Posts

The Polish Journal of the Arts and Culture. New Series 2
(2/2015): 29–41 [article]
DOI: 10.4467/24506249PJ.15.007.4635

Nying Lung Disorder, or Tibetan Medicine Perspective on Depression

Anastazja Holečko

Abstract
Traditional Tibetan medicine perceives so prevalent mental problems as an imbalance of the subtle Wind energy, or Lung in Tibetan. It is one of the three humors (rlung, mkhris pa, bad kan) that govern our health. When out of balance, Lung can cause such symptoms as emotional lab- ility, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or bipolar disorder, to mention just a few. Over millennia Tibetan medicine has compiled a system of effective methods to rebalance the three humors and bring back the state of health. To the healing methods belong therapeutic diet and lifestyle, herbal compounds, and a wide range of external therapies, such as Tibetan massage kunye, moxa, horme, or yukcho. On top of that spiritual healing, connected with Buddhist tradition, is applicable.

Keywords: Tibetan medicine, depression, nying lung, horme, yukcho, nejang.

Lek. med. Anastazja Holečko is a medical doctor, graduated from the Medical University of Lodz, living and practicing in Prague, Czech Republic. She has completed the studies of traditional Tibetan medicine at the International Academy of Traditional Tibetan Medi- cine (IATTM), and did the internships in Dharamsala, India and Amdo, Tibet. She is the chef editor of the “Journal of Traditional Tibetan Medicine”.
e-mail: nastimi@gmail.com https://www.happyandhealthy.cz/en


Introduction

One of the most common complaints of our busy modern times is, gently speaking, lack of mental calmness. It extends from relatively mild forms like attention deficit, restlessness, insomnia, emotional lability, lack of concentration, anxiety, burnout, to more serious mental disorders like panic attacks, bipolar disorder and depression.

Defined as “a common mental disorder that presents with depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, decreased energy, feelings of guilt or low self-esteem, disturbed sleep or appetite, and poor concentration”, it becomes a more and more frequent problem not only in the developed countries. According to the WHO, depression affects 350 million people worldwide, and it will be the leading cause of disease burden worldwide by 2030. If burnout, grief reactions and other stress related disorders were included in the diagnosis-criteria of depression, this could lead to a lifetime prevalence of about 80%.¹ People with depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable or restless. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems or reduced energy may also be present.² While our Western physicians tend to concentrate on physical complains, ignoring mental state of a patient, this immense mental suffering can even lead to suicide. The treatment of depression brings many side effects and is not in long term successful.

On the other hand, traditional Tibetan medicine can offer a cure for such problems. It is based on a natural healing system, as well as on Buddhist view. Although Tibetan medicine originated from the Bon tradition approximately four thousands year ago, over the time the Buddhist elements soaked in and became an inseparable part of this medical tradition. Already in the second century ce two Ayurvedic doctors moved to Tibet from India, to spread their knowledge in the Land of Snow. However, the biggest impact on development of Tibetan medicine had “transplantation” of Buddhist teachings to Tibet by Guru Rinpoche (pad ma ‘byung gnas, 730–810 ce) in the 8th century ce. At these times, when Tibet was under a rule of a Tibetan king Trisong Detsen (khri srong lde btsan, 742–798 ce), there took place a significant historical event – the First Congress on Traditional Tibetan Medicine in Samye, where the most eminent doctors from all the neighboring countries came

¹Jean-Pierre Lépine and Mike Briley, The increasing burden of depression, passim. ²Depression, [www 01], 2012.
to share their medical knowledge.

It was then that outstanding doctor and a Buddhist practitioner called Yuthok Yonten Gonpo (g.yu thog yon tan gon po, 729–854 ce), became known as a founder of Tibetan medicine. He combined the knowledge from the ancient texts (like Bum zhi – first Tibetan text on medicine), his deep personal experience and wisdom, and teachings from the doctors from the other countries to create Gyu shi (rgyud bzhi), the Four Medical Tantras that became the basis for traditional Tibetan medicine.

Yuthok stressed that for achieving a stable health, both physical and mental, it is crucial to engage into spiritual development and work with mind. And so he wrote his second “jewel” – Yuthok nying tig (g.yu thog snying tig), the cycle of spiritual practices for Tibetan doctors and lay practitioners.³

Also the original name of Tibetan medicine – Sowa Rigpa (gso ba rig pa) reflects the importance of mental work. Sowa is usually translated as “healing” and rigpa as “science”, resulting in “healing science”. However, it can also be translated as sowa “nourishment” and rigpa as “awareness”, giving “nourishment of awareness”. It seeks the real causes of all suffering, both physical and mental, and is coherent with the Buddhist view on that.

