Everyone encounters anxiety at one point or another.
Some anxiety is essential – an evolutionary tool that protects us from danger and allows us to anticipate obstacles. However, in modern-day culture, anxiety feels less protective. More often than not, anxiety disturbs our inner peace and prevents us from reaching our highest potential.
Anxiety can be a topic that is “taboo” for many. Luckily it is becoming less stigmatized and for a good reason. Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder worldwide. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health suggests that anxiety affects nearly 30% of adults at some point.
So what is anxiety?
Anxiety is classically described as a feeling of being “ungrounded.”
From an Ayurvedic perspective, anxiety stems from an imbalance in the Vata dosha. A Vata imbalance yields too much energy in the mind and not enough at the feet. Thus, when Vata is disturbed, you feel disconnected from the earth.
An imbalance of Vata energy can manifest as:
- Erratic thoughts
- Difficulty focusing
- Hyper-excitable nervous system
- Trouble sleeping
Anxiety is one of the most common reasons people seek holistic and alternative modalities. The good news is that the brain is incredibly malleable, meaning we can change our thoughts and rewire our brains. When we focus on restoring balance to our three doshas using alternative modalities, we pave the way for a calm mind and life.
While navigating anxiety, it is essential to calm your energy, calm your nervous system, connect to your body and the earth, and surrender to the present moment. Indeed, overcoming anxiety is no easy feat, but it is essential to anchor yourself to the concreteness of the present before diving into the work. In approaching your anxiety this way, you will learn how to harness and use your anxiety as a force for good.
Techniques to manage anxiety:
Ground your energy in nature
The vital role of nature is a part of ancient Ayurveda and is backed by science! Time in nature is grounding and inherently harmonizing. Put your bare feet on the earth or touch a tree for at least a few minutes daily.
Time in nature is also an incredible way to combat and manage stress.
If you learn to control your mind while seated on the meditation cushion, you can more easily manage your mind in any outside situation.
In meditation, you become humbled by the strength of your thoughts. You learn to be compassionate to the struggle—the struggle to have a moment of stillness and the struggle to have peace for the rest of your life. The gift of struggle is surrender. It is the ultimate antidote to resistance. And it is also crucial in the healing of anxiety.
Try sitting in meditation for 5 minutes. Imagine your thoughts as clouds pass through the sky. Allow your thoughts to come and go until your mind becomes still. Try mantra singing or guided meditation if you struggle sitting in silence.
One of the most popular treatments we offer at the Sanctuary is Shirodhara. Shirodhara comes from the Sanskrit words shiro (head) and dhara (flow). It is a traditional Ayurvedic body therapy where a steady, gentle stream of warm oil is continuously poured over the forehead to help soothe and heal a frayed nervous system. Read more about our retreats here.
According to Ayurvedic teachings, gentle but constant oil application stimulates healthy blood circulation to the brain and pituitary gland. At the same Time, certain added herbs and essences can relieve symptoms of anxiety, migraines, insomnia and neuralgia.
Sama Vritti is the expression used to describe a balanced breath. Anxiety activates the fight-or-flight portion of your nervous system; when you engage in deep and rhythmic breathing, you activate the vagus nerve and turn on your parasympathetic nervous system—which, in turn, can pump the brakes on anxiety.
Breathwork is an incredible tool; nobody can do it “wrong.” Here are a couple of great exercises.
Holy Basil- also known as tulsi in Ayurveda protects against chemical, emotional, and physical stress. Holy basil has numerous benefits, including anti-anxiety, mild anti-depressant, antioxidant, and anti-stress/adrenal protective effects. It also has anti-viral properties, pain-relieving properties, and blood glucose stabilization properties.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is one of the best Vata-balancing herbs. It is soothing, grounding, and warming.
Our highest intention is to provide you with tangible techniques and accessible information. We hope that one or more of these techniques resonate with you. You are always welcome to reach out with any questions.