Refining mental health

Mental Health today is a very expansive concept and there are a plethora of ways to work with the mind ranging from psychotherapy to mantra meditation to herbs to mindfulness ,pranayama and yoga to exercise to nutrition to hypnosis to entheogens to reiki  to quantum healing  to dance therapy to sound therapy etc etc etc…. the list goes on.

Its therefore no surprise if  we get overwhelmed and fall into something called decision fatigue where we don’t know the best way forward for us. Also within the list above there are many nuances and sub types of all the methods listed….for instance in therapy we have somatic therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy, psychoanalysis, Hakomi…under yoga we have power yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga, the choices and types are ever growing . . .there are thousands of medicinal herbs and substances that are being marketed from açai berries to moringa powder as well as numerous schools and modalities of meditation  from Vipasana to Kala chakra empowerments . . . . so what’s the best thing for us?

Often taking care of the Self requires a multifactorial, holistic approach which stimulates us on a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual levels. So one would need to work with oneself in a balanced and disciplined way that is intelligible to one’s own psychophysiological constitution. What I mean is the right type of exercise, the right type of meditation, right type of food, right amount of rest etc. for oneself . .  Otherwise our efforts are counterproductive and we have limited results. As we say in Ayurveda that one can eat like a king, but digest like a beggar if one’s gut flora  or digestive fire, known as  Agni  is not working properly.  What is meant by this is that one can avail of the best groceries, trainers, yoga studios but if its the wrong type of practise for us in whatever field, we will not be able to contain it in our bodymind and will not receive the benefits from it. So if a very skinny person decided to do an intense cardiovascular work out then it would be extremely destructive for their nervous, endocrine and immune systems . . . similarly if someone who intellectualises and rationalises defensively undertook solely CBT they would not learn to recognise, feel and work with their emotions in the body. Hence it is extremely important to see what suits us . . . so this leads us to exploring our Prakriti or constitution. I now mandatorily conduct Prakriti analyses with my clients  in order to complement  their therapeutic process by giving them the sui generis  nutritional, lifestyle and self care advise that is customised coherently for their unique needs.


Working with Depression in the Body

Part of being human is to experience difficult emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, frustration, disappointment etc. Yet these emotions do not make us feel “good” and so we   have an unconscious tendency of not wanting to feel whatever we are feeling. We might brace, not breathe deeply and develop ways and means to numb ourselves and not feel. Commonly, this is what births addictions that range from food, alcohol, drugs, TV watching to excessive exercise, shopping, sex, and over working to name a few. However, these methods, at best, provide short-term relief, and at worst, create other issues for us, while lodging the disquieting feeling deeper into our psyche-soma, allowing it to eat away at our soul.

These obsessive self-numbing activities are called in psychological terms, “defenses.” In some cases, we are even lauded for being defended against our true experience, especially,  if we wear the mask of productivity as a   “workaholic” or have a great body because we are a “fitness freak.” Yet beneath that veneer, we chronically don’t feel so relaxed and much to our chagrin, nobody realizes our underlying state or empathizes with us.

Most mainstream psychological treatments for depression involve talk therapy, like psychoanalysis, which is known as the speaking cure or laced with some cognitive and behavioral interventions like CBT. While talk therapy, definitely has its relevance, sometimes, it maybe more palliative then corrective. The emotions will arise again and again and don’t really leave our system, unless they are fully felt, digested and processed through. Somatic therapy is a novel way to work towards a more permanent release of distressing emotions by increasing our capacity to really feel and tolerate troubled emotions in the body. In somatic therapy the understanding of what an emotion is expanded to psycho-motor holding patterns, like a permanent ache in the heart at the loss of a loved one or a knot in the throat due to not following one’s true calling, indicating a profound sadness that needs to be alleviated through the very physiology of the person.

These trying emotions are akin to muscular knots that need to be released. We are aware of the discomfort when we have a muscular knot in the neck; we often massage and stretch that part of the body to release the knot. Similarly, emotions metaphorically get knotted up and stuck in the body in half digested ways and need to be energetically discharged. Working with a somatic therapist allows one to truly embody, endure and expel difficult emotions in a self-regulating capacity. As the only way out of a distressing emotion is literally through it.