Ayurveda and Healthy Aging: How Your Body and Mind Can Age Gracefully


By Anuradha Gupta | Posted on : December 18, 2020

Try these practical tips from Ayurveda for healthy aging. Your body and mind can age gracefully!

The world’s population is aging, most people will live beyond 60 and by 2050, about a fourth of the world is likely to be older than 60 (WHO). Society often glorifies youth and ageism is a challenge but the fact is we will all grow old. Aging is a transition that should be celebrated for adding serenity and wisdom. How best can we be active and healthy in our golden years?

Common, costly, and preventable health problems that aging adults face (CDC) include chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. Mental health, cognitive decline, falls, the health of sense organs and joints, and staying connected with the community are other challenges.  

Ayurveda and aging

Ayurveda defines Jara or aging as a natural phenomenon, inevitable as the seasons, hunger, or thirst. The difference is that it is degenerative. Of the Doshas (energy principals), Kapha dominates during childhood, Pitta during youth, and aging post 50 or 60 is the Vata stage of life. Health depends on the status of Doshas and can bring about early depletion and aging or delay the process and make it smoother. Diseases are hastened by wrong nutrition and lifestyle choices and misuse of senses. 

Ayurveda aids natural, holistic, healthy aging and helps prevent and manage chronic disorders. A study found using preventive Ayurveda techniques during late youth and middle-age can reduce health issues in the elderly and increase longevity. I find Ayurvedic strategies for healthy aging to be similar to those of ‘Blue Zone’ areas of high longevity like Okinawa in Japan. 

Principles for healthy aging

Ayurveda focuses on, 

  • Balancing Vata - Unbalanced Vata (Dosha of air and ether) causes dryness, degeneration, feeling cold, joint disorders, reduced bone density, and digestive and sleep disturbances. These increase in fall and early winter. Find tips on balancing Vata here

  • Enhancing Ojas- Ojas is the body’s strength and vitality that is responsible for our immunity and mental resistance against stress.

  • Employing Rasayana or rejuvenating, anti-aging strategies, herbs, and therapies.

Tips for aging gracefully 

  1. Nutrition and Metabolism – A regulated Agni (digestive and metabolic fire) has a profound impact on healthy aging. Nurture this by eating easy to digest appropriately spiced fresh food at regular meal timings; avoid skipping meals, overeating, eating late, or having incompatible, junk, or processed food. Make lunch the biggest meal of the day and favor foods high in antioxidants, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts incorporating all six tastes (read more here). Reduce caffeine and have herbal teas instead. Try periodic cleansing which detoxifies the system and kicks in cellular regeneration or autophagy. 

  2. Sleep is rejuvenating – Poor sleep disrupts circadian rhythms and can trigger depression, chronic inflammation, and metabolic disorders like diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. Meditation and simple Ayurvedic principles are great sleep aids. 

  3. Follow a routine - Researchers have found that following circadian rhythms improves longevity. Ayurveda accords high importance to a routine with Dinacharya (daily rhythms) and Ritucharya (seasonal guidelines) for healthy aging. Stay grounded but avoid inertia with creative hobbies and learn new things that challenge the mind. 

  4. OleationSnehana or oleation in Sanskrit also means self-love and helps combat Vata-triggered dryness, 

  • Abhyanga (Massage) – Self-massage with warm oil improves circulation, skin and joint health, balances Doshas, and is recommended for CNS conditions and stress reduction. 
  • Internal oil/hydration – Make sure to add healthy fats, ghee, and oils in your diet and hydrate enough
  1. Yoga and Exercise – Yoga improves flexibility, joint health, bladder control, digestive disturbances like constipation, sleep, and mental health. Researchers at Duke found that long-term yoga practitioners (who practiced 45 minutes 3-4 a week) had protective effects on the aging brain and greater gray matter in parts related to emotional regulation and stress. For women, the transition to menopause can be eased by Ayurveda and Yoga (read more here). Similarly, moderate physical exercise in older people helps retain cognitive abilities longer. 

  1. Meditation  – Ayurveda recommends meditation to protect and enhance Ojas. There are multiple studies about how meditation delays the process of aging through stress reduction, physical and mental benefits, improved cognitive function, enhanced neuroplasticity, and offsetting age-related cortical thinning of the brain. 

