Personal Health & Hygiene

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“Health and Hygiene” – What these terms imply?

“Health is wealth”, and “Cleanliness is next to Godliness – these, as we know, are universal sayings. These two sayings express, in a nutshell as it were. The primary importance of health and hygiene for man’s happiness.

Another common saying, of course is “Prevention is better than cure”. Personal as well as environmental hygiene – of the individual and of the community – are the major measures in prevention of disease as well as for promotion of sound health.

From the very ancient times, the concept of health in India is not confined to only the idea of physical well-being, i.e. not the soundness of the body alone. It also includes mental health as well as spiritual well-being. In the West, till recent times, the normal connotation of health was mainly physical well-being only; however, it is now a well-known principle in modern neuropsychology that changes in the mental state produce counter neuropsychological changes in the physical body also. The W.H.O (World Health Organisation) which is the international body for the health care of the people of the world, defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”, and adds “if this is promoted, it causes an automatic recession of disease into the background. Although spiritual well-being is not taken note of, however, importance of mental health, besides physical health, is now recognised by the august World Body, to fall in line with the saying, “A sound body houses a sound mind, and sound mind ensures a sound body”.

Health, in its broader sense, covers all the aspects of hygiene-Sanitation, prevention and treatment of common diseases, and is of vital importance for people’s wellbeing.

Germs (micro- organisms) are the cause of many of the diseases

It is a generally accepted principle that preventive measures must take precedence; in this context, hygiene holds the place of priority. By hygiene, it is meant the measures for preserving health; it involves primarily methods of sanitation in the environment, besides person’s hygiene of the individual as well as the community. Sanitation comes into importance because majority of the diseases are caused by living organisms which thrive, proliferate and spread under unsanitary conditions. These organisms are infinitesimally small in size; some of these belong to sub-animal species, such as malaria parasites, and some of them are of even smaller size, sub-microscopic and belong to tower plant species which are called gems, bacteria and microbes, as for example those which cause typhoid or plague. The small size of the germs may be understood if one can appreciate the fact that eight thousand typhoid germs which are larger than many other varieties, it placed end to end, would hardly measure an inch. There are also some diseases caused by virus which is the intermediate stage between plant and inorganic state. It should be borne in mind that all germs are not pathogenic, i.e. all are not disease-causing. Some of the organisms are actually beneficial and even necessary for promotion of human health and well-being

Public Health measures

Diseases could be caused by contact with infected persons or those who carry the infection (called carriers), or due to infected water as in the case of cholera, etc., by other means of contamination. Methods of disinfection and treatment of water by suitable means, like filtration chlorination etc., by the Public Bodies like Panchayats and Municipalities, or by boiling water at homes, which destroy the water-borne organisms, help to prevent and control diseases. Besides drinking-water supply, conservancy is another major duty of the Civic Administrative Bodies, i.e. Panchayats and Municipalities. Conservancy means the collection, removal and disposal of waste products like excreta (night soil) and refuse. The term “conservancy” is usually applied only to the disposal of excreta, and the term ”scavenging”, which is only a branch of conservancy, is generally applied to the disposal of refuse. The personal and individual responsibility of everyone is there as much, in this aspect. Proper sewage system, disinfectants like lime, bleaching powder and phenyl help to prevent and control diseases.

There are, of course, the methods like vaccination which do not come under the purview of hygiene, but help in preventing diseases by producing anti-bodies in the system and imparting resistance in the body to the particular disease-causing organism or virus, like the small pox vaccine or polio vaccine. These come under prophylactic medical care or health care measures.

Personal Hygiene and Health measures

The good health of a community or a nation depends greatly on the personal hygiene of each individual member of that community or nation for, although much can be done by means of law and regulations to promote hygiene conditions, yet a great deal will depend upon the co-operation of individuals in doing their best to keep their surroundings clean and healthy. To begin with, personal hygiene assumes great importance.

