6 Lifestyle Factors

//6 Lifestyle Factors

6 Lifestyle Factors

There are six main lifestyle factors according to the Tibb philosophy. These include environmental air and breathing, food and drink, exercise and rest, emotions and feelings, sleep and wakefulness, and elimination and retention. These lifestyle factors are also called the six causes according to Ibn Sina’s Canon of Medicine for their ability to either cause or cure disease. Each of the lifestyle factors can either increase or decrease qualities of heat, cold, moistness, or dryness that can be of benefit or of detriment to us.

Environmental Air and Breathing

Air is the one thing all living organisms share. The air we breathe, and the way we breathe is our closest and most important contact with the outside environment. Air is our primary source of nutrition, vital to our health. Tibb advocates correct breathing techniques and encourages breathing exercises and medication.

Seasonal changes can have a significant impact on health. We all know about Illnesses that may be caused by a cold, wet winter or a hot, dry summer. One should always be aware of the seasonal changes and the adverse effects that exposure to extreme elements could have on your health. For example; during cold and wet climatic conditions, those with a phlegmatic temperament should take special care to ensure that optimum body heat is maintained. Similarly, a bilious person should avoid too much exposure to summer heat.

Furthermore, our health is influenced by the quality of air we breathe, as well as the manner in which we breathe. Tibb highly recommends various breathing exercises to assist you in breathing properly. The benefits of breathing well and properly are listed below:

  • It neutralizes excess heat, and helps maintain an ideal body temperature;
  • It regulates the heartbeat;
  • It strengthens the nerves and settles the emotions;
  • It helps with body-mind integration;
  • It cleanses the body of wastes, especially carbon dioxide;
  • It increases metabolism;
  • It helps with blood circulation to the deeper tissues and capillaries;
  • It rejuvenates the cells.

 Tibb Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises will have different effects depending on the techniques used. Slow-breathing exercises will produce less heat than fast-breathing exercises. Each breathing exercise has its own value and offers valuable healing for any number of illness conditions.

 Exercise 1: The Tibb Slow and Deep Breathing Exercise

Select a protected time and space, free from interruptions. This exercise has a cooling effect, so is ideal for people with a bilious or sanguinous temperament.

  • Sit on the floor in a squatting positions with hands on thighs or in the ‘lotus’ position, keeping a straight back in both cases. If neither position is possible, then lie on the floor or sit in a comfortable chair;
  • Close your eyes, and focus on your breathing;
  • Take slow and deep breaths, breathing out through the nose, distending and filling the stomach;
  • Continue breathing this way for 5 minutes.

Exercise 2: The Tibb Fats and Deep Breathing Exercise

This exercise has a heating effect, so is ideal for people with a phlegmatic or melancholic temperament

  • Assume the same position as described in Breathing Exercise 1;
  • Take slow and deep breaths, breathing in and out through the nose, distending and filling the stomach for about 1 minute only;
  • Then breathe deeper and faster fro 3 minutes. This can be extended to 5 minutes as you become more experienced with the exercise;
  • Thereafter, take slow, deep breaths again for 1 minute.

Exercise 3: The Tibb Deep Rhythmic Breathing Exercise

This exercise is prescribed for all temperamental types. Try doing it on a regular basis, preferably in the early morning.

  • Select a protected time and space;
  • Assume the same position as described in Breathing Exercise 1;
  • Draw a breath through the nose;
  • Hold the breath as long as possible;
  • Gaze upwards, and exhale forcefully through the mouth – the mouth should be opened in an ‘O’ shape;
  • Repeat to a maximum of 15 times.

Exercise 4: The Tibb Mental / Emotional Breathing Exercise

This exercise is also prescribed for all temperamental types. It creates harmony in the two hemispheres of the brain. Do this exercise early in the morning or late afternoon.

