Do you every feel so exhausted and bone tired that you don’t even have the energy to go to bed? Most of us have had that feeling at one time or other. Yet sometimes that feeling of fatigue can become deep-seated and even embedded.
How do we recover from fatigue
The amount of energy we have available depends for a large part on the amount of rest we get. When we walk, one foot stays still and supports the other foot as it strides forward. In the same way the rest we get at night when we sleep, or during meditation if we practice it, revitalises our mind and body and gives us the energy we need to progress in the active part of our lives.
The deeper the rest we get, the more dynamic our activity can be and studies on Transcendental Meditation have found that it gives a particularly deep form of rest to the body and actually improves sleep at night.
What about when tiredness becomes debilitating
But sometimes, and with some people, debilitating tiredness can occur frequently throughout the day.
Frequent bouts of fatigue can be the indicator of a host of different problems. So if you are experiencing deep and frequent fatigue it is wise to have a health screen with your GP to rule out any significant health problem like anaemia or a thyroid problems.
Sometimes though, you can experience deep-seated fatigue but no obvious cause can be found. This is the case with sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME. Many people suffer from this debilitating condition, but there is so far no test that can diagnose the condition or locate its cause.
Ayurveda considers the problem of fatigue in different ways, but the primary considerations are the state of balance of a person’s Doshas, the health of their digestive system, any toxic build-up of Ama in their body, and a person’s state of mind.
Balancing Vata, Pitta and Kapha
In Ayurveda every person is seen as born with a unique state of balance between three underlying forces. These forces are called the three Doshas – Vata (movement and space), Pitta (transformation and energy) and Kapha (structure and nourishment). The great gift from Ayurveda is that it helps you understand your own nature and how to restore and keep your own balance of Vata, Pitta and Kapha and thereby keep healthy.
Fatigue and lack of energy usually indicates a lack of balance between the Doshas. This lack of balance will be experienced differently depending on your own inherent Doshic balance or what particular Dosha is out of balance.
- If Kapha is high feelings of heaviness, dullness, lack of motivation and interest, a sense of being blocked and a feeling of sluggishness will accompany fatigue.
- If Pitta is high, irritation, frustration, loss of mental sharpness, self-criticism and even a need to resort to alcohol, stimulants or recreational drugs may appear.
- If Vata is high, the fatigue is likely to be associated with anxiety and even insomnia, which will make the situation worse. Sudden debilitating energy crashes can be experienced.
Depending to the nature of our imbalance we will need to alter our lifestyle, diet and our choice of experiences in life, in order to combat fatigue.
- Kapha imbalances will be helped by rise early, avoiding breakfast, eating one’s main meal in the middle of the day, eating light in the evening and getting plenty of fresh air and exercise.
- Those with Pitta imbalances need to chill out and have a better work/life balance. Those with a naturally high level of Pitta can often drive themselves too hard and thereby suffer a collapse into fatigue. A good balance between rest and activity is essential. Taking a break and getting away from all your responsibilities will help.
- Vata is the moving Dosha. Those with a high amount of Vata in their system can easily become fatigued when their routine is disrupted, when they travel a lot or when there are a lot of changes in their life. More rest, getting to bed on time, a regular routine and taking regular breaks is essential.
Vata, Pitta and Kapha over a lifetime
When we reach our mid-life period we can sometime feel we are running out of steam. This is usually due to natural Doshic transitions that occur over time.
Ayurveda sees that there is a cycle of the three Doshas over our lifetime. Kapha dominates the first part of our life, up to the age of about 25 years. Pitta dominates the second, up to the age of about 50. Vata dominates the third.
In our 50’s we move from the Pitta phase, which is quite active, to the Vata phase.
Vata is moving and active by nature, but a lot of movement, change and activity can make it unstable and out of balance. At the Vata stage of life it is wise to ease off and adopt a more relaxed style to life.
Some people continue to strain to remain highly active even when they move into the Vata phase of life, when they should be taking things easier. This could be out of habit, or out of fear that they may seem to others to be getting into their dotage. As a result of this over activity, they may suffer sudden crashes in energy levels.
Fatigue and Agni (digestion and metabolism)
Ayurveda see the production of energy as the function of Agni – digestion and metabolism.
We need a good amount of rest at night to recover from the exertions of the day, but we renew the bulk of our stored energy from food. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats can potentially supply us with large amounts of energy. But if our Agni, or digestive fire, is weak our body can find it hard to derive the maximum benefits from our food.
Weak Agni inevitably results in low energy, but Ayurveda has many strategies to strengthen and support our Agni.
First of all, eating freshly picked and freshly cooked food is essential. Old food, leftovers, pre-prepared, frozen or packaged meals are all seen by Ayurveda as low in Prana, the essential Ayurvedic nutrient that gives vitality to our body. Prana is found in abundance in fresh food.
Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are known as high energy or high Prana foods. Yet they require a good digestive fire to process them. If our Agni is low, even such high Prana foods will have a minimal effect on our energy levels. In fact, if our digestion is already weak, eating too many nuts can produce Ama – a partially digested toxic build-up – in our body, which will result in our digestion becoming even weaker.
Our Agni, or digestive fire, is disturbed by things like:
- Poor eating habits – eating a large meal late in the evening, eating too much during a meal, eating when we are not hungry, eating in a rush.
- Poor diet – eating foods that are not balancing to our Doshic body-type, eating over-processed foods, eating old or precooked foods.
- Unbalanced bacterial flora in our intestines and bowel. This can be caused by poor diet, but it is also cause by the use of many common medicines. For example, antibiotics are famous for removing harmful bacteria, but infamous for also removing the good bacteria that lives in our gut and which are an essential component in our digestion process.
