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Age Proof Your Brain With Ayurveda, Part Two

Discover how diet and Ayurvedic therapies can help Improve brain health.

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Nurturing our mental health with Ayurveda is an incredibly powerful way to address the brain chemistry related to brain aging and the prevention of mood disorders like anxiety and depression. To deal with mental health at large, Ayurveda recommends the following:

Spiritual Therapy

Here, the inclusion of practices like mantra chanting, auspicious fire ceremonies, fasts, and other spiritual activities are encouraged to calm and center the mind. In fact, pivotal studies have shown that om chanting can activate the vagus nerve, also called the wellness nerve, which connects the brain to the rest of the body. “The neurohemodynamic correlates of ‘om’ chanting indicate limbic deactivation,” a study reported, “As similar observations have been recorded with vagus nerve stimulation treatment used in depression and epilepsy, the study findings argue for a potential role of this “om” chanting in clinical practice.”

Diet

A specific diet and Ayurvedic medicines can also address mental health concerns and enhance brain health. In general, for diet or to improve ahara rasa, the following foods can be incorporated:

  • Raw or organic and non-homogenized milk
  • Ghee or clarified butter
  • Grapes and berries like gooseberries, cherries, and blueberries 
  • Jackfruit
  • Ash gourd

You can include a variety of fruits, colorful vegetables, nuts, other sources of healthy fats, and plant-based proteins to support and reinforce cognitive development. 

Ayurveda is a holistic science where all parts of the treatment, including the mind and body, are important. So, it is just as important to be mindful of one’s thoughts, behavior in relationships, and practicing seasonal regime, or ritucharya. Apart from this, some panchakarma treatments that help clear up toxins in the mind-body complex are:

Abhyanga

This is a widely popular relaxation therapy that involves deep-tissue massage using carefully formulated and warmed herbal oils. This increases blood circulation through the body and brain. It activates specific energy points and neural pathways to support a deep sense of relaxation, stress reduction, and lightness. It brings vata dosha in balance, which is associated with many mental health disorders. 

Shirodhara

In this process, a steady stream of lukewarm oil is poured on the forehead and scalp of the individual, stimulating relaxation points in the forehead region. It reinvigorates the central nervous system and detoxifies it. This therapy is recommended for various nervous system-related conditions with roots in vitiated vata dosha. 

Nasya 

Nasal therapy clears out the mucus and other toxins from the nasal passages, lubricates them, reduces vata imbalance. Pouring herb-infused oils through nasal passages also relieves migraine headaches, clears sinuses, reduces anxiety, and clears the mind. This must be done under the supervision of a seasoned Ayurveda therapist. 

Some other ways you can delay brain aging and keep it fit include:

  • Engaging in activities that stimulate the mind. Studies have found that engaging in activities like solving puzzles, math, learning new skills, or drawing, which require mental sharpness and alertness, stimulate neural connections and have a regenerative benefit for the brain.
  • Getting enough exercise. Physical exercises or yoga can help you work up muscles as well as relax your mind instantly, which supports brain health. Studies show that regular workouts can increase the number of blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood to the brain.
  • Keep your blood pressure low. You can try various mind-body practices like meditation, yoga, tai chi, mandala art, among other forms to control the release of stress hormones that push up blood pressure. High blood pressure has been associated with a higher risk of premature cognitive decline. Studies reveal that practicing meditation can actually change structural changes in the brain, like the cerebral cortex, an area related to attention and emotional understanding, can thicken in long-time meditators. According to Sara Lazar, a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology, “This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.” In fact, a key task in managing brain health is reducing stress levels. Studies show, higher stress, poor sleep, and high anxiety levels led students to fare poorly on cognitive tests. 
  • Reign in blood sugar levels. Diabetes mellitus is linked with the onset of dementia. So, it is important to make sure your lifestyle supports diabetes management, as well. Here’s a total guide to managing diabetes with the help of non-invasive complementary and alternative therapies. 

Click here for more on How to Age Proof Your Brain with Ayurveda.

Posted with permission from Art of Living Retreat Center

About The Author
Ruchira Roy Chowdhury

Ruchira Roy is a former business journalist turned health and wellness writer, meditation teacher, Ayurveda practitioner, and Art of Living volunteer. A New York University journalism graduate and an Asian College of Journalism alum, she is a pacifist who loves to create, entertain, meditate, and tell stories.