Fitness factor, Exercise, Constipation and Ayurveda

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (ay) & Dr Manasa S, B.A.M.S

Fitness is one among the best inclusions in the management of ‘chronic constipation’. It is one among the 3Fs popularly implemented in effectively handling chronic constipation cases.

Related Reading – 3Fs and their utility in the management of chronic constipation

But has Ayurveda too mentioned fitness or regular exercising as a strategy in combating chronic constipation?

The answer is – ‘not directly’. But we can catch hold of certain clues from the pages of Ayurveda and try to understand the role of fitness through inference.

Fitness, Exercise and Chronic Constipation – Ayurveda viewpoint

लाघवं कर्मसामर्थ्यं दीप्तोऽग्निः मेदसः क्षयः।
विभक्त घनगात्रत्वं व्यायामात् उपजायते॥अ.हृ.सू.२/११॥
lāghavaṃ karmasāmarthyaṃ dīpto’gniḥ medasaḥ kṣayaḥ|
vibhakta ghanagātratvaṃ vyāyāmāt upajāyate||a.hṛ.sū.2/11||

Good quality and quantity of vyayama or exercises are the secrets of balanced health. Vyayama is included among the dinacharya – daily regimen. Ayurveda has strongly recommended ‘vyayama’ to be practiced on a daily basis.

‘Deepto agnih’ – kindling of digestive fire, is one of the benefits of regular vyayama.

रोगाः सर्वेऽपि मन्देऽग्नौ सुतरामुदराणि च।
अजीर्णान्मलिनैश्चान्नैर्जायन्ते मलसंचयात्॥वा.नि.१२॥
rogāḥ sarve’pi mande’gnau sutarāmudarāṇi ca|
ajīrṇānmalinaiścānnairjāyante malasaṃcayāt||vā.ni.12||

Most diseases that we suffer in our lifetime are caused due to imbalances in the agni, mainly sluggish digestive fire / activity. Sluggish digestion will lead to formation of ama, mala sanchaya – accumulation of excreta, and dosha vaishamya – imbalance of doshas and subsequently cause a wide array of disorders. Regular exercise is one of the best approaches to have the gut fire in a state of balance.

A balanced agni will properly digest the food. In fact, the reception, differentiation, digestion, absorption and assimilation – all these are under the control of agni. The pachaka pitta and samana vata are the dosha subtypes which monitor the balance of agni by properly carrying out these activities pertaining to agni.

When the digestive fire is balanced and intact, all four types of food that we consume i.e. foods which are swallowed, chewable, drinkable and lick-able – are digested properly. Consequently the excreta are also formed properly. Proper digestion of food is an essential step in the proper and timely formation and excretion of feces.

Formation of malas – excreta and their differentiation into feces, urine and sweat is also under the control of agni / pitta in the gut.

When the feces are properly formed it is also excreted properly on a regular basis without being withheld in the body. Regular and timely excretion is brought about by the apana vata, samana vata and pachaka pitta.

The lubrication to the feces is obtained by the kledaka kapha, pachaka pitta and ranjaka pitta in the upper gut. All these would facilitate easy defecation. This would also keep the functions of apana vata and other types of vata in a state of balance.

So, in persons who exercise regularly, digestion of food takes place properly, feces is formed regularly and properly and is eliminated in proper time without effort and keeps the gut health and overall health intact. These persons would not suffer from constipation.

Regular exercise also would help in proper excretion of other malas i.e. urine and sweat. It would regulate peristalsis – the function of samana vata and pachaka pitta. Those exercising regularly would also keep their hydration levels balanced by drinking water regularly and adequately. All these collectively would help in keeping constipation at bay.

To sum up,

समदोष समाग्निश्च समधातुमलक्रियः।
प्रसन्न आत्मेन्द्रियमनः स्वस्थ इत्यभिधीयते॥सु.सू.१५/४१॥
samadoṣa samāgniśca samadhātumalakriyaḥ|
prasanna ātmendriyamanaḥ svastha ityabhidhīyate||su.sū.15/41||

Equilibrium and balance of all the three doshas, balance of digestive fire, balance of body tissues, proper and timely elimination of waste substances, pleasantness of soul, senses and mind are determinants of ‘swastha’ i.e. state of being healthy or wellbeing.

Here we can see that all these entities are interrelated. If there is equilibrium of doshas and digestive capacity, the food will be digested properly. This will lead to proper nourishment and balance of body tissues and also formation and expulsion of excreta, which includes feces. All these would keep the soul, senses and mind in a state of pleasantness and health. All these sum up to provide a state of physical, mental, sensual and emotional wellbeing of an individual. But for the balance of all these entities, balance of agni is a must.

For all these things to be achieved it is important that one keeps fit and healthy. Regular exercise is the foundation for meeting the goal of ‘perfect wellbeing’.

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