To enjoy peak mental performance at any age, there are three facets of Ayurvedic wellness that need to be considered:
When all three are working in your favor, it’s easier to tackle any challenge from a place of clarity and calm.
The three pillars of health in Ayurveda - and how to support them
A good night’s sleep goes a long way toward making you feel your best. So does healthy digestion and a balanced daily routine. That’s why diet, sleep, and lifestyle are considered the three pillars of good health in Ayurveda.
There are three equally important components of mental performance:
- Dhi: learning and comprehension, which is governed by Vata dosha.
- Dhriti: processing and retaining knowledge, governed by Pitta dosha.
- Smriti: memory or recall, governed by Kapha dosha.
The key to maintaining harmony between these three mental faculties is by maintaining balance on the level of diet, sleep, and lifestyle. Ayurvedic wisdom offers many practical strategies for doing just that.
1. Diet: Eat 'intelligent' foods for high performance
Eat foods that are natural and pure. These qualities maximize the intelligence in the foods and provide premium raw materials to be absorbed or, to use a computer analogy, downloaded by the body. When foods are as close to their state in nature as possible, nutrition is at peak value.
Foods that have been genetically altered, processed or refined, canned or preserved, artificially colored, or flavored are stripped of their natural intelligence. Ayurvedic experts state that these foods are weak in intelligence and disturb the intellect and the coordination among the three aspects of mental performance.
Cooking with fresh, organic ingredients can take a little more time and effort. But your brain, and your entire physiology, will repay the effort with higher performance. Explore this topic and more in The Ageless Brain Webinar and our Brain Health For Women Over Forty.
The power of the mix - nutrition at its best
The recommended Ayurvedic diet is largely vegetarian.
- Spices: are more than flavors. They are high-value specialty foods adding powerful extras to your diet. Many spices enhance digestion and facilitate the clearing of toxins from the body. This means that the channels of the body, including those that serve the brain, will be clearer. Black pepper in small quantities is particularly recommended for clearing the channels of the brain and promoting the free flow of oxygen to the brain. Plenty of research exists on the health benefits of simple spices, like black pepper or cardamom.
Junk foods are just that
Junk foods and sugary drinks interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Sweet fruits, raisins, and dates are a much better option.
Exposure to heavy metals such as lead and aluminum has been shown to be damaging for the brain. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Avoid toxins in your home, cleaning materials, and, when possible, building materials.
High performance eating habits
How you eat is as important as what you eat. Try to sit down and savor your meals, focusing on the food rather than on work or other activities. Ice-cold drinks disrupt digestion and impair the assimilation of nutrients, and are therefore best avoided.
The antioxidant advantage
The hundred billion cells in your brain continuously use oxygen to stoke the fires of mental acuity. But because the brain is such a heavy user of oxygen, it’s particularly susceptible to oxidative stress. Free radicals—reactive, oxygen-based chemicals that thrive on stress—can build up in the body, along with pollution and food additives, affecting cells and brain function over time.
That’s why antioxidants are so beneficial in supporting the effective functioning of your brain. Amrit Kalash, a powerful broad-spectrum antioxidant herbal formula, contains Amalaki (Indian gooseberry)—considered a natural source of vitamin C—among other powerful botanicals. This naturally rejuvenating, antioxidant mixture contains 38 whole herbs, whole fruits, and whole spices. In published research , Amrit has been shown to be at least 1,000 times more potent as a free radical scavenger than vitamin C or E.
2. Sleep: Get a good night's rest to feel your best
Alongside diet and lifestyle, quality sleep is a fundamental pillar of overall wellness. Getting eight hours of sleep is less important than the quality of sleep, which, according to the Council of Maharishi AyurVeda, occurs when the mind is totally disconnected from the senses. Quality sleep recharges and rejuvenates the mind, improving both short-term and long-term mental acuity. How much or how little you need is an individual matter; go by what your body and mind tell you. To promote better sleep, try:
- Cutting down on stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
- Making work-related materials taboo in the bedroom.
- Winding down the evening with calming activities, instead of stimulating ones.
- Relaxing at bedtime with aromatherapy blends like Slumber Time Tea and Slumber Time Aroma Oil to help you ease into restful sleep.
3. Lifestyle: Ayurvedic herbs and habits. Herbs to maximize your mental potential
In Maharishi AyurVeda, there is a special class of herbs known as medhya herbs, which are especially useful for the mind. Medhya herbs are “brain tonics” that enhance learning, retention, and recall, and also promote coordination among all three. Here are a few:
- Shankhapushpi (or Dwarf Morning Glory) supports memory and problem-solving abilities during times of stress
- Organic Brahmi (or Bacopa monniera) is a popular Ayurvedic brain tonic
- Gotu Kola (or Centella asiatica) supports memory and is said to have vayasthapana, or qualities to support healthy aging.
Ayurvedic herbal formulas for mind & memory
Synergistic formulas that contain not only these herbs, but also other supporting and balancing herbs such as Ashwagandha (Winter Cherry), are ideal to help boost resistance to stress. This is especially true for individuals in high-stress job environments who need to be at the peak of their mental potential on a consistent basis. (Relevant read: Seven Keys to Unlock Your Brain Power.)
Maharishi AyurVeda offers a wide range of supplements to support the mind. Intelligence Plus (formerly Study Power) has been shown in research to promote non-verbal intelligence in children . This formula is useful for anyone, of any age, who has to learn new information. While you’re at it, check out Better Brain, Better Grades: Ayurvedic Herbs and Tips for Students.
We live in challenging times. Stress and feelings of anxiousness can slow or inhibit mental performance. A calm mind, serene in its equilibrium, gives you superior focus, attention span, retention of knowledge, and problem-solving ability. Did you know that stress can damage, and even destroy, brain cells?
Here are some quick and easy ways to manage your day-to-day stress levels:
- Plan tasks ahead and manage timelines.
- Take short (even five minutes long!) breaks during periods of intense mental activity.
- Maintain a healthy balance between work and relaxation.
- The Transcendental Meditation® technique, when practiced twice a day for 20 minutes, has been shown to be extremely effective for managing stress.
- Listening to Gandharva Veda melodies, diffusing relaxing aromas (such as sandalwood or lavender), or taking a quiet evening stroll can all help to balance the mind and emotions.
- The daily morning Ayurvedic abhyanga (self-massage with warm oil) is excellent for both mind and body. This cleansing, toning, rejuvenating ritual can charge you up to meet the day head-on.
- Our traditional Aroma Therapeutic Blends are Ayurvedic essential oils with a long history of use.
- For more in-depth pampering and relaxation, The Raj Maharishi AyurVedic Health Spa can teach you traditional authentic, complete, home detoxification methods.
Brain exercise: the Ayurvedic view
No matter your age or your occupation, your brain needs to be constantly challenged to be at its peak in terms of performance. Whether it's doing logic puzzles, memorizing lines from Shakespeare, or learning a new skill, keep your brain busy and active.
Learn more about easy Ways to Age-Proof Your Brain with Ayurveda.
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