Ayurveda and Grief: 5 Self-CareTips To Help Your Heart Feel Lighter

By Anuradha Gupta 

Navigating loss and coming out the other side isn’t an easy journey. Here are 5 self-care Ayurvedic tips to help your heart feel lighter.

Grief and bereavement are natural in the course of life; whether it is because of a death, chronic illness, losing a job, divorce, moving, or any other loss...  

Currently, the world is grappling with a tough pandemic and our collective grief will take a while to heal. The bereavement of loved ones dying may be harder because we can’t comfort them in person, have proper funeral rituals and physical social support systems. People are also grieving the loss of their way of life, loss of livelihood, illness, or caretaking of the sick. The stages of grief have been documented but grief is not a linear process and affects everyone differently. It is not considered an illness per se but prolonged grief can trigger depression, anxiety, trauma, and impact physical health and immunity. 

The Ayurvedic View of Grief

Ayurveda mentions grief or Shoka in the context of several mental, physical and psychosomatic disorders. According to the root text Ashtanga Hridayam, the unemployed, diseased, or those afflicted by grief should be helped to the utmost extent. 

Here are some principles of grief management. 

  • Grief mainly vitiates Vata Dosha (energy principle of air and ether) but any Dosha imbalance needs addressing.  

  • Grief causes an imbalance in Gunas (qualities of the mind); it could lead to Tamas (lethargy) or aggravate Rajas (restlessness) and healing is achieved through enhancing the natural, clear quality of the mind, Sattva

  • Ayurveda treats mental health in a holistic way (read more in this article

  • In the management of mental health issues, it employs three treatments; spiritual, rational (diet, lifestyle, formulations, and cleansing therapies), and Ayurvedic psychotherapy (Sattvavajaya Chikitsa). 

  • Grief impacts Agni (digestive and metabolic fire); another root text, Charaka Samhita mentions that even wholesome food in proper quantity may not be digested well when we are grieving. 

  • Unresolved grief is psychological Ama (toxins) that can be the cause other diseases. 

  • Symptoms of grief include exhaustion, restlessness, anxiety, sleep issues, appetite loss or comfort eating, and aches and pains. It can also be a cause in ailments like shosha (emaciation), shoka atisara (diarrhea), vatika prameha (a type of diabetes mellitus), and shokaja unmada (a psychiatric condition similar to PTSD). 

  • The lungs, cardiovascular system, and throat chakra (impacting pituitary and thyroid gland) are particularly vulnerable. 

  • Grief can deplete Ojas (the vital life force) and reduce immunity. 

  • Here are a few simplified cases to illustrate grief management, 


  1. Sampada, an elderly lady with osteoarthritis seeks Ayurveda management of tinnitus that started recently. We trace it to the loss of her son-in-law and attend to grief and Vata imbalance in a holistic manner with dietary and lifestyle interventions, therapies, and herbal formulations factoring in her complete history.

  2. Philip is a middle-aged man with prodromal symptoms of gout. Besides irregular diet and lifestyle, an intake reveals he has a Rajas imbalance and is grieving a major downturn at work. His case management involves pacification followed by cleansing. 

  3. Tanya is an emaciated teenager who slipped into grieving and anxiety during the pandemic. She has no mental health diagnosis. She has a Vata imbalance and solutions are provided using Graha Chikitsa (psychiatry) and a sister science, Vedic astrology. Herbal formulations and Brahmana (nourishing) therapies are suggested. 

5 Tips for Self-care While Grieving

They say the only way to go through grief is to go through it…but how can you attend to yourself at this difficult time? 

1. Take Time And Be Gentle With Yourself: 

  • Mourning rituals (through your belief system) help process grief and are highly encouraged. The Ayurvedic view is that the journey of the soul continues; have faith in whatever resonates with you.  
  • Do continue with Dinacharya (daily regimen) practices to retain a soothing structure.  
  • Have nourishing food and spices like ginger, cumin, or coriander. You may reach for comfort food and caffeine but that could clog channels (Srotas). Try golden milk and herbal teas instead.

