By MAPI Staff Writers
[Note: If you have a clinical condition, or you are under the care
of a health professional, we recommend that you consult your physician
for appropriate advice and treatment. The information provided in this
newsletter is educational only. Ed.]
In Ayurveda, the inability to process emotions in a timely manner is
seen as the main cause of emotional imbalances. So the Ayurvedic
emphasis is on efficiently processing emotions.
Occasional low moods can take many different forms. This list
includes: frequent feelings of anxiousness or emptiness; a loss of
interest and pleasure in activities; fatigue; irritability; social
withdrawal, acting-out behaviors, family conflict; occasionally feeling
blue, down, sad or simply emotionally bogged down; difficulty sleeping;
loss of appetite; weight gain; feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness
or pessimism; declining school grades or job performance; and poor
Seasons can bring on moodiness. So can major life changes, such as a
divorce, major financial problems, an illness, death of a loved one, or
any challenging, stressful events in life.
Occasional low moods affect more than 19 million adult Americans
yearly. (Women are twice as likely as men to experience this, and are
vulnerable after the birth of a child, before menstruation and during
Emotional Balance: The Ayurvedic Approach
The experts of Ayurveda have long understood the importance of
emotional health. This science of natural health offers a variety of
strategies and specific recommendations to keep emotions in balance
throughout a lifetime.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, emotional ill-health is caused by lack
of coordination between an individual’s senses, emotions and thoughts.
In the Ayurvedic view, the heart and mind are intimately connected. When
that connection is weakened, problems arise. Interestingly, in Ayurveda
the heart is considered the “seat” of consciousness. The master
Ayurvedic source text, the Charaka Samhita states, “hridaye chetana sthanam.” Translated it means, “the seat of consciousness is in the heart.”
The Ayurvedic texts also describe the heart as “Hrdaya.” This Sanskrit word consists of three parts — each with its own meaning: Hr means to receive, Da to give, and Ya
to move. The essential qualities of the heart are contained within this
Sanskrit name – receiving, giving and moving. It is further described
as Mahata – great, and Artha – serving all purposes, meaning in Ayurveda that it is an organ with a variety of important functions. The texts of Charaka go
on to describe the heart as, “indispensable for all mental and physical
activities,” because the entire sense perception, in total, depends on
the heart. It is further described as Pranayatana —the seat of
consciousness and the mind. So important is the heart in Ayurveda that
it is considered like the main support beam in a house; without that
support, the house collapses.
In Ayurveda, It’s About Processing Emotions
In the Ayurvedic view, the lack of ability to process emotions in a timely way is the main cause of emotional imbalances.
Some people are able to process an emotion quickly, which means they
are able to let go and move on with their lives. For others, the
processing or “cooking” of thoughts is slower, so the negative
impression remains with them for a very long time and impacts their
current thoughts and emotions, resulting in a negative mood.
Ayurveda & Emotional Processing – Agni’s Role
The digestive fire, called agni, is responsible for digesting
food. But there is actually an agni, or metabolic mechanism, in every
cell of your body, and with each subdosha. Think of doshas and subdoshas
as Ayurvedic managing systems that govern various functions of the
physiology and mind, according to the ancient texts.Subdoshas are like
To understand how “emotional processing” works, let’s look at the functioning of Sadhaka Pitta, one of the subdoshas of Pitta associated with the heart and the processing of emotions.
The agni associated with Sadhaka Pitta is responsible for processing
emotions. This agni is called Sadhaka Agni. Sadhaka Agni influences the
neurohormones. A neurohormone is any hormone produced and released by neurons. These are cells in the brain and spinal cord, as well as the heart.
The neurohormones — located in the heart — send signals to the brain to
register a low mood or happiness, depending on how the individual
processes the experience.
So, a person with low (imbalanced) Sadhaka Agni may remember a
negative situation that happened years ago. If the emotion hasn’t yet
been processed (digested/metabolized) and is still lodged in the heart
and mind, the memory stirs the emotion felt years ago and results in a
low mood. This reaction happens because Sadhaka Agni is weak, and the
person has not been able to properly “metabolize” or process that experience.
A person who has balanced Sadhaka Agni will process negative emotions
appropriately, in a manner that does not leave a painful impression.
