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Ayurveda and Mental Health

Vaidya M. P. Nanal (Ayurved Foundation)
Mental Disorder
  • The study of mental health constitutes one of the eight divisions of Ayurveda. Due to various historical circumstances this study is now confined to a few families scattered all over the country, and now survives mainly as an oral tradition.
  • Even a cursory glance at the symptomatology of any physical disease will reveal that many symptoms are not purely physical. Similarly, psychological diseases also exhibit a lot of symptoms which are not purely psychological. The line defining something as ‘Purely physical or psychological’ is indeed very thin. Therefore one must realize that the body and the mind, though different, are inseparably linked to each other.
  • The important qualities of the mind are satwa, rajas and tamas. These three balance each other, giving rise to a healthy situation of the mind.
  • Satwa is responsible for knowledge, acquisition, distribution and reasoning/analyzing.
  • Rajas is the initiator and provides the impetus essential for initiation of thought. This gets converted to a deed/word after a judicious use of desire, effort and memory.
  • Tamas due to its occluding nature provides a calming, soothing effect and in a normal stage becomes the brake which controls the overactive rajas and reasoning satwa.
  • A balance of these three is essential for a healthy state of mind. When this balance is lost totally we have mental disorders, or if it tilts in any one direction we have conditions like anger, anxiety and trepidation, which are normal emotions but exhibited in an intensive manner.
Ayurveda treatment for mental disorders
  • In Ayurveda, stress is laid on prevention of diseases and curative aspects play a secondary role. Therefore great emphasis is laid on correct behavior, proper diet, attending to natural urges, control of psychological activity and the observance of daily as well as seasonal regimen to prevent diseases. Any compromise or failure to observe any of these measures culminates in disease.
  • The modality of treatment for the management of manasroga has been classified into three categories daivavyapashraya, satwavajaya and yuktivyapashraya.
  • Daivavyapashraya includes chanting of mantras, performances of various homas (sacrifices) prescribed where herbs along with various ingredients like rice, ghee and raisins are offered to fire. Also upavasa (fasting), niyama (strict behavioral regimen like observance of celibacy, eating certain things while avoiding others), pranipata (offering salutation or prayers to the deities and penance) and prayaschitta (atonement) play an important role in controlling the tamas and rajas activity of the mind, establishing a satwa predominant state which is essential for the normal and healthy functioning of the mind.
  • Satwavajaya involves efforts to control the abnormal mental activity by practice of yama (code of conduct), niyama (strict behavioral regimen), asana (various yogic postures which are helpful in imparting stability to both body and mind) and pranyama (control of breath) which make it easier for the prana to circulate freely throughout the body thereby removing various blockages which causes disease and dhyana (meditation and concentration).
  • Yuktivyapashraya, this modality involves the judicious use of medicines and diet. It is broadly classified into two groups namely shodhana and shamana.

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