  2. Panchakarma - Panchakarma is a powerful rejuvenating, detoxifying treatment in Ayurveda, individualized to help chronic and degenerative disorders. It aids circulation, cerebral blood flow, lymphatic drainage and helps prevent the recurrence of ailments. Panchakarma involves a pretreatment, primary treatment, and most importantly, posttreatment rejuvenation with herbs, dietary, and lifestyle changes. 

  3. Rasayana herbs: Formulations like Chyawanprash (named after Sage Chyawana who is said taken Chyawanprash to restore vitality after marrying a young damsel), Shakti Drops, Triphala and Amruth are immune-boosting daily tonics (Nitya Rasayanas). However, Ayurveda is personalized; do consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner before taking herbs. 

Triphala Recipe (as a Daily Tonic) - 3.5 ounces of Triphala made into a paste with water can be applied over a clean iron vessel or plate and left to dry for 24 hours. Scrape the paste, store it in a clean, dry container else it can spoil. This can be stored for 1-2 months, made again, and taken for a year. Have 1-2 teaspoons daily in the morning on an empty stomach with 1 tsp honey (if tolerated well) and water. Take 1 teaspoon of ghee or sesame oil in your diet in the evening. If Triphala is taken in the night, consume ghee/sesame oil while having the next day’s breakfast. 

  1. Protect Sense Organs: Attend to senses organs in your daily regimen through practices like splashing the eyes with water, an eye-care routine, tongue cleaning, oil pulling, and oiling ears and nostrils (Nasya). Avoid sensory overload and schedule media breaks. A radical rejuvenation concept in Ayurveda is intramural-rejuvenation (kutipravesika) where a person is treated inside a special cottage in isolation. This is practiced in limited settings now and I believe Silent Retreats work on a somewhat similar principle of rejuvenation!  

  2. Ayurveda and Skin Health: Amongst visible signs of aging are sparse and falling hair, wrinkles, pigmentation, and sagging skin, and some of us wear them as trophies of a life well spent! However, self-care is always advised. Ashish Pandya, VP Education, Shankara Naturals beautifully enunciates “Ayurveda defines beauty as inner beauty (health), outer beauty and lasting beauty (enduring health). Aging gracefully is about attending to all these levels.”

Here are some tips, 

  • For Vata skin, susceptible to wrinkles and premature aging, opt for products that nourish and rehydrate. Favor warm oil self-massage and natural moisturizers. 
  • For Pitta skin, use sunscreens and good facial/body oils. Avoid tanning treatments that expose sensitive skin to steam or heat for an extended time.
  • For Kapha skin, cleanse with a gentle exfoliant, try a light, warm oil-massage, and a suitable moisturizer.

 11. Stay connectedLoneliness is the bane of our society that needs addressing. 

  • Foster social connections with your community or spiritual group.  
  • Connect with yourself  through nature walks, meditation, and creative pursuits 
  • Connect with a higher purpose (Brahmacharya), one of the pillars of health in Ayurveda that lends resilience. 
  • Sadvritta is a code of ethics focused on social values and service that strengthen our mental fabric. A 50-year study involving high school graduates found increased longevity in those who performed selfless service. An added bonus is the community we build through service activities. 
  • Lend an Ear Warmline is available if you need to talk. Art of Living volunteers are there to actively listen and offer you support during the COVID 19 Crisis. Call 855-998-3899 7 pm - 9 pm PT. 

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of Art of Living says, “When the beauty inside blossoms, the older you get, the more beautiful you look.” Meditation enhances inner beauty, protects cognitive, mental, and physical health, boosts immunity, and aids healthy aging. The best meditation practice I have encountered is SKY Breath Meditation. Interestingly, long-term SKY practitioners tend to look younger the longer they practice SKY! 

To learn more about SKY Breath Meditation, I invite you to a free online breath and meditation session, Beyond Breath


Anuradha Gupta is an Engineer, MBA, writer, and Ayurvedic Wellness Practitioner. She has a corporate background and volunteers for Art of Living and other nonprofits. You can find her on Facebook or LinkedIn

Disclaimer: This content on the Art of Living Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, Any links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience only and the Art of Living Blog is not responsible for their content.​

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