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Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine and Its Application to Mental Health, Part 1

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Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine and Its Application to Mental Health, Part 1

family yoga on the beach at sunset

By Bonita Carol, M.A., CT. Ayurveda Health Practitioner

 

Ayurvedic medicine is a comprehensive holistic system of health care originating in India that spans over 5000 years. I have been an Ayurvedic health practitioner since 1991, having witnessed profound changes, such as stress reduction and reduced depression in clients in a short time, often within a month of adopting some of the techniques and knowledge of Ayurveda. This blog explores how the practice of Ayurvedic medicine can be a complementary modality to psychotherapy by including all aspects of the person: mind, body, environment, and soul. 

Ayurvedic medicine offers knowledge and techniques for understanding how to prevent mental and physical illness while improving well-being. In an age when toxins bombard the environment (EPA, 2016), high levels of stress and addiction plague society (Segura, 2013), and the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing (Bryan, 2016, para. 8), the need for preventive healthcare education and services seems to be at an all-time high. Ayurvedic approaches to psychology can help address some of the problems that challenge U.S. society, including Alzheimer’s (Rao, Descamps, John, & Bredesen, 2012), grief, depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, childhood autism, PTSD, adapting to change, and relationship issues (Elder, Nidich, Moriarty, & Nidich, 2014, para. 5). Ayurveda also offers alternatives for individuals who feel limited by the mainstream medical model or have not had success with medications or therapy alone, and want something more as an adjunct to therapy sessions.

Ayurveda also addresses existential questions, such as “Who am I?” It provides for personal and spiritual growth through knowledge about the experience of Atman and the numinous, which psychiatrist Carl G. Jung (1938-1940/1983) defined as “either a quality belonging to a visible object, or the influence of an invisible presence that causes a peculiar alteration of consciousness” that connects the individual with a force that transcends the personal self (p. 239). In addressing psychospiritual needs, Ayurveda defines two selves: The ego, or small self of ordinary awareness, is denoted by self with a small s; a capital S denotes the Self that transcends the ego, and is the silent witness and the universal backdrop for all thinking and feeling (Maharishi, 1983, lecture).

An Ayurvedic orientation may bring to therapy an extensive and comprehensive understanding of the source of the client’s problems on a physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual level. An Ayurvedic treatment plan not only approaches the client from a cognitive level, but is inclusive of all areas of one’s life, from inquiry into the house one lives in, called Vastu or Vedic architecture; to lifestyle and habits, diet and nutrition, familial history, significant life events, and spiritual health. By understanding the etiology of the client’s issues from this comprehensive view, a solid treatment plan can be constructed that does not isolate any area of the client’s life and that contributes to growth toward wholeness.

This blog series explores how psychotherapy and Ayurveda might be used as adjunct therapy to provide additional support for clients to make profound changes in their psychological, cognitive, and physical health. The Ayurvedic practice of meditation, particularly Transcendental Meditation (TM), has been shown to support cognitive development and reduce psychological symptoms (Barnes, Bauza, & Treiber, 2003). For example, TM meditation is currently used in inner city schools to help students reduce violent behavior, improve grades, and reduce detentions (p. 1). There seem to be gaps in the fields of psychology and medicine to the extent that they may treat the mind and body as separate and body awareness appears to be left out of the therapeutic process. As heart health researcher Robert Schneider (2015) said, “Heart disease is now correlated with mental health” (lecture); to prevent heart disease, mental health issues need to be addressed.

Ayurvedic practitioners Nancy Liebler, a clinical psychologist, and public health expert, Sandra Moss (2009) impart about the mind–body connection in Ayurveda:

“Mind-body medicine and its emerging field psychoneuroimmunology are bringing the issue of the unity of the mind and body to the stage of modern science. The Vedic sages, on the other hand integrated this concept a long time ago. They looked for the unity that underlies all the systems of our physiology rather than the sole focus on the systems’ diverse functions. This is the holistic approach that we should consider when we study the global affliction of depression.” (pp. 32-33)

 

Ayurveda can have benefits for both clients and therapists. It brings attention to the way in which Ayurveda techniques can cultivate a deepened sensitivity, receptivity, and consciousness, making one a more effective therapist. This research supports therapists in working with clients who have an interest in integrative modalities and gives the client access to more choices in how to attend to mental health and cultivate personal growth.  In part 2 of this blog, I will discuss the effect of Ayurvedic enhanced interventions on ADHD and Autism.

