One of the many reasons why I started studying Ayurvedic psychology in the first place was because I had hit a dead-end in my marriage! My ex-husband became really ill after the birth of our daughter. There would be good days and then many, many bad ones!! I constantly walked on eggshells around him. With a newborn baby, managing his mental health became intolerable and dangerous for my daughter and I. At this point, I tried to get help from any source I could possibly think of - only to quickly realize there is actually not that much help, support and understanding out there for mental health issues. Things became so bad, that within 5 months of my daughter's birth we were homeless. I lived with bags in my car, and drove from shelter to shelter while he lived in our home. We survived. But needless to say, my marriage ended and his mental health is in a very fragile place. What I realized and learned through this experience is that dealing with mental illness doesn’t have to be like this. There are many tools that can help us get through our struggles with these issues.
Our world is moving faster and faster all the time! We are constantly bombarded by information, advertising, images and sounds. Our poor sense organs never get to rest, and that resting of our nervous system, is necessary for our mental, physical and emotional well-being.
This ‘resting state’ is what Patanjali called Pratyahara or inward meditation of the 5 sense organs, which we often forget to do or become incapable of doing in some cases. This new “norm” of life has seen an increase in the use of anti-depressants by 400% since the 1990’s alone!
Though the mental health has been a taboo subject for many years in western society, Ayurveda, a 10,000-year-old science, has always placed a strong focus on its importance to a person’s overall well-being. Ayurveda seeks to determine the root causes of mental illness and effectively address those first prior to bandaging the symptoms.
Ayurveda stands by its definition of health, in which a healthy mind plays an important role. Being a holistic science, Ayurveda explores the symbiotic relationship among the mind, body, soul, the senses and their workings. It approaches mental health in the following way:
The human being is a constitution of the mind, body, soul and senses, also called Manas, Sharira, Atman and Indriyas. This includes psychological senses (Gyanendriya) and physical organs (Karmendriya). The dynamics of these primary constituents govern the health of a person.
Manas is a constitution of three operational qualities: Satva, Rajas and Tamas. Also called gunas, these define the character or tatva of a person. Satva guna is an amalgamation of all things positive – self-control, knowledge, power to determine right and wrong in life. The qualities of Rajas (when out of balance) guna are to be in motion, violent, envious, authoritative, desirous and confused. The characteristics of Tamas are being dull, inactive, lazy, sleepy or drowsy. Of these gunas, Rajasand Tamas are referred as Manodoshas. The imbalance of Satva, Rajas and Tamas are responsible for mental illness, known as Manovikara.
Ayurveda produces significant results as a complimentary treatment method to allopathy, in disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADD and ADHD. There have been studies conducted where the dependency on allopathic medicine was reduced with a simultaneous increase in the Ayurveda remedies. Ayurveda has been regarded an alternative treatment for physical illnesses, but it is only now that it is being considered an alternative/complementary care for mental illnesses.
Stress is now known, through modern research, to be one of the main root causes of many mental disorders. In addition to stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, unhealthy habits (like drug and alcohol use and many other addictive behaviors), and lack of sufficient rest, are additional risk factors for the development (or exacerbation of) mental illnesses. Unfortunately, our current healthcare system is sorely lacking in effective methodologies for reducing stress and finding a way to motivate patients to improve their diet, get more exercise and rest, and to reduce unhealthy habits. Unhealthy habits are often desperate attempts to cope with stress. Stress reduction often results in the ability to make healthier life choices. This ancient and fascinating science uses natural methods to prevent, control and treat mental health. Dina-Charyas or ‘daily regimen’; Ahara, which is our freshly nutritious cooked meals; and Vihara, which is our ‘lifestyle’: Yoga, meditation and herbal therapy, are used for healing of the mind, body and spirit.
To learn more, check out www.parasmoghtader.com. Paras is the Owner/Director of Moksha Yoga Brampton in Ontario, Canada and also conducts Ayurvedic private consultations and workshops.