Stress makes you sick

Yoga, Ayurveda and spiritual therapies against stress-related diseases

Article by Kerstin Rosenberg

When Dr. Hans Selye, the pioneer of stress research, scientifically defined stress as the body's reaction to internal or external stress in 1950, he triggered a medical revolution. Now the excess of mental, physical and sensual overstimulation was recognized as a trigger for illness and psycho-mental therapy methods were developed or rediscovered. Ayurveda also entered the West during this epoch and was able to provide highly interesting answers to the current questions of the time with its traditional treatment approaches: Vedic philosophy, for example, described the causes and symptoms of stress in a very detailed and brilliant way several thousand years before Dr. Selye: Stress arises either from the suppression or non-fulfillment of natural needs, and from the wrong, excessive or absent use of the mind. For the recovery of the body and mind from stress-related ailments, the Ayurvedic physician Charaka, in the classic Ayurvedic textbook the Charaka Samhita, describes the application of Jnana (spiritual knowledge), Vinjana (knowledge of scriptures), Dhairya (patience, tolerance and mental strength), Smrti (memory) and Samadhi (spiritual enlightenment) as guiding principles for removing the pathogenic factors from the mind.

From Ayurvedic point of view, stress is not only the cause of many acute and chronic medical conditions but also leads to premature aging. Whenever we are under mental tension, the digestive, immune and nervous systems cannot work properly. Thus we suffer a massive loss of essential life energy (ojas), which greatly reduces performance, potency and zest for life.

Ayurveda uses special Rasayana therapies as an effective therapeutic agent against stress-related exhaustion and complaints. Among the most important Rasayanas are gentle oil massages and restorative supplements. The curative use of relaxing oil treatments such as abhyanga (full body oil massage) or sirodhara (forehead casting) as well as the nutritional supplements Amalaki, Ashwanganda or wheat grass are used for physical and mental regeneration. Supplemented by restorative foods such as almonds, raisins, dates, milk and ghee, a noticeable improvement in the immune and vital power can be achieved, which also combats stress-related illnesses such as burnout, sleep disorders, tinitus or allergies.

Even better than any tonic, yoga, meditation and a relaxed state of mind help to boost the healing and regeneration process. Because as long as we are still suffering from pressure, anger, anxiety and bad habits, the healthy balance of physical and mental forces cannot unfold. And that, to quote Charaka again, is our most valuable asset:

Good health is the root of virtuous actions (dharma), acquisition of wealth (artha), satisfaction of desires (karma), and ultimate liberation (moksha.) Caraka-samhita,Su.I.15

Stress can be experienced subjectively on different levels

Physical stress Mental stress
Physical stress is triggered by not or incorrectly fulfilling physical needs such as eating, drinking, sleeping, breathing, hygiene, urinating, defecating, moving. Mental stress is triggered by not or incorrectly fulfilling mental needs such as recognition, love, knowledge, security, self-actualization, interpersonal relationships.
Physical stress levels manifest themselves in pain, illness, over-sensitivity, among other things. Mental stress levels manifest themselves in loneliness, sorrow, worry, guilt, grief, fear, aggression, insecurity, emotional fluctuations, nervousness, depression, among other things.
Kerstin Rosenberg

About the author

Kerstin Rosenberg is a well-known Ayurveda specialist and successful book author. She 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 chairwoman of 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.