Depression is an illness affecting a vast number of people in the United States with some estimated 25% of people experiencing severe, chronic depression at some point in their lives. The number of people dealing with depression is doubling every 10 years. While many medications have been developed to deal with this issue and they can be necessary in severe cases, generally most individuals will receive the same type of treatment and the root cause may go unchecked.
Within Ayurvedic Medicine, the root cause for a depression will vary from individual to individual both from an emotional as well as a physical standpoint. The type of depression that a person is experiencing will be a manifestation of the imbalance of one or more of the three biological humours of the body (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha), their subhumours (ex: Prana Vata, associated with mental stability and adequate intake of life force through the breath), and the tissues and channels of the body. If a tissue of the body is not developed correctly or a channel is blocked, this can lead to a weakness that may affect the mind and the health of the brain.
Addressing depression involves tracking its pathogenesis and removing the root cause entirely. This involves thoroughly understanding the individual’s unique constitution (prakruti) and his or her state of imbalance (vikruti). Once this is achieved appropriate recommendations can be made involving:
- an intermittent diet to resolve imbalances in the body-mind
- an ideal diet which will assist in maintaining health
- lifestyle factors addressing adequate and proper sleep and living a stress-free life, among other factors
- engaging in breathing, meditation, and yoga and physical exercises to strengthen the mind and body and keep the channels of the body unimpeded, allowing for proper flow of information and physical substances through the body-mind
- ensuring proper digestion through use of specific herbs, spices, and undergoing a safe, easy cleanse so as to stabilize the mind
- use of herbs which specifically address the mind and promote rejuvenation
- oleation therapies including massage, shirodhara (pouring of herb-infused oil on the forehead), and nasya (administration of herb-infused oil drops through the nasal passage which cross the blood-brain barrier) to promote relaxation and nourishment of the mind and brain
With these steps the focus is drawing the body and mind into a state of balance that is unique and appropriate to the individual. The process includes empowering the individual to maintain awareness of his or her physical and emotional state and live a lifestyle that naturally maintains this state of health. Most individuals do in fact strive to and desire to live a healthy lifestyle. The key is knowing how and what is appropriate to his or her individual needs. Understanding this and utilizing a specific protocol to achieve this result is what differentiates mental imbalance from balance.