In my last post I explained anxiety ayurvedically, as “excess vata in the mind”. Vata is the energy of movement. Anxiety arises as a result of too much movement in the mind, i.e. unbridled thinking. This is really what I have observed in myself, my friends and my clients: anxiety can always be traced back to a thought (or a hundred of them!), a fearful thought, often related to the future, and most of all a thought that we believe and react to. So, how do you keep the mind from thinking those thoughts? You don’t. Trying to control one’s thoughts is the last thing you want to do, for it will instead feed the very thoughts you are trying to get rid of. Instead you go the roundabout way.
Balance with opposite qualities.
Vata is inherently a light, subtle, cool and mobile energy. In the case of anxiety those qualities are present in excess in one’s mind (as well as the body it lives in) causing it to spin and slip in the direction of overthinking, worry, fear and anxiety. How do you return to balance? By feeding the same body-mind (you) the exact opposite qualities: heavy, dense, warm and slow. This healing approach is central to ayurveda and based on the twin laws of “like increases like” and “unlike decreases like”. Those are best explained with a simple example.
Let’s say you often feel chilly. It’s fall, the temperatures have dropped suddenly but the heat in your apartment is not working, that only adds to your feeling chilly. You keep getting caught outside too lightly dressed. You keep drinking cold beverages and eating salads as you’ve done all summer. In addition to all that, you just lost a major client and are worried about not being able to pay your bills (worry, like fear and anxiety is a constricting, tightening emotion, considered cold energetically). Can you see the accumulation of “cold” happening? This is the law of "like increases like" at work. Obviously your first remedies would be to get a space heater and wear layers! Next:
- Eat warm and mildly spiced foods.
- Do saunas or steams.
- Sip on hot tea (ginger, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg...)
- Move your body to warm your body.
- Hang out with people who genuinely care about you (heart-warming effect).
- Lastly, adhere to a regular mindfulness practice to develop perspective on challenging life situations and lessen worry.
Keep in mind that ayurveda is a highly individualized medicine. Given the same imbalance remedies will vary from person to person according to their unique constitution, age, activity level etc...
How do you bring more “heavy, dense, warm and slow” into your everyday life?
Here are some ways:
- Slow down your physical activity. (rest more, more often, practice yoga nidra)
- Slow down your eating.
- Slow down your breathing.
- Get enough sound sleep.
- Eat a predominantly warm, nourishing diet.
- Apply warm sesame or almond oil on your body in the evening, follow with a hot shower.
- Commit to a moderate exercise regimen, the kind that leaves you replenished (vs. depleted)
- Practice healthy stress-relieving activities.
- Hang out with loving and supportive people.
Notice how nothing in this list addresses thinking head-on. That's the roundabout way I mentioned earlier. Yet any one of those practices will coax your mind to a calmer place. The catch? You need to commit. So I’m going to challenge you to pick one, just one practice, whichever feels easiest to implement (for me it will be to eat slower). Stick to it for a week, preferably two. With steady repetition you'll create a predictable rhythm your nervous system can relax into. You’ll feel more grounded, less in your head and enjoying the here and now a lot more.
Please let me know how it goes in the comment section below.
Warm hug xo
(ps. if you need help figuring it all for your specific needs I'm happy to help.)