Wednesday, April 17, 2013

EMPOWERING MIND WITH ANCIENT SECRETS OF AYURVEDA




The ancient system of Ayurveda (science of life) offers a holistic approach to mental health that integrates the mind, body and soul. It channelizes the proper functioning of memory and eliminates the forgetfulness from our individual trait.

Mind in Ayurveda:
Ayurveda believes that mind is located in the heart and not in the head.

It is functionally divided into ahankara (ego), ichha (desire or will) and buddhi (intellect). Ichha, directed by ahankara, controls the mind and Buddhi takes the decisions.

The three gunas (qualities) of mind are Sattva, Raja and Tama. These three gunas together are responsible for the existential, experiential, evaluative and transactional dimensions, each of which may serve as a motivational source of stress." The ideal state of mind is sattvic, marked by equanimity. An agitated mind is in the rajasic state, while the lethargic and gloomy mind is in the grips of tamas.

Ayurveda describes eight essential psychological factors that are negatively affected in various ways in all mental disorders. They are:
  • Manas (mind)
  • Buddhi (intellect)
  • Smriti (memory)
  • Sajna jnana (orientation and responsiveness)
  • Bhakti (devotion)
  • Shila (habits)
  • Cheshta (psychomotor activity)
  • Achara (conduct)

Signs of Mental Health as per Ayurveda:
  • Good memory
  • Taking the right food at the right time
  • Awareness of one's responsibilities
  • Awareness of the self and beyond self
  • Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene
  • Doing things with enthusiasm
  • Cleverness and discrimination
  • Being brave
  • Perseverance
  • Maintaining cheerfulness irrespective of the situation
  • Fearlessness in facing situations
  • Sharp intellectual functioning 
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Following a good value system
  • Ability to proceed steadfastly against all odds.

Essential factors contributing to mind:
  • Ojas- It is the vital essence of the immune system which provides the mind stability and contentment.
  • Prana- It is the subtle energy behind all mind/body functions and governs higher states of consciousness.
  • Tejas- It confers inner radiance and higher perceptual capacities.

The 3 Doshas and the Mind:
The three main subtypes of the doshas- Vata, Pitta and Kapha that relate to our mental and emotional state are:
  • Prana Vata- It is connected to higher cerebral functions. It governs the movement of the mind, thoughts and feelings, and is correlated with the brain’s neuro-electrical activity. It promotes enthusiasm, inspiration, mental adaptability, the ability to communicate and coordinate ideas in the mind.
  • Sadhaka Pitta- It governs biochemical substances i.e. neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin and is responsible for the blood flow through the heart and emotions connected with it. It is the aspect of Pitta that digests and metabolizes experiences, analyzing our experiences and determining our emotional reaction to them. When in balance, Sadhaka Pitta promotes self-confidence, healthy desires, motivation, passion and feelings of fulfillment.
  • Tarpaka Kapha- It provides nutrition, strength, protection and lubrication to the nerves, and promotes storage and recall of sensory input, i.e. memory. It composes the myelin sheath, the meninges and the cerebro-spinal fluid that circulates round and protects the brain and spinal cord. Tarpaka means contentment; it slows neural activity, inducing relaxation, contentment and emotional stability. Its inward movement helps us to experience the inner joy of being ourselves.

Causes of Mental imbalance:
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, the lack of ability to handle daily stress is due to an imbalance, or lack of coordination of the three main mental functions of dhi (learning), dhriti (retention), and smriti (long-term memory). 

Mental stress is caused by the imbalance of prana vata, while sadhaka pitta imbalance produces emotional stress. The recommendations of Maharishi Ayurveda aim to restore the balanced functioning of the doshas of mind, body and emotions for restoring the connection of every part of life to the bliss consciousness, our true nature.

Ayurveda’s natural herbs for brain and mind:
Ayurveda classifies herbs with a stabilizing effect on the mind as 'medhya rasayanas'. These herbs promote the intellect and deeply nourish the neurological tissues. They are nervine tonics which act as specific molecular nutrients for the brain, promoting better mental health that leads to the alleviation of behavioral disorders. The medhya rasayanas enhance biological nourishment of the brain, producing tranquility of mind, concentration and improved memory.