Herbal Tea Recipe: Add five holy basil leaves, 1/4th tsp cardamom, cinnamon, and dry ginger to a cup of hot boiling water. Let it boil for 10 min. Strain, squeeze in lemon, or add honey (when the tea is lukewarm), jaggery, date, or crystal sugar for a comforting, energizing herbal tea.  

  • Journaling, writing poetry, gardening, and creative ventures can help with honoring and expressing grief. 
  • Heal the senses with chanting, color therapy, and aromatherapy; gemstones are also used to alleviate chronic grief. 
  • Stay connected with your community, friends or join a support group. 

2. Seek Nourishment and Grounding to Balance Vata (read more here)

  • Have wholesome, warm food with the sweet, sour and salty tastes and hydrate enough. 
  • Eat at regular meal times, favor soups and stews and keep meals simple to avoid overwhelm, 
  • Be regular with your sleep cycle.
  • Don’t suppress natural urges (vegadharana) like tears which can vitiate Vata and reduce Agni
  • Follow a routine and try nature walks.  

3. Pamper yourself with a daily self-massage

  • Abhyanga or Snehana (another word for oleation or love) is a self-massage that is a calming, nurturing, and balances Vata. You could use sesame or herbal oils like Ksheerbala or Dhanwantaram. Massage your scalp with Brahmi or Amalaki oil. 
  • Massage your feet before sleeping (don socks to prevent slipping).
  • Try a daily Nasya; the application of a couple of drops of oil in the nostrils (sesame, ghee, or Anu Taila). 
  • Cleansing and therapies like Panchakarma help heal unresolved grief. Abhyanga, Shirodhara, Shiroabhyanga (head massage with warm oil), Marma, and Nasya are especially helpful; also consider a Hridaya Basti (a heart Basti). 

4. Replenish with Rasayana herbs and practices

  • Rejuvenating herbs and formulations (useful for the manovaha srotas or mind channel) include Amruth, Amalaki, Tulsi, Brahmi, Manasamitra Vatakam, and Chayavanprash. Do consult an Ayurvedic practitioner before trying herbs and therapies. 
  • Follow Achara Rasayana (uplifting lifestyle practices) like good company, service, and meditation. This is similar to psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) in modern medicine or the concept of how the mind impacts health and immunity.  

5. Enhance Sattva

  • Have freshly cooked, easy to digest, light, unctuous food
  • Slow down and reduce stress
  • Do seek Ayurvedic or grief counseling if required. 
  • Read inspirational books or spiritual texts. 
  • Sadvrutta practices like truth, self-control, following a routine, and having fresh food raises Sattva
  • Meditation, restorative yoga, and breathwork are ideal for healing and increasing emotional resilience. Read more about breathwork for grieving in this beautiful article.  

Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed.  Kessler, the co-author of some of Ross’s work on the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), now talks about a sixth stage. While many look for closure after a loss, he asserts that finding meaning can transform grief into a peaceful, hopeful experience. 

To quote Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of Art of Living about the loss of a loved one, “Time will take care of it. If someone you love crosses over, grief overtakes you. But see it from a broader angle; we all have to go one day. Someone has taken an earlier flight and we have to take a later flight. When you see the impermanence of everything, you will gain the strength to overcome grief.” 

A way to find meaning and strength is through the comfort of meditation. Studies have shown that the SKY Breath Meditation workshop reduces clinical and non-clinical depression; I am glad to invite you to a session that introduces the SKY Breath Meditation technique and also provides a free guided meditation. Click the image below to select a date convenient to you to join Beyond Breath

I hope what I have shared here helps your heart feel lighter!

Disclaimer: This content on the Art of Living Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, Any links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience only and the Art of Living Blog is not responsible for their content.​


Anuradha Gupta is an Engineer, MBA, writer, and Ayurvedic Wellness Practitioner. She has a corporate background and volunteers for Art of Living and other nonprofits. You can find her on Facebook or LinkedIn

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