1. Aharam : The food and nutrition
2. Nidra : The sleep
3. Brahmacharyam : The living with principles
- Tridosha – the 3 body humors
According to Ayurveda all activities in the universe and man are grouped into three main basic functions – creation, organization and destruction. Ayurveda says that the balance of three main subtle energies, called Vata, Pitta and Kapha, maintains the health. Biological air humour “Vata” is responsible for all the movements in the body. Biological water humour or Kapha is responsible for strength and immunity. Biological fire humour or Pitta is responsible for digestion and metabolism.
The term vata stems from a Sanskrit word “vaayu” which means “that which moves things”; it is sometimes translated as wind. It is composed of the elements space and air–the lightest and subtlest of the five elements. It is considered in some ways to be the most influential of the three doshas because it is the moving force behind the other two doshas, which are incapable of movement without it. Vata dosha is responsible for all the somatic activities and sensations. It is the intelligence which channels perceptions (temperature, pressure, sweetness, lightening, violin music, etc.) through the appropriate sensory organs, converts them into internal psychological events, and then orchestrates the appropriate response via the organs of action. It is responsible for all movements in the mind and body: the movement of air in and out of the lungs, the flow of blood through the circulatory system, nutrients through the alimentary tract, and thoughts through the mind. Vata promotes a healthy balance between the thought and emotion and gives rise to creativity, activity and clear comprehension.
Because, among other functions, Vata regulates the nervous processes involved with movement, thoughts, emotions, eating, drinking, elimination, and our general functioning, its disturbance can often have far-reaching consequences.
Here is a table which summarizes the manifestations of a balanced or unbalanced (excessive) Vata dosha.
Effect of Balanced Vata
- Body functions impaired or disorganized.
- Movements for eating, digestion, and elimination disturbed (bloating, constipation, gas)
- Mental activity controlled and precise
- Control of the organs of perception and the organs of action
- Stimulation of digestive juices
- Desire to lead an active life; vitality, curiosity and natural interest
- Normal drying of occasional mucous discharges
- Normal respiratory function
- Normal sleep pattern
- Excellent energy level
Effect of Unbalanced (Excess)Vata
- Mental agitation, confusion; impaired memory
- Proper coordination of all body functions
- Normal movements associated with eating, digestion, and elimination
- Perception and action are inappropriate; senses are dulled; responses untimely
- Deficiency of the digestive juices
- Loss of energy and joy for life
- Persistent bodily discharges
- Shortness of breath, dry cough, disturbance in respiratory movements
- Insomnia, light or interrupted sleep
- Non-specific fatigue, anxiety, worry, cold-intolerance, depletion of Life Force.
Ether and air combine to form biological humour. Vata, which is responsible for controlling destruction. The different sub types of Vata are
Prana (means life energy. Main function is respiration and control on all sense organs);
Udana (means upward movement from naval-diaphragm. It helps the process of speech and memory);
Vyana (responsible for the circulation of blood, nutrients obtained from food to all the cells of the body);
Samana (means balance). It brings all the digestive juices from the tissues into the hollow organs for digestion and metabolism and
Apana (means downward moving energy. It is responsible for the action of all pelvic organs).
It is considered the prime dosha among the three as it governs the functions of all the other doshas.
Properties of Vata
- Controls Breathing
- Controls Natural Urges
- Tissues Transformation
- Motor Functions
- Sensory Functions
- Controls Secretions and Excretions
Functions of Vata
- Controls Movement
- Subtle and Minute
Major sites of Vata
- Large intestine
- Pelvic region
The large intestine is the main site of Vata.
Vata dosha by many of the ayurveda scholars and practitioners has been compared to nervous system . We suggest you all to correlate with modern perspective of vata with complete nervous system .
