By Devananda Tandavan

We have emphasized that exercise is very important for boys and girls going through puberty. Exercise is one of the main activities that stimulate the body to work normally and stay in good health, and is of two types. Hatha yoga, an organized form of asanas, or physical postures, will maintain healthy functioning of the muscles through stretching and contracting. Minimal asanas to perform daily are called Surya Namaskar. Done slowly, they exercise every muscle in the body and aid in proper respiration.

The second form of exercise is called aerobics. Aerobics will raise the heart and respiratory rates, resulting in an increase in metabolism. Some of the best aerobic exercises are walking, jogging, swimming, running, calisthenics and team sports. The heart rate should be raised to 60% to 80% of its maximum (270 minus age) and maintained for about 15 to 30 minutes. After exercising there should be a cooling-off period to allow the heart and respiratory rates to return to normal. During puberty, team sports are beneficial for boys, helping them get through this period without excessive wet dreams and will help them to harness sexual fantasy and avoid carnal temptations.

Acne can be a problem, due to a high pitta, or a fire humor condition. There are no good creams or other applications that can help, except for very advanced cases in which an antibiotic cream can be used. Keeping the skin very clean is important, and light exposure to sunlight is acceptable if a screening agent is applied to prevent burning. Still, most creams are nostrums.

A pitta pacifying diet is necessary to overcome the excessive pitta influence. Acceptable foods are too numerous to mention, but a list of foods to avoid is given below as a guide. The emphasis during the years of puberty should be on bitter, sweet and astringent tasting foods. The time of the year, the freshness and variety of foods and how they are prepared may alter the effects of the diet. While preparing food, mothers should also keep in mind the health requirements of other members of the family. This may require making separate dishes for the various doshas, or individual bodily constitutions, and the different age groups within the home. Few fats or oils should be used for cooking, and should not be reused. Use heat-producing spices and vegetables very sparingly.

Pitta-aggravating vegetables to avoid include beets, raw carrots, chilies, daikon, eggplant, olives, onions, peanuts, pumpkins, radishes, spaghetti squash, spinach and tomatoes. All fruits should be ripe and sweet. Avoid apricots, bananas, berries, cranberries, green grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, lemon, lime, papaya, peaches, rhubarb and strawberries. Grains to avoid are brown rice, buckwheat, corn, millet, dry oats, rye and quinoa. Stay completely away from lentils, brown sugar, molasses and old honey. Other foods to steer clear of, especially if acne is present, are alcohol, chocolate, coffee, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, salt, tea and vinegar.

Parents can help guide their growing sons and daughters into a happy, healthy, successful young adult life by keeping themselves informed and talking regularly and frankly with their youngsters about the natural, wonderful process called puberty.

Dr. Tandavan, 77, retired nuclear physician and hospital staff president, lives in Chicago, where he specializes in alternative healing arts. Visit his home page at the Hinduism Today Website.