For good health, one has to cultivate good habits and practice proper disciplines. For physical well-being, what are normally said to be necessary are:

  1. Personal and oral hygiene,
  2. Proper and nourishing food,
  3. Fresh air and proper exercise,
  4. Proper relaxation (rest and sleep), and
  5. Other factors.
(I) Personal and Oral Hygiene

Skin: Skin is the outermost covering of the body. In the epidermis of the skin, there is a constant production of new cells and decay of old cells which are continuously thrown out to the surface and finally shed out by the skin. This process of desquamation in the superficial skin is a constant and continuous process. Further, dirt and sweat choke the pores of the skin, interfering with the (vital) heat-regulating function of the skin. Therefore, regular bath with clean water and soap is an indispensable necessity, especially for the hot tropical climate of India. Bath refreshes, the body and mind and invigorates the nerves. Chanting the Name of God while bathing purifies not only the body but also the soul, and awakens the Spirit as well.

An unbathed body dullness the mind and clouds the intellect. Baba says, “Not only unwashed skin, but also unkempt, dishevelled, dirty heads and hair styles denote unkempt and dishevelled minds and intellects”

Mouth: Teeth, gums and tongue should be kept clean as this improves digestion as well as general health children need to be particularly careful regarding daily brushing and cleaning of their teeth. Improper cleaning, causes tooth decay and will lead to many problems.

Baba emphasises the extra imperative need for keeping the tongue pure. Tongue is the chief aid and is indispensable for swallowing our food which sustains our body and life; it is also an instrument for speech and the means of communication with the outside world. It has thus, two vital roles, a dual function, whereas all other organs of the body have only a single function for each of them. Both the functions of the tongue are equally important. Further, the tongue also teaches us how we should behave and conduct ourselves in the society. The tongue moves itself in the mouth, between the sharp jaws of teeth, but always playing safe and without getting hurt. It thus teaches is how we should conduct ourselves amidst all types of forces in the society and the world. Soft-spokeness and sweetness of speech smeared with truth and love, and purity of food keep the tongue pure. Just as the condition of the appearance of our tongue reveals to the doctor the condition of our physical health for the purpose of his diagnosis, so also our speech reveals to the world our inner nature i.e. the condition of our mind and heart.

Our saints have been reminding and exhorting us all through India’s history that the tongue is gifted by God to us to sing His glories and to chant His Name, in constant remembrance of Him, and this alone will redeem us from bondage for ever.

Ear, nose and throat should also be maintained clean. Dress should be clean and simple. Ostentation in dress puffs up the ego.

(II) Proper and Nourishing food

The body is either strong weak, efficient or inefficient, depending upon the food in-take and recreation habits one is accustomed to, Ahara and Vihara. Baba says that Ahara does not mean only the food we take though the mouth; it covers all that we receive in ourselves through our senses, i.e. through our eyes and ears also. Purity of what we see and what we listen to are as important as the food we eat through mouth.

The food we eat should be tasty, sustaining and pleasant; it should be of satwic quality which does not induce sloth and sleep, nor does inflame passions and emotions. Moderation in food habits is most important. Food which is nourishing and life-sustaining could also lead to ill-health if not properly regulated. People can be healthy and live longer only if they would eat moderately rather than fill themselves gluttonously. Baba says that the shortage of food in the country is due to bad and wasteful habits of most of people. Fasting one day in a week is good for the body as well as for the mind. “Two meals a day make one a Bhogi, single meal a day makes one a Yogi and three meals a day make one a Rogi (a patient).” Says Baba.

Food nourishes not only the body but also the mind; mind is nourished by certain subtle principles in food. Food taken after offering it to God becomes Prasad, and nourishes both the body and mind, as well as the spirit. This offering along with chanting of the Gita slokas – “Bramarpanam…” and “Aham Vaiswanaro bhutva…” and the gayatri Mantra. Or taking the name of God and offering prayers as per one’s own religion or faith should form an unfailing habit.

