With our non-stop busy lifestyles, and the pressures of balancing work, family and financial responsibilities, many of us are no strangers toanxiety and panic attacks. Both these conditions manifest due to a rajasic or agitated state of mind that, according to Ayurvedic principles is the result of a vata derangement. Vata is the dosha governed by air and ether (or space) and an imbalance of this dosha is symbolic of a mind or thoughts that can be blown in any direction. This makes sense as when we begin to feel anxious we are often worrying about something that never ends up happening, and our fears were really just a manifestation of our wandering and unfocused mind.
Often we may not even realize that we are suffering from anxiety as we feel just mildly stressed or unsettled. However, if anxiety remains unchecked and we continue to allow our thoughts to be plagued with fabricated worries or fears, the physical symptoms of anxiety can become debilitating with significant impacts on daily life. Irrational and excessive worries or fears are often the first indications of anxiety from a vata derangement. Other emotional symptoms that can interfere with the quality of daily life include irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, feelings of apprehension or dread and anticipating the worst. Physical symptoms often include fatigue, headache, insomnia, pounding heart, dizziness, upset stomach with alternating loose bowels and constipation, muscle tension and shortness of breath.
Ayurvedic remedies including yoga and pranayama are extremely effective natural ways to deal with anxiety and vata derangement:
- An ayurvedic full-body oil massage with warm sesame, coconut or sunflower oil can help reduce anxiety.
- If you don’t have time for a full body massage you can create a mini-massage by rubbing some sesame oil on the scalp and then spend a few minutes rubbing it in to the soles of the feet
- Warm unsweetened almond milk can help calm anxiety
- A combination of standardized passion flower extract and standardized valerian extract are extremely effective at calming anxiety and any related conditions.
- Ashwaganda is the primary strengthening tonic in ayurvedic medicine and is considered an adaptogen – a tonic that helps the body naturally adapt to physical, mental and emotional stress
- Chamomile tea is a gentle nervine and helps with relaxation. Try breathing in the steam from the tea as you steep it to help relax and calm frazzled nerves.
- Brahmi is an ayurvedic herb that has been used for anxiety, stress and insomnia and is known for inducing a sense of calm and peace. Many ayurvedic or herbal shops will carry this herb.
Yoga and Pranayama
- Flowing yoga asana practice can help burn off nervous energy that often contributes to anxiety.
- Balancing postures such as ardha chandrasana (half-moon pose) are an excellent way to find balance in both the body and the mind.While we focus on balancing and holding ourselves steady in this posture, there is little room for focus on unfounded fears.
- Inversions help to calm vata and reduce anxiety.For example, Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) is a gentle restorative inversion.
- Pranayama with lengthening on the exhale helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system that helps us “rest and digest”. You can find this breath seated or lying down and then inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of six. You can lengthen the exhale up to a count of eight or ten if comfortable.
Wishing you a calm, clear mind that is free of unfounded fears,
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Adrienne Kelly-Durys is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, 500Hr RYT and lover of feeling good in mind and body. She teaches Yoga and wellness classes at Balanced Life Yoga and specializes in detoxing and nourishment. Classes include Power Hour Yoga, Power Yoga Vibe, Power Hour +Bonus and Holistic Nutritional Consulting.