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Nurturing Mental Wellness: Daily Practices for Mind Care

Across cultures and civilizations, humans have sought various avenues to understand and optimize their physical, mental, and emotional health. From ancient healing practices rooted in natural remedies and spiritual traditions to modern scientific advancements in medicine and technology, the journey toward health has been marked by continuous exploration and innovation. 

Along this journey, individuals navigate a complex setting of lifestyle choices, preventive measures, and medical interventions, seeking to achieve a state of balance and resilience. As our understanding of human biology and the interconnectedness of mind and body deepens, so too does our approach to health, emphasizing holistic well-being and personalized care. The search for health is not merely a pursuit of longevity but a quest for quality of life, encompassing physical vitality, mental clarity, emotional resilience, and spiritual fulfillment.


Ayurveda defines health as a state of equilibrium of the body’s humor (doshas), tissues (dhatus), and wastes (malas). Above all, it emphasizes that experiencing joy and cheerfulness in one's senses, mind, and soul is paramount for maintaining good health.


As a student of Ayurveda, we delve into the intricacies of anatomy starting with a profound exploration of the soul and mind before delving into the physical body. This approach is not only fascinating but also deeply enriching. It underscores the holistic perspective of Ayurveda, which acknowledges the interconnectedness of the spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of human existence. Understanding the soul and mind as foundational elements before studying the body, reflects the comprehensive nature of Ayurvedic teachings and highlights the importance of addressing the entirety of the human experience in pursuit of optimal health and well-being. Sattvavajaya Chikitsa is a branch of Ayurvedic medicine that focuses on mental purification and the management of psychological disorders through the regulation and enhancement of the Sattva Guna (quality of purity, clarity, and harmony) of the mind. ‘Manas’ means Mind, also known as ‘Sattva’, avajaya means to win or conquer and chikitsa means treatment. Therefore, “Sattvavajaya” means overcoming the mind or victory over the mind. Winning over the unhealthy tendencies of the mind through certain treatments is called ‘Sattvavajaya chikitsa’. 


When it comes to body organ disorder, understanding the root cause of imbalance is crucial for effective healing. By identifying which organ or system is affected, we can tailor our approach to address the specific needs of the body. This involves adopting a holistic approach that includes dietary adjustments, lifestyle modifications, exercise, and, when necessary, medication to correct the imbalance and promote overall health and well-being.


Similarly, when it comes to mental imbalances, understanding the mechanism and functioning of the mind, makes it somewhat simpler to navigate the process of mental healing.


Understanding the Physiology of Mind:


Prakruti, or Matter, is the main reason for everything in the material world. According to Ayurveda, everything in the world, like our body, mind, senses, and intellect, are limited and rely on each other. This means that everything has a cause, and Prakruti is said to be the cause of creation. Prakruti makes up Trigunas, the three qualities of the mind: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.


These three Gunas (qualities), in varying proportions, shape the mental and intellectual capacity of everyone. Gunas reflect the mindset with which the human mind operates, and the dominance of a particular Guna determines one's personality. 


The highest of the three qualities is Sattva, characterized by purity. It engenders happiness, wisdom, and illumination. It gives our mind the quality of intellect, clarity, compassion, consciousness, balance, virtue, goodness, stability, awakening, wideness, peace, and love that unites all things.


The second quality, Rajas, which is action. It denotes turbulence, seeking goals, and power, which leads to fragmentation and disintegration, and provides short-term pleasure. Due to its restless nature, it results in pain and suffering, leading to distress, and conflict.


The third, known as Tamas, is the most undesirable, stemming from ignorance and leading to darkness, lethargy, and delusion. Tamas is inertia, dullness, heaviness, obstruction, ignorance, insensitivity, loss of awareness, sleep, and laziness.


Each one of us has these three attributes. We need them all to function and carry out our day-to-day activities. The difference is which attribute dominates. The more the Sattva guna, the calmer and steadier the mind. The more the Rajas, the more the activity and restlessness, and the more the Tamas, the more the lethargy and negativity of the mind. Our goal of mental wellness can be achieved by making the Sattva guna more predominant. 


Where should we begin, and which actions should we take to achieve a state of calmness in the mind?


The initial step entails mastering control over our senses, which serves as the cornerstone for achieving a well-balanced mind. Continuously bombarding the mind with sensory impulses can lead to mental fatigue and exhaustion. A fatigued mind, in turn, swiftly exhausts the body. Overexposure to electronic devices such as laptops and phone screens strains the eyes, while constant exposure to auditory stimuli like music or prolonged meetings strains the ears. Too much talking, frequent snacking, and irregular mealtimes strain the tongue, while prolonged exposure to sunlight and extreme weather conditions strains the skin. Similarly, exposing oneself to a plethora of different aromas constitutes an overuse of the sense of smell.


Here are the five steps we can take for the ‘feel good’ journey:


Step 1 – Sleep: Allows the sense organs to take timely rest.

A disciplined daily routine is crucial for accelerating and enjoying our journey towards a happier state of mind. When we honor the circadian rhythms, we align ourselves with nature, not just externally but also within our body’s cells. As the saying goes, "early to bed and early to rise makes a man/woman healthy, wealthy, and wise." However, in today's fast-paced world filled with work, travel, study, and social media, maintaining such a routine can be challenging. Yet, it is essential for our mental health that we prioritize this crucial step rather than compromise it.

Every body type has a specific demand for sleep. For example, individuals with Vata personalities tend to be light sleepers. Taking naps benefits them and waking up slightly later than sunrise suits them well. On the other hand, Pitta personalities function best with 7-8 hours of sleep. Those with Kapha tendencies may tend to sleep longer, but they need to wake up earlier, before sunrise, to enjoy optimal energy levels.


