Kanye West did it. So did Ed Sheeran. Research tells us that when we practice this , our memory becomes sharper, we are able to sleep deeper, our posture becomes better, we are able to form more meaningful connections with people, and that we are open to more life changing perspectives and decisions.
What am I talking about? A Digital Detox program.
A conversation on another group I am a part of spurred this post. The author of the post shared that she felt that she was “digitally addicted” to social media and found that she had developed a need to stay connected and consume vast amounts of information. So she reached out asking for help and suggestions to help her digitally de-addict.
The number of responses in this discussion made me realise how much of a digital addiction problem all of us have. I began working at a time when I had no cell phone. I have even resisted using a cellphone for 2 – 3 years entirely and I avoided using a smartphone or using apps for a very long time. Yes even I find myself inexorably drawn to my smartphone. The ease of buying with pre-installed apps has left even someone like me, a self confessed Ludite, far more digitally addicted than I would like to be.
Therefore I have written this post drawing on ayurvedic strategies to help everyone do a Daily digital detox. This post also shares the ayurvedic reasoning behind this, explains about the nature of vata dosha and how vata dosha is powerfully aggravated with digital addiction and what we can do everyday to control this addiction.
Background for digital detox: Why it is critical to keep Vata Dosha in balance
We are all made of a combination of vata, pitta and kapha dosha. Each Dosha has its own set of functions in the body. The amicable and harmonious team work of all doshas in the body gives us a body in a state of health and balance and Mano gunas (mental traits) which are cheerful, positive and in control.
Vata dosha is made up of a combination of 2 Pancha mahaboothas (primordial elements) of Vayu (air) and Akash (space / ether). Hence vata dosha can be described as a combination of Mobility and lightness and speed due to the presence of Vayu and vast emptiness due to presence of Akash mahabootha.
Only Vata dosha has “Akash” or Space as a primordial element within it. This explains many symptoms of disease when vata is affected and also helps us understand the structural composition of organ systems which are governed by Vata dosha.
When Vata dosha is in balance, the body has the ability of speed, lightness, mobility and the willingness to accept change. Vata dosha in balance gives us enthusiasm, creative fire, speed, willingness to get up and move the body, the capacity to talk in an animated and creative fashion. Vata dosha also helps provide “excitation” to the brain and is what get us “firing” with new ideas, thoughts, unique ways of doing things etc.
Vata Dosha also governs important body systems. It governs all organs of movement (entire musculo skeletal movement) and governs transportation of all fluids, foods and wastes through the body and out of the body. So Vata in balance gives us timely “excretion” of urine, and bowel movements. Vata in balance gives us easy removal of menstrual wastes.
Balanced vata dosha is critical for women’s reproductive health and ease of periods. Aggravated vata dosha is one of the main reasons behind women suffering with excessive menstrual cramping, poor blood flow, and uncertain menstrual period timings. You can read more about this here.
Due to the nature of urban living, the foods we consume and the high level of mental excitation, access to new information, fried food and vata exciting devices, most of us have an imbalanced Vata dosha (as it has been over used / over excited).
When vata dosha is over -used, it imbalances rather dramatically leaving you with insomnia, panic attacks, mood swings and depressive states, inability to fall asleep easily, tendency to wake up in the middle of the night several times apart from other issues. It also leads to catches in the muscular skeletal system, porosity of bones, weak teeth etc as the air in these parts increases due to excitation of Vata.
Aggravated Vata dosha also leads to a chicken and egg situation which we will read about further . It leads to addictive behavior which in turn further excites Vata Dosha.
Digital Addiction and Vata dosha:
There is a growing body of research in Ayurveda which links the over use of smartphones and social media and even news to this state of imbalanced and over used vata dosha.
Vata dosha is light, mobile and subtle. Hence as these devices radiate at a minute level, are used close to the body, and use “Vayu “and “Akash” to pass signals, they easily stimulate and excite the nerve endings and subtle channels in the body causing minute, almost imperceptible movements in the body.
Due to this subtle excitation of cells, and due to the nature of the signals passed by these devices, and their nature of proving interesting and fresh stimulation to the mind, the overall vata dosha in the head and body is excited.
