Restless Legs is a neurological disease whose cause and healing possibilities are still unknown. Ayurveda does not describe this clinical picture either. However, it is clear that it is a disease of the central nervous system, which manifests through an excess of the bio-energy Vata.
Some vital organs are apparently described in the classical texts of Ayurveda only insufficiently for today’s medical understanding. However, this appearance is deceptive, as Ayurveda medicine follows different approaches. It is worthwhile to follow the extraordinary diagnostic methods which open up a new understanding of the body and medical relationships. Ayurveda medicine does not focus on one organ, such as the brain. It looks at the body tissues and the dynamic principles that operate in the body. By means of the symptomatology of restless legs, we gain insight into the nature of diseases of the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system and better understand the Ayurvedic approach.
The bioenergy Vata, represented by the elements air and ether, embodies the principle of movement. Vata stands for the central nervous system, the impulse generator of all forms of movement in living matter. It controls the processes of the musculature and the musculoskeletal system, which in Ayurveda form a functional unit together. For this reason, diseases are not divided into nervous and muscular diseases, but belong to the diseases caused by Vata, the Vata-Vyadhi.
Although the Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) cannot be compared with a disease explained in Ayurvedic texts, the similarity of the symptoms described allows comparisons to be made and effective therapeutic approaches to be developed.
In Ayurveda, the head (Siras) is considered the initial point for prana, the life energy and all sensory and locomotory skills. Therefore, diseases of the nervous system are divided into sensory, locomotory and a combination of sensory and motor disorders.
Vata is responsible for controlling the most important areas of the central and peripheral nervous system. In addition, the processes of the physiological basis are subject to it. If Vata loses its control function, symptoms are produced which are very well documented in the ancient scriptures and form an important basis for the therapy of the central nervous system.
Classical medicine see the cause of a disease in the Majja Dhatu, the marrow tissue. Majja Dhatu represents the brain and the bone marrow and spinal cord. Treatment and regeneration of this tissue is another main approach of Ayurvedic therapy for diseases of the central nervous system.
The basic characteristics of Vata energy can be described as dry, rough, cold, light, subtle and agile. If Vata energy increases in the body in the long run without being regulated, this can lead to excessive dryness of the protective layers of the nerves, which basically consist of Kapha, i.e. aqueous elements. The loss of the aqueous element disturbs the physiology and anatomy and attacks the insulation and protection of the nerves and nerve conduction. In colloquial speech “The nerves are exhausted”.
If this happens rapidly without hindrance, severe neurological disorders manifest. If Vata disturbs the nerves of the lower extremity, the symptoms manifest predominantly in the legs, as is the case with Restless Legs, for example. However, the same mechanism can be effective anywhere in the body. In some people suffering from RLS, the sensations also occur in the arms.
“Vata stands for the central nervous system”
The imbalance of the bio-energy Vata is mainly responsible for the neurological diseases. However, it cannot be excluded that the bioenergies Pitta and Kapha are involved in the disease process, and they must be recorded according to the constitution.
Relieve pain by fidgeting
The disease RLS is characterized by the irresistible urge to move the legs. Especially before falling asleep these sensory disturbances are strongly felt. The restlessness is often accompanied by very unpleasant or painful sensory disturbances in the legs. The patients describe burning, stinging, pulling, cramping or biting sensations, like for example insects crawling on the leg. The pain can vary from mild to severe pain. This strongly impairs the quality of sleep and the quality of life. Especially at night, the pain causes a sleep deficit. Persons affected have the feeling that the pain is relieved by movement. Therefore, they follow the urge to move their legs, get up, walk around, brush their legs and take cold or warm foot baths.
It is difficult for those people to express their feelings in words. They are often misdiagnosed for years. In general, the classical way consists of sending patients to neurologists or psychiatrists who treat them with conventional medicine, i.e. drugs, tranquilizers in the opiate class and dopamine agonists (support) such as L-dopa.
Women are more frequently affected
About 5 to 10 % of the West European population is affected, with Restless Legs occurring more frequently with women than with men. These figures give an approximate reflection of the prevalence, as a high number of unreported cases is expected.
Vata-Disbalance is the disease-causing principle in the development of most diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Its characteristics, which are dry, rough, cold, light, subtle and mobile, determine the therapy. Ayurveda works with the opposite principles in the treatment of the disease patterns. Since the clinical picture of RLS is characterized by cold, dryness and restlessness, oily, warming and nourishing substances are used to balance the imbalance.
Creating an island of rest with Yoga
A wide range of therapy methods is available. Starting with manual treatments, such as nourishing massages and watering with appropriate herbal oils and herbal pads. So-called herbal tonics help to stabilize the flow of prana in the nerves and Nadis on the physical plane. On the mental plane, they support the nervous system to better cope with stress. This is supported in particular by corrections in lifestyle and nutrition, with yoga and certain breathing techniques.
The herbs from Rasayana medicine, the science of tissue regeneration, support the body to regain strength and endurance. They include all medicines, treatments and activities that improve the quality of all tissues in the body and increase strength and immunity. Dipanas, Agni stimulating herbs, have a regulating effect on Agni.
“Ayurveda and Conventional medicine are complementary to each other”
For the treatment of neurological diseases, treatment by a medical doctor or naturopath is highly recommended. Ayurveda can very well support the therapy of conventional medicine. An Ayurveda cure in a reputable institution is highly recommended as a basis for the outpatient therapy phase.
Detached from everyday life, free from everyday stress, accompanied by an individual constitutional Ayurveda diet, the curative measures can unfold their broad spectrum in efficacy. It helps to reflect on old habits and to experience how the change in diet and lifestyle is perceived. Afterwards this can be better integrated into everyday life.
General rules of nutrition and behavior
A Vata reducing diet is recommended. As the digestive fire is weakened in a Vata-disbalance, it is important to stimulate it, i.e. the food should be cooked, easily digestible, warm, oily, fatty and moist. The flavor sweet, salty (not too salty) should not be missing. Regular meals in a quiet atmosphere, dishes lovingly prepared with warming spices, and eating one’s food slowly supports digestion.
High quality fats refine the food and nourish the tissues, for example cold-pressed oils and ghee. Sweet fruit and other healthy sweets nourish Vata and can be consumed in sufficient quantities, as can nuts and seeds.
Sufficiently warming drinks provide the organism with adequate moisture.
Coffee and alcohol should be avoided.
Cold, dry, very spicy, bitter and astringent food should be avoided as well as fasting and irregular eating. Lettuce, legumes and foods causing flatulence increase Vata and should therefore be reduced.
For everyday life it is important to avoid stressful situations, professional overload and temperature stimuli and to integrate relaxation exercises, breathing exercises and meditation into the daily routine.