Without accomplishing this step of sleeping on time and waking up on time, it is challenging to see the optimum benefits. Reestablishing the habit of timely sleep involves considering various aspects, mainly stress, night shifts for work, racing thoughts, late working schedules, and medications. Ayurveda offers comprehensive tools to support this endeavor.


Step 2 – Food: Nourishes the sense organs 

Food carries the same qualities as Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, and they impart the same qualities to our body and mind.


Examples of Sattvic food – are freshly cooked whole grains and lentils; raw, steamed, or adequately cooked or sauteed vegetables; fresh fruits; milk; butter; and ghee to name a few. These are easy to digest and are a source of nourishment and energy.


Rajasic food - all types of processed foods, overly cooked foods, foods with too many spices, fast food, and junk foods come in this variety. These foods are addictive. We tend to crave them more as they create more desires and give short-term pleasure. This usually results in diminishing the efficacy of cellular metabolism, which is the reason for the formation of toxins (Ama). Too much intake of Rajasic food can make a person agitated, angry, anxious, restless, distressed, and hyperactive.


Tamasic food - frozen, tinned, canned foods, precooked foods available in cartons with additives and preservatives, leftovers, food with long shelf life, and packed frozen meals come under this variety. This food will be filling at the superficial level and is labeled with the same nutritional facts as fresh foods. However, these foods are dangerous to our bodies and minds. They are very heavy to digest and are responsible for toxins (Ama formation), resulting in laziness, negativity, depression, lethargy, and weight gain.


The goal is to eat freshly cooked meals with longer gaps between two meals and avoid snacking on processed foods. Following the list of incompatible food combinations that are mentioned in Ayurvedic texts helps to reduce the formation of toxins and maintains cellular metabolism. The tongue is a sensory and motor organ. The tongue's propensity for indulgence, whether in the form of excessive speech or overconsumption of food, can hinder progress toward self-realization. Hence, mastering control over the tongue becomes essential in navigating the spiritual journey, fostering discipline, restraint, and mindfulness in our actions and interactions.


Step 3 – Breath:  Cleanses the sense organs 

We often overlook the importance of breathing in our daily lives. However, if we take just a day to pay attention to our breathing, we'll notice numerous instances when we experience pauses between breaths, rapid or irregular breathing, shallow breaths, interruptions, or even one nostril being blocked. These variations occur because our thoughts influence our breathing patterns. Calming down our thoughts is not always easy. Recognizing this challenge, ancient seers devised a clever strategy: by slowing down our breathing, we can naturally slow down our thinking processes.


Pranayama practices (yogic breathing techniques) are the best way to expand your potential to breathe and improve blood circulation, and life longevity. It establishes an equilibrium between your body and mind. Meditation is a step ahead of these breathing techniques where we allow ourselves to relax mentally by not thinking at all. This can be difficult to achieve. Hence, Asthang yoga (eight limbs of yoga) is the path to get to that point. Ashtanga yoga (Yama, Niyam, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) paves the path towards meditation and ultimately, to salvation. 


Step 4 – Cleansing: Builds control over the sense organs 

To adopt the practices mentioned above, it is essential to regularly cleanse both the body and mind. Body cleansing can be achieved through various methods, and in this article, we will focus on one that can be easily done by anyone, Fasting (Upavasa).


However, it is crucial to understand who should fast, for how long, and what to eat/drink during the fasting period. It's important to note that individuals taking medication or suffering from any illness should consult an Ayurvedic physician for guidance before attempting any type of fasting. The recommendations provided here are for healthy individuals.


Air fast: This involves abstaining from any food. This type of fasting can be suitable for individuals with a predominant Kapha personality. Kapha individuals can sustain themselves for longer periods without food. Options such as air fasting, water fasting, or eating one small meal a day can be beneficial for them.


Juice fast: Perfect for Pitta-predominant personalities, this fasting method involves consuming fresh fruit or vegetable juice. Pitta personalities can opt for smaller, alkaline, pitta-balancing foods to achieve their fasting goals.


Light food fast: Vata predominant personality is often delicate and sensitive. They must fast under proper guidance. They should reduce snacking and consume smaller meals at regular intervals. 


By understanding one's predominant dosha and following appropriate fasting methods, individuals can effectively cleanse their bodies and promote overall well-being.


Step 5 – Boost your immune system using Herbs: Vitalizing the sense organs

Certain herbs such as Ashwagandha, Guduchi, Shatavari, Turmeric, Gokshura, Brahmi, and Pippali are categorized as rasayana herbs in Ayurveda. The term "rasayana" translates to "rejuvenation," indicating their ability to enhance vitality and promote overall health. These herbs are renowned for their capacity to improve cellular regeneration and support the body in building new, healthy cells. When taken regularly or seasonally under the guidance of an Ayurvedic physician, these rasayana herbs aid in maintaining balance among the doshas and nurturing the sattva guna, or the quality of purity and harmony.


By incorporating these herbs into one's routine, individuals can experience improved blood circulation, timely detoxification, and enhanced nourishment, all of which are crucial for achieving and maintaining the overall balance and well-being of the body and mind.

Psychotherapy (Sattvavajaya Chikitsa) in Ayurveda encompasses a rich and expansive realm, offering profound insights into improving lifestyle for better mental health. For beginners embarking on this journey, understanding Ayurveda's perspective on mental illness is paramount. Ayurveda probes deeply into various aspects of mental health, including anxiety, depression, manic issues, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and anger issues. It provides comprehensive explanations of these disorders along with therapies and herbs tailored to address each condition. By exploring Ayurvedic principles and practices, individuals can cultivate a holistic approach to mental well-being, integrating lifestyle modifications, therapies, and herbal remedies to promote balance and harmony in mind, body, and spirit.



Beena Vesikar

M.D. Ayu-India.



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