Ayurveda promotes mental well-being by bringing the body and mind back into balance through following the rhythms of nature.
“When the body becomes exhausted from living again the stream, we don’t have the energy, so we become anxious,” says Kripalu presenter and Ayurveda expert John Douillard. “And when we become totally exhausted, we become depressed.”
From an Ayurvedic perspective, depression and anxiety are symptoms of a system that is overtaxed and out of whack. Massage, nasal breathing, meditation, resetting our internal clock, doing yoga, and even eating warm foods can help us get out of that state of chronic imbalance.
Here are eight simple Ayurvedic practices to help reset your system.
- Abhyanga, daily self-massage with oil, calms the nervous system and boosts immunity by removing toxins that have traveled from our organs to the skin. As part of a daily routine, it also helps to lubricate muscles, tissues, and joints. Place oil in your nose and ears to help prevent sore throats, sinus congestion, and allergies.
- Nasal breathing while walking or exercising activates a calming vagal response and drives oxygen more efficiently into the lower lobes of the lungs, compared to mouth breathing.
- Try to move snack food to meal times and eat three meals a day.
- Get to bed before 10:00 pm. The longer you stay up past 10:00 pm, the more wired and exhausted you become.
- Eat warm cooked foods slowly and calmly to balance the nervous system.
- Do Sun Salutations slowly with deep nasal breathing to open the diaphragm. Just 10 minutes in the morning can have a dramatic impact.
- Do 30 seconds of Bhastrika, or Bellows Breath, followed by 30 seconds of sitting still with your eyes closed. Repeat up to 10 times a day to reset your nervous system. Bhastrika is a forceful breath in and out of the nose that fills the lungs. A study from the Department of Physiology at Nepal College concluded that slow-paced Bhastrika pranayama resulted in a significant decrease in blood pressure and a slight drop in heart rate in study participants.
- Consider bacopa, an herb that supports mood and emotional stability. Bacopa monnierihas been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to treat a host of ailments, including memory loss, depression, and poor concentration. According to Ayurveda, the inability to focus is connected to our energy levels because the mind and body require a certain amount of energy to settle down and focus. A 2002 study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found using Bacopa monnieri may improve memory. After three months, 76 participants ages 40 to 65 were better able to retain new information and didn’t forget it as quickly as the placebo group.