Vasavi Kumar is the creative author of The Way of Ayurveda: Stop Dieting Start Living and the free quiz “What’s Your Dosha.” An entrepreneur at heart, Vasavi holds dual Master’s degrees in Special Education from Hofstra University and Social Work from Columbia University and is often described as “your kick-in-the-pants guide en route to your desired destination.” She has taken many paths to fulfill her purpose including attending vegetarian culinary school at The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts, and becoming certified in Ayurveda Nutrition and Massage Therapy.
Leveraging her action-based philosophy and passion to make her dream realized, Vasavi has been featured on multiple media platforms including Food Network, VH1, NBC, HuffPost Live, The Daily Love, MindBodyGreen and many more.. As a result she has been able to spread her message of being relentless in pursuit of your dreams over at www.vasavikumar.com
In Conversation With Vasavi Kumar
If there is one word to describe Vasavi it is “vivacious”. Right through this interaction there wasn’t a moment where we couldn’t positively resonate with her thoughts and be touched by her view of life. She talks about “Facing up to Bipolar Disorder the Ayurveda way” from a first person’s perspective having experienced and attuned her outlook towards the ailment and life in general. Here are gems from our discussion to enable people suffering and people supporting, to realize, accept, and deal with Bipolar Disorder the natural humane way:
Q. Why is bipolar disorder considered a “disorder”? Does society look at it as a mental illness?
People who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder are often misunderstood because of the stigma that is attached to the label.
There is a wide gap between people’s perception and understanding of bipolar disorder and the nature of the “illness” from a spiritual and Ayurvedic point of view. Western medicine’s approach to helping people who have been diagnosed as bipolar is one of suppressing emotion, rather than going to the root of the issue. Because of this one-sided and narrow approach to healing, it is no wonder that society deems those who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as “crazy” and “insane.”
From an Ayurvedic perspective, bipolar disorder is an excess in Vata in the mind
Q. Are the causes/triggers and frequency of episodes more physiological or psychological?
The key here is to examine ALL the areas of your life and see which areas feel out of balance.
The problem with traditional Western medicine is that the “solution” is often to prescribe antipsychotic and/or mood stabilizers to a patient and call it a day. Of course there is encouragement to see a psychotherapist which definitely helps the person who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder to heal from any past pain and hurt. But often times what happens is that a newly diagnosed patient will be confronted with this label and then not know how to treat themselves on a holistic level, rather, simply take a pill as prescribed by their doctor. Taking a pill alone is not the answer. The key here is to examine ALL the areas of your life and see which areas feel out of balance. As humans we are naturally inclined to seek balance. Know that if you are one day feeling extremely “high” your mind and body will do whatever it takes to feel its counter opposite.
Q. What works more? Medical intervention, spirituality, counseling or the social support system?
There are so many methods of healing if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness. There isn’t ONE specific route to your path of feeling well. Medication to begin with may feel like the only option when you are first diagnosed. And for some, taking these medications to suppress your highs and lows may help in reducing certain symptoms. However, the goal here is to be willing to explore your options.
I began practicing yoga, signed up for a women’s boot camp and really started to pay attention to what else I needed to feel better every day.
You don’t have to go through this alone.
Q. Are there natural (alternative) remedies for bipolar disorder? Is there a permanent cure?
One “remedy” that I cannot emphasize enough is having a strict routine and structure to your daily life.
One of the best Ayurveda practices that I have incorporated into my daily morning routine is Abhyangha (oil massage) using warm sesame oil. Oil has the guna (quality) of heaviness and of course oiliness which in turn has a very grounding and calming effect for my mind. I cannot recommend this enough to people who may have an aggravated Vata, especially during the Fall season(and year-round). I also make sure to have free time to spend with myself in nature, as well as creating a routine day to day so that I have both freedom and structure. Also, eating according to your dosha and season is critical if you are working towards a more balanced mental and emotional state. If you do not already know your dosha I have created a free “What’s Your Dosha” quiz which you can take here, along with an accompanying guidebook which you can buy here.
Q. Having experienced this first hand yourself, has the healing process made you what you are today spiritually?
For me personally, had I not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I would have never embarked on the path of understanding myself on every level.
Back then I didn’t appreciate or even fully grasp why I had to go through whatever I was going through. And often times, when we are deep into our healing process, we are blind to the gift that is actually being given to us. For me personally, had I not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I would have never embarked on the path of understanding myself on every level. I wouldn’t have the compassion and understanding that I do today for anyone going through any sort of adversity or painful situation. I wouldn’t have the perspective on life that I have today. I wouldn’t be relentless in pursuit of my dreams and helping others do the same. I wouldn’t have made myself a priority. I would have taken my life and the lives of those around me for granted. I wouldn’t be a risk-taker. I wouldn’t have been as confident as I am today. I wouldn’t have learned to speak up and take charge of my life. So yes, the entire process has made me who I am today. And I invite any one reading this to start viewing their diagnosis or pain in their life as the greatest gift ever. Trust and believe that it is no mistake that whatever you are going through right now has a divine purpose.
Q. What advice would you give to the “support” system around people with bipolar disorder?
For the people who serve as “support” around your loved ones who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (or any mental illness)–get support yourself.
Second, ask more questions, judge less. You will never ever know what it is like to be in the shoes of the person you are supporting. If you are going to take on the role as a member of a support system then start to get curious and ask more questions. Often times, people in the support role think that they know what’s best. But they don’t. You have to still work hard to maintain, honor, and respect the dignity of the person that you are supporting. Just because your loved one may be diagnosed doesn’t mean that he/she loses all autonomy. At the end of the day, don’t you want your son/daughter/wife/husband, whoever has been diagnosed to be independent? Yes. I know you do. Therefore, it is imperative that you do not treat the person you are supporting as if they are incapable.
