How to clear brain fog and heighten your senses

Low Angle View Of Trees Against Foggy Sky

Are you feeling spaced out, forgetful, confused, and unable to focus? Finding it difficult to sleep and getting headaches? You could be experiencing “brain fog.” A foggy head is a set of imbalances that result when you’re recovering from an infection, have a chronic ailment, have jet lag, haven’t slept enough, or are just generally stressed and anxious. 

Holistic approaches are helpful in dealing with brain fog symptoms by addressing their root cause. Is lifestyle a factor? Is it dietary? Related to an illness? Hormonal issues? Anxiety? A stressful life event? A comprehensive assessment of the mind-body system is needed. A foggy head causes neurological, psychological, and emotional challenges. It can impact family and work life and be debilitating as well as frustrating. In Ayurveda, brain fog symptoms are taken seriously to assess underlying imbalances. After all, Ayurveda is about prevention, disease management, and living life to your fullest potential. This can be hard to do when you’re contending with heaviness, demotivation, and fatigue.

Ayurvedic view of brain fog causes

Internal (Nija) factors or external (Agantuja) factors like epidemics or war can aggravate Doshas or energy principals and the Gunas (pertaining to mental health, read more here). Vata Dosha imbalance or Ama (toxins) are often causes of brain fog, but that only skims the surface. A personalized assessment is required to establish each of the individual contributing factors.

General causes of disease

Ayurveda cites three causes of disease, and any could impact cognition and lead to symptoms of a foggy head. 
  • Misuse of the intellect (Prajnaparadha) – e.g. binge-watching shows until late in the night
  • Misuse of the senses (Asatmendriyartha samyoga) – like too much screen time and sensory overload.
  • Seasonal and time variations (Kala or parinama) – such as degenerative changes to the brain with aging (which can be eased by measures like exercise and doing puzzles).

Imbalance in the Vata dosha

What is Vata?

It is the subtle energy of movement in your mind-body system. It’s composed of air and ether elements. A Vata imbalance can cause a lack of focus, anxiety, fatigue, memory issues, and problems with sleep. 

Vata imbalances 

Prevention (Niana parivarjana) is the best management! Vata goes out of balance with an irregular routine, cold, dry food, not enough hydration, sleeping late or too little, cold exposure, controlling natural urges, too much media exposure, and overdoing things. Fall and early winter are Vata seasons in the U.S. Older age is the Vata stage of life, when people are prone to imbalances like brain fog and anxiety. You can learn more about balancing Vata here.

Other imbalances contributing to brain fog

  • Vata-Pitta imbalance: Any Dosha imbalance can cause depletion, degeneration, and exhaustion, but Vata and Pitta are particularly implicated. A Vata-Pitta imbalance is like a forest fire, causing burnout and leading to a foggy brain. A Rajasic state of mind with feverishness and restlessness has a similar impact.
  • Toxins and blockages: Obstruction of Srotas or channels through toxins (Ama), Kapha Dosha, or any Dosha imbalance can cause brain fog symptoms. As could a lethargic and Tamasic state of mind.
  • Poor digestion: weak Agni can lead to nutrient malabsorption and toxin production (Ama). Both could contribute to a foggy mind.
Person holding candle burning at both ends, close up

Eight tips to clear brain fog holistically with Ayurveda 

1. Sleep

Sleep is one of the three pillars of health in Ayurveda. All activities are degenerating, and sleep nourishes a foggy brain. Try to sleep before 10 pm and get eight hours of solid sleep. Do follow a routine through good Ratricharya (nightly regimen) practices (slowing and winding down, not eating late, and if it suits you, having a warm glass of turmeric milk). 

Turmeric milk recipe: Boil a glass of milk with ½ tsp turmeric and a pinch of black pepper. Add saffron, cardamom, and grated fresh ginger! Enjoy this soothing drink!

2. Nutrition

Eat a warm, unctuous diet with plenty of fruits and cooked vegetables.  Hydrate properly and avoid overeating, fried and processed foods, white sugar, and white flour. Incorporate spices that support digestion, like ginger, cumin, coriander, and fennel. Sip warm CCF tea throughout the day. And consume Ayurvedically balanced meals.

