Understanding the broad basics of Ayurveda –
- Basic Anatomy and Physiology
- Basic concepts of Health, Disease and Treatment
1. Basic Anatomy Physiology in Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda all matter of the Universe, including human body is made up of 5 basic elements, collectively known as Pancha Mahabhutas. These are Akasha (Ether/Space), Vayu (Air), Jala (Water), Agni (Fire) and Prithvi (Earth). All these 5 elements have a subtle presence in all matter. The sixth mandatory component is Atma (Life Spirit/Soul) without which life ceases. Soul when joins with the five elements/matter, it assumes life.
Though human body (Sharira) is made up of five elements (Pancha Mahabhuta), it attains life only when Spirit (Atma), Sense organs (Indriya) and Mind (Mana) join it. The five elements are the basic requirement for the formation of all the bodily tissues (Body-Matrix) and Sensory/Motor organs including Mind. Perception of each of these five elements happens through the Indriyas (sensory organs) –
- Space by Shabda (Sound) through Ears
- Air by Sparsha (Touch) through Skin
- Fire by Rupa (Colour) through Eyes
- Water by Rasa (Taste) through Tongue
- Earth by Gandha (Odour) through Nose
The structural entities of the human body are categorized into seven Dhatus (Body-Matrix). These are –
- Plasma (Rasa)
- Blood (Rakta)
- Muscular tissue (Mamsa)
- Fatty tissue (Meda)
- Bony tissue (Asthi)
- Bone Marrow (Majja) and
- Endocrine secretions (Shukra)
The human body works through the proper functioning of –
- Doshas (Bio-Humors),
- Dhatus (Body-Matrix) and
- Malas (Excretory products)
We have seen the Body-Matrix above. Now let us take up the other two.
The great sages of Ayurveda describe a concept of Bio-Humors (Doshas) to differentiate between living and non-living matter. These bio-humors form the basis of life-activity (physiology) for all living organisms – from Microbes to Man. Every living cell has these doshas in order to perform its biological activities.
There are three doshas namely – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are also known as Tridoshas. These are physiological entities of the body. Doshas play important role in health, pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. In their normal state of equilibrium they support the body and when vitiated they produce disease.
Each dosha is made up of the 5 elements –
- Vata = Air + Space
- Pitta = Fire + Water
- Kapha = Earth + Water
Metabolic activity of the body happens through metabolic fire (Agni). This metabolic fire (Agni) presents itself in thirteen different forms and carries out the whole metabolism of the body. Metabolism results in production of waste products in the body. This waste product or excreta (Malas), produced in the body as by-products of metabolism, includes faeces, sweat and urine. All biotransformation within the body occur through Body-Channels called Strotas. These Body-Channels are spread throughout the body matrix and are the sites for action of Agni/metabolic fire.
2. Basic concepts of Health, Disease and Treatment in Ayurveda
‘Ayu’ (Life) is defined as a combination of body (sharira), senses (Indriya), mind (mana) and spirit (Atma). Body without senses, mind and spirit is dead and it is not life (Ayu). Ayurveda is a science that deals with life.
Health is said to rest on the tripod of the body, mind and spirit. ‘Health’ is a state of equilibrium of normal functions of Doshas, Dhatus, Malas and Agni in a delighted body, mind and soul. To be healthy, not only the body but also the mind needs to be kept fit.
Sushruta Samhita says – ‘Balanced doshas (humors), healthy agni (metabolism) a good state of tissues (anatomy) and their metabolic end-products (excreta) lead to a balanced state of the senses, mind and spirit, all of which lead to health’.
When Dosha-Dhatus-Malas and Agni are constantly in a state of functional equilibrium, then health is maintained. Imbalance in the equilibrium results in disease. Chaotic lifestyle is one of the basic causes of this imbalance. Lifestyle is governed by what we eat, when we eat, how we live, where we live, what we think, how we think, what we feel, how we feel and how we respond to the situations around us. When not taken care of, all this makes us ‘UNWELL’, not necessarily diseased. If this ‘Unwell’ state is prolonged, the immunity of our tissues (dhatus) decreases leading to susceptibility to infections, which further leads to diseases.
Ayurveda deals with diseased person and not solely with his disease. It is not a scripture on some medicines or treatment of disease but is a complete science of Life. Treatment can be either with or without medicines. There are guidelines and specific rules of diet and lifestyle described according different kind of diseases. Following these codes of life brings back the state of equilibrium i.e. Health.