Ayurveda Basic Terms

The elements

Ayurveda is the science of life based on the pañca mahā bhūta siddhānta, the teaching of the five essential elements. (pañca = five, mahā = large, bhūta = element, siddhānta = teaching, doctrine). Every matter and every living being, including man, in this universe is formed by the combination of the pañca mahā bhūta.

The five elements are: ākāśa (space), vāyu (air), agni (fire), ap (water) and pṛthvī (earth).


The Doshas

Ayurveda condenses the teaching of the pañca mahā bhūta in the tridoṣa theory, the teaching of the three doshasVata, Pitta and Kapha. The three doshas are each formed from a specific combination of the five elements and are the basic physiological principles that ensure that our body can perform its normal functions.

Vata consists of the elements air and space, and is the principle of movements and actions. It controls all body movements, blood circulation, breathing, excretion, speech, hearing, sensation, touch, feelings of fear, anxiety and excitement, natural driving forces and sexual behaviour.

Pitta, consisting of the elements fire and water, is the principle of metabolism, which is responsible for digestion, vision, heat balance of the body, suppleness and radiance, happiness and intellect.

Kapha, formed of water and earth, is the principle of shaping and structure. It determines our immune system, our physique and physical strength, sexual potency, cohesion, stability, endurance, patience and restraint.

Each individual is born with a specific combination of the three doshas, which is called prakṛti. Prakriti is therefore our innate individual constitution.


Dhatu and Mala

Life is a unity of body, senses, mind and soul. However, the description of the human body can be further refined. Thus the body is formed from the sapta dhātu, the seven basic tissue layers.

The seven dhatus are: rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), māṃsa (muscle tissue), meda (fatty tissue), asthi (bone), majjā (nerve tissue/bone marrow) and śukra (reproductive tissue).

In addition, metabolic processes in the body produce waste products called mala. These are mainly śakṛt (faeces), mūtra (urine) and sweda (sweat).

Growth and decay of the body are associated with food, which is transformed into doshas, tissue and waste products. The intake of food, its digestion, absorption (absorption of molecules into blood and lymph) and assimilation (transition of molecules into cells) have effects on health and disease. This is significantly influenced by agni, the digestive power, and by psychological mechanisms.

If our metabolism is out of balance and/or the doshas are disturbed in their functions due to unhealthy living and eating habits, this is called vikṛti. Vikriti means change, deviation or even abnormal condition from the normal innate state. Any imbalance sooner or later leads to illness and must therefore be corrected in order to regain health.

Large Image