In fact in many kinds of addiction (binge watching of television, alcohol, smoking, shopping, binge-eating etc), we can see the excitation of Vata dosha as a cyclical cause of the addiction. The addiction excites Vata dosha which gives us the “crack cocaine effect” which in turn leads to further addictive behaviour . Thus, we keep on steadily unbalancing and aggravating Vata dosha.
Over use of cell phone: aggravates vata dosha
Many times, after a long call, we feel “buzzed”. The ear feels over heated. We are unable to shut down and feel the need to visibly calm down. This is an example where the use of a vata exciting device on an organ dominated by Vata dosha has led to vata aggravation.
The ear is considered a sookshma organ governed by vata dosha. The fine and minute bones in the ear are less dense and light, with a lot of “Akash” and “Vayu” in built in them. This light and airy bone composition allows these bones to vibrate physically and pass on auditory signals received. When vata is in good balance, we are able to hear very sookshma noises and have good hearing.
When vata is over used in the ear, the bones are tired from over vibrating and passing on a lot of auditory signals. So, when we are habituated to hearing loud discordant sounds, live in a high traffic noisy road, or speak a lot over the cell phone, the ear’s capacity to hear is diminished due to vata aggravation.
In particular, the use of a device that uses Vata based signals like the cell phone, when over used on the ear, leads to a dramatic aggravation in vata dosha.
This is why Ayurveda suggests doing karna abhyanga (ear massage with medicated oils) regularly to balance vata dosha in the ear – taila and abhyanga are the best balancers of vata dosha and this principle is used in Karna abhyanga as well.
How a digital detox can help calm deranged Vata dosha
Social media has often been described as crack cocaine for the mind. The always-on nature of social media, constant use of images and sound, and the presence of so much new news excites the Vata carrying channels of the brain. Because of this excessive neural activity, a high amount of pitta is also generated in the brain.
Vata dosha by its nature is irregular and chaotic. Therefore when we over-use this Dosha, its chaotic and irregular effects extend to our daily routine and schedule. So we find that our sleep timings become irregular, we are unable to eat at the right time and the brain is so over stimulated that we are unable to go to sleep at our regular time.
Excitation of Vata Dosha almost always leads to the derangement and increase of chaos in our daily routine. Conversely, when our daily routine and schedule is extremely chaotic, we can detect that we are suffering from an imbalance of vata dosha. To rein in deranged Vata dosha, we follow the principle of opposites in Ayurveda. We focus on cutting excitement to the brain, calming down the brain through the use of specific herbs and using sweetness, and unctuousness to balance the dry, light and excitable nature of Vata dosha.
6 digital detox Strategies from Ayurveda:
1. Fixed Electronic cut off every day:
To rein in the chaotic nature of Vata dosha and to train the body to an atmosphere of lowered stimulation, we advise those who seem to have vata excitation an electronic cut off every day. This is easier to implement than a onetime social media cut off, and trains the body to look at the day in buckets – in which at least one bucket is used to calm the senses down.
What do we mean by an electronic cut off?
- Switching off the wi-fi router
- Turning the phone into airplane mode
- Shutting down the laptop
- Not using an e-reader
- Closing all screens including the television
- No smartphone / radiating devices in the bedroom
Every time this is done, there is a stark difference in the quality of sleep – sleep is longer, deeper and more restful.
A practical way to implement an electronic cut off is to set a time limit after which you will not excite Vata dosha. There is no need to go aggressive on this time limit – you can start this as small as you like.
For example: You could set your electronic cut off to 8:30 pm every day. After 4 weeks of following this, you could work on moving the time back by 15 minutes. Steady practice of this limit and slowly increasing the timing is very useful in training your body and controlling vata dosha.
Remember: do not approach this with a heavy hand. Be gentle with yourself.
2. Daily Shavasana:
This is the yogic pose most of us love to hate. Sometimes we end up sleeping while attempting to do this pose. Other times we are fretting while doing this pose, mentally calculating how long it would take to go home, shower and hit the office.