A well-balanced food should contain all essential components or food factors, viz., proteins for body building purposes, to the extent of 10 to 15 percent; carbohydrates as fuel or energy-providers, to the extent of 10 to 15 percent; and fats to the extent of about 25 percent. Fats also provide energy. Carbohydrates and fats have high calorific value. In addition to the above, the body needs Vitamins like Vitamin A, B-complex, C and D etc., and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, manganese etc. Milk of course, contains all the components and it is said to be the most ideal food. Most of the vitamins and minerals are contained in the vegetables. Proteins are furnished by grams and pulses (dhal). Carbohydrates are furnished by cereals like rice, wheat, etc. Meat is rich in proteins and further being an animal protein, it is supposed to be very good food, but however, one of the views is that man belongs to herbivorous-frugiborous species, and therefore, meat eating is not suited to him. Spiritual aspirants should any way take only vegetarian diet (Satwic Ahara) as far as possible.

There are standard charts on calorific values of foods and on balanced diets and nutrition. Some knowledge and idea of these would be helpful for diet regulation and control.

(iii)Fresh air and proper exercise

Fresh air physical exercise also contribute to and are very much necessary for good health. Open air exercises or an outdoor game, and especially yogic exercises, on mornings, and evenings tone up the physical system and different organs of the body. Oxygen is essential for life and during open air exercises, yogic practices, etc., more of fresh air will fill the lungs and enrich the blood, flushing out contaminated and foul air and carbon-di-oxide. The oxygen in fresh air purifies the body, and much more so when breathing deep as in the case of yogic exercises. The exercises improve digestion, promote appetite and regulate bowel habits, preventing constipation, and also help to build up a strong physique.

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(iv) Proper relaxation (Rest and Sleep)

Rest does not mean abstention from work or one’s occupation; only a little change from what one is doing (that is from routine work) is said to be rest. Rest is necessary to allow the muscles to recover from the fatigue of work and is also necessary for the brain, digestive organs and other parts of the body. Ceasing work and a change of occupation will give a certain amount of rest. But sleep is necessary for complete relaxation of body and mind. Sound sleep revives the nerves. The amount of sleep necessary for normal persons varies with the age, occupation habits. For infants, eighteen to twenty hours of sleep, and for one year old children, 14 to 16 hours of sleep is necessary. Adolescents require about 12 hours of sleep. Adults require about 6 to 7 hours and aged people need about 8 hours of sleep. One should not go to bed immediately after meals. The sleeping hours should be regular for good health. Covering of head and face should be avoided during sleep.

Before retiring to bed, offering prayers and chanting God’s Name promote sound sleep, free from bad dreams. Likewise remembrance of God and offering prayers immediately on getting up from sleep in the morning will refresh both mind and body. It makes a most auspicious beginning of the day for him. A Nagar- Sankirtan will make it auspicious not only for himself but will make it auspicious for others too and will sanctify the atmosphere of whole area.

(v) Other factors

Smoking habits, drinking of alcohol, etc., slowly poison the body, damage lungs and liver, and ruin the health and drive one faster to death.

Fear is the biggest cause of illness. Faith in God and devotional practices uproot all fear from one’s mind.

Like fear, so also anger, hatred, Jealousy, etc. – they all undermine health besides depriving us of peace and joy. Anger is the major cause of ill-health besides being dangerous in so many other ways.

An atmosphere of peace and joy should reign in the home. If the house is filled with clean fragrance of cordiality, contentment, peace and holiness, all its occupants will be healthy and happy.

Conclusion

Thus, the physical well-being of an individual is the totality of the care taken of the body, thoughts and emotions, plus the necessary precautions in observance of general hygiene, and his social behaviour. Yogic practices contribute in bestowing good health, prolonging life and improving the alertness and soundness of mind. The community health as well as the social atmosphere, i.e. the harmony and peace in the society are also important.

The preventive measures gain even more importance and require all the vigilance and through implementation at place of pilgrimage, especially during Jatras, large congregations, etc. We should undertake to do voluntary services and meet the sanitation needs of the people. We should gain basic knowledge and experience in sanitation work, hygiene measures and rendering of first-aid, to be able to do effective service to our fellow-beings.

Health is Wealth – Cleanliness is next to Godliness

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