In our Western world, we often treat the body with herbs, medication or natural remedies, without paying too much attention to our mindset and the role that the mind and emotions play in the onset of symptoms.
In the Ayurvedic tradition, the body-mind-spirit connection is taken into account in all steps of the treatment. This is because the mind cannot be set apart from the body.
So, what influences the mind?
Our mind is influenced by impressions:
- The physical impressions are brought from foods, herbs and exercise;
- The subtle impressions are brought through the 5 senses and our thoughts that reinforces those impressions (we perceive something, then think about what we perceive and it gives power and energy to it); and
- The causal impressions are brought about by gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) that are the 3 primal subtle forces and energies behind everything.
To illustrate the importance of the gunas, think about your relationships and who you hang out with. We are strongly influenced by the gunas of the people we are connected with at the heart level. When we spend too much time or care too much for somebody whose energy is too tamasic or rajastic, it will affect our peace of mind and our sattvic state of wellbeing. Learning how to be aware of that and reassess our relationships is often something that is overlooked, but it is utterly important for our mental wellbeing.
Keep in mind that a lot of things affect the mind, positively or negatively! And since the mind “speaks” through our body via physical ailments or stuck energy in the body that can cause pain and other issues, we all need to try to keep our mind in a state of peace and harmony.
Ayurvedic Treatment Steps for the Mind
During a typical Ayurvedic psychology assessment and treatment, you can expect an Ayurvedic practitioner to:
- Evaluate your birth constitution and current constitution, and point out any imbalances
- Assess your life force reserves (Prana, Tejas and Ojas)
- Use impressions that will have the opposite qualities of the aggravated dosha (detox will be done prior to that)
- Promote the correct function of consciousness with spiritual practices: devotion and self-knowledge
Psychological Imbalances & Solutions for Each Dosha
Vata Psychological Disorders and Treatments
The Vata dosha is the most prone to psychological disturbances because its elements (Ether and Air) are the lightest and least grounded.
Excess Air in the mind causes instability, agitation, excessive thinking and worry. It leads to excessive reactions, imaginations, delusions and hearing voices. Vata easily experiences fear, anxiety, possible nervous breakdown, insomnia, palpitations, tremors, unrest, and quick shifts of mood.
Factors that increase Air: mass media, too much technology, loud music or noise, drugs & stimulants, insufficient food, irregular eating, excessive or unnatural sexual activity
Predisposition: neglect or abuse as a child
Treatment = “TREAT LIKE A FLOWER”
NATURE: sitting or walking peacefully by a garden, forest, river, lake or ocean especially when it is WARM and BRIGHT
- Sound: calming music and chanting, classical, peaceful silence
- Touch: gentle and warming, warm oils like sesame or almond
- Sight: bright and calming colors like combinations of gold, orange, blue, green & white
- Taste: rich and nourishing foods with sweet, salty and sour tastes, moderate use of spices. Chyavanprash will be really nourishing for Vata’s mind
- Smell: sweet, warm, calming, clearing like jasmine, rose, sandalwood, orange, vanilla, lavender
ACTIVITY: gentle exercise, Hatha, Tai Chi, swimming, hot tubs, relaxation, more sleep
EMOTIONAL: cultivating peace, contentment, fearlessness and patience. Support of good friends and regular social interaction
MENTAL: “Ram” mantra, concentration exercises and brain exercises
SPIRITUAL: meditation on strong, happy, benefic deities like Rama and Krishna, and protective forms of the Divine Mother (like Durga or Tara), prayers for peace and protection, developing discrimination and insight
Pitta Psychological Disorders and Treatments
Pitta types are less prone to psychological disorders than Vata, because it is more grounded and made out of heavier elements (Fire and Water) that ground the mind in the body.
Excess Fire in the mind causes aggressive behavior, hostility, blame and seeking release in venting. It leads to excessive irritation and anger. Pitta can become domineering, authoritarian or fanatic. Pitta can experience paranoid delusions, delusions of grandeur and can become psychotic.
Factors that disturb: strong / bright colors and sensations, violence, overly hot and spicy foods, sexual frustration, excessive anger or ambition.
Predisposition: education too competitive or too much conflict in childhood
Treatment = “TREAT LIKE A FRIEND”
NATURE: sitting or walking by flowers, river, lake or ocean, particularly when it is COOL. Walking at night, gazing at the night sky, moon and stars
- Sound: cooling, soft music like flute and sound of water
- Touch: cooling, soft and moderate touch. Massage with cooling oils like Coconut or Sunflower oils.
- Sight: cool colors like white, blue and green
- Taste: food that is neither too heavy nor too light. Favor sweet, bitter and astringent tastes; cooling herbs and spices like coriander, turmeric and fennel. Chyavanprash will bring Pitta back to balance as well
- Smell: cold and sweet fragrances like rose, sandalwood, vetiver, gardenia, jasmine, geranium, ylang ylang
ACTIVITY: moderate, walking, swimming, cooling asana like shoulder stand
EMOTIONAL: friendships, kindness, courtesy, peace, forgiveness, compassion and devotion. Releasing anger, hatred, conflict
MENTAL: “Shrim” mantra, practicing non-judgment and acceptance, listening to other people’s points of view
SPIRITUAL: meditation on benefic and peaceful deities like Shiva (in his peaceful form), Vishnu or benefic forms of the Divine Mother (like Lakshmi), prayers for universal peace, cultivating surrender and receptivity
Kapha Psychological Disorders and Treatments
Kapha types are the least prone to psychological disorders. They are made out of heavy elements (Water and Earth), and are very grounded. However, excess Water + Earth can cause dullness, congestion, poor perception, lack of motivation, depression, sorrow and clinging. When disturbed, Kapha types tend to be passive and dependent. An imbalance can also show up as greed and possessiveness (they look upon people as their property)
Factors that disturb: excess pleasures, attachments, too much sleep and lack of exercise.
Predisposition: being overly indulged or emotionally smothered as a child.
Treatment = “TREAT LIKE AN ENEMY”
NATURE: vigorous hiking in dry or desert regions, high mountains or during sunny and windy days in open areas
- Sound: stimulating music, energizing sounds, singing
- Touch: strong, deep body massage with stimulating oils like mustard oil
- Sight: bright and stimulating colors like yellow, orange, gold and red
- Taste: light diet with pungent, bitter, astringent tastes with spices (include Chyavanprash in the diet to bring those tastes); occasionally fasting
- Smell: light, warm, stimulating like musk, citrus, cedar, myrrh, camphor, eucalyptus
ACTIVITY: strong aerobic, jogging, sunbathing, wind-bathing, dry sauna, reduce sleep
EMOTIONAL: cultivating detachment, service to others and selfless love, releasing greed, attachment and clinging
MENTAL: “Hum” mantra, cultivating wakefulness, mental & strategic games like chess, breaking with past and tradition
SPIRITUAL: meditation on active or strong forms of the Divine Mother (like Kali) or Father (like Rudra), meditation on the Void or on the inner light
Please resort to these “checklists” when you feel that one dosha is getting aggravated, especially in the mind and emotions! The more tools you use, the better and more efficient and long lasting the healing will be!
Please share with me how these work for you!