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Living the Ayurveda Lifestyle

Life is full of stress that it has become a way of life. Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works. In fact, stress can lead to anxiety, fatigue, eating disorders, depression, headaches, difficulty concentrating, anger and relationship issues. Stress has serious consequences if it is not addressed. With stress how can one enjoy the work, money, luxuries, and relationships?

According to Ayurveda, mind has three states or "gunas". They are "sattva" (knowledge, purity), "rajas" (action, passion) and "tamas" (inertia, ignorance). Mental disorders or imbalances are caused when "sattva" decreases and "rajas" and "tamas" increase. As "sattva" decreases, mental strength, determination, and the power to discriminate (to distinguish right from wrong) also decrease.

Below are some methods of increasing "sattva", which if followed, will bring about reduction in stress.

1. Food

In Ayurveda, food is considered to be an important medicine for both mind and body. In order to reduce stress, choose foods that increase "sattva". Fresh fruits, fruit juices, vegetables (boiled), vegetable juices, sprouts, nuts, honey, milk, and yogurt are the best to increase sattva. Avoid processed food or frozen food items in the grocery store.

Cut down, or refrain from sugar products, deep fried foods and hot spices. These items increase "rajas". Ayurveda is for body, mind, and soul and therefore advises vegetarianism. There is a range of vegetarian recipes that are easy to prepare and are "sattvic" in nature.

Eating meat is not preferred in Ayurveda; it does not increase "sattva", however, these foods may contain nutrition for the body but their effect on mind is detrimental.

2. Breathing

Mind has a very close relation with breathing. A person has short and shallow breathing when anxious or stressed and has deep breathing when relaxed and happy. Breathe deep using the abdomen muscles, let the diaphragm expand while breathing in, and contract while breathing out. This will immediately reduce stress, also take short breaks at regular intervals from the busy schedule and relax (by abdominal breathing) for a few minutes.

3. Yoga

Yoga is not only good for physical health, but is also good for relaxation of mind. Yoga is also especially helpful because of its gentle, calming, and fluid nature.

Yoga at a regular time of the day, preferably in the morning is relaxing, yoga is a natural way to increase serotonin production. According to the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, serotonin production plays a role in the treatment of depression. Serotonin is believed to play a major role in happiness. One study also suggests people with depression have lower serotonin levels.

Yoga also increases your heart rate variability (HRV), or change in time between heart beats, by increasing the relaxation response over the stress response in the body. A high HRV means that your body is better at self-monitoring or adapting, particularly to stress.

Yoga can also:

  • reduce resting heart rate

  • lower blood pressure

  • ease breathing

  • increase pain tolerance

4. Meditation

Meditation is a method of calming your thoughts by focusing on an object for a period of time. One can concentrate on an object, picture, sound or "mantra". One should sit in a lotus position or a comfortable posture while meditating. According to the research performed in recent years, it has been found that meditation slows down the breathing process, normalizes blood pressure, relaxes muscles and helps to reduce anxiety and stress.

5. Relaxation

Done for five minutes four times a day, it is very important to take short breaks from work and relax the mind. Close your eyes and focus your mind on your breathing. Breathe deep and watch your breathing in your mind. Listening to chanting of "mantras" and prayers help relax the mind and reduce stress.

6. Ayurvedic Remedies

Applying oil on the body (abhyanga) at least once a week is a good method to relax the body and mind. Pouring oil on forehead (shiro dhara) is another popular Ayurvedic remedy for relaxing the tension in nerves and head.

7. Other Remedies

Keeping a record of what causes you stress and then eliminating that cause from your routine helps to manage stress. Generally we live either in the past or in the future and our mind is not even aware of our present actions. It is beneficial to focus the mind on the present actions. This helps one to become aware of the negative thoughts and other causes responsible for stress. We can then try to eliminate these by thinking rationally and positively.

Although all these remedies provide relief from the mental stress, it is important that you make them a part of your life process. Keep your mind in a state of high "sattva" for a healthy, happy and peaceful life.

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