Anxiety, or Manovibhrama in Sanskrit, is a natural emotion that everyone experiences. It is normal to feel anxious before an exam, stage appearance or when making an important decision. Once the out-of-the-ordinary experience is over, it is also natural that any anxiety fades too. However, if you experience prolonged anxiety during routine situations like crossing a road, attending a social event or making minor daily decisions, and it negatively impacts your life you may have anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is nothing but an emotion – and yet it is an incredibly powerful one that can also have immediate and long-term effects on the physical body like heart palpitations, sweating, nausea and premature aging.
As an Ayurvedic professional, it’s important for you to know what Ayurveda says about Manovibhrama: what are its root causes? What Doshas create and sustain it?
Ayurveda explains many psychological diseases under Unmada, known in English as insanity. Anxiety is a preliminary sign of Unmada. Interestingly enough, Manovibhrama is defined as “thinking about the unthinkable/unreal” and “not thinking about the thinkable or real.”
Charaka Samhita, one the oldest written texts on Ayurveda, explains the working mechanism that is the mind and physical body. The mind obtains information about the surrounding environment through the five senses. The mind then processes this information with the thought process and comes up with what it thinks the consequences of these environmental factors will be in regard to itself and others around it. Once the possible consequences are deduced, Buddhi, the intellect, decides the best action to take. The decision is then executed by Vata Dosha through the physical body. So because Vata is the initiator and controller of every action inside the physical body (even the mind depends on Vata to function), if Vata is imbalanced, it`s flow is disturbed and all the processes of the physical body as well as the mind will be negatively impacted.
If the consequences that the mind thinks will happen are negative or, more often than not, “unreal,” anxiety will be created. Below are four examples.
- The mind is unable to perceive the reality of the situation: Being in a closed room is dangerous instead of safe (claustrophobia)
- The mind is unable to perceive realistic consequences: Failing a test in school is probable even after studying; failing an exam means everything else they do in life will fail as well
- The intellect is unable to make a decision or makes decisions out of fear instead of rational thought: Not able to decide whether to act or not; deciding to not move forward with an opportunity out of fear of failure even though they may have proven themselves capable to succeed
- Vata Dosha is unable to act or can’t act properly: Nausea and vomiting when trying to act; shaking hands while taking an exam
These examples also give us an idea about how the Doshas are involved in anxiety. The mind, Manas, has two Sub-Doshas of its own, Raja and Tamas. If Raja and Tamas are aggravated, the mind will be unable to perceive reality and realistic consequences or make decisions.
There are also two predisposing factors for anxiety: Hina satva, weak mind/character, and Abhighata, trauma. A person with Hina satva has low mental and emotional strength and can’t face adversity, danger or temptation with courage and fortitude. This person is more prone to anxiety disorders. Also there are two types of Abhighata: psychological trauma or actual physical trauma to the brain.
An example of psychological trauma is Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is well established and hardly needs an introduction. The mind is also especially unstable after a severe emotional trauma like the death of a loved one or a near-death experience. If this person doesn’t get emotional support near the time of the traumatic event, Vata can become extremely unbalanced from the constant fear, and they can sink into depression and/or anxiety.
An actual head trauma aggravates Vata as well and can lead to anxiety and other mental disorders even after the physical wounds heal.
Even mild forms of anxiety, if left untreated, can result in a Vata imbalance and ultimately, Unmada. But thankfully, Ayurveda helps us to understand the process behind the creation of anxiety and thus provides a holistic treatment process.
Once the underlying causes and the predisposing factors behind the anxiety are identified, the treatments should be focused on increasing mental and emotional strength, balancing Vata, Raja and Tamas. Here are six ways to do just that!
- Practice Yoga nidra with Sankalpa (resolve) to increase mental strength and heal phobias
- Practice mindfulness and being always in the present moment
- Practice Pranayama (yogic breathing practices)
- Consistent, loving support from family and friends
- Use Vata Dosha-pacifying products such as Dhanwantaram Oil, Dasamulaharitaki Leham and Maha Rasnadi Kwatham
- Supplements like Brahmi Ghritam, Jatamayadi Ghritam and Manasamitra Vatakam nourish the nervous system and boost immunity.
Anxiety takes away the freedom to think, act and live life to the fullest. Follow Ayurvedic and Yogic daily practices to regain your mental strength and the freedom you deserve to have.
Disclaimer The purpose of this article is to provide information about Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have serious acute or chronic health problems, please consult a trained health professional or physician. If you are seeking the health advice of a certified Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor, please call us at (800) 215 – 9934 or email us. We will provide you with the contact information of our affiliated Ayurvedic professionals. Check with your physician before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.