Ayurveda - Do Emotions Matter?

Ayurveda - Do Emotions Matter? 
The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda aims to promote health, happiness, and longevity by taking into consideration the trinity - body, mind, and spirit. In fact, Ayurveda explains further that only when the influences of the body, mind, and senses are balanced and one experiences the sense of happiness is one thought to be in good health. Let us now explore the realm of emotions.

e·mo·tion [noun]
instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge.


Storehouse Of Emotions
Many ancient cultures have described feelings and emotions to be a refined and subtle aspect of the intellect; intellect being the act of discrimination or discernment. The science of Ayurveda explains that the connective tissue of the body serves as a storehouse of emotions. In a way, the matrix of the subconscious mind - unresolved thoughts, feelings, and emotions is made up from the substratum of connective tissue [i.e. majja dhatu].

Digestion of Feelings
The human body contains approximately 37.2 trillion cells and every cell of the body is the center of awareness. According to vedic thought, the mind pervades the entire body. However, we may also consider the cell as a unit of awareness and intelligence. The central teaching of Ayurveda is the metaphor of fire ["Agni"] which illustrates the principle of digestion. When this fire of digestion functions properly then the individual will experience a ‘sound body-sound mind’. However, when this cellular digestion is suboptimal it may lead to by-products of poor digestion ["ama"] which may contribute to the manifestation of undesired emotions [fear, worry, anxiety, depression, etc.] and overall poor health. 

Where Do We Physically Feel Emotions? - Good Mythical Morning

Unresolved Emotions
The mind is, after all, the result of the past. Throughout many yesterdays of the past often dwells forgotten regrets, disappointments, and anger which are stored throughout various parts of the body.

Liver - unresolved anger
Gallbladder - hatred
Kidneys - fear
Stomach & Colon - nervousness
Lungs - grief & sadness
Spleen - sadness

“To kindle your pithara agni [cellular digestion] is to look at every feeling and emotion without labeling it or naming it. Then what happens? The observer and observed become one. Then when a molecule of fear enters the cell, pithara agni [cellular digestion] transforms that fear into mind, memory, intellect and into pure consciousness. Then even fear nourishes consciousness and it is no longer fear but pure awareness.” - Dr. Vasant Lad,  Ayurvedic Physician

Massage has been used for centuries in a variety of traditional cultures for well-being and vitality. The science of Ayurveda has various factors of healing - for example snehan [Ayurvedic oil massage] and abhyanga [self massage] which is the anointing of the body with oil. The Sanskrit word “sneha” means both ‘oil’ and ‘love’, and the effects of abhyanga are similar to being saturated with love. Often the oils used for massage are infused with herbs, warm, used to massage the entire body, and is used therapeutically for certain conditions.

Benefits Of Oil Massage [Abhyanga]
- Imparts softness, strength and color to the body
- Decreases the effects of aging
- Bestows good vision
- Nourishes the body
- Increases longevity
- Benefits sleep patterns
- Benefits skin
- Strengthens the body’s tolerance
- Imparts a firmness to the limbs
- Imparts tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
- Stimulates the internal organs of the body, increasing circulation
- Pacifies vata and pitta

Ayurveda - The Science Of Life
Ultimately Ayurveda is a comprehensive science which takes into consiseration one’s every daily life. Ayurveda focuses on diet, lifestyle, periodic fasting, herbs, yoga asanas, meditation, pranayama and detoxification & purification measures [i.e. panchakarma] to help promote balance. As a result of this balance is the expression of health, happiness, and longevity - the pillars of true health.