 

Bonita Carol, M.A. is a certified Shaka Vansiya Ayurveda Practitioner and lineage holder by the late Ayurvedic Master Healer, Vaidya Ramakant Mishra.  She is a marriage and family therapist registered intern supervised by Dr. Leona Kashersky PsyD at Healing Pathways Psychological Services. For information on Ayurveda, please contact her at www.ayurvedahealthcoach.com(530) 401-8627

 

  

Acknowledgements

Barnes VA, Bauza LB, Treiber FA. Impact of stress reduction on negative school behavior in adolescents. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. 2003;1:10. doi:10.1186/1477-7525-1-10. Retreived from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC155630/

Elder, C., et al. (2011). Reduced psychological distress in racial and ethnic minority students practicing the Transcendental Meditation program.” Journal of Instructional Psychology, vol. 38, no. 2.

EPA. (2016). Air quality management process. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/air-quality-management-process

Garrido, M. (2013, April,15). Vedic Philosophy and Quantum Mechanics On the Soul retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mauricio-garrido/vedic-philosophy-and-quantum-mechanics-on-the-soul_b_3082572.html

Jung, C. G. (1983). From Psychology and Religion (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In A. Storr, The essential Jung (pp. 239-249). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1938-1940)

Liebler, N.C. and Moss, S. (2009). Healing depression the mind body way, creating happiness through meditation, yoga and ayurveda.  Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, (April 1983), unpublished lecture, TM Teacher Training Course, Maastricht Holland.

Rao, R. V., Descamps, O., John, V., & Bredesen, D. E. (2012, June). Ayurvedic medicinal plants for Alzheimer’s disease: a review. Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, 4(3), 22. http://doi.org/10.1186/alzrt125

Schneider, R. (2016, Nov. 10). Dr. Robert Schneider Discusses Ayurveda and Vedic Psychiatry. Published lecture. paper University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa. Retrieved from youtube: Robert Schnhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ugr_Mslc5gk

Segura, G. (2013, April 22). Mass nervous breakdown: Millions of Americans on the brink as stress pandemic ravages society. Retrieved from: https://www.sott.net/article/261360-Mass-nervous-breakdown-Millions-of-Americans-on

 

 

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Come Join the Healing Pathways Team at 2017 Sacramento Earth Day!

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The Annual Sacramento Earth Day Celebration is held every April at Southside Park, downtown

Healing Pathways Psychological Services is excited to join the celebration of Sacramento Earth Day 2017. Our contribution to the event not only educates people about what we’re up to in our city, but we will be putting smiles on their faces with fun activities and prizes. We are so delighted to share these festivities with all of you and look forward to sharing this rare opportunity to spend the day together.

As always, the Sacramento Earth Day Celebration is FREE!

Parking:
During the event, parking meter spaces adjacent to the park may be available, but the meters are limited to two hours.  The two hour parking limits at sites that do not have meters, on nearby neighborhoods streets, are not applicable on weekends.

Food and beverages will be available for sale at the park during the event.  Sacramento Earth Day 2017 will be hosting food vendors in the northwest corner of the park during the event.  Compostable waste, recyclable waste, and landfill waste containers will be stationed in triads throughout the event venue.  Containers at each station will be marked by printed labels and event volunteers will be present at most stations to advise attendees, vendors, and other volunteers on waste separation requirements.

The Annual Sacramento Earth Day Celebration is filled with wonderful food, entertainment, interactive activities and business, non-profit, cultural and government organizations with invaluable and practical information, goods and services for saving money, living healthier, and protecting and celebrating the environment and the Sacramento region.

Additional Links:

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The Compassion Door: 5 Steps to more LOVE!

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love-lines

By Leona Kashersky, Psy.D.

For the last year I have deepened my study and practice of compassion, using embodiment practices to integrate  “Lovingkindness” or “Metta” into my daily life and physical being.  My personal experience mirrors what research in the fields of transpersonal and mindfulness psychology is saying about the overall health benefits of the practice. This practice actually enhances immune  function, cardiovascular health, glucose regulation, and even improves social skills!