This person may have a memory of a negative situation from years ago,
but is not affected by the memory because Sadhaka Agni is stronger. Even
right after a traumatic event, that person is able to think, “Whatever
has happened has happened, and I’m going to be all right.” They process
the experience quickly and are able to let it go, although each
experience, depending on the level of trauma to each unique individual,
has its own timeframe for being metabolized by the heart, body and mind.
What causes low Sadhaka Agni in the first place?
Ayurveda identifies a number of causes and solutions for low Sadhaka
Agni. The causes include eating the wrong foods, weak digestion, a
buildup of ama (toxins), engaging in Sadhaka Agni-aggravating behaviors,
living in an emotionally negative environment, being continually
exposed to environmental toxins, harsh unnatural environments, or being
surrounded by people who are not supportive.
Additionally, genetics play a role. Some people are born with low,
imbalanced Sadhaka agni; others are born with very balanced Sadhaka
Agni; and others start life with variable agni, which means it
vacillates between high and low.
How Balanced is Your Sadhaka Agni?
If a person has trouble making a major decision, or takes a long time
just to make simple decisions, this can be a sign of having low Sadhaka
Agni. In this situation, if ama (toxins) has built up, blocking the
body’s micro-communication channels, it can lead to low moods.
Another symptom is loss of the ability to judge the positive and
negative merits of a situation. For instance, let’s say you need to
decide whether another person will make a good friend. If Sadhaka Agni
is low and the channels (shrotas) are clogged, you might think, “Oh,
this person is very bad for me,” and completely ignore the person’s
positive characteristics. Or conversely, you might blindly believe he is
all good, and totally disregard any negative qualities. When Sadhaka
Agni is low, your precise ability to judge anything can suffer — whether
you’re buying a car, buying a house or choosing a friend. This problem
can also affect children, who cannot answer questions correctly in
school if they have lost their power of discrimination due to a slow
The inability to sit quietly without feeling extremely restless is
another symptom. Nearly everyone feels restless sometimes, but if that
difficulty persists, it indicates there is a problem with digesting
thoughts quickly enough.
Lack of perseverance is another indicator of low Sadhaka Agni. If a
person has trouble keeping commitments or performing his or her
day-to-day tasks, and is unable to achieve their goals, this also can be
a result of slow Sadhaka Agni. One example of this is people who
procrastinate, never completing their work and therefore not being
Another symptom that is caused by low Sadhaka Agni is the inability
to enjoy normal pleasures. A person may feel that he or she can’t go to a
social event because they are not funny enough, not outgoing enough, or
are somehow inferior to others. For such a person, even activities that
used to bring pleasure now are painful.
If imbalanced Sadhaka Agni goes unaddressed, over time the coordination between dhi, dhriti and smriti
(learning, retention, and recall) can break down, and the person no
longer feels normal happiness, or joy, day to day with the small and
large pleasures of life. While they may pursue more and more pleasurable
activities, they feel less and less joy. If left unaddressed, this lack
of coordination between heart and mind can lead to a type of moodiness
where the person loses control of their emotions, thoughts and actions.
The Solutions, from Ayurveda
Whether a person was born with a low Sadhaka Agni or whether they
acquired it through poor diet, lifestyle or behavior, the solution is
the same: to restore balance through techniques that nourish wellness.
This is done by adopting an Ayurvedic diet, using Ayurvedic herbal
formulas, transcendence (meditation), adjustments to routines and lifestyle, and more.
The organizing principle is Sattva Vijaya. This is a Sanskrit
term that means literally “triumphing with Sattva.” “Sattva” means the
positive, pure qualities of the transcendental Self. This experience is
nourished and unfolded using a variety of Ayurvedic techniques. The more
one is in connection (union) with this powerful, silent field of
consciousness, the more they feel uplifted, blissful and emotionally
stable. That is because the nature of this transcendental field is balance, bliss, evenness and happiness.
Ayurvedic therapies help restore the connection between heart, mind
and self. They include dietary, herbal, behavioral and environmental
tactics that allow one to become more established in Sattva – a state of stable, enduring balance and happiness – sometimes described as a field of bliss.
In Part Two of this article we will describe a variety of Ayurvedic
modalities, specialized herbals, lifestyle changes, spices, and other
choices that help support long-term emotional balance.
End of Part 1
(Cover Photo By garryknight, Flickr Creative Commons)