A Personal Look At Depression ~ An Ayurvedic Perspective

A Personal Look At Depression ~ An Ayurvedic Perspective
"For underneath my tears and the hallow feelings is a deep intrinsic knowing that our sadness is always here to teach us something, to help us grow and lead us to a deeper evolution of ourselves. I know that once I have moved through the darkness, I will be very grateful for the lessons learned along the way. I’ve heard it said so many times, being vulnerable is a pathway to deeper connections, a richer life, healing and a profound experience of "Aliveness". But how easy is it to be vulnerable when we have jobs to keep up, social statuses to maintain, teeth to brush and lives to live? Yet, a gift of this depression is that at times I have no choice but to be vulnerable. It doesn’t matter if it’s a co-worker I barely know, my Tai Chi teacher or a newly found friend, if the tears are getting too much to hold in, then they will come out, no stopping them." - Pema Chodron

One Of The Most Common Mental Disorders:
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders and affects 6.9% of all U.S. adults. With more and more people feeling as if there is so little under their control, the statistics for this disorder are rising.  Ayurveda views depression as an imbalance of the mind and the nervous system and there are many tools to effectively balance this condition. Depression can be due to a Vata, Pitta, or Kapha imbalance; it can also be due to a combination of doshas.

An Ayurvedic Perspective:
Vata depression is generally associated with anxiety, and nervousness, fear, overwhelming emotions, and sometimes insomnia. People with Vata depression also tend to want to keep moving and keep active as a way to fend off depression; they don’t like to sit with depression. Pitta depression is associated with judgment, anger, being treated unfairly, being critical, injustice, impatience, rage outbursts, and sometimes insomnia. And Kapha depression is more prone to lethargy, large amounts of sleep, a sense of heaviness, and wanting to shut out the world by cocooning in a dark room and shutting off contact.

There are some general things one can do to begin the healing process.

1.  Sleep an appropriate amount of time. People with Vata imbalances need 8-10 hours of sleep, people with Pitta imbalances need about 8 hours of sleep, and people with Kapha imbalances need about 7 hours. And rise with the sunrise; the colors at sunrise simultaneously stimulate and soothe the nervous system in a beneficial & valuable way.

2.  Carefully adding in only those foods, people and activities that are nourishing and supportive.

3.  A diet that includes lots of cooked grains, fresh vegetables & fruits, beans & lentils, nuts & seeds, ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oils, herbal teas especially brahmi tea, organic whole milk, flatbreads, mild sweets which include honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and molasses. Include spices like cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, clove, basil.  These all promote a quiet, steady, alert mind.

4.  Reduce or avoid alcohol, caffeine, sodas, processed foods, frozen or cold foods & drinks, refined sugars.  Try to avoid garlic and onions.  All of these things tend to make the mind either dark and cloudy, or overactive.

5.  Use nasal oil appropriate for your imbalance. Nasal oils are wonderful because they go directly to the brain and nervous system.

6.  Know that your essential nature is joy, love, and compassion and that this depression is a covering over your bright inner nature. You are not your thoughts.

7.  Cultivate a meditation practice. A very simple one is to inhale golden warm energy from the top of the head to the base of the spine and say “love, love, love” all the way down the back of the spine, pause, then exhale come up the front of the spine, and say “love, love, love” all the way up to the top of the head.  You are bringing divine energy down the spine, and then moving it up the spine. You are also injecting all of your energy centers or chakras with love. Do this 10, 20 or 30 times, and then just rest for a few minutes in calmness.

8.  If the above practice is not something for you right now, then simply cultivate gratitude by thinking of all the things you can be grateful for before you go to sleep.

9.  Alternate nostril breathing.

10.  If there is an Ayurvedic practitioner in your area, try to make an appointment for a Shirodhara which is a streaming of warm oil on the forehead to balance the nervous system.  The oil dampens and quiets the nervous system leading one to sense of peace and clarity.


