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. But if your client is experiencing anxiety even during routine situations like crossing a road, attending a social event or making minor daily decisions, and it starts to negatively impact their life, it is now an 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 sanhita, 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.
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 Tama. If Raja and Tama 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 Tama. Here are six ways to do just that!
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.
Be happy, be healthy!
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