Ayurveda and Yoga can really help mental health….and it’s breaking my heart

Mental health awareness is thankfully on the rise. However we are all hearing that so too are the numbers of us affected by mental health issues. Severe mental illness has touched my own family lately for first time. I’ve seen how it breaks families and individuals. And I’ve seen little evidence during this time of real healing. I’ve seen psychiatric drugs dull a strong man’s spirit and reduce an imposing figure of a man to one who struggles to walk (not my family member), and frightening techniques such as electric shock treatment repackaged to look more modern and humane than it was, yet apart from the use of anaesthetic still as threatening as ever to the individual upon whom it can be imposed against their will – yes, in this country and in 2020 such a treatment can be forced upon us or our loved ones. This is seen as a human rights issue by some international organisations. Some times this horrid treatment apparently gives an unexplained recovery, though the field of psychiatry itself acknowledges that the treatment which works by inducing a brain trauma often does not give lasting recovery. Nor do the drugs prescribed to “treat” really heal, as by all accounts patients often have to stay on them for life, with all their toxicity and side effects.

Yes, sometimes in this field there seems to be no alternative: there is so little progress or understanding. Medics have to use resources currently available in their field of course, and some they treat have inherited conditions. I want to draw attention specifically here to those whose life challenges and experiences have broken them. Many are beyond talk therapies by the time they go for treatment and so from our medics’ perspectives there are few if any alternatives to the methods used above.

And yet I feel the very soul of these people cos crying out for compassionate, humane nurturing of their spirit,  broken by damaging relationships and social structures. These people desperately need deep, loving, wisdom-led care. And for this, as with treatment of the physical body, there would have to be an about-turn in perspective from “treatment” (or suppression may be a better term in some cases) of symptoms to treatment of the individual. From disease management to management and care of the individual and the life story that brought them to where they are. We KNOW the effect of dysfunctional relationships on our mental health, we KNOW the effect of poor lifestyle and dietary choices on our physical health, and we KNOW how physical health or illness affects our state of mind, and how our state of mind can affect our physical state. For instance, we’ve all probably experienced the short-lived loss of appetite that can come when we get anxious before an exam or interview: and then there’s also the long term disinterest in eating that can arise as a result of severe and chronic depression and disinterest in life.

I’ve seen mentally sick people trapped in a psychiatric structure where the nature of diet and it’s effects on the mental state is not only not understood and barely considered, but (from my own Ayurveda training perspective) is most likely exacerbating their condition; where prescription drugs may on the one hand be pacifying symptoms but on the other hand adding to the body condition which has potentially set the stage for mental illness in the first place from an Ayurveda perspective.

I’ve seen amazing doctors, nurses, carers, psychiatrists for better or worse, doing their level best with the resources they have. And in the field of mental health at least, by their own admission, they are in the painful position of knowing they are really playing a lottery, never certain of outcomes or even if there will be any. It means in spite of their best endeavours, professionals in the mental health field possibly witness as many individuals grow physically weaker whilst being slowly, in a “trial-and-error” manner, treated for mental issues, as they witness make a full and strong recovery.

All this has been heart-breaking to witness.

And that’s because I know there’s Ayurveda and Yoga…..ancient wisdom traditions with tried and tested theories on the nature of the mind, our subconscious, our essential nature and how to heal the very heart of a broken man or woman. These two wonderful sciences have a greater perspective perhaps than anything else available to mankind on the nature of the human spirit. They are beyond dogma and religious perspective, offering us universally applicable insights into mankind’s consciousness. Some of you will be familiar with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a classical yoga treatise on the nature of the mind and whilst it might not mention any specific psychological condition it has been said to contain the answer to each and every mental affliction that can touch a man or woman.

We are blessed beyond words to have access to these teachings, and they are more accessible to us now than ever before. In our own way I hope each and every one of us can find the inclination to look, enquire and apply the guidance of this ancient wisdom to the workings of our own hearts and minds.

With the sad sad passing away of Caroline Flack this last week, we are maybe all seeing the words “Be kind”, on billboards, on social media, maybe you are hearing it on the radio and TV. The thing is we all “want” to be kind at all times, I’m sure. And yet we have our fears, our insecurities, our hurts that cause is to act in ways that are anything but kind and often in spite of our own best intentions and towards the ones actually that we love most and are kindest to us. We justify our behaviours, our words with blame and finger-pointing at the other. My sense and experience is….if we truly want to be kind, we must point that finger back towards ourselves. When our buttons get pressed, when our hurts and insecurities are triggered, there’s the tremendous opportunity for the other to become a mirror, reflecting back to us where we are truly in need of healing. What a more wholesome response and outcome if we can stand steady, take courage and face ourselves like this, if we can turn the light of our awareness on those dark shadows in our subconscious that cause us to let ourselves as well as our loved ones down by being other than kind.

If we have a responsibility, a duty as a human being I truly feel it is this inner work and redirection. The work towards a better world, a better humanity must start with ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Only then will we stop hurting each other, when compassion towards our own hurting self has awoken. And we need to do this, because as we are seeing in the world of mental health and as the Sting song goes…”how fragile we (all) are”, in truth.

Please join me if you can for a workshop on April 18th on Ayurveda and Yoga: Keys to Mental Health . Here is the https://www.loveyogahealing.com/yoga-and-ayurveda-keys-to-mental-health/

In the Alchemy of Yoga Retreat May 16-23 this year, our lunch time inner enquiry work will very much be about enquiring into subconscious patterns that steal our health and our joy, and freeing ourselves from their grip through the light of awareness.  There is still space for you to join us for an empowering and joyful week:


I’d like to leave you now with a poem by Rumi on the mirror and the heart:

Let go of your worries

And be completely clear hearted

Like the force of a mirror that contains no images.

If you want a clear mirror, behold yourself

And see the shameless truth which the mirror reflects

If metal can be polished to a mirror like finish,

What polishing might the mirror of the heart require?

Between the mirror and the heart is this single difference:

The heart conceals secrets

While the mirror does not.



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