Ayurveda and the Mind- An Overview

Ayurveda and Counseling                                                                            
On  top of these general psychological considerations, Ayurveda, particularly in  the West today is largely a counseling based system of medicine. Much of its  work consists of educating the patient how to change their life-style to  prevent disease from arising and to optimize their health, as well as to treat  specific diseases. While this may center outwardly on dietary, herbal and  exercise recommendations, it requires an understanding of the psychology of  people. Otherwise we will not have the proper rapport with the patient to  ensure right communication and compliance with treatment recommendations.

How  we relate to a Vata person to calm their anxiety about such changes we suggest will  be different than how we deal with a Kapha person and their complacency or a  Pitta person with hidden anger issues. Their psychology will greatly color how  such recommendations are made and whether they will work, even if they are appropriate  begin with. It is not enough in Ayurveda that we as practitioners can arrive at  a correct diagnosis and treatment plan; we must have the counseling skills to  enable patients to effectively implement these. When Ayurvedic treatment fails,  it is usually owing to the inability of the practitioner to understand the  psychology of the patient well enough to get them to stick with their Ayurvedic  recommendations.

Physical and Psychological  Suffering
In  addition, the West today has a lot more psychological than physical suffering.  Modern medicine has been relatively effective in alleviating many acute  diseases, but emotional suffering has increased owing to various factors of our  modern life out of harmony with nature.

Mental-psychological  conditions like depression are almost epidemic today. Even children are  commonly suffering from conditions like Attention deficit disorder (ADD) or  hyperactivity. The current drug-based medicine is developing special designer medications  to treat these conditions, though such powerful drugs are also problematical  and involve many side affects. Ayurveda can provide a good alternative to this  treating of the mind and psychology mainly through drugs. This cultural  disturbed psychology requires that Ayurvedic practitioners have the  psychological tools to deal with it.

In  fact, any high Vata disturbed patient is likely to come away with a recommendation  of such drugs if they see the usual type of doctors today. The problem is such  drugs may only suppress Vata, not correct. So we have to be particularly  careful to protect Vata types from getting into the drug based medical system,  as they may never get out.

Many  of the patients who come to Ayurvedic practitioners today do so seeking some  spiritual or psychological relief. They are coming to Ayurveda as a mind-body  medicine with a spiritual basis. They will expect that the Ayurvedic  practitioner can handle emotional and spiritual issues and not just treat them  on a physical level. So Ayurveda’s role as a psychology is quite important in  the west today.

Relative  to psychology and Ayurveda, however, there is not easy information available.  Such topics are scattered throughout the Ayurvedic classics like Charaka and  Sushruta rather than organized in one place only. They also cross over with  spiritual concerns and teachings about Yoga.  

So  one of the main needs of Ayurveda today is to present a better psychological  model that is useful in the present cultural context. Many Ayurvedic teachers  in the West have aided in this process. Most Ayurvedic practitioners have to  face the challenges involved.

Ayurvedic Psychology and  Yoga
Classical  Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and in the Bhagavad Gita is a  means of working on the mind or calming the chitta, which is the basis for  removing suffering. Ayurveda’s psychological therapy of increasing sattva is mainly  a yoga therapy. Classical Yoga itself is mainly a psychology. This means that  Ayurvedic psychology must employ the tools and views of Yoga.
Some  Yoga teachers have tried to address the psychological application of Yoga and  create a new psychological model of Yoga. But they usually do so apart from  Ayurveda and sometimes apart from the greater Yoga tradition. That work may  have some value but will be more useful if integrated into a greater Ayurvedic  approach. Yoga psychology requires Ayurvedic psychology as well and neither is  like to flourish or develop properly without the other.

Receive Site Updates