So what is the principal cause of all suffering? According to Tibetan medicine, it is the ignorance of our true nature and the nature of universe (Tib. marigpa). Due to this basic ignorance we perceive the world in a dualistic way, which gives rise to 84000 of disturbing emotions. They can be summarized to three main emotions, called also mind poisons: attachment, aversion and confusion. Those are closely connected with the energies in our body, so-called Three Humors (nye pa gsum): Wind (rlung), Bile (mkhrispa) and Phlegm (badkan). Imbalance of the Three Humors manifests later on as a disease on a physical level.⁴

Screen-Shot-2022-01-06-at-12.03.13-PM

Table 1: The Three Humors

³Dr Nida Chenagtsang, The Path to Rainbow Body – introduction to Yuthok Nyingtig, passim.
⁴Dr Nida Chenagtsang, Sorig basics – Root tantra, passim.

Chronic stress, extremely busy life style, lack of sleep, improper food, is something our nervous and hormonal systems are not handling well in longer term. It leads to chronic elevation of stress hormones like cortisol, and later on to adrenal burnout, which affects multiple functions of our body and mind.

From the Tibetan medicine point of view, it brings imbalance on the energy level, the three humors, and those affect both the mind and the body. The most often target of such an unbalanced lifestyle is Lung humor, responsible for the mental health.
The direct translation of Lung is Wind, and its nature is constant movement. Its functions are highly complex. Its subtle part (phra rlung) is inseparably connected with mind, constituting its movement aspect, à côté de awareness aspect. It can be compared to a horse on which the mind rides. Movement enables the constant flow of thoughts, emotions, and perception.
The gross aspect of Lung (rags rlung) manifests on energy level as five so-called karmic Winds. Each of them plays important role in the body functioning, from breathing, swallowing, excreting, to transmitting nervous signals to brain, and regulating heart beat. In the table 2 below the functions of each karmic Lung are listed in detail.

Depression in particular is caused by Lung disorder in the heart. Heart is one of the Lung locations in the body – the seat of All-pervading Lung. When it is in balance, it governs the heartbeat, controls sense organs, the skin pores, and all bodily movements. Abnormal function of Lung in the heart is called Nying Lung (snying rlung) and brings the symptoms of depression.

According to Tibetan medicine, the primary cause of Lung disorder is ignorance and excessive desire/attachment. However, there are also secondary causes, or conditions, that are necessary for a disorder to manifest. While primary causes can be compared to a seed sewn in mind, secondary causes are like soil, water and sun that enable the seed to grow.
To secondary causes in Tibetan medicine belong: diet, lifestyle, seasons, and negative external influences. From these, diet and lifestyle are of special importance, because we decide on them every day. Thus we can choose whether to support our health, or bring further imbalance to our system.

In the table 3 below there are specified secondary causes increasing Lung imbalance.

Screen-Shot-2022-01-06-at-12.05.25-PM

 

Screen-Shot-2022-01-06-at-12.05.40-PM
Table 3: Secondary causes that increase Lung

We keep planning the future, we dwell in the past, regretting what has happened, and rarely enjoying the present moment – the only one truly existing. Our mind becomes in a way “detached” from the body, from the powerful moment being “here and now”. Such busy, unstable mind is easily provoked by so-called immediate causes that trigger the Lung reaction. It can be grief and sorrow, e.g. lost of dear ones, bad news and unpleasant events, stress and overworking, overexerting of body, speech or mind.
Particularly susceptible to Nying Lung are people of Lung typology who have an inclination to Lung disorders from birth. Deprivation of love, friendship, or wealth, also contributes to Lung imbalance. Predisposing factors are also unhealthy heart and disturbances in the central channel.

