Anxiety is a mixture of feelings of worry and fear. It’s absolutely normal for all individuals to experience anxiety at some point in their life but when the feeling of anxiety overpowers the thoughts, intellect, and emotions; it takes the form of a disorder. In most cases, anxiety is combined with depression, anger, lack of expression, and even suicidal tendencies (in extreme cases). Anxiety disorder can also develop as a side effect of various addictions like alcohol, drugs, excess intake of caffeine, etc. Lack of sleep, stress, unhealthy immediate surroundings, wrong food habits, and bad upbringing can worsen this disorder.
The science of Ayurveda has a very unique approach to this disorder and can offer various healing tools. These tools have a great individualist approach because Ayurveda believes that ‘treat individual and healing takes place naturally’.
1. Understanding Anxiety from the Ayurveda perspective –
Anxiety is one of the Manas Doshas (a disorder of the mind) which arises from a faulty perception of the future. When an individual is going through unresolved emotions of the past, it can give uncertainty about the future. This can lead to anxiety.
Anxiety is an imbalance of Vata dosha, where excess Vata is accumulated in Manovaha Srotas (the channel which carries impressions of the mind). Consumption of wrong thought impressions, meaning storing them and being influenced by them, consuming food (like raw food, leftovers, dry foods), and wrong lifestyle practices (like sleeping very late, holding or suppressing the hunger or any bodily urges) lead to the vitiation of Vata Dosha. Over a while, this vitiated Vata starts accumulating in the system and influences the mind making it wander aimlessly and helplessly. This ‘unstable wandering mind’ is known as anxiety.
2. Ayurvedic approach to get someone to heal from anxiety –
There are proven Ayurvedic Healing Therapies for Mental Health.
Ayurvedic Counselling is a very effective technique where a person will be taught how not to engage in wrong and faulty thinking. Perceptions need to be corrected and the truth about any situation should be understood using rational thinking.
These Counseling are based on the philosophy of Vedanta and it empowers you to develop a new perspective on life. It also brings clarity to your thought process and teaches you how to use the mind and emotions in the most productive way.
Ayurveda also works on balancing the biological senses of humor through appropriate physical remedial methods of diet, herbs, and exercise ( which includes pranayama, yoga, and Panchakarma therapies ). These are powerful supportive therapies for counseling. These therapies increase Sattva in the mind and this is the main key to dealing with anxiety.
To achieve Sattva, or a balanced state of Consciousness, practice mantra chanting and meditation. Pranayama with certain mudras help to keep the mind stable and can lead one to a state of thoughtlessness. These practices can eventually help an individual to get rid of anxiety.
Modification of diet and lifestyle is an integral part of Ayurveda healing. These changes should be brought about slowly and should be closely observed by the Vaidya or Ayurvedic practitioner. A person’s Prakruti (constitution at birth) and Vikruti (altered state of the constitution as on the date of consultation) is also taken into consideration before introducing certain foods. The whole approach has to be individualized to achieve the best healing.
Panchakarma – It is the main Ayurvedic therapy of bio purification. Its processes are very subtle in nature and they can penetrate deep into the nervous system bringing the best healing effects. It is useful for various psychological problems caused by disturbance of the three doshas known as Vata, Pitta & Kapha. These therapies are also very helpful for psychological problems caused by internal factors caused by disturbing emotions.
Panchakarma therapies like Shirodhara, Shiropichu, and therapeutic massages have wonderful healing effects for anxiety disorders. A few exclusive combinations of herbal oils are used for these Panchakarma therapies. Therapies like Nasyam (introducing herbal oils or ghee through nasal passages) have a direct effect on the brain and the nervous system. This therapy has a calming and nurturing effect and helps to soothe nerves.
3. How to deal with panic attacks of Anxiety? –
In a state of panic attacks, one can quickly practice Alternative Nostril Breathing. Increasing the breath equally through both nostrils calms Vata, increases Prana (life force), and harmonizes our deeper consciousness. This practice should be done for 8-10 minutes to achieve the best results. Also, Ujjayi or psychic breathing can be practiced to regulate the energy and blood flow to the brain which helps to give a deeply calming effect.
One can also grab a piece of sweet or teaspoon of Ghee (clarified butter). This will also pacify Vata and calm the agitated body with the feeling of satiation.
Aroma Oil – The use of fragrant oils and incense to soothe the mind is well known. Aromas have great power to stimulate, calm or heal. Fragrance can work quickly and help to change our physical environment, affecting us down to a physical level. The right aromas promote calm and help us to get out of negative thoughts and emotions like anxiety that disturb us.
