. Simmer the milk with a natural sugar, some ginger, turmeric, cardamom, saffron, nutmeg, shatavari (Indian asparagus root) and ashwagandha (winter cherry). Pour it into a silver cup and let it cool before sipping. A delicious way to build up Ojas is to eat two dates with ghee once or twice a day. Remove the seed from each date and fill the center with ghee.
Men have a greater risk for cardiovascular disease, partly because they don't have the protective effect of estrogen, which increases good (HDL) cholesterol. Cholesterol Protection regulates fat metabolism, purifies the blood and fat tissues, helps the liver, improves bile secretion and flushes toxins and bad cholesterol from the body.
Increased lipid levels, metabolic syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea are all risk factors for heart disease that can be addressed by a Kapha-pacifying diet and increased exercise.
Hypertension is an imbalance in Vyana Vata (the subdosha that governs circulation and the nervous system) and Sadhaka Pitta (the subdosha that governs the heart and fulfillment of desires). BP Balance supports these two subdoshas and cleanses and nourishes the circulatory system.
Cardio Support protects the heart against high-stress lifestyles, impurities in the food, and electromagnetic exposure. It helps you meet emotional challenges and promotes ojas, while it purifies the fat tissue and balances cholesterol. Cardio Support includes the ayurvedic herb Arjuna, famous as a tonic for the heart.
Stress can have implications for sexual function as well. It is considered one of the most powerful forces in the universe, bringing opposites together. The ancient Vaidyas considered it to be a healthy part of married life.
There are three kinds of sexual dysfunction: decreased libido, erectile dysfunction and inability to ejaculate. Lowered libido is sometimes related to decreased testosterone levels, but more often it is secondary to stress, depression or other medical problems. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is sometimes related to vascular disease or insufficient blood supply but more often it is secondary to stress, depression or medication side effects. Difficulty ejaculating is sometimes related to medication side effects, but more often to stress, anxiety and depression.
You can see that the common denominator for all these problems is stress. The most effective way I know to release stress from the nervous system is regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation program.
The heart is protected with a good daily routine. The bottom line is, take time to enjoy your life. Give yourself an ayurvedic oil massage each morning. Create a blissful home and enjoy your family and friends. Leave work behind at night. Enjoy fresh food at home and stay away from coffee, carbonated drinks and deep-fried or overly pungent foods.
Play outside. Replace angry confrontations, pressured work habits and worrying with affection and playfulness. Remember: happiness is divine medicine for your heart. Look into learning the Transcendental Meditation technique. It's been proven in more than 600 scientific studies to reduce stress, hypertension, atherosclerosis and stroke.
Everything that increases bliss increases health for the whole mind and body. The ayurvedic texts say that grandchildren are a rasayana. The word "rasayana" means "that which supports rasa." Rasa, or plasma, is the first of the seven tissues, namely:
- Rasa: essential fluid — plasma
- Rakta: blood
- Mamsa: muscle
- Meda: adipose tissue or fat
- Asthi: bone
- Majja: bone marrow and nervous system
- Shukra: reproductive tissue
Rasa, quite obviously, is the foundation of the human physiology; therefore, anything that supports rasa nourishes the other tissues and the immune system.
No surprise, I can't wait to hold my granddaughter in my arms next month and enjoy this blessing, and embark on this new adventure in bliss.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.