This post was last updated on August 19, 2021 by Preethi Sukumaran
“Hi, Is there any product that can help my hair? I am 23 years old. I have a stressful job and my hair is greying very rapidly”.
“Hi Team Krya. I am a B school graduate and I am just 25. I have a travelling stressful Sales job, and I have been losing hair at an alarming rate. For the last year, everytime someone meets me, this is all they talk about (how quickly I seem to be losing hair). Can Krya’s products help me?”
“Hi Preethi, I was extremely overweight until a year ago. Over the last year, I started a very good exercise programme with good quality foods and managed to lose about 15 kg. I eat very well and good quality fruits and vegetables. Inspire of this, my skin is now looking dull, sallow and aged. Can you help”?
In our last blog post on Stress, we spoke about how stress can affect hair growth and hair fall. For human beings, stress takes about 180 days to show up on hair, so when we receive complaints of sudden, inexplicable hairfall, we try and trace events that occurred about 3 – 4 months back to understand the cause.
Stress appears to excessively stimulate our androgenic hormones, perhaps to help with our flight or fight response. While the physical pathway of how stress works continues to be unravelled, its net result on hair and skin is quite certain. In times of stress, your hair’s Anagen phase abruptly shifts to Catagen phase. In normal hair, atleast 85% of hair is supposed to be in Anagen phase at any point of time, and only 1% transitions to Catagen phase.
This ratio is altered in times of stress, as a large proportion of Anagen phase hair shifts abruptly to the Catagen phase. This causes a sudden loss of much larger amounts of hair. We also saw the currently accepted stress scale the Holmes Rahe scale. This scale lists 43 events that have been researched to cause stress, and surprisingly, this list includes even happy events like pregnancy, a job promotion as events that are likely to cause stress.
The Mind body connection that is acknowledged and celebrated by Ayurveda and Siddha
Ayurveda and Siddha, our two forms of traditional medicine have always consistently acknowledged the role of the mind and its connection to the body. It is this mind body connection that gives you Ayu and Ayush: and a healthy body along with a healthy mind and a long life has always been the goal of traditional medicine systems.
The Sutrasthana section of the Charaka Samhita recognises 3 origins of disease:
- External (exogenous)
Innate diseases are that which arise from combinations of the doshas in the body. Externally caused diseases are those caused by Bhuta (micro organisms, bacteria, and bad energy), poisoned air, poisons (visha), accidents, trauma, etc. Psychic illnesses are categorised as those caused by unfulfilment of deeply held desires and when faced with undesirable circumstances.
3 types of therapy that are practiced in Ayurveda: Spiritual therapy, Rational therapy and Psychological therapy. In many illnesses as the mind and body are interlinked, the physician prescribes a combination therapy which involves some elements of Spiritual therapy or Psychological therapy along with the rational therapy. We will see some examples of this below.
How each dosha plays a role in physical and mental well being
Every dosha in Ayurveda is linked not just to a physical set of attributes but also to a set of mental attributes.
Pitta dosha is the dosha related to Agni in the body. It brings about digestion, helps the body assimilate and absorb nutrients, helps form blood, and gives vision, and colour and lustre to the complexion. So when pitta dosha is strong and not in excess, it brings about the qualities of leadership, focus, clarity, and prowess and an ability to get things done.
But when this dosha becomes vitiated it brings about an inability to see the bigger picture, a tendency to lose your temper, dominate the people around you and get your way, no matter what. Similarly when this dosha is greatly reduced, it brings about confusion, fear, an inability to focus and bring things to fruition, besides giving you poor or impaired digestion.
When vata dosha is strong and not in excess, it holds up the systems and organs , initiates all upward and downward movements in the body, employs all sense organs, causes the formation of all the dhatus in the body, promotes speech, etc.
A strong vayu dosha is the source of exhilaration, courage, creativity, movement and physical lightness and well being. When strong, vayu improves strength, complexion, and valour, normal development of the musculoskeletal structure, improvement of knowledge and maximum expanse of life span.
When vayu is vitiated in the body it affects strength, complexion, happiness and even the life span. Aggravated vayu agitates the mind, affects the sense organs, and produces fear, grief, confusion, anxiety and even delirium. Perhaps because of this all pervasive nature of vayu and its deep seated effects when it goes out of order, Vayu is variously called “PrajaPati”, Aditi, Vishwakarma and even Yama in Ayurveda. Vayu is both the producer and the indestructible. Vayu brings both happiness and misery and brings positivity and an all pervasive negativity as well.
Kapha dosha is the dosha of Prithvi (earth) and Jal (water). It is the dosha that builds the dhatus, muscles and allows growth of the body. When strong and not in excess or depleted Kapha dosha provides fertility, strength, firmness, patience, good humour and enthusiasm for life.
An un-vitiated kapha dosha promotes detached attachment towards material objects, promotes generosity, loyalty, commitment, and the ability to form deep nurturing relationships.
When kapha is in excess, it shows as excess weight, an ability to accumulate mucous quickly, a greater love for earthy pleasures like food, material objects, a high attachment to objects, a tendency to relax and sleep much more, indolence, etc. When kapha is reduced, there is inability to put on healthy weight, reduced fertility, a feeling of instability and an inability to stay grounded, etc.
