9 Ayurvedic Recommendations for Emotional Health
Depression: Sun, drum, dance, community.
“We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave.
They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better, there was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again, there was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy, there was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again.
Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.”
~A Rwandan talking to a western writer, Andrew Solomon, about his experience with western mental health and depression. From The Moth podcast, Notes on an Exorcism.
Info from http://themoth.org/stories
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In Australia, it is estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.
In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety.
Info from http://www.beyondblue.org.au/
One of the fundamental concepts of Ayurveda is that we exist at the levels of body, mind, senses and the soul. This 40,000 years old medical system has provided knowledge about the science of “psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinology”: the biological basis of mind–body physiology and pathophysiology which is now at the cutting edge of modern medicine.
Anxiety and Depression can appear in many different forms: sadness, anxiety or “empty” mood; loss of interest and pleasure in activities; fatigue; irritability; social withdrawal, acting out behavior and family conflict; insomnia; loss of appetite or weight gain; feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or pessimism; declining school grades or job performance; and poor concentration.
They all affect one’s blood and brain chemistry and distract from living a purposeful life. They affect physical, mental emotional health, physical appearance and our relationships.
The starting point for most of them can be major life changes, such as a divorce, major financial problems, chronic illness, death of a loved one and other life stresses.
Ayurveda has a lot to offer to people who are suffering from anxiety and depression. These are the recommendations from Ayurvedic wisdom to stay happy and healthy in life. These are general diet and lifestyle recommendations but we recommend you to see your Ayurvedic practitioner for any specific issues.
It is not just what you know, but what you can practice is what is going to make a difference. An Ayurvedic practitioner can work with you like your “health coach” to guide you and work with you to support you for better health and wellbeing. Some Ayurvedic recommendations for Emotional health and wellbeing:
- Eat foods that are natural and unprocessed. They are digested quickly by the body and create “Ojas”(no English equivalent for this word – a very crude translation will be immunity, but still does not convey the entire meaning of Ojas). Ojas is the product of good digestion that creates stable emotions and good health in the body.
- Eat foods that are warm, moist and slightly oily. A thick pumpkin soupy consistency is good. Porridge, thick soups, steamed vegetables and fresh seasonal fruits are good foods when you are feeling anxious and depressed.
- Do self-massage (abhyanga) often. Massage has many benefits: it increases circulation, allows toxins to be softened and loosened, and moved from the tissues, invigorates the body, calms the mind and soothes emotions. The sense of touch is associated with emotions, and when you are massaging yourself you are giving your skin the tactile stimulation needed to balance Vata dosha and calm anxiety and stress. Follow your massage with a warm bath or shower to remove the toxins that have been pushed out from the cells with the massage. Cold pressed black seed sesame oil is a good choice and so is our vata-shamak oil.
- Do some exercise in the form of yoga and pranayama. Asanas and pranayama stimulate the agni for digestion, including for appropriate “digestion” of your emotions, cleanse toxins from the micro channels and cells of the body and improve overall balance and health. They are excellent for clearing away the toxins that lead to anxiety and depression. Even if you do not have much time, 3-6 cycles of Sun Salute and 5 minutes of pranayama are not too much to include in the schedule for preventative health. If you do not know how to do these, best go to a yoga teacher for some training before you start doing them at home.
- The old saying “Early to Bed and Early to Rise” is a good advice. This will help you align with nature’s rhythms, will give more restful sleep sleep that truly refreshes mind and body and help you wake up well rested. Following nature’s rhythm also supports in cleaning the shrotas or channels of communication that get clogged with “toxins”, leading to dullness of mind, depressed moods and slow communication between heart and mind.
- Taking Ayurvedic herbs like Trikatu and Triphala improves digestion and balance the emotions. Our Sadhaka Mix is very useful for emotional heart, and so is Saraswati mix.
- Daily meditation is good practice for stilling the mind and grounding self, so is good for anxiety and stress. Even a five minute meditation is better than none.
- As our Rwandan friend suggests, going out in the sun, with some sunny thoughts and exercise, some drumming and dance is good for the soul. It helps to get positive thoughts and good mood.
- Ayurveda has plenty to offer for emotional imbalance as we all do. Panchakarma treatments are excellent for all Vata conditions including anxiety and depression, with people routinely reporting about balanced emotions, self-confidence, increased motivation and a feeling of fulfilment.
There are some more herbs that have been traditionally used – Ashwagandha, Arjun and Brahmi being some of them. Recommendations are specific for each individual as appropriate. Contact us for more information or a consultation or support.