CCF tea recipe: In six glasses of water, add 1 tsp each of cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds and boil for 15-20 min. Strain and enjoy.

3. Yoga, pranayama, meditation and exercise

Yoga, pranayama, and meditation are effective tools for increasing Sattva (the light, clear quality of the mind), improving focus, memory, and cognition, enhancing a sense of well-being, and sharpening the senses. One size doesn’t fit all in a yoga practice (read more about individualizing Yoga here). Alternate Nostril breathing is Vata balancing, Kapal Bhati can help with Kapha, and slower, abdominal breathing with Vata-Pitta brain fog symptoms. 

Exercise or Vyayam is recommended as part of Dinacharya or a daily regimen in Ayurveda. It enhances Agni and improves circulation and clarity of mind.

4. Avoid sensory overload

In today’s society, our brain never catches a break! Try periodic social media fasts, silence, less screen time, aromatherapy, spending time in nature, and practicing Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal). Anything you do to give your sensory organs a rest sharpens them and clears a foggy brain.

Man sitting on edge of dock with feet in water

5. A daily and seasonal approach

Ayurveda encourages aligning with nature and natural rhythms. Following healthy Dinacharya practices and routines regulate Doshas. The same healthy meal is digested better at noon when the digestive fire is high, than late at night. Similarly, different seasons have a different dominating Dosha. Balancing that dominating dosha helps prevent imbalances like brain fog symptoms in fall and early winter, Vata seasons.

6. Community support

A foggy head can cause you to slow down and withdraw with a sense of ineptitude. Ayurveda is an empowering journey of self-discovery to maintain health. It also advocates we rely on community and our connection with nature. Reach out to people and do things you enjoy.

7. Herbal recommendations

An Ayurvedic Practitioner individualizes herbs and formulations based on the imbalance that a Rogi experiences. Brain fog causes the mind channel (Manovaha Srotas) to be impacted. Medhya Rasayanas (brain tonics or adaptogens) like Brahmi, Guduchi, Ashwagandha, or Yashtimadhu may be recommended.

8. Periodic cleansing

Seasonal transitions can cause brain fog. Ayurveda recommends periodic cleansing (best done in fall or spring) to clear imbalances and ensure the deep-seated ones don’t recur. Cleansing or shodhana is powerful and therapeutic. It can be customized to include personalized therapies, a Panchakarma or a seasonal cleanse.

Ayurveda can help you with the prevention and management of brain fog and an Ayurvedic consultation is a good place to start. (Find out what happens in an Ayurvedic consultation here).  Visit our wellness center or website to find an Ayurvedic professional near you.

3 Ayurvedic tips for the family

Ayurveda is fun for parents and kids

We meet so many families at Kerala Ayurveda’s Academy & Wellness Center, so we’re excited that there is an easy-to-read guide on Ayurveda for parents and guardians we can now recommend to you all! 

The Parent’s Complete Guide to Ayurveda: Principles, Practices, and Recipes for Happy, Healthy Kids was released August 23, 2022. We’re celebrating this book on many levels, as it was coauthored by our Academy Director + Chief Ayurvedic Specialist, Vaidya. Jayarajan Kodikannath, and Kerala Ayurveda Academy alumnus, Alyson Young Gregory. It’s one of the first books of its kind to introduce practical guidelines utilizing traditional Indian medicine. As both parents and Ayurvedic practitioners, Alyson and Vaidya. Jayarajan created a roadmap for anyone to follow.

Here’s a sneak peak at what you’ll find in the Parent’s Guide. 

Ayurveda is fun and can replace excess screen time for children and adults

Screen time is not quiet time

It can be easy to confuse screen time and quiet time, especially when you’re a busy parent. Truth be told, you may not be taking the time that you need for yourself to unplug. The reality is that too much screen time can overstimulate your child’s brain and will leave them zapped rather than energized when they need a little “quiet time.” A balanced approach to screen time is essential for your children’s physical, mental, and social well-being. And yours too! Rather than focusing on the elimination of the screen, our quiet time suggestions celebrate that Ayurveda is fun.  

