Trauma? Anxiety? Ayurveda has some solutions

What is trauma and anxiety?


Seen from the perspective of Ayurveda, trauma and anxiety happens when the mind is in dissonance with reality. This is described as Pragnaparadha (literally ‘transgression against knowledge’). This implies the unhealthy adaptation of the body and mind to situations resulting in distorted thinking or lack of discernment. An unrighteous act done out of ignorance and of impaired memory is non-volitional transgression.

Prajnaparadha can be regarded as the channelling of vital energy into unnatural activities. This energy can then take on an enduring form in either the body or the mind resulting in derangement of senses and mind. The condition manifests fully as a disease if disease-supporting factors ie., imbalance of doshas/humours) prevail.


Mental blocks


There are inherent psychological hindrances that obstruct clear thinking by deepening reactivity (rajas) and delusion (tamas). There are five hindrances that afflict the mind. They are:


Avidya: Ignorance of the true nature of things

Asmita: Preoccupation with 'self' or 'ego' that leads to extreme subjectivity

Raga: Passion

Dvesha: Aversion

Abhinivesha: Clinging to one's beliefs, thoughts, emotions etc. or the inability to let go.


Line of treatment


The treatment in Ayurveda is geared towards mitigating Vata Dosha, restoration of Sattva and the subordination of Tamas and Rajas.


Management Trauma and Anxiety


Conditions of trauma and anxiety are managed well with Ayurvedic healing herbs along with external treatments for the desired period of time.


Healing Herbs


Ashwagandha and Brahmi are the two best herbs, which help in the management of trauma and anxiety.

BrahmiBrahmi is by far the most important herb for treatment of affective mood disorders. Its active principle, hersaponin, regulates brainwave activity. It also contains iron, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and oleic acid. Because the brain is the centre for creative activity, any compound that improves the brain health is called Brahmi.

Brahmi, which also means 'bringing knowledge of the Supreme Reality', has long been used medicinally and as an aid to meditation. It is a revitalizing herb that strengthens nervous function and memory and is classified as a Medhya Rasayana, a drug used to improve memory and intellect (Medhya).

In the treatment of trauma and anxiety, Brahmi is taken internally in the form of tea or powder or capsule or ghee. Brahmi oil is applied to the head and to the soles of the feet at bedtime. It will help calm the praanavaayu and bring sound sleep.

Ashwagandha- It is used for mental problems and as a Rasayana (rejuvenator) in Ayurveda. Scientists speculate that Ashwagandha's benefits stem from its antioxidant properties and ability to scavenge free radicals. Two main classes of compounds, steroidal alkaloids and steroidal lactones, may account for its broad range of beneficial effects.

Steroidal lactones comprise a class of constituents called ‘withanolides’. To-date scientists have identified and studied at least 12 alkaloids and 35 withanolides. Much of Ashwagandha's pharmacologicala activity has been attributed to two primary withanolides, withaferin A and withanolides D.

In one of the most complete human clinical trials to- date-, researchers studied the effects of a standardized extract of Ashwagandha on the negative effects of stress, including elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Many of the adverse effects of stress are thought to be related to elevated levels of cortisol.

The results were impressive. The participants subjectively reported increased energy, reduced fatigue, better sleep, and an enhanced sense of well-being. The participants showed several measurable improvements, Including a reduction of cortisol levels up to 26%, a decline in fasting blood sugar levels and improved lipid profiles.

It would appear from this study that Ashwagandha can address many of the health and psychological issues that plague today’s society.


External treatments


External procedures help reduce trauma and reset the nervous system. They also help in maintaining excellent health. Abhayanga or therapeutic massage, foot massage, head massage and shirodhaara work wonderfully in the management of trauma. 


Abhyanga - Abhayanga has been widely applied to improve health and reduce stress. Therapeutic massage of the entire body using vata-pacifying oils like Ksheerabala oil helps relax the body and mind, and is considered an essential part of management of trauma.

Abhayanga is therapeutic massage with moderate pressure on vital points, which helps in relaxation as well as enhancement of blood circulation. Massage releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is the “happy nurturing” hormone, precursor to serotonin. Massage strengthens the muscles and stimulates the nervous system.

Research work on abhayanga or therapeutic massage has shown that it enhances brain activity, thereby reducing anxiety and stress.


Foot massage- Foot massage with herbal oils help in relaxation and enhances blood circulation and brain function. It stimulates all organs of the body, increases ojas and a state of deep relaxation inducing a sense of total wellness in the entire system. Massaging our feet, one of our five sense organs of action relieves insomnia and nervousness.

Foot massage has been practiced over millennia as a perquisite to sound sleep, to infuse the day’s activity with equanimity. According to Ayurveda many marma points for the body’s vital organs and sense organic are located in the soles of the feet. A peaceful night’s rest or a calm day’s activity is assured after the feet are thoroughly massaged.