Balance and peace: the key to leading a life of health and well being
We have seen the inherent strengths and qualities each dosha gives us. Many times we are asked what the ideal combination of doshas is. Or what is a good proportion of doshas to have? And this is very obviously, a difficult one to answer.
Ayurveda understands and respects our individuality: and every one prakriti is unique. It is made up not just of the combination of doshas that we receive when we are conceived, but also the environment with which we are brought up, the food we eat, the experiences we receive and of course our response to all of this.
Ayurveda also tells us to seek our own balance within the framework of our life, and how we seek to find this balance is also unique. A Vaidya will always give each of her patients a unique programme that recognises the individual’s unique prakriti.
The central framework behind this approach in Ayurveda is the belief that each one’s balance is achieved differently. For a spiritually inclined person, their balance may come with chanting certain mantras, and praying to their Ishta devata along with certain changes in their diet. For a person who is much more rationally inclined, their treatment may come from diet and lifestyle changes alone.
There is no one formula or combination to achieve balance. Ayurveda teaches each of us to find our very own recipe for balance.
How the body affects the mind and vice versa: Ayurvedic insights into pregnancy
The connection between the mind and the body is extremely well explored in Ayurveda’s treatment of pregnancy. From the 4th month onwards with the formation of the foetal heart, Ayurveda believes that the foetus is able to communicate its deep seated desires to its mother.
This is why, Ayurveda calls the Pregnant woman the “Dauhridini”, the woman with the 2 hearts. Many of the pregnant women’s cravings for certain kinds of foods are explained in Ayurveda as the desires of the foetus. At this stage, Ayurveda says the foetus carries some of its unfulfilled desires and dreams sometimes from its previous births, so it is imperative for the family of the pregnant women to treat her food cravings with care.
Not allowing the foetus to fulfil its wishes leads to deep seated psychological harm, so Ayurveda insists that the Dauhridini’s peculiar cravings or wishes be fulfilled with unconditional love, support and tact.
How the body affects the mind and vice versa: Ayurvedic insights into the post partum state
Post partum depression is recognised as a reality today for most mothers. This is a subject that is not openly acknowledged or treated or even spoken about. It will come as a surprise to no one that Ayurveda spoke about this and devised an elaborate post partum care programme to help improve not just the mother baby bond and also the father baby bond.
Recognising that post partum depression can come due to severe vata derangement post birth, most Ayurvedic practices centre around bringing vata back to balance. The new mother’s meal timings and sleep timings are strictly regulated and external and internal oleation is strongly practiced to bring vata dosha back to normal.
In addition to regulating vata through diet and regimen, Ayurveda also uses spiritual and psychological therapy to help with vata imbalance. The nursery is ritually purified and special homams or ritualised prayers are held post delivery. At the beginning of vata periods like late evenings, the nursery is fumigated and strong devotional music is either sung or played outside the nursery door. Vata carrying winds are warded off and the nursery is kept warm to bring down vata influences.
Here we see an example of how mental well being is attended to by addressing the physical body and the surroundings.
How the mind affects the body: Ayurvedic insights for students and calming mental stress
We were at a specially organised organic event last week, and I met a consumer who wanted me to help with her daughter’s recent hairfall issue. She was studying for her board exams and had been attending a series of coaching classes for the last year to help her pass her engineering examinations. This meant that her sleep and eating timings were erratic. This also meant that she was under a high amount of mental stress and strain surrounding her exams and her future.
Believe it or not, Ayurveda addresses the problems of students as well! (Even if we believe that CAT, NEET and IIT entrance examinations are a modern student’s problem, I am sure an ancient student also had to pass oral or written examinations to be allowed to study with the Guru of their choice). Ayurveda recognises that nutrient assimilation is especially poor in times of stress. When this is compounded with erratic sleep, then no matter how healthy your diet is, your body will not be able to utilise the nutrients in your food.
This is why Ayurveda augments external application products for children and teenagers with certain types of herbs. For example, the Krya Kids hair oil utilises nervine herbs like Brahmi (Bacopa monnerii). Not only is Brahmi a great aid to memory, it also helps calm and soothe down overwrought nerves and aids good sleep. This is especially useful when you are dealing with a stressed out teenager which has been burning the midnight oil and is too wound up to sleep properly.
In the case of the exam stressed teenager, the reason for her hair fall was the mental stress she was facing. So she was advised to use hair oil with Brahmi which would help soothe the stress and also advised to increase her intake of cow ghee. Cow ghee is very useful in periods of mental stress when the brain has to work very hard. The brain comprises almost purely of fat, so Ayurveda uses another good quality, pure fat like ghee to support the brain during periods of strain. In addition, we also recommended pada abhyanga (foot massage) atleast thrice a week to calm down vata and aid sleep and rest.
So here we see how working on the physical body through external application and food helps work on the mind and calm it down.
