Hamilton, March 2, 2023
Modern living comes with a unique ecosystem of problems that are getting more prevalent with each passing day. Stress, anxiety and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms that deter one’s well-being.
In recent years, Ayurveda has gained popularity in the Western world as a complementary therapy for stress and anxiety.
Indian Newslink spoke to Dr S Ajit, who is a leader in the field of Ayurveda and a Panchakarma specialist, clinician and the founding patron of the Australasian Ayurvedic Practitioners Association (Australia & New Zealand) and the President of the International Council of Ayurvedic Medicine (the body outside India for creating uniform standards of Ayurveda in the West).
According to Ayurveda, stress and anxiety are caused by an imbalance in the three doshas, which are the primary energies that govern the body and mind. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each person has a unique combination of these doshas, which determines their physical and mental characteristics.
Stress and anxiety are believed to be caused by an excess of Vata dosha, which is associated with movement, creativity, and change. When Vata is out of balance, it can cause feelings of anxiety, restlessness, and fear.
The western belief system also agrees with science and explains that stress and anxiety are caused when our neuron function gets chaotic. Just like a pendulum that loses its rhythmic movement, your mind loses its rhythmic function and chaotic movement creates added pressure on normal mental functioning.
Dr Ajit said, “While western medicine acknowledges the symptoms and works on curing them, it does not address the underlying cause for the disruptive functioning. But Ayurveda, as a science, operates by working on the root causes for the symptoms and not just curing the symptoms.”
Vedas talk extensively about ‘mana’ which is different from the Mind. In Vedas, the physical brain and Mind are two separate entities. Mind is a subjective entity while physical brain function is objective in nature.
According to the Vedas, there are three distinct qualities or characteristics that create a balanced mind, body and soul. These are- Satvik Guna, Tamsik Guna and Rajsik Guna.
Any imbalance in these qualities creates an imbalance or causes erratic neural movements, which in turn creates feelings of stress and anxiety.
Prana or Life force
There are many sayings in India, which highlight one common factor- “You are what you eat.” We value food as it provides us prana or life force.
Dr Ajit said “It is widely known in Indian households that your food creates your thoughts. So if food is in mind, we need to be aware of what we eat. In the age of convenience, we are relying on carbonated drinks, foods that are full of preservatives and chemicals, energy drinks and caffeine to give us a sudden boost of energy, and fried and frozen food which is completely devoid of ‘prana’ or life energy. This food which is devoid of goodness, then, in turn, creates a clouded and tired mind, and anxious thoughts.”
A simple fix of adding superfoods like raisins, almonds, vegetables and fruits can supply the nutrients which help in more efficient brain function and create positive thoughts.
Lifestyle choices add to the problem
Dr Ajit further emphasises how the gradation of these thoughts increases due to added lifestyle behaviours which further deteriorate the balance of our minds.
He said, “Late nights and sedentary behaviour can cause health problems, like increased blood pressure, weight gain and many more dangerous health issues. It also breaks the rhythm of the microcosm. Your brain has trouble shutting down even when you go to bed and gadgets are your companions. It then results in a fatigued morning, where caffeine and energy drinks help you wake up and get the energy boost you crave.”
Further, because we need to optimise our performance at all times, we trick our brain into acting faster through various shortcuts like- Caffeine, smoking, high-energy drinks and other stimuli which give us a temporary solution. But when the effects wear off, the brain is left more clouded than before. This gives rise to thoughts of anger, frustration, tiredness and stress.
As a result, even minor inconveniences and pressures overwhelm us and seem tough to navigate, as our mind is already cluttered and exhausted. We forget that our body is a living machine, which requires constant care.
It is critical for everyone across age groups to break the vicious cycle of erratic lifestyle leading to low productivity, which leads to a pile-up of work, which then leads to stress and causes a hyperactive life, where we need to depend on medicines, alcohol, even drugs, hence causing more stress and anxiety.
Dr Ajit said, “ It is very simple to have a high-functioning mind and achieve your targets.
Ayurveda recommends simple lifestyle changes and remedies to enhance your productivity and avoid feelings of stress and anxiety. We need to start living with awareness.”
Living with awareness
Breathing – Ayurveda emphasises the importance of calming the mind and reducing stress through meditation, yoga or simple breathing exercises. Regular practice of these techniques can help promote relaxation.
Dr Ajit said, “ We are breathing artificial air even when we exercise as we are indoors in a gym. Breathing in the fresh air and connecting with nature is the easiest way to unwind. Your body needs to connect with nature through all five senses, so go out, look around, breathe in the fresh air, and see how your mind becomes calm.”
Diet– Ayurveda recommends a diet that is warm, grounding, and nourishing to balance Vata dosha. This includes foods such as cooked vegetables, grains, and soups. Avoid cold and raw foods, which can aggravate Vata.
Aromatherapy– Ayurveda uses essential oils to promote relaxation and balance the doshas. Some of the oils used for stress and anxiety include lavender, rose, and sandalwood.
Self-care– Ayurveda emphasises the importance of self-care for reducing stress and anxiety. This includes getting enough sleep, spending time in nature, and taking time for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Things to avoid
In addition to these remedies, Ayurveda also recommends avoiding certain habits and activities that can aggravate Vata dosha and increase stress and anxiety. These include:
Overstimulation– Avoid overstimulation, such as loud noises, bright lights, and excessive screen time. Avoiding these stimuli can help balance Vata and promote relaxation.
Irregular routines– Vata dosha thrives on routine and consistency. Maintaining a regular daily routine can help balance Vata and reduce stress and anxiety.
Excessive exercise– While exercise is important for overall health, excessive exercise can aggravate and cause fatigue and burnout. Ayurveda recommends moderate exercise, such as walking or yoga, to promote balance.
Overthinking– Vata dosha is associated with the mind and creativity. However, when Vata is out of balance, it can cause excessive thinking and worry. Ayurveda recommends mindfulness and relaxation techniques to calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety.
Overall, Ayurveda provides a holistic approach to reducing stress and anxiety by addressing the underlying imbalances in the body and mind.
Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.