Head massage- Head massage increases flow of CSF, thus strengthening nervous system. This massage balances pituitary and pineal glands. Eyes, heart, brain and colon also become toned. It helps to improve experimental and cognitive memory alertness and stability. It also strengthens the nervous systems and gives energy. 


Shirodhara- Shirodhara is commonly called as the third eye treatment. The Shirodhara is a special treatment, where medicated oil is poured on the forehead and head in a systematic manner. This is said to cure psychiatric and neurological ailments. After a head massage, the soothing and fragrant oils flow in a continuous, rhythmic stream for approximately 30 minutes over the forehead with the patient in the lying position. 

As the oil strokes the third eye, it has a balancing effect on the deepest recesses of the brain, stimulating the endocrine system, the pituitary and pineal glands (relieving hormonal turbulence) and pleasure neurotransmitters (relieving anxiety, trauma or emotional insecurity). The procedure is also said to synchronize alpha brain waves, enhancing blood circulation to the brain, improving mental clarity and generally releasing deeply trapped toxins (called Ama in Ayurveda). It releases serotonin and encourages a balance of mind body and spirit.

The herbal ingredients in the medicated oils are absorbed through the skin and enter the blood stream, emphasizing the neurological effect of Shirodhara further. Shirodhara is a deeply nurturing psycho-spiritual experience that attunes the body/mind towards spontaneous healing. It is based on the principle that gentle but constant application of warm oil stimulates healthy blood circulation of the brain. All mental problems such as anxiety anger or irritability dissolve into an ocean of calmness as the mind is lulled into a state of serenity and expanded consciousness.

Shirodhara is deeply stress-relieving, pacifies vata while nourishing and calming the nervous system. It cleanses the mind and senses of negativity and improves mental clarity and cognition. Shirodhara offers a profound healing effect on the nervous system.

Healing herbs and external treatments when continued for a longer period of time, along with changes in daily routine like finding time to practice yoga, meditation and pranayama, will help in restoration of mental health and will help in maintaining physical and mental well-being.


Meditation – Medication focuses concentration and keeps anxiety away and is effective in lowering the levels of trauma. Mantra or the repeated chanting of the sacred hymns, is also a good way to calm and focus the mind preventing it from going back into the past. Yantra or gazing at a sacred symbol or Trataka (Gazing at a candle flame for 5 minutes) will also help the mind to say in the present and focused. Concentration on the breath helps in preventing the mind from wandering. When we are disturbed or anxious, the breath is irregular and interrupted. Meditating in padmasana posture is the best method to relieve physical, nervous and mental problems. Meditation can also be done in any comfortable posture.


PranayamaPrana is the bridge between body, mind and consciousness. Thus, prana and the mind are deeply connected. Physical manifestation of prana is the breath. Every thought changes rhythm of the breath and every breath changes the rhythm of thinking. Pranayama helps clean the nadis (vital energy channels) so that more oxygen and energy is conserved in the body. This allows a more peaceful state of mind by completely reducing mind activity, so that anxiety, stress and negativity are removed. This is effective in all kind of traumas and is the path towards self-realization. It minimizes the impact of irritation, restlessness and impatience after trauma or stress.


Yoga- Yoga helps maintain a healthy nervous system. Yoga is a system that brings about harmony between the body and the mind, which is so badly needed in today’s active and complex world. Yoga plays a big role in relaxing the mind, thus strengthening mental health and producing vital energetic readjustments.

By achieving overall mental health, yoga helps a person to recover from physical traumas and emotional blocks. Yoga postures ensure purified oxygen and prana intake and help balance blood circulation and supply to brain. These actions are thus beneficial for recovery from trauma and for the improvement of one’s mood.

The psycho-spiritual practices of yoga facilitate the removal of the hindrances that afflict the mind, thereby ending the inner psychological conflict of the gunas. This, in turn, enables the individual to let go and accept life and its dualities with equanimity. This return to the lost harmony and peace is the restoration of ‘sattva’ or victory over the mind’s turbulent state.


Yoga postures like padmasana (Lotus pose), Shavasana (Corpse pose), Shirshasana (Head stand), Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand), Matsyansana (Fish pose), Shalabasana (Locust posture), Ardhamatsyedrasana (Sitting half spinal twist pose) help in maintaining balance in the nervous system.


Essential oils - They are extensively used in Ayurveda as they have a powerful effect on doshas. Lavender oil can be smelt for emotional crisis. It can also be used for self-massage once a week. Research has proved the effects of lavender on the nervous system.


It is thus evident that Ayurvedic treatments are effective in mitigating psychological disorders. Ayurvedic treatments, coupled with proper diet and lifestyle, can help reduce anxiety disorder, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, etc.

Our diet and life-style affect our emotions and can create a predisposition for both psychological and physical disorders. Mind stays healthy only when the body is healthy and vice versa. So, in order to keep the mind and body in a healthy state, one should follow a proper diet and life-style that are in tune with the Ayurvedic principles.

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