For quick relief of anxiety, one can use warming and pleasant oils are best, but not too stimulating. Best oils are sandalwood, lotus flower, frankincense, cinnamon, and Basil. These are good for Vata conditions like anxiety and fear.
A regular Ayurvedic Foot Massage before bedtime is also good for the goodnight’s sleep and can be a fantastic addition to the above practices.
For the above remedies to work and avoid frequent panic attacks, there should be a good complementary rich, nutritive diet with a proper intake of oils and fluids.
4. Appropriate foods that one should consume to heal from anxiety –
‘When the diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When the diet is right, medicine is not needed. This popular Ayurveda proverb is applicable for issues related to mental health too. Ayurveda has clearly specified that a small portion of our post-digested juice (known as Rasa) nourishes the mind. Bhagwat-Geeta has categorized all foods into Satvic, Rajasik, and Tamasic food.
Depending on what type of food we eat, our mental framework develops accordingly. We can all easily observe how different food affects us. Food that is heavy like meat, makes the mind heavy and causes irritability, dullness, and depression. Food that is light like fruit or salads makes the mind light and in excess causes lightheadedness and insomnia. Food that is balanced and full of life force, like whole grains and cooked vegetables, improves sensory function and promotes mental harmony and clarity. If we want to balance our emotions, we cannot ignore the food we eat or our dietary habits.
Most of the issues related to mental health are a reflection of our dietary habits, either in what or how we eat. They cause us to eat the wrong food or we eat in a wrong or irregular manner. All imbalances of the mind disturb the digestive system through the nervous system. Correcting the diet helps clear out the unconscious habits that sustain our mental disturbance.
Ayurvedic diet for anxiety disorder includes sattvic food, supplemented by well-designed lifestyle rules. This can help in the proper digestion and assimilation of the food we eat. Science has proven that foods consumed at the wrong times (no matter how healthy) is never digested completely and can give rise to issues like acid indigestion, constipation or bloating. Following a strict lifestyle helps you to stay integrated with nature and has wonderful healing effects on the body as well as on your mind.
- Wake up before sunrise and sleep early.
- Keep a fixed timing for meals. Don’t compromise with it.
- Stay physically active.
- Walk slowly for 10-15 minutes after each meal.
5. Breathing exercises that are suitable for anyone suffering from anxiety. –
There are major four different types of pranayama that are proven to reduce the stress of anxiety. These practices should be done regularly to achieve the best results as well as to maintain a calmer state of mind. Ladies, going through their active menstruation, should avoid practicing these exercises except Alternative Breathing.
a. Reverse Yogic Breathing – This helps to bring down the energy thirst is traveling to the head. By withdrawing the energy and directing it downwards, the individual will become very relaxed.
b. Abdominal Breathing – The pelvic breathing helps to ease the stress and relax the pelvic diaphragm thereby helping one to relax the Mooladhara and Swadishtana chakras thereby controlling emotions and calming the mind.
c. Anuloma Viloma Pranayama – This pranayama is also called Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama, helps to relax the mind by supplying an equal amount of oxygen to both sides of the brain. Rational thinking prevails and one gain very good emotional control and stress come down. It also alters the number of breaths one breathes per minute and helps to get into a good meditative state.
These pranayamas should be practiced under the observation of a Yoga teacher or Ayurveda doctor. The number of rounds and intensity with which it is to be practiced is decided by your Vaidya (Ayurveda doctor) depending upon one’s prakruti and the damage done by the disorder.
6. Contribution of Ayurveda lifestyle modifications to heal anxiety –
Ayurveda lifestyle is all about integrating one’s energy with nature so that one can heal naturally. Any disturbance, physical or psychological is also the disturbance in energy within us. Ayurveda lifestyle is known as Dincharya. Din means day and Charya means regime. This regime is based on the circulation of biological humor in our system.
Following these regimes can bring these biological humor in the state of balance and eventually help the person to heal most spiritually. You must have observed that your emotions fluctuate as the day goes. We feel fresh and energetic when we wake up early and we can maintain this energy all day. As the sun starts setting, our mental and emotional energy also starts going slowly down. Some individuals (especially women) may have even experienced sudden bouts of feeling low during the time of sunset. That is why Ayurveda has emphasized following a healthy lifestyle for the healing of issues related to mental health.
A meritorious alumna of the prestigious RA Poddar Ayurvedic College with profound spiritual understanding. She is trained in Nadi vidya by a strict guru-shishya lineage and has clinical experience with more than 15 years. An excellent orator who has been invited to various national and international platforms that empower audiences with the knowledge of Āyurveda. Dr. Rushalli Nair is the first-ever lady Vaidya who has been invited to Swaminarayan temple to offer her services to Sadhvis and devotees.