DEPRESSION AND MENTAL HEALTH IN AYURVEDA

Introduction

 “Samadoshah samagnishcha, samadhatu malakriyah, prasannatmendriya manah, svastha ity abhidyiyate.”

The above words in Sanskrit means “The one whose ‘doshas’ are balanced, whose metabolism is balanced, whose tissues and eliminations are normal, and whose senses and mind are centered in the Self, is considered healthy and remains full of bliss.”

(Susruta, Sutrasthanam 15,41)

This important quotation defining health according to Ayurveda, written thousands of years ago, reveals the natural condition of the mind as a state of happiness. Why is it then, in today’s world, there is an epidemic of so-called ‘depression’ and stress-related conditions?

The Three Main Classifications of Mental Disturbances

According to Ayurveda, Vatha (air and space), Pitha (fire and water) and Kapha (water and earth) are the three main psychobiological expressions of Nature, individually and cosmically.

Vatha dosha is more light, dry, dispersing, subtle, cold, mobile, minute and changeable, and therefore is associated with conditions such as worries, anxieties, fears, phobias, terrors, delusions, compulsions, irrelevant talk, monologue or dialogue with self, attention deficit, bi-polar disease, social anxiety and auditory hallucinations. Vatha governs all nervous system functions.

Pitha dosha, being hot, sharp, penetrating, sour, intense and spreading is responsible for comparison, control, criticism, jealousy, frustration, obsession, territorialism, anger, rage, violence, suicide, murder and visual hallucinations. Pitha is more associated with digestive and hormonal functions.

Kapha dosha is more cool, slow, heavy, static, inert, smooth, gross, soft and immobile, and is therefore is more associated with sadness, melancholia, sprolonged crying, stubbornness, depression, hiding, hoarding, catatonia, overeating and kinesthetic hallucinations. Kapha mainly governs adipose tissue and blood sugar. is developed through time by a process of self-awareness of these psycho-physiological ‘doshas’, as they were called by classical physicians, denoting vulnerability or fallibility of human life.

Dinacharya (Daily Routine) – the Ultimate Solution

Beginning the daily habits with awareness—rising with the sun, eliminating body wastes, cleaning the body and beginning our personal practice of worship—helps recognize our place in the family, community and cosmos. The rising sun is a special time of illumination, to help us activate our gifts in the world. Cumulative benefits help purify the mind, emotions and body in everyday life.

Choosing right foods for our appetite and metabolic needs is a fundamental alignment to show respect of our body and life. Anti-depressant drugs disturb the natural chemical balance of the brain functions and often cause terrible ‘side’ effects, sometimes death in overdose.

Study and work are the main arenas of improving our lives by helping others, thus maintaining our responsibilities as citizens to remain healthy, happy and prosperous. In prior times, the patient suffering from psychosis was assigned service tasks to generate ‘merit’, to help displace the ‘demerit’ of repetitive negative or ‘untrue’ thinking.

‘Right use of time’ means to eat when hungry, rest when

While every person experiences feeling of anxiety, anger and grief at some point of life, ones’ philosophies help support adjustments to the diurnal, lunar, seasonal, and life and death cycles with wisdom. Personal philosophy is at the root of all life experience, whether sweet or bitter, and fatigued and make time to play for nurturing creativity. If any of these important psychobiological needs is unfulfilled or over fulfilled, imbalance occurs. We should not suppress certain emotion. Grief is diminished by crying only and love has to be expressed to those who deserve.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

  • Aversion to everyday life activities such as bathing, brushing, sleeping etc.
  • feeling of sadness
  • loss of interest
  • tiredness and muscle weakness
  • Indigestion and stomach upsets
  • excessive sleep

Depression: An Ayurvedic viewpoint

Our level of consciousness is considered to have different sheaths. Our self (Atma)resides in our heart which is the seat for the blissful sheath or Aanandamaya kosha.

Another kosha of mind other than the heart is the manomaya kosha. When we are hurt, shocked or a sorrowful, we use our mind at that moment to construct a protective barrier around ourselves. In some cases this barrier causes one to lose access to the essential self and the result is depression.

Free flow of Prana allows the doshas (bodily humors) to balance, the seven dhatus (tissues) to develop, and the gross channels (srothas) of circulation, like blood and lymph, to move. When exposed to etiological factors, the flow of energy or prana shakthi is also restricted and the person gradually loses interest in life.

