Prof Dr Bruno Renzi
is a psychiatrist specialising in Ayurvedic medicine, Director of Maharishi College of Perfect Health International and Co-director of the Maharishi AyurVeda Health & Prevention Centre in Milan, Italy
How to Treat Stress and Distress in the Time of COVID 19 from a Perspective of Maharishi AyurVeda Integrative Medicine
by Prof Dr Bruno Renzi
If we want to address the particular psychological dimension related to the Covid 19 period, we must make some necessary premises. Certainly, the isolation imposed by law or the confinement inside homes in the period of greatest spread of the pandemic has created a condition of intense stress or even distress for some subjects. Some have been able to face this period by resorting to resources related to their complexity and flexibility, others certainly have experienced a condition of intense stress, others have had to face states of emerging anxiety.
Normally the way we structure our life depends on our personality structure, and therefore on sometimes very profound determinants. Our lifestyle, our relationships, our times, our choices etc … are the expression of an existential project determined by our Self (Jivatma) and therefore by the complexity of our Self; the factors that interact in this complexity are:
- Matra and Pitra sattva (psychic traits of the mother and father),
- Kulaja (race),
- Jati (caste),
- Matraja Garbhasaja (biological factor of the uterus),
- Ahara and Vihara of the mother,
- Purva Karma Ritukala of the mother and also mental state and behaviour of the mother,
- Sranavadi and Pathanadi of the mother (aspects of the behavior and environment in which the mother lives during pregnancy),
- Purva janm krta karma (memories and behaviours related to the subject’s previous life),
- Sattvaja bhavas (specific mental traits),
- Proto bhavas (specific interaction of tanmatra),
- Purvajanma (feeling, thought, action, word),
- Abhyasa, behavioral habits, all of these add up to some postnatal factors.
The complex interaction of these factors can be understood in terms of the morphogenetic field that acts at the DNA level in defining temperamental traits and individual Prakrti.
What we found during and after the acute phase of the pandemic is that individuals who were forced to drastically change their life structure, confined in a limited space, experienced stress or distress that often bordered on anxiety or mild depression.
In this context, the fundamental element is therefore to give structure to our existence in a period in which our freedom of expression has undergone considerable coarctation and some psychic dynamics that were kept under control before have intensified.
I therefore wish to separate the suggestions relating to the management of a normal stress condition from those relating to distress or mild, moderate anxiety or mild depression, using an integrated medicine approach with Maharishi AyurVeda.
In the case of the treatment of a condition of normal stress, all the indications widely known in Maharishi AyurVeda are useful, aimed at balancing the Doshas and aligning with the rhythms of nature:
- Regularity in the programme of TM-Sidhhi, Pranayama and Yoga Asanas.
- Emphasis on Dinacharya; within the Dinacharya, Autoabhyanga using herbalized oils to pacify Vata or Pitta, or matured sesame oil for constitutions with a prevalence of Vata or coconut oil if prevalently Pitta takes on particular importance for the reduction of stress.
- Nutrition defined for the specific Prakrti and Vikrti highlighted through the Nadi Vigyan.
- Regularize the rhythm of sleep in accordance with the individual constitution; useful before going to sleep massage the soles of the feet alternately with ghee for 5 minutes, then dry with a sponge of warm water.
- MAP intake, especially Rasayana, aimed at strengthening the immune system.
- Practicing the Achara Rasayana; this greatly modulates the stress condition and determines a positive balance in physiology by improving the function of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis.
- Aroma therapy, the use of essential oils for the maintenance of health and the rebalancing of the doshas. They can be used for topical or inhalation use. Essential oils such as clove, tulsi holy basil, ginger, camphor, cinnamon, eucalyptus are recommended; can be used with a diffuser or added in self-cleaning oil.
- In some cases, Maharishi Gandharva music may be useful; in addition to creating a remarkable relaxation in physiology, it tunes mind and body with the cycles of nature.
In cases of greater distress, characteristic patterns of disequilibrium may occur which present a discrete variability in intensity and coexistence of the Upadoshas in disequilibrium.
1) PREVALENT ALTERATION OF PRANA VATA (intense psychic tension) associated with:
- Imbalance of Udana Vata which causes a feeling of tightness in the chest and a feeling of air hunger.
- Imbalance of Samana Vata with alteration of the digestive function due to gastric-intestinal hyperperistalsis and sensation of bite in the stomach.
- Imbalance of Apana Vata with intestinal hyperperistalsis, irritable colon, widespread pain in the pelvic region or constipation.
- Imbalance of Pachaka Pitta can coexist with alteration of the digestive function due to alteration of the Jathar Agni.
- Probable alteration of Ranjaka if unprocessed anger is present. The intensity and coexistence of the Upadoshas imbalance varies in relation to particular individual conditions.
2) ALTERATION OF VYANA VATA (intense psychic tension with arterial hypertension).
3) PREVALENT ALTERATION OF SADAKA PITTA (mild state of anxiety, emotional tension or slight decrease in mood). Alterations of Samana Vata, Pachaka and Ranjaka Pitta can coexist.
4) COEXISTENT ALTERATION OF PRANA VATA AND SADAKA PITTA
In this case there may be a psychic disorder of greater intensity or of a psychiatric nature; psychopathology can be included in the cases of Vyadhis, that is, a pathology that can have physical, psychological or metaphysical correlates and that concerns Bhuta Vidya. The therapeutic indications and methods of intervention are different and in severe cases require the organization of a structure with specialized Ayurvedic doctors and technicians.
In all these conditions we must always treat Apana Vata.
We must correlate these alterations of the Doshas to the Dhātus keeping in mind the “Dosha Dhātu Sammurchana”, that is the interaction between the spoiled Doshas and the tissues. In a functional condition the Doshas, the Dhātus and the Mala are free to move in a functional way. If due to a defect in the Srotas we do not have a functional movement of the Doshas and Dhatus, the onset of a dysfunction that over time becomes pathology occurs.
For the prevalent Vata and Pitta alterations it is necessary to indicate to the patient all the prescriptions useful for the maintenance of health as described above, adding the MAP preparations to a more intense dosage, in accordance with what has been detected through the Nadi Vigyan in the patient.
In cases of more severe mental disorder, with the intense compromise of Prana Vata and Sadaka Pitta, therefore states of mild anxiety and moderate decrease in mood, or if relationship problems coexist, we can suggest an integration with an effective form of psychological short therapy and if this type of intervention cannot be implemented, low-dose psychopharmaceuticals can be integrated in accordance with the particular detection of a specialist, mainly benzodiazepines, hypno-inducers and SSRIs (Selective inhibitors of serotonin reuptake).
It is important to follow the patient with frequent checks.
These indications and evaluations have a certain degree of variability in relation to the detection made by the attending physician and represent some suggestions for an immediate approach to stress and distress in an emergency condition such as that experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic.