Ayurveda’s treatment for addiction recovery is a process: a lifestyle and a journey into wellness. It is an invitation to participate in our own wellness and healing, to co-create our full potential and to live every future day with a commitment to nurturing and valuing ourselves.
Ayurveda is a whole person non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical approach aimed at perfect balance – not a method in which we become pharmaceutically dependent patients. It teaches that all material forms in the entire Universe – including the human being – are made up of different combinations of five essential elements, the Mahabhutas. These Mahabhutas are: Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.
Differing combinations of these essential elements create an infinity of material forms: differentiating a flower from a river, a mountain from a cloud, a human being from a star; But every material thing contains a combination of these elements – the cosmos and we are made of the same materials.
Ayurveda teaches that in human beings there are three dominant combinations of these elements that give us each our specific body mind constitutions: these three constitutions are called ‘doshas’, each one of the representing a vital dose of the essential elements in our own individual make up: Vata (the Air element), Pitta (the Fire element) and Kapha (the Earth element):
1. STEP ONE: Identifying the Doshas
Typically each one of us will have a dominant dosha that determines our over riding body mind constitution. We can be categorized as a planet of Vata types, Pitta types or Khapha types – and our inclinations, capacities and nature will be determined by our dosha.
Vata types tend to be highly creative, quick thinking, quick to learn and forget, lean, physically and mentally agile, involved in many things at one time, and prone to anxiety and overwhelm.
Pitta types tend to be leaders, extremely focused, goal oriented, driven physically and mentally and prone to bouts of anger, possible aggression, frustration and impatience.
Kapha types tend to placid, easy going, slower and heavier physically and prone to being anxious to avoid conflict, and experiencing mental and physical inertia or fatigue.
When the doshas are in perfect balance, we humans are well, functioning optimally, mentally and physically, living with vitality and in ease. When the doshas are disturbed, our wellbeing is obstructed, our mental and physical functioning is impaired, and we will live with fatigue and dis-ease.
At the heart of all Ayurvedic treatments therefore is the intention to restore balance to the doshas. Once this is achieved, wellness flows naturally.
Having diagnosed the individual’s dosha type and which doshas are experiencing stress, treatment will now focus on the removal of the stress.
For this the therapeutic practices of Ayurveda center on creating restfulness, restoring calmness, nurturing the body-mind. The mind, and the subtle energy of the body-mind are all equal targets for therapeutic applications.
What you can do at home:
1. Find out your Dosha at http://doshaquiz.chopra.com/
Creating a stress free zone to allow the doshas to come in to natural balance, and support the individual’s natural intelligence at the physical, emotional and mental levels to re-emerge then becomes the foundation for all further treatments.
2. STEP 2 : Rebuilding the Body: Re-storing – Ojas
The Ayurvedic texts identify a substance called ‘Ojas’ as being the vital force of the body. Like honey is the essence of flowers, in the same way, Ojas is considered to be a secreted essence from our tissues, muscles, blood, plasma, fats and bones: produced by all healthy cells, imparting strength, radiance, luster, and power to the body and mind.
In addiction, this Ojas is being continually depleted – and ultimately the depletion of Ojas will eventually cause death. One of the main areas of focus therefore is restore Ojas in the body.
Ojas is mainly cultivated through diet – the useful product of food materials.
Therefore in Ayurveda, there is a major emphasis on diet.
Treatment should center around foods that support the restoration of Ojas, and also support sup: green vegetables, kale, parsley, spinach, rice, honey, almonds, strawberries, mangos, split mung lentils, amaranth, cooked lightly in spices that are also Ojas enhancing: cumin, coriander, ginger, fennel, cinnamon.
What can you do at home:
1. Cut out foods that are processed or pre-cooked
2. Stock up on lots and lots of green leafy vegetables
3. Try cooking with fresh spices: fennel or cinnamon or ginger
3. STEP 3: Restoring Natural Intelligence : Cultivating Tejas
Vitality in Ayurveda is not something that occurs only in the body. Tejas is the radiant vitality of the body-mind’s innate intelligence: the intelligence by which our cells innately perform a myriad of miracles – carrying oxygen molecules in our blood or releasing neurotransmitters or metabolizing nutrients from foods and identifying waste materials – simultaneously, continuously. Tejas is also the means by with which we can digest and process mental thoughts and impressions, and experience higher perceptual capacities;
Having strong Tejas therefore gives us digestive and information processing power at the mental and physical levels: cellular metabolic energy.
Restoring Tejas would involve calming the nervous system, through a variety of techniques that involve Panchakarma (a series of detoxification and purification therapies) and ‘Rasayana’ – the practice of destroying disease through the conservation transformation and revitalization of energy.
(see step 4)
4. STEP FOUR: Detoxification and Purification: Panchakarma
Pancha means ‘five’ in Sanskrit and ‘karma’ means action.
Panchakarma is a unique set of five detoxifying Ayurvedic treatments administered in three phases: the preparation, cleansing, and rejuvenation phases.
The first phase is oleation – ingesting and applying pure essential oils in order to mobilize the accumulated toxins in the body. The first of the five actions of Panchakarma here is ‘Swedana’ – the application of hot steam and warm oil therapies that loosen toxins and encourage their flow to the GI tract for elimination.
The second phase is the cleansing phase: now that toxins have been mobilized, their elimination is focused upon through a further three actions, all of which are administered gently through the application of medicinal herbal oils: Basti (intestinal irrigation); Nasya(nasal irrigation) and Vamana (oral elimination)
The final phase of Panchakarma is Rasayana: here medicinal and Ayurvedic oils are applied in uniquely restorative bodywork and massage techniques. Most famous of these is the practice of ‘Shirodhana’ – where warm oil is poured continuously on to the center of the forehead between the two eyes: acting as a powerful pacificier for the entire nervous system.
Further Rasayana would be pursued through Ayurvedic herb prescriptions using the healing properties of plants and flowers, for example:
Ashwaghandha – proven in some 216 medical to: confer immune system protection, combat the effects of stress, improve learning, memory, and reaction time, reduce anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness, reduce brain-cell degeneration.
Guggulu – purifying herbs. It cleanses unhealthy tissues, increases the white blood cell count and rejuvenates the
Brahmi – nerve tonic
Ayurvedic teas and tonics would be included in the diet every day to enhance healing, reduce stress for the rebuilding of tissues: pumpkin is a known sedative, nutmeg is a nervine, and chamomile is a digestive tonic and known sedative nervine herb.
What You Can Do At Home:
1. You can order many of these herbs and teas are available at reputable herbalists, and my own favorite source for these is at world center of excellence, with whom I have personally trained, The Chopra Center: http://store.chopra.com/showitems.asp?deptcode1=717
Stay tuned for part 2 of Ayurvedic Treatment for Addiction and More, where Dr. Raj will detail steps 5 through 8…