  • Select a protected time and space, free from interruptions;
  • Assume the same position as described in Breathing Exercise 1. The right index finger should be used to close the left nostril. Take a long, deep breath through the right nostril, and hold for 15 to 20 seconds;
  • Release the finger closing the nostril and close the right nostril with the right thumb;
  • Breathe out through the left nostril forcefully. This counts as one complete breath;
  • Repeat the same process starting with the opposite nostril;
  • Start by doing 5 breaths, and slowly build up to 10;
    After completing the exercise, rest for at least 5 minutes in the same position;

Food and Drink

Tibb considers food to be the best medicine and potentially, the worst poison. Tibb dietetics centres around the concept of temperament, classifying food and drink according to whether they are hot, cold, moist and dry. Of all the lifestyle factors, food is by far the most effective and easiest to implement since it is in your control.

Determining which foods are appropriate for individual temperaments
As outlined earlier, an excess of food with qualities similar to the qualities associated with your temperament will result in an excess that may negatively influence your health. It therefore implies that foods from the opposite spectrum of the temperamental chart will be most appropriate for the maintenance of good health.

For example, an individual with a dominant Sanguinous temperament will be most negatively affected by food from the Hot and Moist category, and will most benefit from the opposite Cold and Dry category. To elaborate further, a person who is dominant/sub-dominant sanguinous/phlegmatic temperament should avoid hot and moist and cold and moist foods and eat more from the cold and dry and hot and dry foods.

Temperament of recipes

Just as each ingredient has a temperamemt (qualities) recipes also have an overall quality depending on the ingredients in the recipe, as indicated below.

  • Salty – Hot and Moist;
  • Pungent – Hot and Dry;
  • Bitter – Dry and Hot;
  • Sweet – Moist and Hot;
  • Sour – Cold and Dry;
  • Insipid / tasteless – Cold and Moist.

From the above, qualities associated with the different tastes it is obvious that a person with a bilious temperament will be negatively affected by an excess of pungent and bitter foods.

Importance of heating foods
It is generally thought that the Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet. This is because it includes foods such as olive oil, garlic and fresh ingredients with a dominant heating quality. The typical western diet of salads, proteins and dry foods fall in the cold moist and cold and dry categories. According to Tibb, many chronic illness conditions are the result of an accumulation of toxins resulting from poor digestion and metabolism due to the excess consumption of ‘cold’ foods. Including heating foods in your diet would benefit you by:

  • Increasing the production of digestive enzymes in the gastro-intestinal tract.
  • Increasing the efficiency of functioning at the cellular and metabolic levels.
  • Facilitating the assimilation of micronutrients, with a minimum of metabolic waste.
  • Achieving and maintaining complete metabolic digestion.

Importance of water
Another important thing to remember when it comes to eating healthy is getting enough water. To maintain the 70% water of the human body, it is essential to drink enough water every day. Water plays a vital role in metabolism, digestion, the circulatory system, and in the elimination of waste products.
The human body can effectively deal with excess water, but not with inadequate amounts. Certain conditions or illnesses such as kidney stones, dry skin and dehydration all result from inadequate water intake. Sufficient water helps reduce blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol and uric acid and glucose.

Sleep and Wakefulness

Quality of sleep,amount of sleep and sleeping positions all contribute. Sleep is vital for restoring harmony in the body. It is a time for repairing and healing, strengthening our natural function and rejuvenating the body.

Everyone has a need for sleep but the hours required for adequate replenishment differs from person-to-person and for different age groups. Tibb considers sleep to be cooling and moistening. Wakefulness increases dryness and heat and depletes energy due to physical and mental activity. Sound and peaceful sleep allows Physis an uninterrupted opportunity to restore harmony in the body and:

  • Repair and heal damage done;
  • Prepare the body for the activities to come;
  • Strengthen the body’s natural functions;
  • Eliminate toxins.

The various temperaments require the following amounts of sleep:

  • Bilious: 5 to 6 hours minimum per night;
  • Melancholic: 5 to 6 hours minimum per night;
  • Sanguinous: 6 to 7 hours minimum per night;
  • Phlegmatic: 8 hours per night.

Movement and Rest

Controlled, regular and suitable physical exercise is vital in maintaining good health. Tibb believes that equal attention should be given to the role of activity and rest. As we are all unique, we each have different requirements for exercise and rest.

