On Edge? Ayurvedic Tips for Calming Anxiety
No one likes to feel anxious—not even worrywarts. Although a tinge of anxiety can spark productivity, too much can be hazardous to your health.
According to ayurvedic expert Dr. Vasant Lad, anxiety is “primarily due to an aggravation of the vata dosha. So to heal anxiety, we have to balance vata.”
Certain lifestyle factors aggravate this flighty dosha: late hours, erratic schedules, cold and windy environments, overwork, and improper diet. If you often feel anxious, consider these vata-pacifying lifestyle changes. Stick to a strict routine by eating, sleeping, working, and exercising at the same time every day. (Slow, methodical exercise such as walking or swimming will soothe your nervousness.) And give yourself a daily oil massage to further ground vata. You can also choose from the following home remedies to help calm your anxiety.
Did You Know?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 19 million Americans from the ages of 18 to 54 have anxiety disorders.
A Relaxing Bath
Dr. Lad recommends the following anxiety-reduction bath: pour one-third cup of ginger and one-third cup of baking soda into a warm tub of water and soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
Dr. Lad also suggests soaking 10 raw almonds in water overnight. In the morning, peel off the skins. Blend the almonds with a cup of warm milk, a pinch of ginger, and a small pinch of nutmeg and saffron. Enjoy.
A Calming Diet
According to ayurveda, the food you eat can either balance your doshas or knock them out of whack. To pacify a vata imbalance, choose warm, moist, slightly oily, heavy foods. Soups, casseroles, hot cereals, creamy dishes, dairy products, bread, and pasta are great choices. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, sugar, and nicotine, since they’re overstimulating, and snack on fresh fruit instead. You can also incorporate vata-pacifying ingredients like anise, asafetida, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, gotu kola, licorice, natural sugar, nutmeg, rock salt, and sesame seeds into your diet.
Certain fragrances have a calming effect on vata. Put three drops of frankincense, basil, orange, or clove essential oil into an aromatherapy diffuser or a hot bath—and relax.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Nadi shodhanam, also known as alternate nostril breathing, is a simple practice that involves deliberately and rhythmically changing the flow of air from one nostril to another, according to a specific formula. This pranayama soothes the nervous system, relieves anxiety, and calms, balances, and regulates energy on both the physical and subtle levels. Here’s an easy version:
Step 1: Sit comfortably with your head, neck, and spine in alignment. Breathe slowly, evenly, and diaphragmatically through both nostrils for 3 to 5 minutes. As you’re about to begin your next exhalation, go to Step 2.
Step 2: Close your right nostril with your right thumb, and exhale fully and slowly through the left nostril.
Step 3: Without pausing, inhale normally through the left nostril, close the left nostril with the ring finger of the right hand, and exhale through the right nostril.
Step 4: Naturally inhale through the right nostril.
Step 5: Repeat steps 2–4 for five more minutes, switching nostrils after each inhalation. Avoid pausing between inhalations and exhalations, and keep your breathing steady and continuous.
Time to See a Doctor
If your anxiety symptoms are overwhelming, or if they’re interfering with your quality of life, seek professional help.
The Anxiety Symptom List
Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:
- Trembling, twitching, or shaking
- Rapid heartbeat
- Light-headedness or dizziness
- Sweating or cold, clammy hands
- Muscle tension, aches, or soreness
- Sleep problems
Emotional symptoms can include:
- Restlessness, irritability, feeling on edge
- Excessive worrying
- Sense of impending doom
- Inability to concentrate, “blanking out”
Former Yoga International editor-in-chief Shannon Sexton writes about food, travel, yoga, and natural health.