More Specific Signs & Ways of Working with Depression

VATA-TYPE Depression is often associated with:
– anxiety, nervousness
– insomnia
– light sadness
– fear
– overwhelmed

Helpful Tools for Vata Type Depression
– Slower routine, slower low key exercise,
– grounding and slower yoga practice with forwards bends, and twists

PITTA-TYPE Depression is often associated with:
– anger
– rage
– criticality
– impatience
– a feeling of being wronged or treated unfairly

Helpful Tools for Pitta Type Depression
– Slower routine, slower, non-competitive exercise,
– grounding and slower yoga practice with forwards bends, and lots of twists

 KAPHA-TYPE Depression is often associated with:
– lethargy
– intense sadness
– sluggishness, stagnancy
– heaviness

Helpful Tools for Kapha Type Depression
– More energetic routine, stimulating, invigorating exercise,
– Uplifting & invigorating yoga practice with laterals, extensions, and back bends

This is for educational purposes only. Not to be considered medical advice.

Mental Health ~ An Ayurvedic Perspective

According to the National Institute of Mental Health [NIH], major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Depression affects more than 10 million Americans each year. It is so common in our society that it is estimated that one in 9 people will be diagnosed with it at one point in their life.

Digestion and Feelings ~ An Ayurvedic Perspective - "Gut Health" 
According to Ayurveda, healthy Agni (digestive fire) creates an overall sense of happiness and joy. When the Agni is suppressed, there is grief, sadness and depression. Interestingly, there are a large number of clinical studies correlating “gut health” to overall wellness, including the effects on mood. Even further, it has been estimated that there are between 400 to 600 million nuerons in your gut. The enteric nervous system uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, just like the brain, and in fact 95 percent of the body's serotonin is found in the gut.

Healthy Lifestyle:
Ayurveda stresses the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Once you get into the habit of maintaining a healthy routine, you will be able to see, feel, and experience the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

6 Simple Tips For Mental Wellness:
1. Obseve nature. Wake up early and watch the morning sun rise.
2. Bring life into the body. Therefore eat fresh and wholesome food.
3. Revitalize the body and mind with regular yoga practice and breathing techniques.
4. Reflect upon your feelings and emotions. Therefore, be still and meditate.
5.  Cultivate meaningful relationships with people whom you trust.
6. Love yourself, you deserve it.

Interesting Thoughts From Ayurvedic Professionals:
I asked several highly respected individuals in the field of Ayurveda, how to develop wellness of the mind in daily life and this is what they had to say …

“At a very basic level, if our vital life-force energy is stuck or not moving properly then this can affect our overall health. Prana comes into the body and mind in the form of food, water, breath, sensory impressions. For overall mental health, one may want to consider shirodhara with or without PK, pranayama, wholesome associations with people, and proper sleep.”
- Mary Bruck, Ayurvedic Professional  

“Agni governs secretions of neurotransmitters which becomes understanding. The understanding is a higher cerebral activity & comes from healthy Sadhaka pitta. If Sadhaka Agni is low, the result can be chemical depression.” [reflecting upon Dr. Vasant Lad’s teachings]
- Anupama Butani, Ayurvedic Professional

“The under and overutilization of the sensory organs, objects of perception, and the mind can be thought of as the root causes of disease according to ayurvedic principles. Regarding the senses, consider instrumental music and madhura rasa [sweet taste] as it enlightens the mind. Also consider chanson [sandalwood], jasmine, rose, etc. as these pleasant smells bring replenishment to the mind.
- Dr. A. Rangaprasad Bhat, Ayurvedic Physician

"Regarding the senses, the beach/ocean is an excellent healing place. It's got all that for the senses. Back in the day, Drs would send patients to the seaside to recover from all sorts of maladies."
- Linda Rowe, Ayurvedic Professional

Educational Purpose Only. Not Medical Advice.
For medical advice always seek consultation from your primary care physician.

