Ayurveda and Your Mental Health: An… | Counseling | Therapy

Ayurveda and Your Mental Health: An Introduction

What is Ayurveda

Ayurveda (eye-oor-vay-duh) is a set of physical, mental, and emotional practices that can support you in creating balance in your life. The written practices of Ayurveda are thought to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions around 3000 BCE with the oral traditions of Ayurveda originating long before that time. Ayurveda is considered the “science” of Indian Vedic Philosophy and utilizes yogic practices, such as mindfulness, to maintain and re-establish physical, mental, and emotional balance. Many Ayurvedic practices have been “re-branded” and incorporated into American psychology modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT).

Ayurveda is the art of daily living, finding awareness and balance in all that you feel, say, and do so you can live authentically. Do you consider your life a work of art? How often do you think about the day-to-day expression of your life as art? If not that often, I invite you to consider that it is. Your life is a work of art filled with experiences and colors. There is so much creativity and possibility available to you in how to express yourself out into the world. The daily rituals and routines you have can support you in fully expressing your authentic self or hold you back.

Ayurveda and your mental health are related. Ayurveda not only helps explain why you might be experiencing some mental health issues, it can also support you in finding a plan to resolve them. What makes Ayurveda so helpful is that this plan is unique to you and your makeup. Ayurveda views everyone as whole and complete with nothing lacking, nothing broken, and therefore anything is possible. You might just have forgotten, and that is where the practices and techniques of Ayurveda and your mental health come in.

Before we get more into how Ayurveda can support your mental health, it is important to get clear on your unique Ayurvedica constitution, or the fundamental principles that make up your mental, physical, and emotional state.

What is your Ayurvedic Constitution

The fundamental principles that make up your mental, physical, and emotional state is called your dosha (do-sha). Your dosha is your elemental makeup and Ayurveda argues that when you were created, the elements of ether/space, air, fire, water, and earth bound to you in a very individual, particular, and perfect way. Your original elemental makeup is what makes you balanced and whole. Part of the art of life is finding ways to maintain and re-establish this elemental balance. The doshas and their elemental compositions are:

Vata (vha-ta)= Ether/Space + Air

Pitta (ph-it-ta)= Fire + Water

Kapha (kha-fa)= Water + Earth

To find out what your dosha is you can take one of the many free ones offered online by googling "dosha quiz.” Finding out your dosha is the first step in developing Ayurvedic practices to maintain and re-establish balance in your life.

Ayurveda argues that disease, discomfort, and illness occur when you forget that you are whole and complete and live in ways that create imbalance and agitation in your physical, mental, and emotional life. Yet, scarcity culture in the media that constantly tries to sell you something by telling you what you are lacking and what others have that you do not, it is easy to forget that you have everything you already need inside you. You are whole and complete and the goal of Ayurveda is to support you in uncovering all the beautiful and amazing things about yourself and then celebrating them through your daily practices.

How Does your Dosha Impact your Mental Health

Gaining clarity on your coping, emotional, and relationship patterns and showing compassion to yourself and the sources of your patterns can improve your mental health. Loving yourself for who you are by living in ways that create balance and ease can sustain your mental health. The goal of Ayurveda is not to change or focus on what is “wrong” with you. The goal is to focus on what is working for you and the possible causes of imbalances that are disrupting your life. Once you become mindful of what is working and what is not, you then have the knowledge and power to make mindful shifts in your life to live a more balanced and authentic life.

Mental health diagnoses are clusters of symptoms that create distress, dysfunction, or danger in day to day functioning. In Ayurveda, symptoms have an elemental quality and live in particular doshas:

Vata: anxiety related disorders

Pitta: anger related disorders

Kapha: depression related disorders

This does not mean that someone who is a Pitta cannot experience or suffer from anxiety. What it does mean is that if a Pitta is experiencing anxiety, they should look at how the elements of ether/space and air are impacting their lives and creating a Vata imbalance. If a Pitta is experiencing extreme and unmanageable anger, they should look into how their elements of fire and water are imbalanced.

Yet awareness of how the elements of ether/space, air, fire, water, and earth is not enough to create physical, mental, and emotional balance. Each element is related to specific qualities that can increase or balance desired or undesired personal attributes, habits, or tendencies. Getting clarity on how these qualities manifest in your physical, emotional, and mental states can help you create balance in your life.

Creating Balance in your Life

A core tenet of Ayurveda is that opposites balance and same increases same. When we do or think something different the result is different. If we do or think something that is the same we get the same result.

Ayurveda breaks down certain attributes that have a special affinity to each Dosha. These attributes need to be mindfully balanced in order for us to live our fullest and most balanced life. Some qualities thrive in certain Doshas and elements, for example, creativity thrives in people who are Vata (air/ether) because air/ether is a place of unlimited space for creative energy and possibility. Anxiety can be a particular struggle for people who are Vata (air/ether) because it is difficult to get grounded when you have a special affinity to air/ether.

These attributes manifest in all of us physically, mentally, and emotionally no matter our Dosha. Seeing how attributes such as stable/mobile or dense/liquid apply to us physically, mentally, and emotionally require us to get really clear on the qualities of our physical, mental, and emotional state. For example, is my mind stable or are my thoughts mobile and spinning around in my head? Are my emotions dense and I feel like they are stuck in my body or are my emotions liquid and I am able to let them come up and let them flow? Am I hot with anger or cool with contempt?

Remember, the Ayurvedic tenant of opposites balance and like increases like can be simple. If your mind is feeling cloudy and you want to gain clarity (clear), you could do a body scan or a 5 senses check in. If you are feeling light (un-grounded) and you want to get grounded (heavy) you could do a grounding/earth like activity such as restorative yoga.

Fad diets, fad exercises, or mental health trends can be so unhelpful and discouraging because they are one size fits all. Ayurveda and your mental health takes an individual and holistic approach to your life. Everyone is different and they are still whole and complete in their differences. In Ayurveda, nothing needs to be inherently changed, just acknowledged, rebalanced, and honored based on the individual's unique and beautiful makeup. Ayurveda can support you in loving and honoring the beauty of your unique elemental makeup and physical, mental, and emotional needs.

What’s Next

Are you interested in learning more about how the practices of Ayurveda and your mental health are related? Then schedule an appointment with me or another one of the skilled and knowledgeable Center for Growth therapists. You can self schedule an in-person or virtual individual or couples therapy session or by calling the Center for Growth at (215) 922-5683 x 100.

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