Health means balance
This article is Part 1 of a 2 Part Series on Ayurveda. Part 1 examines how your health is determined by the balance in your life.
The definition of health according to Ayurveda is as follows:
One is in balanced health when the entire physical and mental body: the three doshas (Vata, pitta, and Kapha), digestive fire (digestion, metabolism and assimilation), all the seven body tissues and components (dhatus), and all the excretory functions (including the functions of urination and defecation) are balanced with a pleasantly disposed of contented mind, senses and spirit.
It is captured in the following quote from the Sushruta sutra sthana (15/41), the most representative work of the Hindu science of medicine:
“Sama Doshaha Sama Agnischa Sama Dhatu Mala Kriya Prasanna Aatma Indiriya Manaha Swastha Iti Abhidheeyate”.
In simple terms, Ayurveda refers to the state when your mind, body and soul (or your physical, astral and causal bodies) are in alignment.
Ayurveda offers a way of life that results in your health and wellness, based on your daily routine – the way you start and end your day, and your awareness of your food intake (especially including herbs and spices [oshodi], most of which you can find in your own your kitchen). With the help of Ayurveda therapy, you can detoxify your body and help to integrate it with the mind.
Ayurveda believes that everything in the universe consists of the five elements: akasha (space), jal (water), Prithvi (earth), Tejas (fire), and Vayu (air). The way in which these elements are combined in each individual results in the three doshas (tridoshas), known as Vata, pitta and Kapha, and these doshas are responsible for a person’s total health – physical, mental and emotional.
We will talk more about these doshas in a later article, but for the moment, you should understand that they are never stable in an individual – they are constantly reacting to your lifestyle, habits and external environment. As a result, each dosha either:
- makes your internal environment too active,
- makes it too dull, or
- keeps it in harmony;
and this is how imbalance continuously occurs in response to your choices and surroundings.
What causes imbalance? Pretty much anything and everything. Some are controllable and some are not. The quality and taste of the food you eat, your habitual diet, sleep cycle, exercise style, room temperature, emotional and stress handling capacity or season change can all derange your doshas and create imbalance.
Agni and Ama
Agni (fire) is the current of life and is considered to live in the solar plexus. It is the force which helps the metabolism to function. Since our tissues are not exactly similar to the food we eat, agni converts the food in such a way that it is absorbed by the system, and ultimately every cell of the body.
If digestion has been properly completed, waste (mala) is produced in the shape of sweat, urine and faeces. These are normal bodily functions.
When an imbalance occurs in the doshas, your digestive fire is directly affected. This leads to inadequate digestion and assimilation of food, which in turn leads to the formation of ama (toxic waste) in the body.
This ama enters the blood stream and is circulated throughout the body, clogging its channels. Retention of toxins in the blood results in toxaemia. This accumulated toxicity, once well-established, will slowly affect prana (vital life energy), ojas (immunity), and dhatu-agni (cellular metabolic fire), resulting in disease. This can be regarded as nature’s way of trying to eliminate toxicity from the body.
Each and every disease is a crisis of ama toxicity. Ama is the fundamental internal cause and the mother of all diseases, caused by an imbalance of the doshas.
In our next article we will talk about one’s inherent nature – one’s prakriti.