An Ayurvedic Perspective ~ Developing A Sattvic Mind

Individuals having the excellence of mental faculties are characterized by good memory, devotion, gratefulness, wisdom, purity, excessive enthusiasm, skill, courage, valor in fighting, absence of sorrow, proper gait, depth of wisdom and sincerity in actions and virtuous acts.
- C.S. Vimanasthana Ch. VIII Sutra. 110

According to ayurveda, a “sattvic” [pure] lifestyle is the best way to develop strength, clarity of the mind, good health and longevity. Sattvic qualities of the mind are considered to be clarity of the mind, understanding, and compassion. Sattvic foods are those foods which nourish the body and calm the mind. When both the body and mind are balanced only then can one truly appreciate joy and happiness.

Basic Sattvic Considerations:
- develop more awareness especially while eating
- eat more fresh fruit and vegetables
- consider ripe pleasant tasting nuts and seeds
- introduce more sprouted whole grains
- eat meals which balance all 6 tastes
- drink plentiful natural spring water

Other Sattvic Considerations:
- prayer and self-reflection
- yoga and meditation
- breathing techniques
- spending time alone in nature
- studying holy scriptures
- being in good company of others

Be Aware:

The take home message is to simply become more aware. It is important not to compare oneself to another but rather learn to love and accept oneself. Ayurveda is a science to help each individual find a state of perfect balance, happiness, and a blissful state of being.

I asked several highly respected individuals in the field of Ayurveda, how to develop more sattvic qualities and this is what they had to say …

“Keep a regular routine.”
- Lissa Coffey, Author, Ayurveda Professional

“Yoga emphasizes the study of the mind and the clarity of thought and action. Therefore, following Ashtanga Yoga, 8-limb path is highly recommended to adapt these principles and integrate these practices in order to cultivate a more sattvic mind.”
- Karen Khazzam Dubi, Ayurvedic Professional/Yoga Teacher

“Develop a systematic and slow practice of behavioral patterns. Adopting modest behaviors while disassociating from immodest gunas of mind. Be in company of politely speaking, self-integrity persons. Follow the path of truth and love. Feel your innate presence in others soul through the practice of So aham [meditation]. Think positive. Stay positive.”
- Dr. A. Rangaprasad Bhat, Ayurvedic Physician

“Dincharya: regular sleep times, wake up before sunrise, sleep by 10 pm. Pranayama! Daily meditation of sitting quietly, watching the breath or becoming present in the moment. Connecting with nature through dincharya: regularity of food, sleep & lifestyle.”
- Anupama Butani, Ayurvedic Professional

“Development of the sattwic mind can be approached through any of the 18 Vedic disciplines as well as any of the 4 yogas and as well as  any other spiritual path”
- Chitra Eder Turley, Ayurvedic Professional

“Mental sattwa can be enhanced through certain surroundings such as nature, having close associations with animals/pets, the elderly and infants, then a sort of alchemy happens. Likewise, one can mimic this and become uplifted through good company ... this is one way amongst many other, like good fresh vegetarian food and fresh air”
- Sohini Mimi Striuli, Ayurvedic Professional/ Yoga Teacher

“Developing a Sattvic mind will include a more Sattvic diet, Pranayama, studying of Holy scriptures (accordingly to one's suitability), and having a good Satsanga of good people.”
- Yossi Joe Nazar, Ayurvedic Professional

“To achieve a sattvic state of mind one should respect oneself, others and the environment in life. This may occur by pursuing in his daily life an ethical, social, moral and physical pure attitude and behavior . By trusting your intuition much more than thinking controlled by the ego is the gateway to a sattvic mind in life. A sattvic mind starts in your heart.”
- Gerry Van de Moortel, Ayurvedic Professional

What's Your Mind?

I don’t have to tell you about the body/mind/spirit connection. YOU KNOW THIS.  You know that when your body is not feeling well, your mind is focused on the suffering of the body and your spirit is praying for relief.

When your body feels great and your mind is focused on good thoughts, your spirit soars.  When your body feels good and the mind is taking in bad images, your spirit has difficulty soaring and eventually the body won’t feel good.  There are many combinations in mind body spirit equation.  You get the picture, you’ve been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt.