Here’s some ideas for quiet time activities:

  • Check out audiobooks from the library (Alyson’s daughter brings her CD player outside so she can listen on a blanket or in a lawn chair!)
  • Card games (older kids love solitaire once you get them started)
  • Pick flowers (or “weeds”), then arrange messy bouquets with string 
  • Set up a still life scene, such as a bowl of fruit or flower vase. Invite your child to draw, color, or paint it.
  • Puzzles! Set up a puzzle station in your home if you have the space, or try a roll-up puzzle mat if you need to stow it away in between sessions. Let the whole family join in!
  • Ask your child if they’d like to create a play from a favorite book. They can write a script, think up costumes, and make tickets!
  • Water games – create a water table for younger kids. Older kids love to throw a pool party for their favorite critters or dolls in a plastic bin filled with water.
Ayurveda is fun for bedtime

Getting to sleep

Bedtime can instigate serious FOMO for some kids. No one wants to miss out on what might happen later in the night! And on top of that, life is immensely stimulating in our times, and this can make bedtime feel unnatural to your child’s state of mind and body. To relax their system and bring on the zzz’s, here are some tips for setting up a sleep transition. 

  • Foot massage: using a little sesame oil, gently massage into the soles of the feet.  A bonus drop on the head also helps!
  • Warm herbal milk: warm up a cup of milk (can be non dairy, but aim for organic and whole, with minimal processed ingredients) with a dash of nutmeg, and sweeten.
  • Weighted blanket: this is a literal solution that works like a charm! The weight of the blanket will help bring the energy levels “down.”
  • Calming aromas and sounds – experiment with these to see what soothes your child.
  • Screen time deadline – screens stimulate us, period. Use the activities like the quiet time suggestions above to help your child engage in something enjoyable that will also help them wind down. 
  • Storytime – this is not just for very young children. Humans have engaged in ritual evening storytelling for all ages, for thousands of years. Solitary reading is great, too, though you just might be surprised by how much fun swapping storytelling roles can be with your kids.
Ayurveda is fun for helping parents stay calm

Breathe into calm parenting

There’s no such thing as perfection, and your child needs you to be authentically you. That means sometimes you’re anxious, angry, sad, and any of the other “negative” emotions you might not enjoy feeling. That’s ok. Ayurveda is fun, but it’s also the “science of life.” Life is full of lulls and obstacles, too.

If you’re struggling and it’s affecting your ability to be there for your child, Ayurveda offers many quick fixes to streamline the nervous system. The most effective one you can do anywhere is literally breathe.

Alyson says, “It took me a long time to figure out that using any extra moments I had early in the morning to sort a load of laundry or clean out the fridge wasn’t REALLY what I needed to prepare myself for the day ahead—and I still need to remind myself often. Which is OK-because what parents need to practice more than anything is self-compassion! My go-to breathing exercise (almost) every morning is Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing which translates to ‘clear the channels.’ This is one of the simplest breathing techniques you can practice to reduce stress, calm anxiety, and promote clarity.”

To practice Nadi Shodhana:

  1. Sit and relax, closing your eyes. Take several centering breaths and come into the present moment.
  2. Using the right hand, block the left nostril with the ring finger.
  3. Inhale slowly and deeply through the right nostril. 
  4. Then open the left nostril and close the right nostril with the thumb, exhaling slowly from the left nostril. Then inhale. 
  5. Close the left nostril, exhale from the right nostril. 
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 for several rounds, up to 3 minutes.

These tips are sure to help your little one, though they’re appropriate for all ages. These best practices can be embraced by everyone, so try them on yourself, and let it become a family practice of wellness!

*Note: if you experience hypertension or are pregnant, do not perform these techniques without consulting with your physician.

Learn more tips like these

To learn more tips like these, get your copy of The Parent’s Complete Guide to Ayurveda

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