By Dr Mathew.
Stress and its management via Ayurveda & Yoga
Ayurveda considers stress as a positive factor which helps us to improve and evolve by mindfully straining our adaptive capacities. But when our bodies and minds are not balanced enough stress is left unmanaged and this residue creates tensions in our body and cloudiness in our intellect. Unclear thoughts lead to defective decisions and improper actions which again obliterate the state of natural equilibrium within our body, mind and soul leading to “the cycle of stress” situation. There has been a definite increase in the number of people approaching Ayurveda with stress and its associated health conditions in recent years. Enormous and most times unrealistic expectations together with a decline in genuine and meaningful social interactions have also increased the occurrence of un-managed stress.
More than understanding stress as such, what it leads to has become relevant in modern psychology. This thought process has driven people into analyzing their sufferings and placing responsibility on outside circumstances or people for it. The conflict between ones basic instincts and intellect gets misunderstood as misery. The true cure according to Ayurveda and yoga is balancing the mind body and soul to teach one how to catalyze suffering and evolve higher.
Maintaining ones Dosha Prakriti or mind-body nature is the basic step to managing stress. One of the most powerful conceptual tools in Ayurveda is the Tri-doshas theory explains how the elements of nature which make up physical creation, dynamically combine to control all processes within the human physiology. These three functional capacities are called Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Each human being is born with unique combinations of Doshas, and that this natural balance is what is responsible for physical, mental and emotional difference among the people. By identifying and maintaining an individual’s Prakriti or Nature, Ayurveda can help each person create his or her own state of ideal health.
The second step is maintaining a routine. Ayurveda has elaborate description of daily routine called as Dinacharya and seasonal routine called as Ritucharya. This well planned routine helps maintain our Dosha balance even after the body is exposed to varied diet and climatic variations. A physically involved activity is also an important element in a well planned routine. One’s like Yoga, Pilates, swimming etc will equally equip body and mind in managing stress effectively.
In a normal day millions of thoughts are bombarded into the mental platform. We know that some of them are creative and useful, but many are not. 90% of those thoughts are definitely repetitive. Even after we realize that they are counter productive and recurrent, eliminating becomes an unattainable task. Yoga through its various tools like asana(postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises) and Dhyana (meditations) helps us disconnect or detach and retrieve our senses from the external plane to inner self thereby cutting the root of these unwanted thoughts. Our mind is a terrible master and a wonderful servant. Controlling mind though the meditative practices are difficult like learning gymnastics. One should practice constantly and the most powerful servant will be at your disposal.
Siro-Abhyanaga or Herbal scalp massage was a popular traditional practice which used to be in our Dinacharya. Medicated oils like Chandanaadi Thailam (sesame oil infused with various grounding herbs like sandal, vetiver etc) if applied gently over scalp will not just reduce stress but even improve focus and quality of sleep. 5-7 minutes of massage that ends with squeeze and roll motion over the back of neck and shoulder followed by 2-3 minutes of neck exercises works like magic. This is the simpler form of Sirodhara which involves pouring of medicated oil over the forehead in a continuous, oscillating manner.
Medhya Rasayanas are unique category of herbs which are effective in promoting intellect and nourishing the neurological system. Herbs like Ashwagandha (withania somnifera, Brahmi (bacopa monieri) and Sankha Pushpi (convolvulus pluricaulis) are medhya rasayanas that are time tested in providing tranquility of mind.
Stress management in Ayurveda and yoga is in short not just relaxation treatments, massages and meditations, but an overall understanding of the individual and sustaining a balance to fortify ourselves in the course of the stressful external situations. Stress is an essential part of life, without which is like an engine without fuel. Controlling your speed and acceleration is the trick to avoid burn out.