Our yoga teachers have always stressed on the high importance of doing correct Shavasana as a part of a good yoga practice. In the case of digital addiction and vata excitation, Shavasana again is a crucial aid. The basic working of the Shavasana calms the mind and stills it by helping us focus entirely on the breath ,after cutting out any visual distractions by the simple act of closing our eyes.
The Shavasana is recommended to be done for at least 10 minutes or more after a 45-minute yoga practice. Similarly, after nearly 8 hours of continuous screen time and mental stimulation, a 15-minute Shavasana is essential to still the mind.
With this practice, the mental activity and strain drops, vata and pitta is calmed down and we are left ready for the next part of the day, i.e. dinner, time with family and alone time. This practice greatly aids in improving sleep quality.
Tip: Ensure Shavasana is done AFTER Sandhya time / twilight or during Sun rise and Sun set. If you are hungry after getting back from work, eat a light snack before doing a Shavasana.
3. Complete Sensory deprivation:
Ayurveda tells us that the smooth governing of the Indriyas (5 sense organs) is only done by Vata dosha. The skin, which is an important sense organ and Touch, is completely governed by Vata dosha.
Therefore an important ayurvedic practice to help balance Vata dosha is to cut down use of the 5 sense organs. This can be done by a daily sensory deprivation practice . So, after a day of working online with social media, etc, you can take a 15-minute sensory deprivation break in the evening, perhaps close to electronic cut off time.
During this time, dim the lights, remove any strong fragrances from the room, cut off all sound, and lie down and wear a blindfold / eye mask. Do not go to sleep – but lie in Shavasana (again). 15 minutes of this every day is very helpful for vata excitation.
This is strongly recommended for those in creative fields, jobs which involve a lot of social media consumption, those in Digital marketing, IT, etc. You will find that the brain is calmer, able to focus better and that your food cravings are lower after this practice.
Tip: If you do not have time to do a sequential shavasana followed by a sensory deprivation pose, you may combine both and do this as one practice . However doing these 2 practices sequentially helps till the mind much better.
The Ultimate Sensory deprivation treatment – Kutir Praveshika method
The ultimate sensory deprivation technique is followed in the Ayurvedic Kutir praveshika method, an ancient rejuvenation technique followed in Ayurveda, described in the Charaka Samhita. In this method, the patient enters a solitary hut, which has been constructed on Ayurvedic and Vastu principles. In this hunt, by the special construction methods used, light, air, sound, aroma and touch inputs are strictly controlled. The Kutir / hut is usually constructed in a solitary, well chosen place without any strong flow of wind.
The patient eats a strictly controlled diet, with properly chosen rasayanas and meets no one in this period of Kutir praveshika. This treatment starts from a period of one month and goes upto 1 year. It is called as a rejuvenation treatment that is almost like a “re birth”. The texts tells us that it is acutely life extending and rasayana (rejuvenating and youth giving) in its benefits. This treatment methodology has been reintroduced in India, and practitioners and recipients of this treatment methodology tell us of amazing reversal in age and health after this method.
Most of us do not have the psychological strength nor do we have the family circumstances or time to undergo such a tough and extreme treatment process, nor is it even needed. But even practicing this at a small level everyday as described above, can greatly help balance the mind and body and improve our health.
4. Night Sky Gazing:
This is an Ayurvedic technique designed to balance over use of Sookshma (close / minute) vision and helps calm Pitta and Vata dosha down. We also suggest it for those who have mild depression, panic attacks and other signs of vata aggravation.
As we gaze into the night sky, we expand the vision from a minute field to a vast field. This relieves the tiredness in eye muscles. As there is a change in the light patterns between a phone screen and the night sky, Sharma(fatigue) in the minute channels is reduced.
Plus, in this technique, we harness the infinite nature and vastness of Akash as we stare at the night sky. The acharyas tell us that this gives us a sense of belonging in the larger world, and we also gain perspective about the actual size of our problems. This ayurvedic method is consistently recommended for panic attacks, depression, digital addiction, and vision problems. It can also greatly help stressed out mothers who need some time to themselves.
