Ayurveda for the treatment of burnout

Article by Kerstin Rosenberg

General information about burnout

It is frightening to see the extent to which people have been exploiting their physical and mental strength for many years to the point of complete exhaustion. The resulting sleep disorders, migraine attacks, depression, anxiety and chronic lack of energy affect more than 1.5 million people from all age groups and social classes in Germany and are called burnout in modern medicine, which means "burnt out". It is striking that people from social professions suffer particularly frequently from this clinical picture and cite the orthodox medical definition of overwork over many years, usually at work, often coupled with constant frustration, as the reason for their illness. This inability to take care of oneself when taking care of others should give us pause for thought. But also external causes such as chronic infections (especially viruses), toxins and nutritional deficiencies as well as immune and hormonal disorders can serve as disease triggers and intensify the psychosomatic component.

Burnout from an Ayurvedic point of view

From an Ayurvedic point of view, the term burnout is macabrely appropriate for a clinical picture in which the life fire agni is extinguished and the resulting deficiency symptoms on the energetic and substantial level lead to deep-seated disturbances of the physical and psychological well-being. If one would like to define burnout with the Ayurvedic terminology, one would call it primarily a Vata aggravation with a deficiency state of Rasa and Ojas. Especially the Prana-Vata - the life energy par excellence with a close relationship to the psyche and its regulating function for all other Doshas - manages its tasks only insufficiently and leads to a reduction of Kapha, which stands for the nourishing and building up power and is essentially responsible for the formation of Ojas (the immune and defence power).

Ayurvedic treatment

The holistic recommendations, techniques and therapeutic methods of yoga and Ayurveda are ideal for counteracting burnout in an effective and sustainable way. Especially the gentle massages, restorative dietary recommendations and the highly potent herbal formulations of the Ayurvedic Rasayana therapies, in combination with a relaxing asana and pranayama program, represent the optimal burnout treatment for body and mind.

In order to use the great healing potential of Ayurveda for a successful burnout treatment, it is necessary to determine the individual causes of illness and then to avoid them. Here it is essential that an experienced Ayurveda and/or Yoga therapist supports his client in the analysis of his own life and motivates him to implement change strategies. In doing so, the most important vata-reducing measures in daily diet and behaviour should be implemented as quickly and as extensively as possible and firmly integrated into daily life (see below).

Furthermore, many of the oil treatments of Ayurvedic manual therapy are indicated. Especially beneficial for physical vitality and psychological stability is the oil forehead cast Shirodhara, which patients should treat themselves to at least twice a week. Mild steam baths, oil massages, a gentle elimination with senna leaves, castor or triphala and internal oilings (enemas) also support the regenerative rebuilding process. The intake of healing substances with våta-reducing effects completes the treatment (e.g. Ashwanganda, Kapikacchu, Shatavari, Deshamula). The substances are selected according to the predominant symptoms.

As soon as the Vata-regulating measures show the first positive results, the Rasayana therapies based on them can unfold their full effect on the functional and nutritional state of the individual tissues. Here the intake of nourishing substances such as milk, ghee and honey, but also classical food supplements such as Chayavanaprash, wheatgrass or Ashwaganda are particularly recommended. For strengthening the mind, the ability to concentrate and inner contentment, there are also excellent plant preparations, so-called Medya Rasayanas, such as Sankhapuspi, but also the better known Brahmi or Tulsi. Tangara in particular has a calming effect.

Besides all the physically oriented rejuvenation therapies and medicinal herbs, spiritual therapies should not be neglected. Regular training of the mind through meditation is often neglected, but it is one of the decisive factors in dealing with stress and overload in a better way and finding new vitality and joy. Often a psychologically oriented Ayurvedic counseling is necessary to gain new perspectives for a new - according to one's own dosha - life orientation. Mental stress patterns can also be recognized very well through a conscious training of the mind and a "sattvic personality modification" leads to inner peace, serenity and confidence.

For this process, the classical writings of Ayurvedic healing recommend regular meditation as the most powerful of all the methods described. This is very good news for the burnout patient, because the spiritual therapies show no side effects and cost nothing!

In the Ayurvedic classics, the stated symptoms of a deficiency state of the nutritive tissue rasa (cf. e.g. CS S ̈. 17.64; SuS S ̈.15.9) coincide to a surprising degree with the symptoms of the burnout syndrome:

  • Weakness
  • "Dryness and roughness" of the tissues (= general functional impairment).
  • emaciation
  • heavy breathing
  • palpitations
  • pressure or pain in the chest
  • trembling
  • sensitivity to sound
  • fatigue
  • disinterest
  • Depression

Simple dietary and lifestyle rules for Vata reduction during burnout

  • Eat, sleep and move in a regular rhythm
  • prefer warm and cooked food
  • drink warm drinks, especially hot water and ginger water
  • meditate daily and go out into nature
  • take mild spices like saffron, ginger, cooked garlic, cumin and rock salt daily with food.
  • Go to bed early (around 22.00) and possibly drink a hot milk with ashwaganda and honey beforehand.
  • For physical and mental strengthening, prefer all Rasayana foods: milk, ghee, honey, wheat, almonds, nuts, sweet root vegetables, grapes, mango, dry fruits.
  • In acute condition, Rasayana food supplements Chayavanaprash, Wheatgrass or Ashwaganda help in regeneration of vital energy and immunity.
  • Mental exhaustion can be balanced with Medya Rasayanas, such as Sankhapuspi, Brahmi Tulsi. or Tangara
Kerstin Rosenberg

About the author:

Kerstin Rosenberg is a well-known Ayurveda specialist and successful book author who trains Ayurveda therapists, nutritionists and psychological counsellors in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Together with her husband she is managing partner of the European Academy for Ayurveda, an internationally awarded Ayurveda institution with its own Ayurveda training and cure centre in Birstein, Hesse. As Chairperson of the VEAT Association of European Ayurvedic Physicians and Therapists, Kerstin Rosenberg represents the professional and educational interests of Ayurvedic physicians, practitioners and therapists in public and in international professional bodies.