ACHARYA SHREE VARMA comes from a lineage of Ayurvedic doctors who have been practicing for over four centuries. In part 2 of an interview by MARION MARCEAU from the Heartfulness Yoga Academy, he goes into more depth about the Ayurvedic approach to mental health.
Q: Are there specific treatments in Ayurveda for mental well-being o you use medicines?
SV: We should first understand that the mind is a spectrum, not a structure. For the physical body, the Annamaya kosha, we need medicine. For the Pranamaya kosha, we need the breath, energy. When these two layers are addressed, then it’s very easy for the physician and the patient to understand the mind. The mind is the connective material which connects the Annamaya kosha with the Pranamaya kosha, and together they connect with the Vignanamaya kosha, which connects the body with the soul, the atman.
The mind is a spectrum, but how do we see inside the mind? There is a remote wireless connection that our eyes can’t see. The body and the soul are connected by the mind, so how do they connect? In Ayurveda, there exist seven major chakras and 108 minor chakras that we call marmas, which are energy points. How do emotions operate through these energy centers? It depends on what we eat. And not only what we eat; the body needs all the pancha bhutas, the nutritional substances, for its survival. The body consumes food, water, and oxygen, without which metabolism is not possible.
So what is food for the mind? It’s very simple. The mind is nourished by what we see, hear, do, and feel; and with these emotions, the mind moves between the past, present, and future. The mind never stays in a particular space, it’s always moving.
Solidity is the nature of Earth, fluidity is the nature of water, heat is the nature of fire, and mobility or challenge is the nature of the mind. So, the mind moves from past to present to future. Those Ayurvedic doctors who work with varma (marma) are known as varmanis and practice the secret art of divine healing. They know about emotions.
What are these basic energies? How do they move in our seven major chakras, and how do they create changes in the 108 marmas? The varman treatment is given to eliminate the toxins of the body. And the practices of yoga are given to clean the impressions from the mind. This is the way we treat emotional issues.
In today’s environment, people are often really stressed and face challenges at work. We can’t get away from mobile phones and screens. Even when we don’t want to, there is always some reason to be in front of a screen. Our senses are challenged, we see and hear things that maybe we shouldn’t; it’s very difficult to protect ourselves from that.
Q: So let’s say a patient comes to your clinic with a sleep disorder, burnt out, depressed, or anxious, will you start directly with a Panchakarma detox? How will you help them to come out of the situation?
SV: Ayurveda looks at a human being as a whole. We are the combination of a physical body, energy body, emotional body, intellectual body, and spiritual body. So when we do a basic assessment of the illness, we look at where the patient has challenges, in which layer they have the impurities.
We do a diagnosis, we listen to the challenges they are facing. Can we treat them simply on the basis of this? No, because they are in a disturbed and difficult state, and they’re complaining, not explaining. Instead, we use our training and experience to understand the causative factors. To reconfirm the causative factors, we read the pulse, the nadi pariksha, to gauge how energy is traveling in them. Is it vata, pitta, or kapha in the Annamaya kosha? Any trained Ayurveda doctor is able to diagnose what is happening by checking the nadi. Then, with the Pranamaya and Manomaya koshas, we feel the flow of energy.
When we are touching the nadi, we connect our energy with the patient’s and understand which layer is affected. Treatment will start from the Annamaya kosha. If palliative treatment is needed, we give only herbs; but when the toxins are deep rooted, we recommend Panchakarma, the intensive 14 to 21 days of detox to ensure that the accumulated toxins are eliminated. This is followed by potentiated medicines, and energy to heal the mind. Ayurveda teaches that we are not just a structure or a substance, we are the energy inside the substance.
First, we detox the physical body, then we guide the patient on how energy can heal them.
Q: It’s very beautiful how you give the power to the patient to heal themselves. It’s restoring the healing power within the person for a mental disorder, which may have occurred through some imbalance in the body.
SV: Yes, it can be something common like sleeplessness or it can be schizophrenia. For both, we look at what impact it is having on the emotional level, on the mind. The brain is the structure, the hardware; but we work with the software, the mind. And the effect isn’t only on the brain. It can be on the whole central nervous system, from the brain to the base of the spine. The nervous system directly connects with our endocrine glands, and it connects with our chakras. The gut has neurons, and our thyroid, thymus, and sex hormones are interconnected with the nervous system.
Modern scientific research shows that we have neurons in the brain, nano-neurons in the thyroid, and micro-nano-neurons in the thymus. Centuries ago, Ayurveda and yoga established that the mind operates with our chakras, so when we accumulate toxins in different chakras, they manifest through different signs and symptoms. In modern medicine, the diagnosis says, “These are the symptoms, this is the disease.” We don’t look at symptoms first, we look at energy. We treat the human, and the symptoms are cured.
Food is important, sexual activity is important, and sleep is important for a human being to maintain a healthy life. When sleep is disturbed, we ask, “What is the causative factor?” Prolonged screen time is one factor – we spend a lot of time on our mobiles and the internet. Too much of anything is not good for us. A sedentary life, excessive eating, not enough exercise – all of these are contributing factors. We need moderation.
When you approach an Ayurvedic doctor, they won’t say “Stop all these things,” but rather “Reduce them, and make every effort to recover from your illness.” And when you start reducing from within, you can get out of anything that is not allowing you to progress. All human beings have a basic desire to be healthy and happy, and happiness is directly proportional to your state of health. Science today talks about the happy hormones, like oxytocin and serotonin. Stay far from everything that elevates stress hormones and fear hormones. Anything that makes you flower inside, add to your life.
Q: That’s a very nice philosophy – add what makes you happy and remove what makes you stressed to keep a mental balance in this chaotic world.
So, when patients are very agitated, are there key points they can follow to remain happy, to remain balanced?
SV: Ayurveda talks about prevention, cure, and rehabilitation. We have a very clear understanding that only 10% of people have a physical problem that needs treatment. The other 90% are healthy. But 90% of people have emotional challenges, so they are on the waiting list to contract a disease. These emotional challenges can lead to disease if they are not properly addressed. When the disease is not cured, it turns into a chronic disease, and you think it is incurable.
Try to learn yoga and understand Ayurveda for a healthy life. It’s important what time you get up and it matters how you start your day. It’s like preparing for a marathon: the first step you take matters, how you train every day. It makes you stronger if you have the highest goal in life. Start the day with meditation. Do some physical activity – it can be asanas, cycling, running, walking, or swimming. Whatever it is, your physical body needs training at least six days a week, one hour a day. Then, concentrate on your work. You will deliver 100%. At the end of the day, sit and recollect the day – what unwanted things have you accumulated in your emotions? Do a cleaning practice. When you go to bed, be in a prayerful mood. These three things are mandatory. This is the takeaway.
You can learn a cleaning practice from trained yoga teachers and Ayurveda doctors who are connected with Heartfulness. They know how to guide you in all these practices. Going to sleep with a prayerful attitude makes you healthy and happy. If you have challenges, don’t hesitate to reach us. We are here to help you to have a healthy and happy life. Thank you Marion.
Q: Thank you very much.