Picture this - you're late for a necessary appointment, but traffic has hampered your movement. As you watch seconds converting into minutes, your brain moves into overdrive because it detects the situation as an emergency or frightening scenario. It sends out an order to our brain to release numerous hormones in our body, which helps us to react in such situations: Freeze, flight, or fight. But there is a number of other things that happen in our body when we let the stress hormones overtake us. Your heart races, your mind loses function, your breath changes - you realize something is not okay. These stress hormones can trigger your body's 'fight or flight response with a multi-layered impact which could hamper your health.
In today's time and age, stress has become a part of our lives. So be it with juggling multiple tasks professionally and personally or even an information overload that we're bombarded with daily - there is no doubt that stress is an element of human existence.
The ancient science of Ayurveda emphasizes stress's adverse effects on our bodies. While small amounts of stress and pressure can be overlooked, constant exposure can build free radicals within the body over time. Depending on your body's constitution, stress's effects affect your emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
But first, you need to understand what stress is according to Ayurveda's 5000-year-old traditional healing system, which encompasses all aspects of the body and nature.
Scientifically, when the body is under stress, it activates specific quantities of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine hormones which trigger reactions such as heightened blood pressure, sweating, alertness, and tightened muscles. Ayurveda defines sahasa, or stress, as a disorder of rajas depicted by intense undirected activity.
Rajas is one of the three universal gunas, the other being sattva (purity) and tamas (inertia). Rajas manifest themselves in the human body while taking forms of emotional attachment, cravings, and desires. When these emotions are dissatisfied, they negatively impact the body.
According to Ayurveda, sahasa, or stress, is the root of several diseases. For instance, as a fundamental principle, it is well-known that sahasa causes ojahksaya, or loss of immunity. Ayurveda, therefore, recommends caring for the triads of health or traya upastambhaiti - ahara (food), swapnoh (sleep), brahmacaryamiti (sexual activity).
Ayurvedic experts believe that stress can be managed by balancing the energetic properties of the body, as stress is primarily a disturbance of the nervous system. Typically, it is Vata or wind-air energy that regulates stress by controlling movement within the body. Depending on your constitutions, stressful reactions generate multiple responses within the body, wreaking havoc on the mind.
Some of the most common physiological reactions are:
Intensified tension headaches;
High blood pressure;
Susceptibility to depression;
Irritability or overall moodiness throughout the day;
Weakened immune system;
Insomnia or other sleep disorders;
Co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular ailments;
Reproductive conditions such as infertility, missed periods, and erectile dysfunction.
When your body reacts to rajas in a particular manner, it can result in vitiated Vata, Kapha, or Pitta doshas depending on your body constitution. This article focuses on the body's Pitta dosha and the impact of stress on it.
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You must learn the nature of your body to understand its needs and stress factors. The Pitta helps balance kinetic and potential energy of your body while also controlling the biochemistry and temperature. This dosha represents fire and earth. Those with a good Pitta constitution are mostly focused, outstanding leaders who are determined, fiery, sharp-witted, and very competitive. Dominated by the element of fire, people of this particular faction may often feel overwhelmed by pressure under stressful situations, leading to frustration and anger. These things together cause different types of stress that affect physiologically and psychologically.
Digestive problems such as heartburn, diarrhea, acid reflux, and indigestion
Heightened body temperature such as fever
Bleeding disorders such as anemia
Skin reactions in the form of inflammation, acne, rashes, ulcers, and burning sensations
Co-morbidities such as jaundice, hypertension, and hyperthyroidism
Other symptoms such as burning eyes, impaired vision, hemorrhoids, menstrual cramps, and infectious diseases
Tendency to overthink situations
Being critical of oneself
Anger and irritability
As per Acharya Charaka, stress dwells in the mind or manoghata vihara. Anyone who is stressed experiences emotional disturbances or manovaha srotas in the form of:
Ayasa (confusion or lethargy)
Eventually, even physical aspects such as the dhatus (tissues) and Ojas (overall immunity) get affected. Acharya Charaka also said that the best treatment for stress relief is 'Sahasam Sada varjayate.' It means the best solution to cure stress is to get to the root cause of the disease.
Generally, a person with an imbalanced Pitta prefers everything to go according to plan. However, the truth is that nothing can be in your control, and it's best to relax. The fiery element of Pitta tends to make people feel overwhelmed. Therefore stress relief should focus on reducing the emotional component to a gentle flicker.
