Let us take a moment to think about emotional digestion. Digestion is happening at a biochemical, cellular, and energetic level in every aspect of our being. We digest every experience and every emotion. Perfect health depends on perfect digestion. Perfect digestion depends on clear energetic and physiological channels, or srotamsi. There are srotamsi for the digestion of all substance and experience. The mind channel, or mano-vaha-strotas is the complex channel responsible for the digestion of all sensory information including mental and emotional experiences. There are two parts to the mind: manas and buddhi. Manas includes perception, thinking, and emotion. Buddhi includes the intellect and the ego identity. Buddhi is based upon past experiences which can be accumulated genetically, or experientially in this life or in a past life. Just like we experience indigestion of incompatible foods, the mano-vaha-srotas is prone to emotional indigestion caused by trauma. Traumas can be deep seated from past experience, or it can be experienced everyday depending on lifestyle factors such as occupational or relationship stressors.
How Trauma Blocks Mano-vaha-srotas
It is the buddhi that becomes affected in deep seated traumas, which can lead to impaired daily experiential perception. Think of buddhi like this: all your memories (far reaching and recent) and how they affect you on a daily basis. You are who you are, in part, because of your memories. Negative past experiences can be re-lived every day via our world-view. Recent psychological studies reveal significantly altered states of agency, or “feeling in charge of your life,” in individuals with a history of trauma (Van der Kolk, 2015). This is demonstrated in everyday statements of, “he made my skin crawl,” or “you broke my heart.” A past experience of powerlessness due to trauma leads one to constantly give away their sense of agency. Consider “I statements” as a way to take back your agency. The statement, “I’m feeling very upset,” actually gives you the power to choose your emotions. Accusational language gives away that option. Give yourself adequate time to feel upset after an incident, and then give yourself the same permission to choose to move on.
Each strotamsi has a root, a passage, and and opening. Mano – Vaha – Srotas, or mind channel is rooted in the heart, it’s passageway is the entire body and opening is the sense organs.
Signs and symptoms of afflicted mano-vaha-srotas include recurrent episodes of insecurity, criticism, and comparison. In other findings, neuroscientists noted the activation of primitive areas of brain functions responsible for self protective behaviors like cowering and startling in patients with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) during everyday socialization. In the traumatized individuals, there was an overwhelming absence of activation of social engagement related neurons. The constant veil of negative thoughts furthers the buildup of “emotional toxicity” within the mind channel and prevents us from social connection and presence. We become paralyzed with fear and insecurities, leading to an inability to cope with the repeated trauma of daily life. The cycle reinforces itself.
Without awareness, we may find ourselves in a constant trance of fear based reaction
We must investigate the depths of these harmful behaviors, which may be subconscious in origin. Vedic tradition teaches us that we cannot stop the wheels of karma (the sum of one’s actions based on their history), but that our everyday activities and choices can actively contribute to slowing its effects. What I mean here is simple. We cannot change our past experiences. However, our habitual patterns of emotional response to stimuli can either liberate or further block the mind channel.
So, how do we liberate a toxic mano-vaha-srotas? Ayurveda tells us that there is no one size fits all method of healing for any condition. Here are some dosha-appropriate signs, symptoms and healing therapies for your consideration:
Pitta individuals might manifest their emotional indigestion as anger, judgement, criticism. It can be directed toward the self, or others. They are prone to a “negativity bias.” Try journaling as a way to reflect on negative interactions. A simple, mindfulness based meditation can help in noticing and re-directing negative thoughts.
The ether and air qualities of vata dosha make one prone to uncertainty, fear and insecurity. It can be disabling and permeate every interaction and life experience. My favorite vata therapy is to take care of something. If your circumstance allows, consider adopting a pet, engaging in childcare, or even tending to plants. Chanting, and heart-felt meditations may soothe feelings of loneliness. Yoga is absolutely integral in maintaining a healthy vata constitution.
Behind the jolly, joyful kapha individuals can lie deeply rooted attachment. Since kapha tends to hold and stagnate, I also find intense pranayamas like kapalbhati (breath of fire) or agni saar (mula lock with stomach pumps) helpful in releasing. Vigerous yoga including sun salutations is recommended. If communication about emotions or past experience is difficult, start by opening up to an already trusted confidant.
To find out your own Ayurvedic constitution, or for personalized Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle counseling, email Katelynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author:
Katelynn Ingersoll is a an Ayurvedic practitioner with a background in education and a passion for the science of caring. She is the director of Hot Yoga Philadelphia, a practicing collective member at Half Moon Ayurveda, and an eternal student.
Lad, Vasant. Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda. Albuquerque: The Ayurvedic Press. 2002.
Van der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps The Score. New York: Penguin Books. 2015.