Ayurveda for Anxiety and Depression

Dr. David Simon, Neurologist and co-founder the Chopra Center, La Jolla, California on the use of ayurveda as an alternative treatment for anxiety and depression:

Depression and anxiety are probably something that every human being has experienced at some time. And generally, our vision of these very common psychological concerns is that they all have to do with how well we were able to process an emotional hurt or pain at the time that it happened. So, whenever a boundary in our sense of self is crossed, meaning something that we think should be on the outside, ends up entering into our world. It could be anything from someone throwing a rock through our window to someone saying a very hurtful or critical comment.


Likewise, something that we think should be on the inside ends up leaving, like a valuable heirloom being stolen or a lover having an affair with somebody else. That crossing of that boundary of self creates pain. If we deny that pain, if we don't deal with the pain at the time, we store that pain, ultimately, it ends up depleting our emotional and psychic energy. So, we often say that remembered pain creates anxiety, frustration and anger and hostility. That pain projected into the future creates anxiety and worry. That's when we turn that pain back against ourselves, because we don't know who else to throw it on to, creating a sense of guilt. And then the depletion of energy that happens with all of the above ends up creating depression.

So, we believe that in order to deal with this, we have to really go to the deepest level, which is to go back, identify those areas where we've been hurt in the past, where we haven't been able to fully process that, and then go through a very formalized ritual, essentially to identify what it is, to understand that pain is something we're carrying in our bodies.

One of the things that isn't that commonly discussed in Western psychology is that emotions are not just cognitive. They're not just mental. They're also physical. So, we teach people a process where they can identify what it is that they're feeling, find it in their bodies, allow themselves to write about it and really see what insights that come from looking at it very carefully and openly and honestly.

But equally important is we encourage people to do something very physical once they've identified it. Either go for a run or do an aerobics class or dance vigorously to rock-n-roll music or pound a pillow, but do something with the intention of letting the body release it. Then, once people have gone through that process, then we recommend that they go back and share what that hurt was, if possible, with the person with whom they co-created it.