The benefits of regular exercises have been known for centuries. It is of the utmost importance in maintaining health. Some of the benefits include:

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness;
  • Alleviating indigestion;
  • Strengthening bones;
  • Preventing unnecessary weight gain;
  • Helps relaxation and improves sleep;

The effects of exercise depend on the intensity and the duration of the exercise. Strenuous exercises increase the levels of heat and dryness in the body, and would therefore be unsuitable for Bilious types.
It is of the utmost importance to do exercises that are appropriate for your temperament. Some temperaments are more suited to strenuous exercises than others. Walking, however, is suitable and recommended for all temperamental types.

Some exercises that are suitable for all temperamental types:

  • Pilates;
  • Thai Chi
  • Callanetics;
  • Yoga;
  • Stretching;
  • Swimming.

Whilst there are many different types of physical exercises and sporting activities to choose from, we focus on exercises that you could do at home. It is vitally important to warm up before and cool down after any form of exercise. Click below for the Tibb Walking exercise or the Tibb Jogging Exercise.

The Tibb Walking Exercise

  • This is a gentle exercise recommended for all temperamental types. It can be done anywhere – in a small room or outdoors. If safety or space concerns exist, as may be the case with elderly people, then you may ‘walk on the spot’ for the same periods of time.
  • Warm up by walking normally, swinging the arms gently. Do this for about 2 minutes initially.
  • Then walk briskly, raising the legs and swinging the arms firmly. Do this for about 5 minutes.
  • Then cool down by walking normally, as in the warm up. Do this for about 2 minutes.
  • Do these exercises daily, but increasing the time for each session weekly to a maximum of 25 minutes per session.

The Tibb Jogging Exercise

  • Jogging is more intense than walking. It will therefore produce more heat (and dryness) than walking. This exercise is more suited to Phlegmatic and Sanguinous temperaments
  • Jog on the spot, lifting the knees as high as possible, putting the weight only on the balls of the feet – (prancing). At the same time swing arms in a full circular motion.
  • Start by doing this for 30 seconds building up to 5 minutes.
  • Increase gradually by 30 seconds, to a maximum of 10 minutes per session.


Our emotional state impacts directly on our health. Tibb advises patients to accept that which is fixed and to take control of that which is open to change. Tibb also believes in seeking counselling when necessary in order to encourage individuals to address emotional concerns that may affect their lives.

Our emotions play a vital role in our well being. Every emotion has a different qualitative effect on the body. Positive emotions, such as happiness, optimism, love and humour are known to invigorate the body. Negative emotions such as anxiety, frustration, resentment and anger can cause serious health problems.
Tibb associates each emotion with a qualitative effect. Listed below are emotions with their respective qualities:

  • Anger: Hot and Dry;
  • Worry: Hot and Moist;
  • Depression: Moist and Hot;
  • Fear: Cold and Moist;
  • Grief: Cold and Dry;
  • Excitement: Dry and Hot.

Temperaments with qualities similar to that of the above mentioned emotions are more prone to experience those emotions.
For instance, a Melancholic temperament (Cold and Dry) will be more prone to experience grief.
However, all temperaments can experience all of the emotions listed above.

Some other exercises that are suitable for all temperamental types:

Emotional Control
Taking control of your emotions is a very positive growing experience. Our advice is to take positive steps towards emotional well-being and we have included some tips and techniques to help you along. For those with a bilious temperament make sure you are never hungry, thirsty, tired, too hot or angry for too long. This would, once again, increase heat within the body, thus having a negative effect on your Temperament and emotions can be observed and don’t necessarily have to be obeyed or followed.
Techniques and exercises to restore emotional balance often include meditation and visualization. Breathing is an important component in restoring emotional states and is always included as part of the meditation process.
The most appropriate breathing exercise when meditating is the Tibb slow and deep breathing exercise as it has a calming effect.

Exercise 1: The Tibb Heart Meditation

  • Sit in a relaxed state in a calm environment, with your eyes closed;
  • Concentrate on the heart and breathe deeply;
  • Hold breath for a while, and breathe out slowly in the same manner;
  • Continue this exercise every day and night before going to bed, for 10 – 15 minutes..

