Who is Dhanvantri?:

Dhanvantri is the 'vaidya' or Physician or Doctor of the Gods in the Hindu religion. He has the knowledge and the cure of every ailment and disease.

He emerged from the ocean, just like Goddess Lakshmi at the time of 'Samudra manthan' or churning of the deep ocean. As the Gods and Demons churned the milky ocean in order to procure 'amrit' or elixir or ambrosia, many valuable 'ratna' or jewels were thrown out from the water. God Dhanvantri emerged before Goddess Lakshmi.

The Gods and the demons were getting restless. Everyone wanted to sip the nectar that would grant them immortality. Finally, when the elixir emerged from the ocean, it was Dhanvantri who carried it, in his arms, in a small pot. This image of Dhanvantri is the symbol of health, vitality and immortality.

Lakshmi and Dhanvantri:

Since Dhanwantri emerged from the churning of the milky ocean or kshirsagar ('Kshir' means milky pudding 'sagar' means ocean) just like Lakshmi, they are related in birth as brother and sister. This binding or association of the two signifies the importance of health and fitness as a great fortune.

Lakshmi symbolizes wealth and Dhanvantri symbolizes health. One must therefore, understand how great a wealth one's health is. if one is not healthy, one can have all the riches, beauty, knowledge in the world but still not enjoy anything. Fortune and prosperity come in many forms and health is definitely one of them.

Once the realization of health as wealth dawns, one must do the utmost to constantly endeavor to improve and maintain one's physical and mental well being.

Dhanwantri's emergence from the ocean with the pot of 'amrit' or elixir symbolically signifies that health is truly the elixir of life. It helps us enjoy our days to the fullest in an active and energetic state. One can live a productive, vibrant and full life.

Secrets of longevity:

All Hindu scriptures, whether explicitly or implicitly, give us knowledge and tips on how we can attain health and longevity.

At its basic, one must follow the law of nature and one must make this a habit.

sleeping early, rising early or during ('Brahm Muhurta' or before dawn breaks, usually between 3 to 6am), and not sleeping during the day are common knowledge.

1. Fasts:

Fasting or 'vrat' is a time tested way to reduce calories, reduce sodium and give the digestive system a chance to rest and clean up. In fact, now it has been researched that the only way to increase longevity and reduce symptoms of common diseases is through calorie restriction. Fasts are therefore, extremely powerful in this category.

Just pick a day in the week and make a 'sankalp' or promise to do the fast. Do not eat any thing for 24 hours or just drink liquids like tea, coffee, juices or eat fruits and milk and you will do fine. Some people fast the whole day and eat a regular meal at night. Do what suits you best for a start.

Fasts are made enjoyable by reading scriptures on that day, having friends and family fast along with them, watch movies etc. It does not have to be austere. This is why, Indian fasts are mostly associated with festivals. The days are full of celebrations, one fasts, and then one feasts at the end.

2. Exercise:

Exercise or 'Vyayam' is another secret for a fit, youthful, and long healthy life. One's longevity is increased and one remains flexible and strong.

Earlier, house hold chores provided many physical activities to family members. But times have changed and so must we. Today, we have vacuum cleaners, washing machines etc. So Try to join a gym class, yoga class, dance class etc. Remember, hard work is very tough to accomplish alone. A place of activity will give you the needed push when you will see others working up a sweat.

At home or for travel, just stick to the age old practice of 'Surya Namskar' exercise. The sun salutation is a complete exercise, it provides, strength, flexibility and cardio benefits all wrapped in one. Plus no equipment is needed. Start with one set of two Surya Namaskar and add as you build stamina.

Always start small and do the activity slowly. Remember, there will be plenty of time later to make it tough and challenging. Also, even small attempts done regularly will give you big benefits.

3. Forming Daily Habits:

'Niyam' or habit or daily practice is a vital factor that leads to a long strong life. One day of fasting and exercising will not do. After all not much benefit can be derived in just one attempt. You cannot store this gift. This has to be a regular, lifelong habit.

As an example, many Indian women do a fast every Monday to Lord Shiva for a happy married life and joyful family life. They do this every week for years, even throughout their entire life.

Progress must be made incrementally and one must practice till one is perfect. There is no need to attempt too much at once. Try one thing at a time, make it a habit. Then try something else.

We tend to be very - very self critical. Its a all or none policy. But one step at a time is the best way to go. We must be kind to ourselves and respect our limitations at any given moment.

4. Fun and Feasting:

Finally, Festivals or 'tyohar or utsav' is another way to add fun, color and exuberance to life. A healthy life needs a healthy dose of happiness, laughter and enjoyment at regular intervals also. A time to indulge your taste buds with culinary delights. Yes, strange as it may sound, a breakout from daily habits full of celebration and feasting also adds to longevity.

In other words --- balance in everything is key to a long fit life. Too much austerity is as much undesirable as too much indulgence.