How the Dinacharya prescribed in Ayurveda work on our mind and body:
Many dinacharyas given in Ayurveda also combine 2 – 3 types of therapies and this is why they work in such an eerily wholesome manner. We have, for instance, been hearing from a lot of consumers who have been doing an Abhyanga. While it was suggested by us as a general practice to balance doshas and pacify aggravated vata, we found, unexpectedly that it seemed to somehow improve the functioning of the thyroid gland.
The functioning of the thyroid gland can be broken up into 3 parts: improvement of metabolism, maintenance and upkeep of breath and cardiovascular system and upkeep of normal developmental activities. At the right level, the thyroid gland also helps maintain normal sleep, rest and sexual activities.
So by their action the thyroid hormones help assimilation of nutrients, help move it around to where it is needed, increase oxygen consumption in the body, maintain heart rate, help growth in children, brain development. Most importantly, the literature says that when the thyroid hormones are in excess, there is said to be an increased generation of thoughts but a sharply decreased focus.
Going by the working of the thyroid glands, it makes sense to look at it as an organ of vata dosha. So when over stimulated it gives typical vata aggravation symptoms like weight loss, an inability to shut down, excessive and hyperactive thoughts, delirium, an inability to stay calm, etc. When it is in low quantities, all the normal workings of vata dosha are affected: so the strength and lightness of the body, the mobility, the creativity and the exhilaration and courage given by vata dosha are all in short supply.
Given this, it makes sense that an Abhyanga twice a week seems to work so well to balance the workings of the thyroid gland. Warm oil is the counter to vayu and it helps keep vayu in check and present at healthy levels by stimulating and balancing all the 3 doshas.
Why is an abhyanga a self massage and NOT an assisted massage in Ayurveda?
Many people often ask us if we mean an assisted massage when we use the term “Abhyanga”. A massage given to us at a spa or by someone we love does seem much more relaxing than something we do for ourselves. However, the central idea of an abhyanga in Ayurveda is a self massage. It is assisted only in the case of babies and small children and the infirm and the old who lack the strength to give themselves an Abhyanga.
The obvious reason behind this is that the Abhyanga helps generate heat and when done vigorously by you are a form of exercise in itself. This gives the body the heat and the circulation required to help the oil penetrate, manage excess vayu and cool down excess pitta and stimulate excess kapha. It also helps you understand the proper functioning of your body. You gain a greater appreciation of the workings of your body, are able to understand its subtle signals much better and start to understand its signals and signs of overwork much better.
An even more subtle reason is that the 5 sense organs are ruled by Vayu. And the sensation of touch is very enjoyable and strengthening to Vayu in the body. Self love and self belief are an essential part of health and well being. So it is no wonder that Ayurveda forces you to touch your entire body, lovingly massage it with oil, listen to its complaints and protests and give your mind and body a sense of union.
Many of us grow up, especially in the adolescent years feeling a sense of outrage and irritation towards our physical bodies. Our heads carry an idealised picture of beauty and physical appearance that our bodies struggle to respond to. The dosha which promotes union in the body is Vata dosha. So Vayu by its mobility and ability to travel across subtle and gross spaces and unite the functions in the body helps promote this sense of union between your head, heart and body.
The Acharyas tell us that this Union gives us a firm sense of self. It helps us chart our path and move forward with courage and conviction. It is wonderful to me that we can approach such a mystical thing as this union through a simple everyday practice of the Self Abhyanga.
We are not a collection of organ systems!
Through this post we wanted to illustrate and highlight just how deep and complex the workings of the human body are. We are not simply a collection of organ systems that can be “repaired” with mechanical adjustments. Ayurveda teaches us that when we approach our body as a whole and treat it with attention, care and sensitivity, we are able to achieve much better, deeper and longer lasting results. Ayurveda also teaches us how to access our mind by the workings of our body and how to harness our mind by directing and controlling our breath.
It is also our experience that when we start doing the dinacharyas prescribed in Ayurveda like the Abhyanga or the Gandusha, our practice is rewarded by deeper insights into how our body functions. We learn what disturbs it, how we respond in periods of stress and from these insights we begin to understand how to look after our body and our mind and how to achieve that state of union we all desire. Our fundamental belief in Krya is that external well being and beauty springs from a well spring of health and balance. Simple external application or the use of superficial products cannot help you achieve what you are looking for. But a deeper exploration of health and a willingness to make fundamental changes can get you to your goal much faster.
Through our work and the products we offer, we hope to help you move towards that well spring and experience health, balance and joy and well being for yourself.
Do you suspect that your hairfall is being caused by mental stress?
Talk to us (075500-89090) . OR send us an email and we will do our best to help.
Here are some products that can help:
- Krya harmony hair oil with Brahmi & Vetiver
- Recommended if you have high mental stress, or have trouble switching your brain off and going to sleep
- Helps in healthy hair growth and reduces hairfall brought on by mental stress and anxiety
- Krya Abhyanga Skin Oil with Vacha and Ashwagandha
- Recommended for Abhyanga and Pada abhyanga
- Excellent at controlling deranged vata dosha and pitta dosha
- Helps bring the body back into a state of balance, relaxes strained muscles
- Krya Kids Hair Oil – formulated with Brahmi, Hibiscus and Curry leaves
- Very useful for soothing tired nerves and aiding healthy hair growth