5. Pada abhyanga:
Pada abhyanga is a recommended ayurvedic dinacharya / ayurvedic practice that should be done everyday for good health. Charaka Samhita tells us that with regular pada abhyanga, coarseness, roughness and stiffness of the feet is reduced. Fatigue reduces as does numbness in the feet. Similarly pada sphutana (cracking of soles), is removed, and Acharyas tell us that feet are endowed with firmness, stability .
More germane to this post, the practice of Pada Abhyanga reduces imbalanced Pitta , and nourishes the eyes, improving vision. Therefore this is a drishti prasdaka practice (practices that improves drishti). Further the Acharyas observe that “Marut” or “Vata dosha” is brought under control. Interesting we are also told that due to regular Pada abhyanga, there is freer movement and flow in blood vessels without any constriction. This is why we advise Pada abhyanga for those who are highly stressed with elevated BP levels.
Because of the pada abhyanga’s strong balancing effect on imbalanced Pitta and Vata throughout the body, and particularly the head region, this is an excellent practice to counter the effects of digital addiction. Here is an earlier Krya post on the benefits of Pada abhyanga in greater detail.
If you are in the grip of digital addiction, Pada abhyanga should be done every night for 3 weeks – this gives a very quick and deep relief from vata aggravation. For extreme vata aggravation we recommend using the Krya Intense Abhyanga oil as it is formulated with higher degree of vata balancing herbs.
6. Hair Oiling
When digital addiction is leaving you sleepless with vata aggravated sleep (light and poor sleep quality), night head oiling is recommended. It is best done just before sunset so the oil can slowly work on calming vata over 2 – 3 hours until you go to sleep.
Any good ayurvedic oil that helps calm Pitta and Vata should be chosen. At Krya all of our hair oils (except the Intense and Lice hair oil) can be used for Pitta and Vata calming effects. But for extreme Vata aggravation, we recommend using Krya Harmony hair oil (best choice) or as a second alternative, the Krya Conditioning hair oil. These 2 oils are formulated as vata + pitta balancers, especially Harmony hair oil. We use a large set of brain calming and rejuvenate herbs like Brahmi, Jatamansi, Guduchi, deodar, etc. If you have a combination of Pitta and Vata related stress, then combine the Krya Harmony hair oil with either Krya Classic or Krya Classic Plus hair oil for best effect.
If using Krya Harmony hair oil for strong digital addiction and vata aggravation, please warm the hair oil slightly. Use this warm oil to massage the head and scalp well, preferably around Sunset or within the first hour of Sunset. If this timing is unsuitable, the head can be massaged 1 – 1.5 hours after dinner, atleast 30 minutes before sleeping. In the second case, after oil massage, as a precaution to avoid Kapha aggravation, please use Rasanadi choornam.
The consistent use of this hair oil has a brahmanya (nourishing) effect to the brain. The herbs calm down stress, and balance imbalanced vata and pitta dosha – obviously this works best when you follow all the other strategies described above in conjunction with hair oiling.
To sum up:
In this piece, we discussed the new malaise of social media and Digital Addiction. We examined this problem through the lens of Ayurveda and understood how a digital detox can help calm down aggravated vata and pitta dosha in the body.
Therefore, we looked at 6 Ayurvedic strategies that help in digital addiction to balance imbalanced Vata and Pitta dosha in the brain. These are:
- Electronic cut off
- Sensory deprivation practice
- Night Sky gazing
- Pada Abhyanga
- Hair Oiling
In our work at Krya, we have observed the deep and potent effects of following all of these ayurvedic practices to calm down unbalanced Vata dosha in the case of digital addiction, high stress, lifestyle change or even temporary stress / grief. These practices come straight from the Ayurvedic texts and have been recommended by our acharyas after a deep study of the doshas and how each one of them affects both the mind and the body. Ahara can also be a key strategy in overcoming dosha aggravation. Snigdha rasayanas like Go Ksheera (Indigenous Cow’s Milk) is an excellent aid for vata aggravation, which we have talked about in earlier blog posts.
This is a part of Krya’s continuing series on Ayurveda. We write this series to educate, inspire and empower you to adopt these seemingly simple, yet astoundingly well though through and deep Ayurvedic practices to regain your health and well being.
If you have any queries on this post or about any of our products, please call us (0-75500-89090) or email us.