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Ayurveda and Healing the Mind

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Ayurveda and Healing the Mind

Postby Kassandra » Wed Aug 10, 2016 5:41 pm

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I stumbled upon the following rather exhaustive article written by one "Prabhath P," and thought it would be helpful to share it here on EUTM. It gives a good overview of an ancient healing system of India, Ayurveda ("the science of life" in Sanskrit), and how mental health is holistically addressed in that system. It reminds me of the "bio-psycho-social" perspective that Western medicine is struggling to wholly adopt today, to me a welcomed backlash to the over-emphasis of biological/pharmaceutical "cures" that overshadowed Western medical practices during most of the 20th century. Ayurveda survived this trend, and is still widely practiced in India, and in many other countries around the world, including America.


emotions.jpg
When is behavior considered "normal" and healthy in a culture, and
when is it "disordered"? The answers tend to change from time to time.

Photo source: discovermagazine.com/2015/jan-feb/78-plotting-the-pattern-of-emotion



Ayurveda seeks to remove the root causes of mental illness in a holistic way. Its focus is on prevention through correct diet, exercise, meditation and cultivation of the right attitude. It offers a complex array of therapeutic techniques and natural medicines to restore balance and harmony. In an increasingly insecure and chaotic world, many people are finding conventional psychiatry and psychology inadequate for healing the mind marred by constant stress. Conventional psychiatric practices based on symptom suppression and drugs that cause serious side-effects have prompted people plagued by mental ailments to look for alternative and holistic healing.



Concepts of Mental Health in Ayurveda

The ancient system of ayurveda (science of life) offers a holistic approach to mental health that integrates the mind, body and soul. Sushruta, the ancient exponent of ayurveda, defines health as svasthya-a state of total biological equilibrium, where the sensory, mental, emotional and spiritual elements are harmoniously balanced....A complete and foolproof definition and interpretation of the mind is impossible to provide…"The concept of health in ayurveda encompasses not only the physical and mental aspects but also the spiritual aspect, which is missing in the modern psychological discourse," says Dr. P. A. Antony of Trichur in Kerala.

The ideal state of mind is [said to be sattvika], marked by equanimity. An agitated mind is in the [rajas] state, while the lethargic and gloomy mind is in the grips of tamas. The accumulation of toxins in the body is termed ama. Psychologically, ama arises from holding on to negative emotions and undigested experiences. According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, who has popularized ayurveda worldwide, "The guiding principle of ayurveda is that the mind exerts the deepest influence on the body, and freedom from sickness depends upon contacting our own awareness, bringing it into balance and extending that balance to the body."

Bhutavidya is the special branch of psychiatry in ayurveda dealing with mental diseases. Some scholars interpret bhuta to mean ghosts and spirits who cause abnormal psychological conditions. Others say bhuta represents microscopic organisms like viruses and bacteria. Bhutavidya also examines past life karmic causes, which have no explanation in terms of [bodily symptoms]. Mental disorders are generally divided into [physically-based disorders] and [mentally-based disorders].




Itoozhi-Ayurveda-illam.png
Ayurvedic hospitals in ancient India treated the body, mind and spirit,
as illness was viewed as an imbalance between the three. Meditation
was included in the treatment, as well as herbal remedies, a healthy
diet, sound therapy, and prescribed yoga exercises specifically tailored
to an individual's needs.

Photo source: itoozhiayurveda.in/



Elements of Ayurvedic Psychology

Signs of mental health as per ayurveda:

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


Dr. Marc Halpern, founder and director of California College of Ayurveda, Nevada City, California, explains that according to ayurveda, the greatest factor in a person’s sensitivity to stress is a substance found within all cellular tissues and the mind, called ojas. Ojas is the vital essence of the immune system and provides the mind with both stability and contentment. The body produces ojas through digesting nourishing foods. A nourishing diet combined with excellent digestion is the key to building ojas.

Ayurveda greatly emphasizes proper digestion. This includes selecting the proper foods for a person’s constitution and eating properly. Long-term problems with digestion and elimination deplete ojas, which is protected by instituting a lifestyle that avoids overindulgence, includes sufficient rest and reinforces self-love. Dr. Chopra aptly calls ojas "the bodily counterpart to pure joy." [Another] essential [factor is] prana...the subtle energy behind all body functions and governs higher states of consciousness.


Ayurvedic Treatment Methods

Ayurveda treats individuals according to their unique physical constitution indicated by the combination of [innate features] along with the mental, social and environmental conditions that affect them. The focus is on prevention of illness, promotion of health and longevity [attainable in] a life-style consisting of...[good diet],...[exercise],...[meditation] and virtuous qualities. [Oil massage] removes toxins and stimulates the flow of natural intelligence in the body. Transcendental Meditation that dissolves deep-rooted stress and promotes harmony, creativity and clarity of mind through bliss consciousness, is an essential component of this routine. A proper diet in tune with the ayurvedic body type is also important.

Though ayurveda is essentially preventive in approach, it has a comprehensive system of curative medicine. [In an] ayurvedic mental hospital... Panchakarma is effectively used in treating all kinds of mental illnesses here. Panchakarma means five types of therapeutic measures [namely], [whole body oil massage], [sweating induced by medicated steam bath], [and] a purification treatment with oral medicines including herbal powders.



ayurvedic massage.jpg
Massage provides a means to deliver herbal medicines into the blood-
stream and internal organs, and it relaxes the muscles and the mind.
Photo source: kaivalya-ayurveda.com/what-is-ayurveda/



ayurvedic massage of a man.jpg
Photo source: thefitindian.com/best-kerala-ayurvedic-treatments/




The panchakarma measures used in the mental hospital are:

o Vamana-induced therapeutic vomiting.
o Virechana-purgation through therapeutic laxative, providing symptomatic relief of mental illness.
o Vasti-enema therapy. Nirooha Vasti cleanses toxins from the dhatus and removes naturally accumulated body wastes from the colon.Anuwasana Vasti is to be retained in the body for a longer period for effectiveness.
o Nasya-Nasal medication acts as a purificatory aid to the head where major sensory faculties are located. The clarity of these faculties(indriya prasada) leads to clarity of mind.
Special Techniques used Include:
o Shirodhara-medicated water, herbal oils and medicated milk are poured on the forehead through a special method for 30 to 45 minutes. It reduces anxiety, depression and mental stress and rejuvenates the central nervous system.
o Shiro Vasti-keeping herbal oil in a cap fitted on head.

