Ayurveda prescribes remedies tailored to your individual constitution for managing stress. These include dinacharya, a daily routine for a disciplined and healthy life; panchakarma or detoxification therapies such as virechana (purgation using herbs), vasti (medicated enemas), and nasyam (nasal administration of oils); yoga; dietary practices to balance your doshas; rejuvenating and adaptogenic herbs such as brahmi and ashwagandha etc; and adherence to moral practices. Read ayurvedic treatments for stress relief.
Work, family, relationships, traffic, and the odd little curveball that life throws your way – it can be difficult to escape stress. A little stress may not be so bad because you tend to put in that little extra effort to excel. But chronic stress can have adverse effects physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can leave you feeling irritable, overwhelmed, or anxious, and even shoot down your self-esteem. Constant stress can also cause physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, and sleeping problems.
According to Ayurveda, an excess of “rajas” lies at the root of stress. Rajas is one of the three gunas or qualities that are universal in nature. It stands for passion and activity. (The other two gunas are “sattva,” which indicates goodness or purity, and “tamas” which stands for inertia.) Excessive rajas results in craving, attachment, and desire, which in turn lead to stress. Now, depending on your constitution, this vitiates the doshas or elements present in your body.
Ayurveda identifies three doshas which are present in varying degrees in an individual’s constitution – vata (air), pitta (fire), or kapha (earth). Therefore, the remedies prescribed by Ayurveda for stress management are tailored to your individual constitution. An Ayurvedic practitioner will chalk out a regimen for you based on the following remedies.
1. Dinacharya: The Daily Routine
Dinacharya means daily routine in Sanskrit. People who follow a wholesome daily routine with discipline are likely to be healthy. This can also reduce everyday stress to a great extent. It is advisable to follow a dietary routine which facilitates easy digestion and absorption, which again is helpful in maintaining a balance in doshas. When the doshas are out of whack, it can cause chronic strain-related problems.
A detailed regimen that covers most daily aspects has been laid down in Ayurveda. This includes practices like waking up a couple of hours before sunrise at brahma muhurat, starting the day by evacuating your bowels, sipping water, cleaning your teeth and your senses. This is to be followed by self oil massage, exercise, a bath with lukewarm water, and so on.
2. Dosha Balancing Diet
If you are experiencing an imbalance in your doshas, an Ayurvedic practitioner might advise tweaks your diet to bring them back into harmony.
In case of a vata imbalance, recommended foods include nuts, rice, and milk products which are thought to warm you; airy, dry foods like popcorn may be restricted. In case pitta is out of balance, you may be advised to have cooling foods like melons and cucumber and avoid spicy or astringent foods like chilli peppers, tomatoes, or cranberries. Meanwhile, those with a kapha imbalance may be encouraged to consume eggplant, cranberries, or cherries and avoid nuts and sweets.
3. Panchakarma Detox Therapies
Panchakarma therapy is a treatment meant to evacuate vitiated dosha and detoxify your mind and body. Many techniques can be used for this. But before undertaking these detoxifying therapies, pre-purification therapies are generally suggested to prepare you for detox. These practices can be really helpful not only in relieving stress but also in maintaining and enhancing your mental and physical health.
Some of the following therapies may be used in Ayurveda to prepare you for detoxifying therapies:
This is an oleation therapy which involves taking ghee medicated with ingredients like mustard, sandalwood, neem, ginger, gooseberry etc. on an empty stomach.
This therapy involves continuously pouring a stream of warm medicated oil on the body as well as massage with the medicated oil. It is meant to induce active perspiration.
This involves the application of a paste of medicinal herbs on the whole body or certain parts. Common ingredients like dry ginger and sesame can also be used to make medicinal pastes.
This is a practice where warm medicated oil is gently poured in a continuous stream on the forehead. It is thought to work mainly on the mental sheath or manomayakosha. The mental sheath is the place where the mind holds on to past impressions and where imbalanced desires (vasanas) and habits (samskaras) are formed.
During this therapy, medicated milk is rhythmically poured over your forehead or body. Herbs like nut grass tuber, gooseberry, winter cherry, sandalwood etc. are used to infuse the milk with medicinal properties.
Nasyam, virechanam, and vasti are panchakarma treatments which are commonly adopted for managing stress.
This therapy involves pouring medicated oil into the nostrils. It is thought to open up channels, enabling the herbal extracts to work directly on your central nervous system. Sesame oil, blended with herbs like bael, sida plants, and vitex, is typically used during this treatment. A session usually takes between 20–30 minutes.
During this therapy, evacuation of the bowels is initiated through herbs. This helps eliminate toxic wastes. Generally, herbs like dry ginger, embellia fruits, cardamom, cinnamon, and long pepper are used for this purpose.
Vasti is enema therapy which is designed to cleanse your colon. Medicines are introduced into the body through the anal route for evacuating accumulated metabolic wastes and toxins.
Yoga is a holistic system of mind–body practices which can help you deal with stress. It incorporates practices like controlled breathing (pranayama), beneficial physical postures (asana), and meditation (dhyana) which work to keep both your body and mind healthy and alleviate stress.
5. Rasayana: The Path To Rejuvenation
Ayurvedic texts also describe rasayana therapies to rejuvenate and nourish the body and mind. The use of beneficial herbs is especially important in this aspect.
Some rasayanas or herbal prescriptions are organ-specific. Those specific to the brain, known as medhya rasayana, are particularly known for their adaptogenic and anti-stress properties. They are also considered to be helpful in regenerating neural tissues, retarding the aging of your brain, and enhancing memory. Popular medhya rasayanas like brahmi ( Bacopa monnieri Linn), sankhapuspi (Convolvulus pluricaulis Chois ), mandukaparni ( Centella asiatica Linn), and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera Dunal) are known to have antioxidant properties that can protect against the damaging effects of free radicals.
6. Sadvritta: Good Conduct
Ayurveda also considers sadvritta or good social, mental, religious, and moral conduct helpful in avoiding and overcoming fatigue and stress. This includes principles like speaking the truth, not harming others, being polite and courteous, and controlling your emotions and temper.