The Wellness Sense

The Wellness Sense by Om Swamy -Book Cover
Om Swami
Harper Element, Harper Collins, India

This is a practical guide to individual’s physical and emotional health based on Ayurvedic and Yogic wisdom. It is a simple, step-by-step handbook on how to take better care of our health.

Written in a simple language, deeply researched and distilled from the author’s own lived experiences, “The Wellness Sense” puts our health and happiness in our own hands. It combines the yogic view of food as satvic, rajacic and tamasic with the Ayurvedic perspective and further relates it to the modern view of foods as acidic and alkaline. It also discusses the Ayurvedic prakriti (vata, pitta and kapha) in the context of yogic priority (satvic, rajacic and tamasic) in a truly cohesive way.

As a patient of asthma, the author was allergic to pollen. Whenever the season changed he fell sick. Every year, at the dawn of spring, his asthma would get worse and he would start gobbling up cough syrups and cold and flu tablets. Then, he had to increase the dosage of his inhalers and lose most of his appetite. His body needed rest but time was the constraint. In his company, his teams and clients needed him every day, in different time zones and the immense stress at work left him gasping for breath. Exercising at the gym, playing badminton, eating organic food and taking supplements only helped a little.

A few years later, the author renounced the material world and went to the Himalayas to begin his life as a monk. He stayed in the woods and caves  for nearly 13 months. While he was there, he did not even suffered from common cold or any other ailment. Surviving on one frugal meal a day, when he emerged from his hut many months later after intense meditation, he felt fitter and stronger than ever before.

He figured that it’s never too late to take control of one’s well-being and no matter what is one’s genetic disposition, one can attain near-perfect health. He reflected on his perfect health in the Himalayas and figured that there were many factors contributing to his well-being there. He realised that living in harmony with nature and adopting some of the yogic principles were the primary reasons why he did not fell sick.

What had worked for him was leading a simple life in the most natural way. He was in constant touch with Mother Nature and her incredible healing powers brought about profound changes in his body and mind. Keeping in view the fact that most of the people can not afford to leave the town even for a day, he has written this book to guide them. Because, remarkable fact about Ayurveda and Yoga is that it is not necessary for an individual to live in the woods in the Himalayas to be in touch with nature. A person just needs the willingness to understand health in its entirety and the discipline to take control of his/ her physical and emotional well-being.

In Ayurveda, as in yoga and tantra, the health of an individual is not just state of his physical body but aggregate of the body, senses, mind and soul. His immune system is directly impacted by his state of mind. The more positive and happy he is, the stronger his immunity. More often than not, an unhealthy mental state is the cause of illness - particularly with adults. To remain disease-free, it is important to have a healthy mind and a healthy body, they complement each other.

The modern system of medicine is mostly symptom-driven. If a person is suffering from headache, it directs him to take a painkiller. But, Ayurveda does not believe in treating symptoms. It advocates understanding the patient and treating the cause of the symptom. In other words, it understands that one man’s medicine could be another man’s poison.

The author explains as follows: Just focussing on your physical health by way of better diet and exercise is only a fraction of the solution. The important part is taking care of your mental and emotional health. How you respond to what life throws at you affects your health in the most significant manner. You cannot choose your parents, your children, your country of birth and so forth. You cannot change your boss, your spouse, your children. The economy, the country and the state of society is largely beyond your control. You may have a few practical choices in these. You can, however, choose how you feel about those elements of your life and how you respond to them. The way you look at anything and the manner in which you accept or react are the two most important factors that determine your overall well-being. If you can either change your perspective or your response towards what you find disturbing, ninety percent of the job is done. The remaining ten per cent is simply about body fitness. Yogic wisdom helps you gain mental equilibrium and Ayurveda, physical well-being.

In the last chapter, the author gives the golden principle to stay in the finest of our physical, mental and emotional health. He states that at the root of most ailments, diseases and disorder is clutter. Clutter could exist in an individual’s physical, mental or emotional world. Clutter in any one world is a strong indication that it also exists in the other two worlds.

Most of us carry a clutter of thoughts - often painful thoughts - of the past. We walk around in a mess of negative emotions, carrying a bag of unfulfilled desires. These thoughts and emotions continue to pile up, until one day we break down. This point of breakdown starts to manifest in the form of ailments in our three bodies - physical, mental and emotional. How do we clean the clutter in the physical world? We organise the necessary stuff and discard the useless. This leads to the golden principle: simplify your life. This is truly the yogic sense, the wellness sense, the author concludes.

He states that the easiest way to start simplifying your life is to de-clutter it. Start by cleaning up your physical world. The more you simplify your outer world, the greater the simplicity in the inner world. Use mindfulness and meditation as your tools (as described in the book) to clean up your mental and emotional world as well, he suggests.

Many thoughts, emotions and memories pull us down. According to the author, the most effective way to discard them is to write them down and shred the paper, letting go of them forever . Because, these things are the real culprits; they are the agents of disease. They undermine the three doshas; it’s these demons that weaken the seven dhatus. We can only benefit from destroying them. The ultimate mantra for well-being is to simplify our life, diet, eating habits, thinking and living. He has also listed 12 guiding principles to sum up everything that entails food and the eating sense.

Thus, the author points out that our health is in our hands and once we simplify our life, miracles of wellness will follow.