Holism is crucial
In psychosomatic diseases, Ayurveda focuses on a holistic view. Three healing methods can be applied: the rational method, the spiritual approach and psychotherapy. And also a regular, sattvic diet and lifestyle calm the troubled nervous system and strengthen the self-healing forces.
Humans have no influence on the autonomous nervous system. When it becomes overrun by chronic unprocessed stress and when logical thinking is turned off, the body takes the lead. It develops symptoms that cannot be controlled at will. The balance between the two regulative systems of the vegetative nervous system, i.e. sympathetic (tension) and parasympathetic (relaxation) is out of control and the vital adaptation of the body to changing living conditions no longer works.
The most important aspects of the treatment are stress reduction and regeneration. If this does not happen, psychosomatic illnesses can manifest and lead to organic findings.
Due to the holistic approach of Ayurveda, this medicine in fact always contains psychosomatic medicine. A look at the three healing methods applied in therapy makes this clear. As in other naturopathic methods, there are treatment methods focused on the physical level of existence resulting from scientific laws. They are referred to in Ayurveda as the rational forms of therapy Yukti, Vyapasraya and Cikitsa, which are directly used to heal the body. Particular attention is paid to balance all forces acting in the body through compensatory measures such as:
- Nutrition and herbalism (phytotherapy)
- Health advice, lifestyle, behavioral therapy
- Manual therapy
They all have the goal to remove slags and thus train self-awareness to strengthen the decisive power for: “What’s good for me, what harms me?” And “I take responsibility for my well-being and my health.”
When the psyche makes physically sick
Causes for psychosomatic disorders can be sadness, depression, anger, anxiety, stress, dissatisfaction, helplessness and loneliness. Skin, hair, musculoskeletal system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system and/or organs can be affected. When symptoms occur and no physical evidence can be found, often a long way of suffering begins with medication and examinations. Many sufferings may be alleviated symptomatically on a short-term basis, but the desire for a permanent relief is hardly met.
Idioms may describe the symptoms:
“It causes an upset stomach.”
“That gets on my nerves.”
“The grief broke my heart.”
“Take something to heart.”
“That rouses my bile.”
“To sit heavily on somebody’s stomach.”
“To have a lump in one’s throat.”
These idioms give useful hints to possible reasons for the disease, which should be followed thoroughly by asking specific questions such as: “What is so heavy in your stomach, that you cannot digest it? What has troubled you so much that your bile rouses? Why are you so irritated that you cannot talk?” Like that, indications may be given for further ways of treating the disease, which usually lead to an in-depth process work, which involves all levels (body-emotions-mind-soul).
Search for basic causes
In many cases preventive health care can help to avoid the manifestation of illness in the body. That is why in Ayurveda prevention and healing stand equally side by side. And surgery, too, is one of the purging measures of Ayurveda, for example: removal of foreign bodies, i.e. organic defects or tumors. After their elimination the symptom may have gone, but the question arises how this structural change and appearance of the disease came into existence.
In some cases external forceful impacts such as accidents may require surgery. Here the cause of the defect seems obvious. However, it might be interesting to look at the connection, meaning how the violent change is related to the current life situation of the respective person. Inappropriate lifestyle and diet, anxiety and stress, as well as restrictive education may unbalance the inherent powers and may lead to serious illnesses. In Ayurveda disorders on the emotional plane or wrong dealing with the senses are usually seen as the origin of mental complaints and physical illnesses.
Bringing people back to harmony with their original nature is one of the most important goals in Ayurveda. A positive attitude towards life supports good health and helps to recover. This is why in the Western world psychotherapy is given particular attention in Ayurveda. The fundament is based on the yogic principles. It is about recognizing and avoiding negative thoughts, memories and attitudes by breaking up and renewing old thought patterns and behavior in order to support the positive qualities of the mind Sattva (purity, clarity and intelligence). This is most important in the treatment of psychosomatic complaints. In European holistic naturopathy these approaches are also found. Ulrich Schaffer wrote: “Go ahead,” the soul said to the body, “he does not listen to me, maybe he listens to you.” – “I’ll get sick, then he’ll listen to you,” said the body to the soul.
In Ayurveda besides the rational therapy and psychotherapy, influences which seemingly remain hidden for the senses and which may not be explained through the laws of nature are also considered. Due to their effectiveness they are still maintained until today in Ayurvedic medicine. Spiritual therapy Daiva, Vyapasraya and Cikitsa treat symptoms based on past actions and karmic laws. These comprise ethic, ritual and spiritual methods such as prayers, holy recitations, astrology, astrologic therapy with precious stones, expiation, fire rituals, talisman and pilgrimage. Positive thinking i.e. affirmations may help to transform old patterns of thinking and belief, support to change emotions and deal with them in a constructive way.
“Ayurveda always includes Ppycho-somatic medicine.”
Ayurveda is therefore often criticized in medicine to be an unscientific method of therapy. However, the demand for these subtle healing methods is increasing in the so-called modern world. According to Indian Ayurveda practitioners, psychotherapy is given more consideration in the Western world than in its country of origin. Perhaps it is because religion and faith have lost their liveliness towards rational thinking and belief in science, and belonging to a spiritual community is often in name only as it is no longer felt in the heart.
Harmonize the mind
Is it because of urgently needed missing values, which may give a sattvic direction and motivation, when applied? The three spiritual qualities – Gunas Sattva (purity, clarity and intelligence), Rajas (passion) and Tamas (lethargy and ignorance) – receive special attention in the treatment of psychosomatic illness. It is important to strengthen Sattva and reduce Rajas and Tamas in order to prevent from disease and chose the appropriate treatment.
The findings of yoga science provide Ayurveda with an important therapeutic basis. Priority is given to harmonize the mind through relaxation techniques and meditation, one of the most important treatment methods. The rational and the spiritual therapy as well as psychotherapy are additionally used for treatment.
A regular, sattvic diet and lifestyle calms the imbalanced nervous system, strengthens the self-healing forces and the will to take responsibility for a healthy and regenerating lifestyle. Accompanying and soothing massages with constitutionally adjusted oils train self-awareness, a healthy physical awareness and ensure an equalized balance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
The activating part of the vegetative nervous system, the sympathetic, may also be compared with Pingala Nadi and the parasympathetic, the soothing part of the vegetative nervous system, with Ida Nadi. They originate in the base chakra, coil along the spine through all the chakras and supply the endocrine system with Prana, the life energy. When they are well balanced, the Sushumna, the “energetic line” between them, may fully unfold.
Have a look at the psyche
Avoid Vata-increasing food such as millet, corn, chickpeas, leafy vegetables, as well as Pitta-increasing food such as sour meals, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, sausage, meat, fish, eggs, black tea, coffee, alcohol, cola drinks, mushrooms.
Recommended are regular, easily digestible warm meals, sufficient intake of warm water, soothing teas, wheat matured for more than one year, (peeled) mung beans, cane sugar, honey, potatoes, zucchini, artichokes, pumpkin, fennel, carrots, almonds, grapes, honey melon, sweet apples, dates, mangoes, fresh ginger, fennel seeds, coriander, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and saffron.
Even though it is most difficult in hectic times, relaxation is very important. It helps to regenerate. The message is: if possible, by all means, avoid stress, sleep sufficiently, maintain a healthy work-life-balance, do breathing exercises, meditation and walks in the fresh air (protected from cold and wind).