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Lung in the heart that a Tibetan doctor looks for while taking the medical history, are as follows:

  • sudden, uncontrolled movements of the body
  • tremor
  • intolerance to touch and noise
  • unclear answers
  • attention deficit
  • heart discomfort
  • fainting, dizziness
  • restlessness, unsettling thoughts, talkativeness
  • fear, panic attacks
  • hallucinations
  • insomnia
  • difficult inhalation and sighing
  • high or hoarse voice
  • pain in the joints

On top of history taking a Tibetan doctor checks also patientʼs pulse, urine and sense organs. The indication of Lung excess would be empty, floating pulse, clear, bubbly urine and dry, red, rough tongue.⁵

Lung treatment

What concerns treatment, the patient is always approached holistically in Tibetan medicine. When causes of imbalance are found, the treatment is aimed to remove the causes and re-install the balance on all the levels: physical, energy, and mental.
There are four main methods of treatment in TTM: diet, lifestyle, herbal medicines, and external therapies. They aim to find an antidote that would rebalance Lung. Lungʼs six characteristics are: subtle, light, cold, mobile, rough, dry. Therefore the substances, be it the food, drinks, or medicines, of same qualities will increase it, and those with the opposite qualities (heavy, oily, warm, stable, soft) will pacify it.⁶

⁵Dr Sonam Dolma, Nying Lung.
⁶Yuthok Yonten Gonpo, The Root Tantra and Explanatory Tantra from the Four Tantras of Tibetan Medicine, passim.

Characteristics and manifestations Antidote

Screen-Shot-2022-01-06-at-12.14.24-PM

Table 4: Characterstics of Lung and its antidotes

In the table 5 below, there are specified the healing methods for Nying Lung.

Diet

Warm, oily, nutritious foods, like bone and meat broth, nettle, onion, garlic, tsampa, beef, sheep, horse meat, aged meat, aged butter, seed oils, milk, chang

Lifestyle

Enough sleep (8-9h); Warm, cosy, dark place, devoid of distraction; warm clothes; pleasing the senses, pleasant music and words, smells, colors, soft touch; company of beloved people; contact with nature

Medicines

Soups prepared from: nutmeg, red salt, asafetida, ginger, black salt, caraway, bones; alcohol infusions from: Asparagus, Polygonatum, Angelica, Tribulus terrestis, brown sugar, tsampa dough; powders and butters based on: nutmeg, asafetida, back salt, black pepper, long pepper, ginger, cinnamon, pomegranate, cardamom, Terminalia chebula, Tinospora cordifolia, garlic

External therapies

Tibetan massage Kunye; horme (Mongolian moxa) and moxa on Lung points; compress with oils; mild enema with warm aged butter; steam bath using bone broth
Table 5: Healing methods for Lung imbalance

The above-mentioned methods are very effective, especially when used all together. Improper diet and lifestyle has to be addressed to reach a better result and prevent recurrence of the disease. Tibetan massage Kunye (bsku mnye) has deeply relaxing and settling down effect, especially due to application of warm oil on all body surface. Horme and moxa applied on the therapeutical points connected with Lung help rebalance this humor.

    Screen-Shot-2022-01-06-at-12.14.34-PM

 

Figure 1: Warming up Lung related points with Horme

Screen-Shot-2022-01-06-at-12.14.40-PM

Figure 2: Heating the Lung points with moxa

There is a number of herbal formulas that can be applied. Many of them are based on eagle wood (Agar), like Agar 8, Agar 15, Agar 20.⁷ Among other formulas there are Srog ‘dzin 11, Sems bde, Dza ti 5, Arnag 6, or famous Bimala (Dzati nyishu yang zer), named after its founder, Vimalamitra (dri med bshes gnyen). This great master who lived in India in the 9th century ce prophesized that in future the Nying Lung disorder will be widely prevalent, people will be confused, emotionally unstable, thinking about thousands of things at the same time, and having problems concentrate on anything. He invented a formula that would calm down these symptoms.

If Bimala, or other herbal formulas for Nying Lung are not available, there is a simple recipe one can do at home. This is a tisane of the three substances: 100g of ginger, 100g of asafetida, 5g of salt (halitum violaceum). Mix all the ingredients and put a teaspoon of this compound in a glass of hot water, drink hot. It helps in case of insomnia, emotional ability, sadness, and depression. A pinch of nutmeg in warm milk before sleep can also help to balance Lung.

Spiritual healing

On top of the above-mentioned methods, in Tibetan medicine there is a fifth category of treatment, spiritual healing. Here belong various types of meditations, like mindfulness meditation, Empty Body meditation, Breathing meditations, Medicine Buddha meditation, Mantra Healing, and other. An interesting technique called Yukcho (dbyug dchos), coming from the terma tradition, is a stick massage that introduces a gentle vibration on the points of Lung, releasing its blockages (see figure 3).⁸
Another method to unblock the Lung, is Tibetan healing yoga Nejang (gnas byang). It is a medical part of Tsa Lung Trul Khor (rtsa rlung sprul ‘khor, yantra yoga), coming from the Kalachakra Tantra tradition. It uses the breath combined with body movements and self massage to purify the energy locations in the body thus using the anchor of the physical body to bring the Lung energy down. When the energy becomes balanced, then the mind can become happy (see figure 4).