- Stress. When we’re tense and anxious, more often than not, we feel it in our stomachs. In fact our stomachs can feel knotted up. This is not a good time to eat. Hot fluids will help and so will yoga and meditation.
How to deal with fatigue resulting from low Agni
(See the article Intermittent fasting, the Ayurveda way)
Ayurvedic fasting is an excellent way of giving your digestion a short break so that it can do some self-repair work. This process will also help remove the build-up of toxic Ama, formed from semi-digested food.
Skipping breakfast or just having a piece of fruit or some cooked apple at breakfast
Did you know that for a large part of Roman history they did not eat breakfast and considered it healthier to wait until lunch to eat?
There is a modern fallacy that breakfast is the most essential meal of the day for all of us. This may be true for those with a high amount of Pitta or fire in their physiology, as their metabolism is naturally high. But if you have a Kapha or heavy constitution, your metabolism will be slow and more often than not you will have little desire for breakfast.
If you ate a heavy meal the evening before, you may also have little real desire for food first thing in the morning. In this case, it would be far better to just make sure you have plenty of hot water during the morning and allow your digestion to continue processing the meal you ate the night before. Your energy levels may still remain low that morning – after all your body is still diverting a lot of its energy into dealing with last night’s food – but just adding more food to the mix will not help.
Using spices in your food, such as black pepper and fenugreek
Hot, bitter and astringent herbs and spices are very cleansing for the body channels and stimulating for your digestion. They also help clear out semi-digested food, or Ama, from your system and help you become really ready for your next meal.
Trikatu with Clove is a wonderful Ayurvedic formula for stimulating your digestion and burning up Ama.
Herbal formulas that support digestion can help with fatigue
Vata, Pitta or Kapha Churna are spice mixtures especially formulated to help digestion, so that you can get the most energy value out of each meal. Different mixtures have been designed to balance different Doshas. For example, if you are predominantly Vata in your constitution, have a Vata imbalance, or it is the Vata season (cold, dry and windy) – Vata Churna is recommended.
Pitta disturbances in the digestive tract may result in burning sensation, heart-burn or acid reflux. Gastro-Support helps keep Pitta in balance, maintaining comfort in the stomach and effective digestion.
Ayurvedic tonics to pep you up
Metabolism does not just occur in the digestive system. Ayurveda also describes different metabolic processes, or Agnis, that occur within specific tissues – lymph, blood, fat, muscle, bone, marrow, nerve and brain tissue and reproductive tissue.
When the metabolism of a particular tissue is found to be weak, a Maharishi Ayurveda practitioner will prescribe specific herbal remedies that strengthen that tissue metabolism. This often has the effect of increasing energy levels and that is why such remedies are often called tonics (English term) or Rasayanas (Sanskrit term).
Removing toxins which block the flow of energy
Removing stress to unblock energy
Emotional and mental stress can result in the blockage of energy or Prana in your body.
We have an infinite resource of energy, creativity and intelligence deep within us, but when stress accumulates that resource is blocked.
The daily practice of Transcendental Meditation is the most simple and natural way of gaining profound rest and removing deep-rooted stresses that have accumulated over months, or over years. People who practice the technique often report relief from long-term symptoms of fatigue and renewed feelings of energy and vitality in both mind and body.
Toxic Ama causes fatigue
Accumulated toxins, or Ama, can block the channels that supply nutrition to our cells and tissues as well as the tissues themselves.
Poor diet, eating when we are not hungry, overeating at a meal, eating foods that are too heavy for our Agni, snacking between meals, can result in partially digested food, or Ama, in our digestive system – food that is only partly digested because we don’t have enough Agni to process it.
If it hangs around for long enough this Ama can cause problems.
If we carry on eating a snack or another meal when we are in this Ama state, the extra pressure of more material coming into our digestive tract can cause Ama, from the previous meal, to be pushed into our body channels and from their into various tissues and organs.
Because it is food in only a semi-digested state, the tissues cannot process this Ama and as it hangs around it can become toxic.
Feeling heavy, fatigued, dull, lethargic and achy are just a few of the symptoms of accumulated Ama.
Removing toxic Ama
Having a day fast is a great way of clearing Ama as it gives your digestive fire the chance to recuperate and burn off this toxic waste. Ayurveda usually recommends light soups throughout the day, rather than a purely liquid fast. (See the article Intermittent fasting, the Ayurveda way for more details.)
Sipping hot water frequently throughout the day helps revive a low digestive fire to burn away Ama. It also opens the body channels so that any Ama that has accumulated can be more easily flushed away by the body. The hot water should be as hot as possible, but be careful to take light sips so that you don’t burn your mouth, tongue or throat.
Detox (MA1010) is a useful Maharishi Ayurvedic herbal preparation to help remove Ama from tissues and support the liver and kidneys in its elimination. However if Pitta is very strong this herbal may be too heating and Pitta Detox (MA1663) is more suitable.
Pitta Detox (MA1663) is a better choice than Detox (MA1010) if you have high Pitta.
If you are looking for the quickest and most powerful way to remove large amounts of Ama from your system, then choose Panchakarma therapy. This traditional Ayurveda treatment involves the gradual softening up the toxic Ama for removal by taking oils, by mouth and through massage.
Heat treatments are then applied, which open the numerous body channels and allow the toxic Ama to drain out of the tissues.
The toxins can then be completely removed from the body by appropriate strategies, depending on the nature of the toxins.
These sophisticated treatments are carried out in the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Centre in Skelmersdale, Lancashire. Telephone 01695 51008 or email email@example.com.
Ayurveda is a natural way to remove fatigue, enhance your energies and improve your quality of life.