Depression is a kapha predominant imbalance. Vatha and Pitha may take part according to the exposure to its etiological factors. Vatha is vitiated by experiences that induce fear, terror, anxiety, irregular eating habit, pattern of sleep and all forms of excessive movement.

Pitha dosha is associated with metabolism of all things: food, emotions, and experiences. When emotional experiences cannot be digested they accumulate in the body and cause dosha disturbances. Alcohol, verbal abuse, excessive spices and over ambition will create Pitha depression which manifests as anger and violence.

Initially the brain’s powerful changes in electrochemistry cause Vatha imbalance, this triggers a loss of enzymatic activities in the metabolism or Pitha imbalance. Kapha responds by trying to provide a protective sheath to slow everything down. This shut down mechanism, brings about heaviness, darkness, and stagnation. This condition is interpreted as the negative message of hopelessness and depression.

Ayurveda Line of treatment

Treatment involves thorough understanding of the patients unique constitution (Prakruti) and state of imbalance or vikruti of doshas. Ayurveda takes both the physical and mental plane into consideration while designing the treatment protocol. This system utilizes herbs and treatment procedures to correct the imbalances created in the mental plane of doshas.

Depression and Mental Qualities

Satwa, Rajasa and Thamasa are the three mental qualities.

Satwika mental quality activates a person’s cleanliness, intellect, happiness, positive thoughts and confidence.

Rajasa quality induces dynamism, talkativeness, ego, anger etc.

Thamasa quality activates lack of intelligence, fear, excessive sleep and lack of motivation etc.

As we can see, to be a good person we must incline more towards satwa guna. Especially in the case of depression, one must try to achieve more of satwa guna and less of tamasa and rajasa guna.

Depression and Anxiety Treatment Procedures with Ayurveda

Udwarthana– powder massage to reduce kapha dosha

Abhyanga- Massage with suitable oils is good in relieving depression.

Njavara Kizhi– Powder massage with cooked njavara rice in milky decoction (Ksheera kashaya) of root of Bala(Sida rhombifolia)

Nasya– Nasal administration of suitable medicated oils

Shirodhara-Pouring of herbal oil on the forehead to promote relaxation.

Dhoopa-Herbal Fumigation with Guggulu(Commifora mukul), Jatamansi(Nardostachys jadamansi), Vacha (Acorus Calamus) etc are useful for this condition.

Herbs for Depression and Anxiety

  • Ashwagandha(Withania Somnifera) regulates neurotransmitters in brain and calm down the nerves and mind, Immuno modulator
  • Brahmi(Bacopa Monnieri) is a nervine tonic, enhances mental ability.
  • Jatamansi(Nardostachys Jatamnsi)eliminates depressive and negative thoughts, channelizes the mind towards positivity and calms the mind.
  • Guggulu(Commiphora Mukul)– relieve depression.
  • Turmeric(Curcuma Longa)immunomodulator and enhances digestion.

Diet and Depression

Avoid

  • eating to full capacity.
  • Hot, spicy and pungent tastes.
  • Tea and coffee

Yoga and Exercises for Depression and Anxiety

Engage in breathing exercises (Pranayama), yoga and physical exercises to strengthen the mind and body. This keeps the channels of the body clean and allows proper flow essential factors and positive thoughts.

Praanayama and yoga must become an important part of a person’s daily routine. This helps to concentrate the mind on positive thoughts and a recurrence of depression can be prevented.

Yogic asanas that are beneficial to people with depression are bhujangasana, halasana, paschimottasana, sarvangasana, shalabhasana, shavasana and vakrasana.

Pranayama and yoga has to be done only by expert advice.

Dos and Don’ts for Depression and Anxiety

Do’s

  • Listen to soft music
  • Exercise regularly and take brisk walks to fight depression
  • Expose yourself to bright sunlight
  • Meditate

Don’ts

  • Don’t indulge in negative thinking
  • Avoid consuming stimulant or processed food
  • Avoid alcohol, sweets and caffeine
  • Refrain from consuming excessive calories

Panchakarma

 

Depression is mainly a kapha dosha predominant disease. Also tamasa mano dosha is badly vitiated in this condition. So the treatment is mainly aimed to pacify the deranged doshas. Vamana, vasti and nasya will have more role in this disease. One of the quality of panchakarma is that it purifies both the body as well as the mind. Also it strengthens the senses and helps in concentration of mind. All these are very much needed in the treatment of depression. So proper administration of panchakarma becomes essential part of the treatment. Udwarthana, shirodhara and pizhichil will also help to correct depression.

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