Does Ayurveda offer therapies or treatments for issues related to mental health?
This is one of the most common questions I have been asked by my clients. They have been given the impression that consuming medicines is the only answer offered by every doctor. Unfortunately, all the other branches of medicines have medicines for each and every issue but they can’t find solutions for issues related to mental health.
Well, Ayurveda does have various healing methods for various problems connected to mental health but the best part is, Ayurveda can successfully establish the cause for various ailments connected to mental health too. The main source of finding the cause for the issues connected with mental health is through Nadi Pariksha. Based on the identification of the cause, the healing program is designed.
The following therapies in Ayurveda are explained in brief for healing the ailments connected to mental health.
- Panchakarma therapies
- Vedic counsellings
- Modification of Food habits & Lifestyle
- Herbal supplements
1. Panchakarma Therapies :-
Ayurveda believes that 80% of all diseases are psychosomatic. It’s clearly the mind over matter where the mind is influencing the body. When thoughts and emotions arise, they have a direct impact on our actions as we are affected physiologically. e.g. anger giving rise to hyper acidlty and a toxic liver, sadness leading to anorexia, fear leading to indigestion, and so on.
When you are treating the mind, you have to treat the body as well. This is where Ayurvedic Panchakarma therapies come into the picture. Most of the therapies in Panchakarma are designed in such a way that they not only release toxins accumulated due to various reasons like wrong eating habits etc but also help in releasing a lot of unwanted emotions and thoughts which have accumulated without our knowledge.
Let’s explore few Panchakarma procedures which are proven therapies for mental illnesses.
Shiropichu procedure performed by a trained therapist by expertly locating stressed areas weakened by repeated psychosomatic expressions. Application is of medicated oil to the vertex using cotton pad saturated with oil. This procedure does not involve massage. One can achieve multiple benefits from this simple but powerful therapy.
Shiropichu procedure takes 20 to 40 minutes.
Benefits of Shiropichu Procedure :-
- Calms down stress on the nerves
- Controls excessive thinking
- Reduces anger and anxiety
Shirodhara procedure is a continuous pouring (thick flow) of medicated oil or herbal decoction on the forehead with a special instrument called Dhara Yantra.
Shirodhara procedure takes 30 to 40 minutes
Benefits of Shirodhara :-
- Improves subtle perceptibility of the sense organs
- Induces sound sleep
- Very effective in the management of stress
- Brings down blood pressure in a hypertensive person
- Useful in the management of cranial nerve disorder.
Indicated Symptoms for Shirodhara :-
- Insomnia (sleeping disorder)
- Mental Exhaustion
Drops of medicated oil or herbal juice is administered in the nostril.
Nasyam procedure takes 20 to 30 minutes.
Ayurveda has clearly mentioned that the nose is the most effective doorway to the brain, mind and consciousness. Therefore Nasyam becomes the only therapy which directly impacts the central nervous system thus enhancing cerebral circulation. It also activates specific Pranic activity while restoring and balancing prana in the body.
Benefits of Nasyam Procedure :-
- Enhances cerebral circulation
- Restores and balances prana in the body
- Prevents recurring colds and sinus congestion
- Rejuvenates the action of the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nerves and enhances body-mind coordination
- Pacifies the stress in the neck and thoracic region
- Radiance in facial skin as a consequence of rejuvenation of the facial tissues
- Rejuvenates hair follicles and effectively controls hair fall and greying
- Improved immunity of upper respiratory track.
2. Vedic Counselling :-
Issues related to mental health require an empathetic approach, and special care and attention are fundamental to healing. Vedic counselling is applying the knowledge of Vedic wisdom to help you to cleanse your mind and gain control over your emotions. Thus, you can attain a higher state of consciousness. Vedic counselling helps you to attain higher productivity in your life too.
The essence of Vedic counselling is a process of self-discovery. By enabling you to dive inward, you are empowered to visit your core. Thus, when your core is nourished you are able to lead a meaningful and fulfilling journey in this lifetime.
As Ayurvedic counselors for mental health, we can assist you in bringing clarity and balance on an emotional and energetic level. Not only will we help you to heal past issues to facilitate release and create a safe and protected space for you to open in, but we also empower you with follow-up tools to do all of this yourself.
3. Pranayama :-
Classical text says – the body follows the mind and vice versa.
Our faulty perceptions and thoughts influence our bodies. There are clear references in classical texts of Ayurveda about the connection between various emotions and organs. Eg. Anger with the liver, fear with the intestine, sorrow and sadness with lungs, and so on. When you control your thought wave you can go beyond the thought itself. Thought can form a barrier, an obstacle, or a block. Pranayama is one of the ways to go beyond. It is the fourth limb of ashtanga yoga and Ayurveda has accepted the philosophy of yoga for healing purposes.
Pranayama practices for mental health have great therapeutic value. These practices help to heal the deep-seated scars in the mind by quietening and stilling the mind. The body starts responding positively and starts bringing harmony within which initiates the healing process.
Ayurveda classifies pranayama according to doshas such as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. In some cases, pranayama practices are combined with Vedic counselling or Panchakarma therapies to establish the effects of healing for a longer duration.
4. Modification of Food Habits & Lifestyle :-
‘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 affect 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 mental health 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) are 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.
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.
Rules for diet and lifestyle for healing of issues related to mental health
- 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.
- Do not watch TV, mobile, talk or indulge in any other form of activity while eating.
- Dinners should be light. Eat only 3/4th of the quantity of what you can actually eat.
- Maintain a gap of minimum three hours between your dinner and bedtime.
5. Herbal Suppléments for Mental Health :-
Ayurveda is primarily based on herbal medicine. Ayurvedic Books explain herbal qualities and their energies in detail. Herbs address the effects on the mind more directly than food, though they are milder and safer in action than chemical drugs. They can become very important tools for healing the mind. While all herbs have some effect on the mind, certain herbs are nervines and possess a special action on the brain and nervous system. Herbs work over a period of time, though shorter than that of food. Herbal supplements may be necessarily consumed for up to 3 to 4 weeks for their effects to manifest, particularly those used for their nutritive effects (like Ashwagandha). Some of the herbs can have an immediate effect (like Vacha).
It is extremely important to understand here that Ayurvedic healing for mental health stresses firmly on appropriate diets. On top of this, special herbs are helpful if they are dispensable. Diet has a specific role and provides the foundation on which herbs can work. Without a proper prescribed diet suiting your constitution, even the best herbs will be limited in their function on the system and show their healing effects slowly. Herbs are used for fine-tuning a diet and for shorter, but stronger therapeutic actions too.
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.