Third, get educated about bipolar disorder. Did you know that some of the most creative people of our time were diagnosed with a mental illness? Don’t just listen to what a psychiatrist tells you. Understand and learn about alternative healing methods. There are so many ways to heal. Why not understand more about them so you can be well versed and offer a more holistic option to the person you are supporting?
Lastly, never make the person you are supporting feel like they have something to be ashamed of. I will never forget what my mother said to me when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We were standing on the corner of 57th and Lexington Avenue in New York City outside of the psychiatrist’s office. She said, “Never tell anyone about your illness.” In that moment I just remembered how ashamed I felt. For me, I was relieved that I finally had an answer to what felt like a lifelong “problem.” But for my mother she was more concerned with the opinions and perceptions of the Indian society. She had every right to be.
The fact of the matter is, there is still a stigma associated with mental illness. And as a mother she was simply protecting me. But, what I wish to impart to those who are in the support role– there is nothing to be ashamed of. We are all given “obstacles” to challenge us. Whether it may be in the form of an addiction, or a diagnosis, or a fear, everything that has been placed in our lives is there for a reason. The more we shame ourselves, the more our illness stays alive.
Thanks Vasavi for this mindful perspective on life. These insights will empower our readers to face and challenge obstacles in their lives and reconnect with their own SELF. Thank you once again !!
That link for the Dosha quiz does not work I get this message Vasavi:We're Sorry!
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Excellent article. I never would have found all these things if i hadn't seen two psychiatrists and a therapist who were open to all sorts of treatments like the ones pointed out here. With this episode since February, I am manic most of the time, and since my episodes are mainly cycling between ups and downs, with the downs being the dominant and the ones I know how to treat, I'm having trouble managing the constant ups! One main problem as the author points out, very significantly, is keeping a steady rhythm to days and nights, which is very hard when you're manic!! Thanks for the article - it's always nice to hear that others use the same methods I do. Oh, i would add body work to this... Massage, cranial sacral treatments, reiki, etc. Very beneficial if you're in a state of being able to be touched and open to the therapist. Thanks!
Having bipolar disorder is a daily roller coaster ride. Your way up high into the sky one minute and then you drop way low to the ground and what really makes it tough is when you don't have a support system.
For me, age has helped a great deal, and a number of years in active 12 step recovery work - I believe self medication is common. Confidence in oneself to do the next right thing builds emotional maturity.
Well, that's quite an elaborate thought! Never thought the author was disputing the existence of mental health. I meant your thoughts her management option.
I believe that it is a excuse to not follow rules and act out !!! And we are forced to accept n expected go out of our way to make their lives full n rich . At the expense of our happiness !!! They can take med's and fall in line but they CHOISE not to !!!! How dare you compare this to CANCER !!! Cancer kills the person that has a real disease !!! Bipolar people kill other people slowly with their outrages behavior and Never ending MUST Haves all the time !!! I have a family member that has bipolar and to ever trust or be by this person is a danger to the whole family !! Unpredictable and a threat to everyone ! She destroys every person she has contact with !!! So how do you support that person that won't even help herself !!
Felicitas Onyekweli right here right now u can sense frustration in some thoughts. Perhaps someone had had a wrong diagnosis and taken a wrong medication. Because, if mental illness does not exist the 150 people in the aircraft would have been home now with their families. The only area were I can agree is that the Diagnostic and statistical manual of American psychiatry was partly pharmaceutical companies influenced - which is the politics of today. Insurance companies have rules in all doctors visits also not solely in psychiatry. Let me educate some about psychiatric diagnosis Axis one is changes in mood & anxiety. Axis two is personality changes Axis three is Medical condition ( body). Axis four is psychosocial, environmental and vocational difficulties and Axis five we pass a judgement called Global Assessment of Functioning score (GAF). Thus refusing existence of psychiatric problems is tantamount to refusing humans donot have brains and minds. Therefore hospitals and medical doctors should attend only to body diseases and send away anyone with troubles of the brain and mind. Hope I have thrown some light on this?
Bipolar is fake! Never listen to those quack doctors and never take their toxic meds.! They kill all those who stay on them long enough!
I feel sorry for you. People who are so against mental illness diagnosis and mental health care providers are so because they don't want to face the truth that they themselves have a mental disorder. My ex is bipolar, his father was adamant that all psychiatrists and psychologists were quacks. Four of my ex father in law's kids have bipolar disorders, I believe that the parents do too but they won't seek help.
I suffer from manic depression aka bipolar disorder it's very hard for me to control my feelings and thoughts.
You are wrong! I have been married to my husband for twenty years, he is diagnosed with bipolar disorder! He can't control SOME of his behavior any more than a person with diabetes can control their blood sugar! Its a disease of the brain, do your research! Don't condemn people who suffer, would you feel this way of someone with cancer or any other life threatening disease? Mental illnesses are serious.
Tthis was not an named issue as bipolar,,,untill like everything else (a more execrable not so demeaning one could be created )better excuse name ) every singleperson i have ever know,called bipolar! !!!! Use to be called perverts, all seem to have no sexual boundaries,and. Refuse even as children authority and love drama ! These people are using a title to behave badly and get drugs. Their choice to act as they do, they refuse self control.!
Bipolar disorder is a real thing. Psychiatric diagnoses are not all fake. Chemical imbalances and a myriad of other things going wrong within your body/brain are causes of these disorders/diagnoses. If you think you have something wrong going on, please look at Ayurveda for help. Talk to your doctor. Please don't listen to someone who calls psychiatric diagnoses "fake".
Bipolar does not exist, nor does any other so-called disorder based upon the pseudo-science of psychiatry! What exists are natural symptoms, like depression, anger, sadness, weakness, strength, tiredness, etc. These can all be cured naturally!