Herbs acting as Medhya rasayanas are as follows:
  • Brahmi
  • Shankhapushpi
  • Vacha
  • Bhringraj
  • Tagarah
  • Ashwagandha
  • Shatavari
  • Yashtimadhu
  • Jatamansi
  • Bala
  • Kapikacchu
  • Mandukparni
  • Pippali
  • Keshar

These herbs help in balancing the three main dosha’s or constituents of the body- Vata, Pitta and Kapha and thereby help in nourishing the brain and empowering the mind.

Panchkarma therapies for body, mind & soul:
  • Detoxification therapies(Vamana & Virechana)- It helps to eliminate all the toxins in body and thereby soothes and energizes the mind.
  • Abyangam- A full body massage with herbal oils is done to remove toxins and stimulate the flow of natural intelligence in the body.
  • Nasyam- Nasal medication acts as a purificatory aid to the head where major sensory faculties are located. The clarity of these faculties leads to clarity of mind.
  • Sirodhara- A continuous stream of medicated oils consisting of herbs like Brahmi, Shankhpushpi, Vacha, etc. are poured on the forehead through a special method for 30 to 45 minutes. It helps to reduce anxiety, depression and mental stress and rejuvenates the central nervous system.
  • Siro vasthy- Medicated oil is kept over the head with the help of a cap fixed for a period of 30 – 4 min. It creates a seductive effect to the brain and helps to fight depression, insomnia, migraine, etc.
  • Siro abhyangam- Anti-stress head massage with herbal oils to relieve muscular tension from head, neck & shoulders and cools down the brain to give a calming effect.
  • Siro pichu / Thalam- Special medhya herbs are mixed with oils and applied on top of the head for 30 min to relax & cool the mind wholly.
  • Karna puran- Both the ears are filled with herbo-mineral oils which helps in relaxation of mind, cleansing of toxins, lubrication, sharpens hearing & cures any kind of ear problems.
  • Netra tharpanam- Herbal drops are instilled in both the eyes carefully which helps to cleanse eyes, improve vision & brightness, increase freshness, relieve stress due to intense computer use, reading, watching T.V, etc.
  • Netra vasthy- Eyes are immersed in sterile medicated ghee with help of dough ring for keeping eyes healthy and improving vision. It gives freshness to the eyes and calms mind.
  • Hrid vasthy- Hot medicated oil or decoction is placed in a dough ring over chest which works on the heart directly to soothe the mind and keep the heart young & healthy.
  • Vasthy- Introduction of medicated oil or decoctions in the intestines through anal canal to eliminate the toxins. It also helps in freshening up the mind and improving the brain's functions.

Psychological test for every individual:
A test is done by an Ayurvedic doctor based on the physical attribute and mental qualities of an individual. This test helps to reveal the Ayurvedic constitution of mind. It may be Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic. Sattvic is meant to be the best out of all.

Diet and Lifestyle guidance chart for Sattvik state of mind:
One can improve their diet and lifestyle to gain the Sattvik state- a happy state of mind.

A Sattvik diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, salads, pure fruit juices, herbal teas, water, milk, nuts, seeds and honey. Only fresh food should be consumed, and at the same time, foods that are processed, pre-prepared, preserved, fermented, canned, packaged, frozen, microwaved, fried or barbecued, high in sugar or spices, or containing artificial flavors or colors should be minimized. Add carrots and beets to your diet. Try fresh raw vegetable juices to help build blood and nourish the brain.

Mushrooms, onions, spices and garlic should be avoided, as they are Tamasic and/or Rajasic. Consumption of alcohol, caffeine and meat should be moderated or eliminated for the same reason. These are very heavy and dense in nature and tend to weigh the body down, clogging the energy channels, causing stagnation, and resulting in slower function of the mind.

In terms of life style, one should try to remain content, calm, gentle and considerate towards others - polite and helpful to all, with good manners. Brisk walking can increase circulation, reduce stress and improve memory and physical health. One should focus on work, self-improvement and intellectual or spiritual pursuits. Maintaining a positive nature, demonstrating generosity, kindness, openness, fairness (equality) and forgiveness also increases Sattva guna. In addition spiritual inclination, faith and belief in God, engaging in selfless service or charitable activities helps to attain Sattva.

