Achara Rasayana & Psychoneuroimmunology: Rejuvenating Behavioral Therapies for the Body and Mind By: Samantha Carey

Introduction

Extreme cleansing and exercise protocols have become popular with the hopes of restoring youth, longevity, and vitality, but according to Ayurveda, a 5,000 year old healing science, practicing rejuvenating therapies, or rasayana chikitsa in sanskrit, are essential to maintaining a healthy body and mind. In order to properly reap the benefits of rejuvenate therapies, the Ayurvedic texts explain the importance of detoxing and purification at different levels depending on the individual’s constitution. However, the point of cleansing the system is to rejuvenate it, or build back healthy tissues and restore optimal digestion. The importance of rejuvenation therapies is marked by having its own branch of medicine. The eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine are: Internal Medicine, Ears, Nose, and Throat, Toxicology, Pediatrics, Surgery, Psychiatry, Aphrodisiacs, and Rejuvenation.1 The three main vehicles for receiving rasayana therapies are aushadha rasayana (drugs and herbs), ahara rasayana (diet and nutrition), and achara rasayana (conduct and behavior).2 All three are intrinsically important and should be taken together to receive the maximum therapeutic benefits, but without the proper state of mind it would be difficult to achieve and maintain health. 

The following review will focus on achara rasayana therapies, which involve the psychological connection to physical health. The practice of implementing positive lifestyle routines is a cornerstone of preventative health care according to Ayurveda, and research is starting to grow in the western medical world around the importance of psychological management on physical health.3 A recent area of study around this is pyschoneuroimmunology, which looks at the connection between the immune system and the nervous system in relation to mental health.4 The idea is that if the physical body is stressed from either external or internal stimuli, the nervous system will be triggered into an autonomic response that will signal a specific immune response to activate. In turn the person’s emotional and mental well-being will be compromised from the physiological responses occurring in the body. This creates a potential negative feedback loop that may initiate an unhealthy cycle of reaction between the body and mind.

We will look at the specific recommendations Ayurveda lays out for achara rasayana, and the possible connections these practices have on health and well-being from a western perspective of psychoneuroimmunology. The immune system and nervous system are two of the most complex systems of the body and the follow review is a brief glimpse into their dynamic relationship. I have compiled this research with the hopes of providing a simple overview of the research that examines why our physical health is effected by our thoughts, words, and actions at a cellular level.

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