Metta can be loosely defined as love and compassion for the self and others. Researchers are learning that practicing lovingkindness or metta has objective and observable emotional, physical, social benefits. Donald Rothberg, whose work spans over 30 years as a leading teacher and writer on transpersonal psychology, meditation, and socially engaged spiritual practice, wrote “The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World.” Both Donald Rothberg and Barbra Fredrickson have been influential in conducting and participating in research to establish evidence for the health benefits of meditation, self-love, and compassion in modern society.  Fredrickson teaches what she calls “micro-moments of love” or  “positivity resonance” in scientific lingo and in everyday language. As Fredrickson points out, compassion generates loveand love feels good! Start with yourself, and it will naturally radiate out to others near and far.

In my most recent experiences with meditation on love, compassion, and kindness I have used Metta mantras such as “rest in an awakened heart”, “safe and free from harm”, “the body supports the practice”, “surrounded by love and kindness”, in combination with movement. The pairing of movement, breath, mantra, and human connection help to assist in the integration of the compassion practice into the entire mind, body, and spirit.  Movement can include yoga, walking, and dance, including 5 Rhythms; Included are a couple of links to local favorites! The practice of movement meditation has assisted in my personal journey to embody the practice of loving kindness.

The following  techniques reduce burnout and increases positive emotion and LOVE on many different levels in the lives’ of individual people, families, and communities.  A brief and concise description of how the mantras are used are outlined below:

for HP Blog

Step 1:

Cultivate self-compassion: First, focus on the easiest person to grow compassion towards, the self. This is done by not merely reciting words or phrases, but by allowing one’s self to feel the meaning of the phrase or words during the meditation.

  1. I rest with an awakened heart
  2. May I be safe and free from harm
  3. May my body support my practice
  4. May I be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 2:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘dear one’, someone you love dearly. This may be your child, your parent, or a romantic partner, or even a pet!  This is the second easiest form of compassion to grow. As you concentrate on the meaning or feelings of phrases or words, picture the face of the dear one; allow yourself to really experience the face of this dear one. Then slowly use  following mantras. One meditation session may only focus on one of the phrases for each of these steps.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 3:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘neutral person’. This neutral person can be someone you see at Starbucks every weekday morning; however you don’t really know them. You don’t usually talk or say hello, you may just see each other in passing. You have no strong feelings towards them, neither positive or negative. Allow yourself to really imagine them in your presence, see their face in your mind’s eye. Begin the following mantras for them.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 4:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘difficult person’, someone you find challenging to feel compassion for at the moment.  The difficult person can be someone  close to you, or a someone you’ve never met, such as a political leader. Sometimes the ‘difficult person’ and the ‘dear one’ can be the same person depending on how you feel at the time. Really allow yourself to feel the presence of the difficult person before using the following mantras.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 5:

Cultivating compassion for all beings is a meditation focusing on humans, plants, animals, and the entire living planet. We continue to use the four focused mantras or phrases to do this with the following.

  1. May all beings rest with an awakened heart
  2. May all beings be safe and free from harm
  3. May all beings be free from pain and suffering
  4. May all beings be surrounded by love and kindness

 

References: 

Cultivating self-care and compassion in psychological therapists in training: the experience of practicing loving-kindness meditation. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, Vol 7(4), Nov 2013, 267-277 Boellinghaus, Inga; Jones, FergalW.; Hutton, Jane
Effect of Kindness-Based Meditation on Health and well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Galante, Julieta; Galante, Ignacio; Bekkers, Marie-jet; Gallacher, John Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Jun 30, 2014, No Pagination Specified.

The nondiscriminating heart: Lovingkindness meditation training decreases implicit intergroup bias. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 143(3), Jun 2014, 1306-1313 Kang, Yoona; Gray, Jeremy R.; Dovidio, John F.

Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlations, and interventions. Barnard, Laura K.; Curry, John F. Review of General Psychology, Vol 15(4), Dec 2011, 289-303.

Effects of intranasal oxytocin on ‘compassion focused imagery’.  Rockliff, Helen; Karl Anke; McEwan, Kirsten; Gilbert, Jean; Matos, Marcela; Gilbert, Paul Emotion, Vol 66(8), Nov 2011, 1388-1396

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