Exercise 2: The Tibb Pineal Body Meditation

  • Sit in a relaxed state in a calm environment, with your eyes closed;
  • Concentrate on the area between the eyebrows, and breathe deeply;
  • Hold breath for a while, and breathe out slowly in the same manner;
  • Continue this exercise for 10 – 15 minutes.

Exercise 3: The Tibb Colour Visualisation Meditation

  • Lie in a relaxed position in bed. Mae sure the room is quiet and close your eyes;
  • Visualize an appropriate colour surrounding you;
  • If you are emotionally stressed, visualize a blue or violet colour; alternately, choose the colour that is most appropriate for your temperament;
  • Repeat this exercise for 10 – 15 minutes.

Digestion and Elimination

Undigested food and poor elimination puts strain on the body and causes an accumulation of toxins. Encouraging efficient digestion may involve dietary changes, detoxification and fasting.

Whatever it needs for energy and survival, the body takes from the environment. What is not needed is expelled back into the environment in the form of waste products. When the body isn’t able to efficiently remove waste products it is susceptible to many different disease conditions. Waste products are removed from the body through bowel movements, sweating, urinating and other means. Of all the normal elimination methods, elimination from the colon requires special attention.
We know that most of the re-absorption of water in the body takes place in the colon. This process of results in a film of matter accumulating on the sides of the colon. Normal peristaltic movement does not remove this accumulation, which impedes subsequent absorption, and becomes a reservoir for toxic accumulation. Although we may eliminate regularly, this build up can only be removed with an appropriate mild herbal laxative taken on a regular basis. This helps the body to keep the colon free of toxic waste and is an important step to health maintenance.

Tibb guidelines for assisting elimination

  • Eat foods that are easily digestible such as fruit and vegetables and minimize foods like meat and fish that take more energy and time to digest.
  • Use natural digestive aids in cooking such as ginger and drink teas like peppermint or green tea after a meal.
  • Improve metabolic function through the use of herbs and spices like cumin, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, turmeric and black pepper.
  • Ensure that elimination of both urine and stools is never suppressed and that the colon is emptied daily.
  • Take a mild laxative at least once every fortnight.
  • Drink water to flush out the kidneys and to improve the flow of blood in the vessels


As the effects of massage are cumulative, regular massage will greatly increase the overall benefits. These extend to relaxation, improved breathing, circulation and metabolism, calming, easing tension in stiff muscles, easing pain, soothing, healing and general well-being. Massage has an effect on the nervous system and can calm or stimulate, especially blood circulation and lymphatic system improving the elimination of waste through the body. Restoration is effected on all levels, physically, mentally and emotionally. Using varying techniques like stroking, pressing, kneading the movement works on the soft tissues to improve muscles and sometimes extends to the organs themselves.

Massage oils eliminate friction and assist in dispersing heat evenly through the body. Oil remaining on the body provides a shield against environmental factors. It also acts as a nutrient for the skin and strengthens nerve fibers on hair follicles. Apparently when massage oil is applied to the navel before sleep it prevents the body becoming dry. If oil is administered at the top of the spine where it connects to the skull it has a calming effect on the entire nervous system, also strengthening and calming the nervous system, memory and improving eyesight.

Lifestyle factors influence our health by the qualities they exert, for example certain foods such as ginger have heating properties and would therefore increase heat within the body; exercise too, would increase heat; sleep has a cooling effect and emotions such as grief are associated with cold and dryness. These changes in qualities affect the ideal qualitative state of our temperament.

Physis is responsible for controlling these changes so that the body remains in a state of balance. However, when there is too much of a certain quality it becomes difficult. This is easier explained through the following scenario. If a person has a Bilious Temperament, the qualities of his overall constitution are hot and dry. If he then eats a diet that has heating foods in excess, does too much strenuous exercise (which also increases heat), does not check his emotions – as Bilious personalities tend to get angry easily, and anger is associated with heat as well. Then all of this may cumulatively have a negative effect on him.

Once you have a better understanding of Tibb and know more about the qualities associated with different foods, emotions and actions, you will have a more in-depth understanding of your personal health needs and how best to overcome an excess of detrimental lifestyle factors