The term pitta comes from the Sanskrit word pinj meaning “to shine” (according to Sir Monier-Williams its exact entomology is a mystery). It carries the meaning of “that which digests” and is associated with the idea of being yellow-tinged or bilious. In its widest sense, Paittika digestive function includes all chemical and metabolic transformations in the body as well as processes which promote heat production (i.e. conversion of iodine to triiodotyrosine in the thyroid gland). Pitta also governs our ability to digest ideas and impressions and to therefore perceive the true nature of reality. It stimulates the intellect and creates enthusiasm and determination.
Pitta is often regarded as the “fire” within the body. Think of it as the energy stored in the chemical bonds of all the organic substances which make us up: its encoded in our hormones, enzymes, organic acids, and neurotransmitters. Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text, teaches that pitta functions in digestion, heat production, providing color to the blood, vision, and skin luster.
Here is a table which summarizes the manifestations of a balanced or unbalanced (excessive) Pitta dosha:
Effect of Balanced Pitta
- Strong and complete digestion
- Normal heat and thirst mechanisms
- Excellent vision
- Good complexion; healthy facial tone and coloration
- Hair lustrous and usually slightly wavy
- Courageous, cheerful, focused
- Stimulated, open intellect
- Steadfast concentration on the truth; disciplined, responsible
- Efficient assimilation of foods
Effect of Unbalanced (Excess) Pitta
- Incomplete digestion; poor differentiation between nutrients and wastes
- Irregular body temperature, disturbed perspiration, unregulated fluid intake
- Impaired vision
- Variable, blotchy skin color, inflamed; unhealthy appearance
- Irritable, anxious, driven, obsessed
- Loss of energy and joy for life
- Dullness of reasoning faculty
- Spiritually impoverished
- Heartburn, peptic ulcer, irritable bowels, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, alcoholism
Fire – Pitta, the thermogenic humour, organizes body activities after transformation. The various sub types of Pitta are
Pachaka (the main site is the stomach and it helps in digestion);
Ranjaka (Main site is liver and is responsible for secondary or tissue digestion);
Sadhaka (Resides in heart and brain and is responsible for the digestion of knowledge and preservation of our cognitive memories);
Alocchaka( It is in the eye and helps the eye for proper vision);
and Bharajhaka (in the skin and responsible for digestion and absorption of all massages of oils.
Properties of Pitta
- Slightly oily
- Unpleasant Odor
- Spreading Nature
- Liquid form
Functions of Pitta
- Facilitate metabolism and hormonal functioning
- Regulates body heat
- Helps digestion
- Hunger and thirst
- Color and complexion
- Jealousy, etc.
Major sites of Pitta
- Stomach and upper part of small intestine
Navel is the main site of Pitta.
Modern Perspective of Pitta: To Be Correlated With the Hormones, Digestive System, and Intellect
The term kapha derives from the Sanskrit word “shlish” which means “that which holds things together; to embrace; coherent”. In fact, one of the other designations for kapha appearing in some of the older literature is shleshma.. It is the force which provides structure to everything from an individual atom or cell to the sturdy musculoskeletal frame. It gives strength, stability, and endurance–both physical and psychological–and promotes human emotions and capacities such as love, compassion, empathy, understanding, forgiveness, loyalty and patience. One very important function of Kapha dosha in the human body is that it governs immunity and resistance against disease; it’s energy promotes self-healing and the ongoing processes of self-repairs of which we are largely unaware. Where Vata and Pitta effects become active in the body, Kapha acts to limit and control these two forces and prevent their excessive activity. The two mahabhutas which compose Kapha are water and earth. Together, these two prototypical elements form the fundamental protoplasm of life. Kapha imparts mind-body-spirit stability and resilience. It is the anabolic force in the body which governs the formation of neuropeptides, stomach linings, and all new cells and tissues of the body which are constantly being destroyed and re-created.
