Stress is an everyday human experience, and while some stress is appropriate and can be productive, too much compromises our health; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Ayurveda believes that when healthy and balanced, our level of Ojas (life force) is strong and protects the body, mind, and spirit. Stresses can deplete this most vital energy, affecting the nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, reproductive, immune, and gastrointestinal systems.
The stress response has developed through evolution, helping humans cope with crisis, danger, disaster, and loss. When we experience a perceived threat on any level, the Sympathetic nervous system floods the body with stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline). This initiates the “fight or flight” response accelerating speed and response times, but can hamper many-body systems. This system serves us well, as long as the crisis is followed by a period of rest, recovery, and rejuvenation.
In today’s busy and stressful world, our lives change rapidly, and stressors are everywhere and daily. Stress hormones just don’t turn off. They linger in our systems, making us hyper-vigilant, putting our bodies in a challenging situation without a lot of time to recover, reset and regain balance. This makes us even more susceptible to stress, and when in a weakened state, it can make matters worse.
One of Ayurveda’s foundational principles is that like increases like and that opposites create balance. Ayurveda relies on twenty Gunas (qualities), organized into ten pairs of opposites. One group is Anabolic (building and nourishing) and the other Catabolic, reducing and lightening. The fight and flight response is catabolic, intensely activating, energizing, motivating, and accelerating, which can be very beneficial, but this depleting pattern wears us down. These actions create light, sharp, hot, dry, and mobile qualities, which can create imbalance and deplete the body further.
The Ayurvedic antidote creates more “Anabolic” practices that are building, rejuvenative, and balancing in nature, introducing heavy, grounding, slow, nourishing, soft, and stabilizing qualities through our daily practices (Dinacharya) with diet, lifestyle, and relationships.
Ten considerations to build Ojas and balance anxiety, stress and depletion:
1. Slow down, spend some time in nature
2. Drink non-caffeinated beverages
3. Use adaptogenic (helps body adapt to stress) herbs/teas: (Chywanprash, Tulsi, Ashwagandha, Ginseng)
4. Practice meditation (Empty bowl)
5. Do Restorative yoga
6. Conscious breath practice (Pranayama)
5. Do daily Abhyanga “massage” daily
6. Take a bath (especially with Epsom salts if possible)