Yoga:
Sun Salutations help to increase circulation and open the entire body. Ancient texts advise that you should practice as many rounds of Sun Salutations as you are years old, but even including 6-12 rounds into your yoga practice will bring great benefit to your mind and body. Inversions are especially helpful to increase the blood flow to the brain. Include inverted poses such as Camel, Plow, Shoulder Stand and Headstand.


Meditation:
Mediate daily to relieve stress and anxiety. Stress can cause people's minds and bodies to go haywire. Meditation is a way to take a mini-vacation from all of life's stressors and your personal responsibilities. It is a way to get in touch with your core and be fully present. Your mind has the ability to watch your thoughts and emotions. Simply observing your thinking without judgment gives you the space to practice compassion and brings a clear, quiet mind. Finding a bit of peace each day will give your nervous system a rest and all the memories will come flooding back.

Transcendental Meditation helps to dissolve deep-rooted stress and promotes harmony, creativity and clarity of mind through bliss consciousness.

Pranayama:
Yogic breath work or pranayama is an excellent way to revitalize prana and to train the mind to be present and alert. Pranayama cleanses and strengthens the physical body while calming and clearing the mind. Try alternate nostril breathing to balance the brain and improve mental clarity.

Color therapy:
Color therapy helps in psychological corrections and thereby leads to positive as well as permanent behavioral changes.

Ayurveda claims for having energy centers which are known as ‘spiritual centers’ or ‘seven chakras’ which are clinically, located along spines. Each rainbow color is associated to specific body organ that defines its own positive effect on it. The only mantra for being healthy is to maintain balance among all ‘chakras’ but if they go imbalanced then one of the best therapies is ‘color therapy’.



The significance of colors along with the place of associated chakra and their functions:

Name of colors
Chakras
Location of chakras                      
Functioning
Red
First
Base of spine
Grounding and survival
Orange
Second
Lower abdomen
Emotions and sexuality
Yellow
Third
Solar plexus
Power and ego
Green
Fourth
Heart
Love and sense of responsibility
Blue
Fifth
Throat
Physical and spiritual communication
Indigo
Sixth
Above brow bone but below forehead
Forgiveness, compassion and understanding
Violet
Seventh
Crown of the head
Connection with universal energies and transmission of ideas and information

Color therapy has endless benefits affecting memory functions by focusing on each day’s assigned color such as:

  • Monday- Red
  • Tuesday- Orange
  • Wednesday- Yellow
  • Thursday- Green
  • Friday- Blue
  • Saturday- Indigo
  • Sunday- Violet
Reiki healing:
Reiki is the transmission of pure energy, which works on our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects simultaneously. Reiki healing is very beneficially used for a wide range of issues, from stress reduction and relaxation to back problems to emotional traumas.

Mudra healing:
Mudras enable the energy to flow in one direction, instead of many different directions. Yoga believes that the body is the extension of the mind. Mudras therefore, can control the body as well as the mind.
Mudras activate the nadis (meridians), stimulating the prana and the mind. Although mudras are an advanced subtle practice, a few of these can be practiced easily by an individual.

Mudras carry a bank of therapeutic benefits on regular practice, such as:
  • Gives physical and mental steadiness
  • Helps to overcome fear
  • Calms the mind and emotions
  • Slows down the aging process
  • May prevent premature death
  • Stimulates the sushumna nadi
  • Reduces stress and hypertension
  • Promotes overall health

Thus, Ayurveda offers us timeless wisdom, providing advice on diet, lifestyle practices and exercises, and herbal therapies that can help to lift the clouds and nourish the brain so that the mind can operate to the fullest of its capacity.

(P.S.- Do not have any herbal medicines without advice of an Ayurvedic doctor.)

This post is written by Dr.Jaina Patwa who is a Chief Ayurvedic practitioner based at Vile Parle, Mumbai, India. She is available as an online Ayurvedic Consultant on Skype. Skype ID - vishwacare 

VishwaCARE offers Ayurvedic treatment globally for all chronic and refractory health problems. Dr.Jaina Patwa uses high quality organic herbal extracts which are easy to take, effective and completely safe for long-term use.

For any queries, kindly email us on vishwacare.jaina@gmail.com or contact us on +919833998817