READ MORE: Balance Your Pitta To Manage That Short-fused, Hot-Head Temper | Pitta’s Vices: Diet + Lifestyle Habits That Aggravate Pitta Dosha
A quiet meditative state
Being reflective, Pitta individuals always find themselves reminiscing every step of life and experiences, which can be overwhelming. This is why meditation has become an integral part of stress management. It effectively helps you manage emotions such as anger, irritability, and criticism. Daily prayers or quiet reflections in a meditative state before the day begins helps calm the nervous system and ground you before the day starts. Sitting quietly and focusing on your deep, slow breath can have an immensely positive effect. Pranayama techniques that help include:
Ocean Breath or Ujjayi Pranayama
It calms the nervous system, calms the mind, and relieves insomnia
Cooling and Hissing Breath or Sheetkari and Sheetali
It helps the muscle relax while balancing high blood pressure
Skull Shining Breath or Kapalabhati
This kriya improves mood swings and gives you a sense of balance.
READ MORE: Three Pranayamas and their Ayurvedic / Psychological Effects
Movement in the form of yoga
Since Pitta is a fiery element, your body tends to overheat owing to stress. It is, therefore, advisable to practice yoga in a calm environment, especially during the summer months. Relaxing and cooling poses that focus on removing heat from the body help relieve stress. The following poses are suitable for those with the Pitta dosha:
Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana
It helps enhance metabolism and alleviates digestive disorders owing to stress.
Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana
It helps enhance blood circulation along with the flow of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
Garland Pose or Malasana
It kindles the Agni (digestive fire), which is greatly affected when Pitta individuals are stressed.
READ MORE: 10 Unbelievably Easy Yoga Poses To Help Relieve Stress And Anxiety
Pitta individuals are often agitated owing to their active minds. Engaging in self-massage techniques or Abhyanga with rhythmic strokes enables you to relax and focus on your mind. An ideal massage routine commences with the head, moves to the central belly, and grounds you at the feet. Paying particular attention to your stomach can keep your stressed digestive system calm and relaxed. Using a moderate amount of oil, you can focus on stressed areas such as your tension-filled neck, back, and shoulders. Essential oils that work wonders for aggravated Pittas are:
It radiates a sense of calm owing to its anti-depressant, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties.
It helps with the release of dopamine and endorphins to relieve stress.
It has sedative effects, which help treat insomnia while relieving anxiety and depression. You can try Sandalwood Ylang-Ylang Serene Serum (For Sensitive/Pitta Skin)
READ MORE: Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Massage Benefits | Shiro Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Ritual with Proven Benefits for Hair Health | 14 Proven Scientific Benefits Of Ayurvedic Massage, with references (Abhyanga Benefits)
Take a step back and avoid extreme competitiveness to keep calm throughout the day.
Declutter your mind after a busy schedule to relieve physical, emotional, and mental stress.
Avoid spicy and fermented food when you're anxious since stress induces acid reflux and indigestion.
Introduce herbs such as antioxidant herbs such as amla and neem to induce stress-relieving hormones in the body.
Favor foods such as cucumbers, watermelon, and coconut water are cooling and soothing for the body.
Opt for herbal teas with hibiscus and tulsi to aid mental clarity and counter metabolic stress with anti-depressant properties.
Practice Nasya or the application of medicated oil to your nasal passages, encouraging better deep breathing techniques.
Indulge in warm showers and baths that will help you soothe your muscles.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, fried food, and alcohol, resulting in an aggravated Pitta.
In everyday life, stress and anxiety can hamper your well-being. They can get in the way of your goals, stopping you from reaching them. It would help if you did not let stress overtake your life. Healthy ahara (diet), good Nidra (sleep), and a balanced lifestyle can go a long way in making you feel calm and composed.
Ayurveda recommends relaxing your mind and body to re-establish lost equilibrium and destress your physical and mental well-being. You are most balanced when you are at your healthiest. Dosha-balancing interventions such as yoga, meditation, and pranayam can go a long way in aiding your health and experiencing more significant levels of relaxation.
If you feel you or your loved one may need help in managing stress, the educational courses available at The Ayurveda Experience can help. Please take a look at them here.
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