⁷Jamgon Kongtrul Yonten Gyatso, Зинтиг – капли нектара: заметки для начинающих врачей, passim.
⁸Philippe Gonin, Yuk Cho – Traditional Tibetan Stick Therapy, passim.

Screen-Shot-2022-01-06-at-12.14.49-PM

Figure 3: Yukcho – stick therapyScreen-Shot-2022-01-06-at-12.15.00-PM

Figure 4: The interconnections between body, energy and mind

The patient must consciously participate in the healing process. Without taking responsibility for your own health the results are much less clear. In Tibetan medicine, the patient gets a great support on the physical and energy levels, which makes it easier to work with the primary causes of disease
– mind ignorance. Eating warm, nutritious food, taking Tibetan herbs and applying Tibetan therapies helps mind relax and settle down, tame the wild horse of Lung. But in this busy world we have to consciously create time for rest and calm, learn how to relax, find time for friends and family.

Other advices that Tibetan doctors give to depressed patients are: breathe deeply and slowly, concentrate on the positive, find inner peace. Stop complaining, donʼt blame others for what happened to you, donʼt try to explain
everything to yourself, just let it be. Accept defeat, but donʼt cling to faults. Train mindfulness, be here and now. Train bodhisattva way of life, focusing on how to help others rather than on your own problems.

The ultimate aim of healing in Tibetan medicine is convergent with the aim of Buddhist spiritual practice – to realize that the nature of mind is timeless clear light, and all its contaminations, emotions, thoughts are only transient. By dissolving the ignorance about mindʼs nature one dissolves all the suffering, be it mental or physical. Combining the profound methods of Tibetan medicine with Buddhist meditation can thus bring lasting results in treatment of depression.


Bibliography
Depression, [www 01], 2012.
Gonin Philippe, Yuk Cho – Traditional Tibetan Stick Therapy, “The Journal of Traditional Tibetan Medicine” 5, IATTM 2013.
Jamgon Kongtrul Yonten Gyatso, Зинтиг – капли нектара: заметки для начинающих врачей, Orientalia, Moskva 2014.
Lépine Jean-Pierre, Briley Mike, The increasing burden of depression, “Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat.” 2011.
Dr Nida Chenagtsang, Sorig basics – Root tantra, Sorig Publications, 2013.
Dr Nida Chenagtsang, The Path to Rainbow Body – introduction to Yuthok Nyingtig, Sorig Press, 2014.
Dr Sonam Dolma, Nying Lung, TTMIC Innsbruck, 2013.
Yuthok Yonten Gonpo, The Root Tantra and Explanatory Tantra from the Four Tantras of Tibetan Medicine, Men-TseeKhang Pulication, Dharamsala 2008.
Internet sources utilized:
[www 01] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml
https://www.sorig.fr/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/PJAC-20152-2-Holecko_-1.pdf
Permission to re-post granted from the author on Jan.7, 2022. Photo by Michel Piccaya from Pexels

FOR MORE INFO:https://www.happyandhealthy.cz/en

How It Happened

I volunteer in state politics. It was the night that insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in D.C. I have friends that I love and care for that work there and the fear hit my system really hard. I was doing a solitary retreat and a cleansing new years’s juice fast, which makes you particularly open, feeling and vulnerable to, well, everything. I made the mistake of doing some pretty powerful yogic exercises with breath retention too, that, in retrospect, I should not have been fasting while performing them, a lesson now learned.

That night, with the confluence of everything, I had a full on panic attack. I could not sleep, and it got so bad that my nerves just gave out, shaking, overcome by fear. I could feel this odd overheating going up the spine to my head, pretty classic Kundalini syndrome or what Tibetans call a wind imbalance or Tsog Lung. This struggle went on for 3 nights. I finally broke down and took one exceedingly strong sleeping pill, for one night, that acts also as an anti-convulsant called Clonazepam, that cut the momentum of the fear and got me to sleep. However, I wanted to fix this and come back into balance by myself. I’m happy to say, I found a full cure, and was sleeping soundly by night 4, naturally, with no sleeping pills!

