Ayurveda means the ‘science of life’ and its wisdom is essentially about healthy living and treating disease. Originally passed by word of mouth, the knowledge was eventually written in Sanskrit by Charak, Sushruta, and Vagbhata.
The modern pandemic of 2020 known as the Coronavirus has consumed the human mind with more thoughts of ill health and the constant dilemma of how to be healthy. This article focuses on mental wellbeing, as it is clear mind that enables ‘healthy living.’
Physical Exercise as proclaimed by modern science is essential for the functioning of the body. Ayurveda encourages that the exercise is performed with a feeling of happiness and joy; and this allows for optimum benefit. Physical movement and exercise incites diligence, resilience, lightness to be able to deal with demanding activities of modern day living. Physical exercise stimulates the Agni, the inner fire for the healthy functioning of the metabolism and immune system. Excessive exercise can be counter-productive, as it can result in fatigue, exhaustion and weight loss; thereby adding stress to the body’s organs.
Habits are critical for wellness and Ayurveda works on the principle of gradually replacing habits that are not good for well being yields results that are sustainable, rather than extreme changes, The gradual process involves replacing one quarter of unhealthy habits by adopting one quarter habits that are beneficial. This process can be repeated over a period of 2-3 days. The body gets accustomed to the habits of the mind. Sudden changes can shock the body. Any new habits adopted with joy has an enduring positive benefit. For instance, alcoholics who stop drinking immediately can faint easily and similarly with drug addicts. Gradual withdrawal and reduction in dosages are more helpful and advantageous; and the change is sustainable.
Ayurveda confirms that the original state of the mind is ‘sattvic’, meaning clear and harmonious. This state can be disturbed because of negative thoughts, compulsive greed and an unhealthy diet. The modern day mind is like a ‘Petri dish’ breeding bacteria of unhealthy ways of living and being. The ‘sattvic’ mode is inevitably transitions to a ‘rajasic’ state (restless and agitated) and often to tamasic state (lethargic and resistant). Mental Wellness, therefore is dependent on how much sattva has been developed and the predominance of rajas and tamas can lead to psychological problems!
The Sattva qualities are aligned to the energy of harmony and clarity, bringing stability and contentment to life. It is the dominant characteristic of a healthy mind. The characteristics include: adaptablility, eloquent, enthusiastic, positive, courageous, independent, intelligent, sympathetic, calm, contented and humble.
The Rajas qualities are connected to movement and agitation. The energy here is of expansion, agitation and passion. Rajas is important to catalyse change, though can be deluding and some of the qualities include: anxiousness, indecisiveness, restlessness, unreliability, aggressiveness; as well as being judgemental, manipulative, vain, compulsive, dependent, jealous and materialistic.
The Tamas qualities are linked to inertia and contradiction. This can create ignorance and resistance to positive change and well being can be compromised. A Tamasic person may have the traits of being: depressed, dishonest, prone to addiction, be submissive, be dull, be hateful and apathetic.
As with the physical body, the mind too requires exercise. Introspection helps to recognise the state of one’s mindset, and this in turn helps to create awareness of dominant patterns.
Be the witness of your thoughts. You will enjoy lasting peace. Swami Sivananda
The following exercise is one of many that mindfulness practitioners have adapted and its inspiration is from the Dharana principle of Patanjali. (Patanjali known as the father of Yoga).
- Relax the mind and the body and focus on the present moment and breath. Can be done sitting up right on a chair or on the floor in cross legged or lotus posture.
- Shift the focus internally by visualising and open space or water without waves.
- Observe the mind and witness the quality of thoughts and emotions.
- Let negative and disturbing thoughts come and go by focussing on the breathing.
- With every exhale, visualise all negative thoughts leaving the mind.
Ayurveda is the knowledge of happy and unhappy, a good and bad life, and it contributes to the right way of living, material wealth, consciousness and pleasures of life. Charaka