Here is a table which summarizes the manifestations of balanced and unbalanced (excessive) kapha dosha:
Effect of Balanced Kapha
- Excellent nutritional status; firm musculature, strong bones
- Adequate moisture and lubrication throughout the body
- Well-knit joints
- Stable, compact, and strong physique
- Sexual potency, strong immunity
- Calm, forgiving, understanding, patient
- Strong digestion, regular appetite
- Physiological amounts of respiratory moisture
Effect of Unbalanced (Excess) Kapha
- Poor nutritional status, flabby, fatigued
- Dry; decreased mucous and saliva
- Loose joints, prone to sprains
- Soft and weakened physique; obese
- Sexual impotency, sedentary, diminished immunity
- Intolerant, insecure, jealous, rude
- Slow digestion, appetite unregulated
- Excess mucous production
Water and earth combine to form biological humour or Kapha, which is responsible for maintaining the creation. Five sub types of Kapha are
Kledaka (in the stomach and it protects the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract from the hot and irritant fluids of pitta secretions);
Avalambaka (is in the heart, lung apparatus and vertebral column and also protects them from wear and tear);
Bodhaka (is in the mouth and protects the mucous membrane and the tongue to give proper taste to the food);
Tarpaka (is in the spinal chord and it protects them. It is also responsible for mental peace);
and Shleshaka (is in the joints. It prevents wear and tear of the joints during the movements).
Properties of Kapha
- Slow acting
Functions of Kapha
- Gives stability and energy to the body
- Development of the body
- Sexual urges
- Immune resistance
Major sites of Kapha
- Fat tissue
- Nose and tongue
Of these, the chest is the most important site.
As long as those energies are in equilibrium, the health of the body is maintained. The purpose of Ayurveda and Panchakarma (a treatment method in Ayurveda) is to bring these forces into harmony so that they promote physical emotional and spiritual growth to every living being.
Factors that increase vata
- Explosure to cold
- No routine in your life
- Eating too much dry, frozen or leftover food, or food with bitter, pungent or astringents taste.
- Too much traveling
- Too much or inappropriate exercise
- Suppressing natural urges
- Abdominal surgery.
- Not oiling the skin.
Factors that increase pitta
- Exposure to heat
- Eating too much red meat, salt, spicy or sour foods.
- Indigestion and irregularity of meals.
- Exercising at midday
- Drugs especially antibiotics.
- Too much intellectual work/thinking
- Fatigue, Anger, Hate fear, emotion.
Factors that increase kapha
- Exposure to cold
- Eating too much sweet ,meat ,fats, cheese, milk, ice cream, yogurt, fried food, excessive use of salt
- Excessive intake of water
- Taking naps after meals
- Doing nothing
- Sedative and tranquilizers
- Doubts, greed, and possessiveness
- Lack of compassion.
When Vayu dosha persons are balanced,they are cheerful, creative, and adaptable.
When Vayu doshas are imbalanced,they are worried, nervous, fearful, and giddy.
The mental constitution of Vayu individuals tends towards fear, anxiety and insecurity. They can be easily deceived with threats or promises. They do not have much courage, are of a solitary nature, and possess few intimate friends (although they form friends with those in other social circles). Vayu people do not make good leaders or followers and are not materialistic as they spend what they earn freely.
Sattwic influence creates comprehension, the need for unity and healing, and creates a positive mental outlook.
Rajasic influence creates indecisiveness, unreliability, hyperactivity, and anxiety.
Tamasic influence creates fear, a servile attitude, dishonesty, depression, self-destructiveness, addictive behaviour, sexual perversions, animal instincts or suicidal thoughts.
- When Pitta dosha individuals are healthy or balanced,they are goal-oriented, powerful, warm, athletic.
When Pitta doshas are imbalanced,they are burnt out, angry, impatient, irritable, critical.
- Individuals of Pitta constitution possess fiery emotions like irritability, anger and hate. Mentally, they have the ability of penetration; yet can be aggressive and are seldom sentimental. They are determined, articulate, convincing and yet may try to dominate others with their will and ideas. They are self-righteous and may become fanatical. Pitta people are good leaders, ambitious and work hard to achieve great goals. They help their families and friends but are cruel and unforgiving to enemies. Also, they are bold, adventurous, daring and enjoy challenges. Although they have much clarity, they lack compassion.
- Sattwic influence creates clarity, intelligence, leadership, warmth and independence.
