"We could summarize by saying that there is a predetermined span of life set forth by one's actions in a previous life. This our potential. Whether we reach our potential depends on how we honor the three pillars of life."
-Bhagwan Dash, commentary on the Charaka Samhita.
There are three supports (pillars) of life. They are food, sleep, and observance of brahmacharya. Being supported by these the body is endowed with strength, complexion, and growth; and this continues up till the full span of life provided a person does not indulge in regimens detrimental to the health.
The three pillars are the basis of Ayurveda and any healthy Yoga practice. The key to health and well being can be found in maintaing proper diet, proper rest, and proper use of our sexual energy. Instead of turning to medications, fad diets, and obsessive exercise; we are all capable of learning how to use our own energy for rejuvenation and revitalization so that we can reach our full spiritual potential.
The first pillar of consuming proper food will lead to proper digestion. With good digestion the body is able to extract the nutrients and energy needed from the food. This includes such things as taking food appropriate to the Dosha, appropriate to the season, manner in which the food is consumed, and food combinations.
The second pillar is sleep. The proper amount of rest is essential for everyone. Sleep is the bodies chance to heal and repair damage from the waking hours. It is also the time for the mind to be calm. Too much or too little sleep will eventually disturb the Doshas and effect the mind as well. See my brief article on Ayurveda and sleepy time for the Doshas.
The third pillar is the management of sexual energy. Some teachers have approached this pillar as the practice of sexual abstinence. While abstinence may be appropriate for some individuals and may be required during illness, if everyone refrained our species would no longer exist! I have always understood this to mean avoiding excessive sexual indulgence that leads to imbalance of the Doshas. This is something that is different for each person. The practice of brahmacharya can be practical for both the Yogi seeking enlightenment as well as individuals who are sick and trying to recover their Ojas. Any practice of brahmacharya should only be taken up under the guidance of your Guruji, as they will know the practice best suited for you.
The Yogin who balances the three-pillars will find a longer and happier life. Wishing you all the best in Life and Sadhana!
Jay Shiv Shakti