by Sheyna Haisman-Holmes
In Ayurveda, the mind is considered a srota (channel) that effects the wellbeing and function of the body. The root of the mind resides in the heart and connects to all of the sensory pathways and organs, as well as the energy points called marmani. Everything has a mind and there is a unified mind that connects all of life. All of our experiences are perceived and digested by the mind, positioning the body to be a crystallization of the mind. Our mind forms different pathways that we frequent based on what we take in through our eyes, ears, mouth, nose and hands. Depending on our lifestyle and habits, there are 5 states of mind that we may experience for long or short periods of time.
The 5 States of Mind are:
Mūdha- idiotic/mad mind, deluded, has rigid opinions
Kshipta- active mind, changes ideas, hyperactive imagination
Vikshipta- part active/part inactive, lack of clarity and focus
Ekagra- one pointed/focused mind, solves problems, reads, explores
Mukta- completely free and liberated, aware. Enlightened= mukta ānanda
The goal is to have the mind in a mukta state and we are all born with the capability to reside there. Ayurvedic practices can contribute to a healthy mental state where stability can support the deepening of spiritual practices and awareness. This includes a nourishing diet, exercise, yoga, breath work/pranayama, body oiling and many levels of self-care. These practices create a routine that contributes to our wellbeing each day, building on itself to stabilize our health and vitality.
Imbalances in the doshas can absolutely affect our mental state as well. Things that may throw off the balance of the doshas are overexertion, stress, asatmendriyartha samyoga (disrespecting the senses), stimulants, prajnaparadha (offense against ones own wisdom) and poor diet choices. In balance, there are many positive attributes to each dosha and how they maintain equanimity, clarity and purity in the mind.
Doshas and the Mind
An increase of vata can cause anxiety, nervousness, forgetfulness, fear, scatteredness, worry and isolation. Balanced vata brings intuition, clairvoyance and understanding.
Excess pitta can cause more activity in the head than the heart, as well as perseveration, irritability, judgment, frustration and resentment. Balanced pitta holds intelligence, enthusiasm, courage, leadership and vision.
Increased kapha can create sluggishness, mental fog, lethargy, attachment and possessiveness. Balanced kapha in the mind brings love, groundedness, endurance, compassion and grace.
Mind Balancing Practices
Eating sattvic foods can help the mental state to remain pure and light, rather than weighed down and foggy. Sattvic foods include fresh fruit and veggies, berries, whole grains, almonds, rice, dates, saffron, fennel seeds & stalk, cooked apple, cardamom, honey, lemon zest, etc. Rajasic or tamasic foods include processed foods, fried foods, excess sugar and salt, excess meat, cruciferous veggies, onions, garlic, bread, pastries and other hard to digest foods.
Practicing pranayama like nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) can be cleansing and stabilizing to the mind and mental channels. Yoga asana can also be practiced, as well as more invigorating exercise to allow the channels to open, flow and cleanse. It is also really important to get enough good sleep for mental wellbeing.
Herbs such as gotu kola, sage, skullcap, sandalwood, Ashwagandha, bacopa, calamus, hibiscus & chamomile can be balancing and nourishing to the mind.
May we all have stability, clarity, purity, awareness and lightness in our minds and hearts! :)