If you ever have your practice go wrong, anxiety or insomnia, or life and fear just hits an overwhelm, I wanted to offer what helped me get through it and come back into balance. I took 5 full days and I limited my work time to do an immersive, home self care intensive to recover. I’m happy to say that I came out better then ever, calm, healed and sleeping soundly.

The Natural Cure

I am not a doctor and cannot offer medical advice. Please do see a doctor, teacher or acupuncturist for professional advice if needed, but here is what helped me:

  1. I called my meditation teachers who know me- and they gave me some personal meditation instructions that I was so grateful for, and told me to discontinue all breath-work and yoga practice for some time.
  2. I went in for a full checkup with blood-work to my medical doctor, got acupuncture and a Ku-nye warm oil massage with a Tibetan Doctor.
  3. I took a relaxing Epsom salt bath twice a day with lavender essential oils in it and then rubbed rose body oil or sesame oil all over head to toe! I dried off and kept my body really warm, extra clothes and blankets, and a fire.
  4. I stopped the juice fast and ate heavy, oily, grounding, deeply nutritive foods- organic bone marrow broth, steamed vegetables with butter.
  5. The Chinese doctor had me take a safe, herbal formula called “Jitters Away”* along with goat’s milk colostrum to mend the nerves. *take with supervision
  6. At night before bed, I took some vitamins and amino acids including: 5htp, Magnesium, Inositol, L-Theanine and Gaba. *Dosages should be taken under the guidance of a functional medicine practitioner.
  7. I rubbed a small amount high quality CBD salve with arnica onto my arm, on the soft spot where the arm bends.
  8. I had this happen on retreat a few years back, so reread the VERY BEST INSOMNIA BOOK, and followed the author’s advice that puts you back on track for sound sleep. In sum, you do a mantra before bed that says: “I’m a good sleeper, my body knows how to sleep.” You can rub you feet together and rub your belly to bring the “energy” down.
  9. I stopped all caffeinated coffee, went to decaf and calming teas like chamomile with natural, non-stimulating sugars like monkfruit or coconut. Before bed, warm milk with Ashwagandha.
  10. I worked out on a elliptical gently each morning and /or went for long gentle walks in the sun, and did some very gentle stretching, sun salutations and hatha yoga.
  11. I listened to calming music and kept my space clean, and fresh. I lit candles and incense at night, with some simple formless meditation.
  12. I shut down ALL social media, and turned off the news for a few days; what wonders that does to heal the nerves!

 

candles

What I Learned

Well, I recall a few years ago the same thing happen to me while I was practicing these intense yogas on retreat. It took me eight months to fully recover and it was hard fought. I wanted to see if the same problem would recur and sure enough it did. I was consulting with the Tibetan medical doctor and he told me that we all have a certain elemental propensity, what they call the humors. Some people have: wind, phlegm or bile imbalances or propensities. People that have a lot of thoughts and ideas and are emotionally sensitive, tend toward having a wind imbalance. It means that your life force energy can quickly move upwards, to the head, and so when you do certain yogic practices this can definitely exacerbate this and cause an imbalance.

I almost think nowadays that the spiritual path is body based and it’s a process of getting to be in touch with yourself physically and emotionally, to notice how you’re doing. We use the analogy of the mastery of being able to “ride the horse” of your life force, rather than have it trample over you. If we’ve taken on too much, heartbreak and stress buildup and can cause insomnia and anxiety or other health problems, like heart disease and ulcers. It’s your body and mind’s way of loudly telling you that you have to go into self-care and give it more support.

Nowadays, with media and 24/7 global television, we can feel everything that’s happening in the world. We all know it’s been a very difficult past few years. Those of us who care and are sensitive can be really affected by these things, so we have to protect our energy and be mindful of how much news we take in, and how much time we spend on social media. We can’t help the world if we are overcome by fear and anxiety.

Self-care, a feeling of inner love, warmth and well-being is the basis with which we can live a full and meaningful life. I realize that if I can take care of myself, support myself, and be in mind/body/spirit balance, that warmth can extend to others. I learned a lot from this process and it developed more of an awareness of how to ground and stay in tune throughout the day. I’m also grateful to know that if anything does happen, any type of trauma, loss or overwhelm, I have this immersive self-care method to calm down and reconnect to myself as an ultimate protection. Try some of these lifestyle changes, and you might find that you are free from anxiety and can sleep very deeply, waking ready for each day!

Wellness wishes to everyone, and if you’d like any more details about what methods I used to heal, please contact me anytime.

Dawn Boiani-Sandberg

https://www.femtechonline.com

 

Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels