I wanted to take some time today to go a little deeper into why we can become anxious sometimes, because it is not always for the reasons that we think. But first I am going to back up a little bit to explain about Ayurveda, which is the science behind the principles in this article.
Ayurveda is the ancient East Indian ‘science of life’. It is similar to Chinese Medicine in that it encompasses all facets of living, rather than separating them out. For example, humans are part of nature, and we are affected by the elements that are prevalent within nature at any given time. Nature too of course is affected by humans. If all of life is interconnected, then it would stand to reason that one part of nature being out of balance will inevitably affect parts of the same system, and likely cause imbalances elsewhere too. The same is true within the body.
For example, we contain all 5 elements within us (earth, air, fire, water, ether). These elements interact within us and depending upon our habits and influences, will bring us in and out of balance. Did you know by the way that balance is different for everyone?
Most people when we first discuss the elements within their body, think that we should contain all 5 elements equally within us. Not true. If at the time of conception your parents combined were predominantly air and ether within their bodies, then you would be composed of relatively more air and ether, and that would be your primary constitution for your entire life. If you are predominantly air and ether in your body type, then you would be considered the ‘vata’ body type.
I have heard it said that at one time most people used to be predominantly one body type. But today with people traveling and moving, and intercultural marriages being more common, more people are predominantly 2 body types combined. For example someone could have air and ether (vata type), plus water and fire (pitta type) and so their body type would be vata pitta.
Let’s leave this here for now, and today let’s talk mainly about the elements of air and ether within the body. If you thought about it, you might guess that air and ether are light, dry, and highly mobile. There is not much physical substance to them. Think about wind for example, it is earths’ predominant way of demonstrating vata in nature.
If you have vata as one of your main body types, (or even If you don’t but you have a vata imbalance meaning it is high for you even though it is not your main constitution), you will be more likely to experience the symptom of anxiety, and other related vata symptoms. Of course we can all be in or out of balance with these elements.
In Balance Air & Ether (vata) can appear:
Out of Balance Air & Ether (vata) can appear:
What does it mean to have ether and air (or vata) out of balance? It means that there is literally too much of those elements within the body at any given time. Also, given that these elements are very changeable, they could be high one day, and low or balanced the next day (although these elements can be out of balance for prolonged periods of time as well, depending upon your predisposition, diet, lifestyle, and outside influences).
When someone comes to me with anxiety, one of the things I will look for is if the air and ether elements are out of balance in their body. Now, I am not an Ayurvedic doctor, so I do not go in-depth in this analysis, and for most people, this is ok, they will still get great benefit from making some simple changes to their lifestyle and diet.
But if someone is out of balance for long periods of time, or if air, ether, fire, and water are all out of balance at the same time, then those can be red flags for bigger issues in the body. Then I might refer someone to an ayurvedic doctor or naturopath to have a more in-depth analysis. (The more elements that are simultaneously out of balance at the same time, the more dis-ease there is within the body).
One other interesting thing to note is that sometimes a person can have too much air and ether in their mind, but the body is actually in balance. I see this more often if someone spends most of their days in prolonged mental activity, for example someone who needs to have great mental intellect, or focus all day every day.
Lawyers, doctors, students, might be examples of people whose profession or daily activity necessitates them being ‘in their mind’ a lot. In fact increased mental activity is becoming more common for many people, regardless of their profession, simply because we are over stimulated with information, noise, and activity going on around us all the time. (Always having noise on in the background is a sure way to increase vata).
If someone is prone to anxiety or mental stress, and their body is in balance, in this case we will work more with the mind than with the body to bring someone into balance. Usually breathwork, meditation or gentle yoga are suggested.
You should now have an idea about how someone can exhibit air and ether both in and out of balance, what else do we need to consider here?
When people come to work with me, I will usually go over a detailed questionnaire with them to see which body type(s) are predominant for them, and where they might be out of balance.
Say a vata person comes to me. A true vata may typically be quite thin and have difficulty gaining weight. They typically tend to be dry, cold, and quick on their feet/very mobile. Increasing these same qualities (either in the diet or environment) will tend to aggravate the vata type. For example, eating light dry food like chips or dried fruit, or walking outside in the wind, will throw them out of balance quite quickly. Then using that same principle, opposite qualities will balance them. Typically what that means then is that eating heavy moist foods, staying warm, and staying grounded and hydrated can be very helpful for vata types.
So if you find yourself becoming anxious for no reason, it may simply be that your vata has increased within your body or your mind, or both. If this is the case, make sure to stay well hydrated and warm. It is also helpful to slow down, and to find a way to bring some quiet calming activities such as meditation, gentle yoga, or even knitting or doing a puzzle. Long deep breathing can also be really helpful for remaining grounded when you are feeling anxious.
We will go into more detail about how to bring each of the body types back into balance in my next article. For now, know that if you suffer from anxiety, sometimes it really can be a simple as altering a few daily practices, to bring yourself back into feeling grounded, relaxed and joyful in each and every moment.