Ayurveda is the complete study and practice of maintaining, restoring and rejuvenating the body/mind complex so that the spirit can soar and uplift you and society as a whole.” 

Ayurveda is HUGE!
There is nothing in this world that Ayurveda does not examine. Basic elements, disease, herbs, medicine, chakras, energy fields, birth, death and reincarnation are all within Ayurveda.  The Mind is the axis to which the spirit and body are connected.
When focused inwardly the mind focuses on spirit. Focused outwardly the mind focuses on the body and the rest of the physical world. 

See if this is true for you.
Sit in a quiet room with no disturbances, close your eyes and focus on your breath.  Do this for only a moment. The quiet space is the mind kissing your spirit. Open your eyes, go to a mirror look into it. What happens?  The mind starts judging and comparing what is seen in the mirror. It sees the body with what is wrong and what is right, what needs to be done and on and on.

Ayurveda describes the mind as having three states or qualities. There is no judgement here just a description.  Please keep this in mind as you go through through the definitions.

Sattwa           Rajas           Tamas

  • Sattwa is the state of mind that is peaceful, calm, alert, gently focused, unconditionally loving and light. Sattwa is the state of consciousness that is awake.
  • Rajas is the state of mind that is active, emotive, movement, changeable and excitable. Rajas is the state of consciousness that is semi awake. 
  • Tamas is the state of mind that is lethargic, attached, depressed, dark, dense and confused.  Tamas is the state of consciousness that is asleep.

The Tamasic Mind
The tamasic mind sleeps too much, eats heavy dull comfort foods, thinks of self comfort. It tends to be lazy and sedentary. This mind is prone to depression, fear and anger born of inability to change its life.  It is difficult for a tamasic mind to take in new ideas, keep an open mind or be objective.  Many things are taken personally in relationship.  

The body attached to a tamasic mind is overweight, with dull hair, skin and eyes and prone to diseases that come from overgrowth and obesity. The tamasic mind is attracted to activities that are passive and dark, it may be prone to depressing forms of entertainment and news. 

The Rajasic Mind
The rajasic is always active, eats quickly, tries new foods, thinks of changing its situation and always tends to be planning and endlessly moving. This mind is prone to stress, fear and anger born of the need to change their life.  Excitement, competition and achievement is its game. It is difficult for a rajasic mind to stay still and be content with "what is". The mind may be open to new ideas and be objective just as easily as being closed to new ideas and closed-minded. Changeability is key when it comes to rajas.  Relationships come and go in the world of the Rajasic mind.

The body attached to a rajasic mind is ever changing. Weight, fitness levels, brightness or dullness of hair, skin and eyes are ever fluctuating. The body is prone to diseases that come from excitability and stress. The rajasic mind is attracted to activities that are sportive, creative and intense. It may be prone to sex, violent and activist forms of entertainment and news. 

The Sattwic Mind
The sattwic mind is meditative, eats light, digestible, healthy whole foods and thinks of service to self and others. It tends to be calm, aware and attentive. A sattwic mind is prone to loving, wisdom and truthfulness born of the ability to be present and focused. 

This mind takes to new ideas, keeps an open mind and is objective. The sattwic mind understands that there is an appropriate place and time for everything. Nothing is taken personally in relationship.  

The body attached to a sattwic mind is well cared for, has a unique glow, and is not prone to chronic diseases. The sattwic mind understands the role of time on the body and adjusts accordingly. Activities that are, in nature, light and still are attractive to the sattwic Mind. It is prone to the study of self, others and spirituality as forms of entertainment.  

Although the sattwic mind seems like it is the most advantageous “spiritual” mind to have, it is not the most well suited for worldly life. Sattwa, rajas and tamas are in every aspect of life. Balanced contemplation, activity and sleep are key for a healthy life.  Ayurveda has the tools you need to balance sattwa, rajas and tamas. Tune in next time as we delve into the instruments of the mind. Namaste