Panchakarma
therapy is followed by samana or purification treatment with oral medicines including herbal powders.



Ayurvedic Medicines for Mental Health

In the words of Dr. Marc Halpern, "Ayurveda classifies herbs with a stabilizing effect on the mind"...These herbs promote the intellect and deeply nourish the neurological tissues. They are nervine tonics. Ayurveda favors the use of combinations of herbs that meet the specific needs of each patient, as no two patients present exactly the same condition." These medicines act as specific molecular nutrients for the brain, promoting better mental health that leads to the alleviation of behavioral disorders. The [herbs produce]...tranquility of mind, concentration and improved memory.



ayurvedic herbs.jpg
"Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food,"
is an ancient axiom the world over, and with good reason.

Photo source: followgreenliving.com/grow-personal-organic-herb-garden/



From Mental Health to Enlightenment

Ayurveda has its roots in the spiritual philosophies of the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Yogic traditions and was even considered the fifth Veda in India. Ayurvedic psycho-spirituality is based on the idea that we are all souls growing and evolving towards enlightenment or reunification with the Divine. As Dr. Marc Halpern rightly puts it, "It is a science of using health as the basis of one’s journey towards enlightenment."


This is a greatly annotated version of the original article. To read the full article, visit: https://www.lifepositive.com/ayurveda-healing-the-mind/




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Re: Ayurveda and Healing the Mind

Postby corvidus » Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:45 pm

Wonderful synopsis, Kassandra. I've studied Ayurvedic herbalism/medicine for the past few years, but have never looked into the 'Mental/Psycho-Spiritual' aspects of it (although I am aware of it) -- so it was good to read about it once again!

Maybe you have a list of herbs and their interactions, specifically for 'healing the Mind'?

I am curious about your interest in this field. Ayurveda includes one of my favorite subjects, Rasa Shastra.
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Re: Ayurveda and Healing the Mind

Postby Kassandra » Wed Aug 10, 2016 9:13 pm

corvidus wrote:I am curious about your interest in this field.
It just makes sense to me, that's all. Many (not all) Ayurvedic doctors train themselves to use all their "claires," so they can see energy centers (chakras), auras, a person's past life scenarios, energy attachments, etc. That's the way I think healing should be, not just using chemicals to cover up symptoms, nor cutting away problems with a scalpel. We are multi-dimensional beings, so our healing should be multi-dimensional, too. I also think healers should be encouraged to use their innate intuitive faculties, and not rely solely on equipment and old data. This limited approach limits healers, which then limits our healing.

Haha, I wish the whole of Terra observed ayurveda, and healed itself! It is not beyond its grasp to do so. It is a matter of intention, and the will of humans to follow-up consistently. :D

As to a list of mental health herbs, such is usually tailored to the biology of the individual, so it's not one-size-fits-all like most of modern Western medications. What herbs soothe your mind might destabilize mine, because my biology is different from yours, and so on. Other possible factors: is my instability caused by too active a mind (so that I would need slow-down herbs), or from a depressed mind (so that I would need speed-up herbs)? What is my diet like, and how is that affecting my mind?

So, there are many factors to consider. It is an individualized healing system requiring individual consultation with a well-trained Ayurvedic practitioner. Be leery of anyone suggesting one-size-fits-all remedies. They are either dangerously ignorant, or probably trying to sell something. ;)


Here's a nice video overview of the general principles of this healing modality:



The California College of Ayurveda, founded by Marc Halpern, is the largest and most reputable Ayurveda
school in the United States. Some of the terms he covers will sound familiar to other paths such as Taoism,
Wicca, and so forth, especially as regards the elements. This might be because our collective ancestors all
around the world regularly employed knowledge of these things in their lives.






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Re: Ayurveda and Healing the Mind

Postby corvidus » Wed Aug 17, 2016 6:03 pm

Kassandra wrote:It just makes sense, that's all. Many (not all) Ayurvedic doctors train themselves to use all their "claires," so they can see energy centers (chakras), auras, a person's past life scenarios, energy attachments, etc. That's the way I think healing should be, not just using chemicals to cover up symptoms, nor cutting away problems with a scalpel. I also think healers should be encouraged to use their innate intuitive faculties, and not rely solely on equipment and old data. This limited approach limits healers, which then limits our healing.



I agree. Have you read anything by Vasant Lad? He is probably my favorite author/practitioner on the topic.
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Re: Ayurveda and Healing the Mind

Postby Kassandra » Wed Aug 17, 2016 8:36 pm

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Yes, I am familiar with his work. I don't know that Ayurveda would have ever left India were it not for Vasant Lad. :-) Would have loved to have attended his institute in New Mexico if I could have somehow fit that into my life.

I think they were working on a documentary of him in 2013, not sure what the status of that project is now. https://vimeo.com/88393685

I would recommend his books as a good starting point for people wanting to get a grasp of this topic. Here are some free pdfs he made publically available:

Brief Introduction & Guide

Secrets of the Pulse

Determining Your Constitution

Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing

Ayurvedic Textbook: Volume One

Ayurvedic Textbook: Volume Two




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