Rajasic influence creates willfulness, ambition, anger, manipulation, vanity, impulsiveness and aggressiveness.
Tamasic influence creates vindictiveness, violence, hate, criminality and psychopathic behavior.
- When Kapha dosha persons are healthy,they love to cook for others, are strong, and loyal.
Imbalanced Kapha doshas become lethargic,hoarding, overly materialistic.
These are the emotional ones; full of love, desire, romance and sentiments. However, they also harbour the negative emotions of lust and greed. Kapha doshas find it hard to adapt to new situations, yet are very loyal. They have many friends and are close to their families, communities, religions and countries. They are more comfortable with practical knowledge than with abstract ideas.
- Sattwic influence creates calmness, peace, love, compassion, faith, nurturing, and forgiveness.
Rajasic influence creates greed for money, material luxuries, and comfort. They are sentimental, controlling, attached and lustful.
Tamasic influences create dullness, lethargy, depression, lack of care and a tendency to steal.
- While all individuals have mixed amounts of the three, the predominant guna determines an individual’s mansa prakriti. In equilibrium, the three gunas preserve the mind (and indirectly the body), maintaining it in a healthy state. Any disturbance in this equilibrium results in various types of mental disorders.
TRIGUNA THEORY – THE PSYCHE ACCORDING TO AYURVEDA
Just as the doshas are the essential components of the body, the three gunas – Satwa, Rajas and Tamas – are the three essential components or energies of the mind. Ayurveda provides a distinct description of people on the basis of their Manasa (psychological) Prakriti (constitution). Genetically determined, these psychological characteristics are dependent on the relative dominance of the three gunas Trigunas
Three Mental Qualities: Sattwa, Rajas, Tamas
The three gunas – sattwa, rajas, and tamas – are found in nature and in the mind, paralleling the three doshas of the body. Sattwa, or purity, is the ideal state of mind because a person with this quality is calm, alert, kind, and thoughtful. A person whose mind is predominantly rajasic (too active) always seeks diversions (incessant activity). The tamas-predominant mind is a dull, lethargic mind.
Just as combinations of Vayu, Pitta and Kapha exist for the body, the mind has combinations of sattwa, rajas, and tamas. Individuals whose minds are sattwic and rajasic are those who enthusiastically study spiritual and holistic measures to improve themselves. Rajasic-tamasic minded people will actively work and exercise to overcome their lethargy.
The proper balance of the mind and the development of purity and peace help in the development of a sattwic mind. This is the first stage of samadhi or spiritual realization.
To decide the cause of illness, the practitioner observes, questions and takes the pulse of the patient. Learning its cause, or seeing it in its incubatory, beginning, developmental, or advanced stages can help in the understanding of illness.
Satwa, characterised by lightness, consciousness, pleasure and clarity, is pure, free from disease and cannot be disturbed in any way. It activates the senses and is responsible for the perception of knowledge. Rajas, the most active of the gunas, has motion and stimulation as its characteristics. All desires, wishes, ambitions and fickle-mindedness are a result of the same. While Tamas is characterised by heaviness and resistance. It produces disturbances in the process of perception and activities of the mind. Delusion, false knowledge, laziness, apathy, sleep and drowsiness are due to it.
Rajas and Tamas, as with the doshas, can be unbalanced by stress and negative desires as kama (lust), irshya (malice), moha (delusion and halucination), lobha (greed), chinta (anxiety), bhaya (fear) and krodha (anger). Each of these three properties is also comprised of sub-types and the particular sub-type to which one belongs to determine the qualities of that individual.
Satwika individuals are usually noble and spiritual in character, their nature determined as much by body type as their star constellation, having an element of kapha in their constitution.
Satwika Subtype Qualities
Free from passion, anger, greed, ignorance or jealousy, possessing knowledge and the power of discrimination.
Excellent memory, purity, love and self -control, excellent intellectual frame of mind, free from pride, ego, ignorance, greed or anger. Possessing the power of understanding and retention.
Devotion to sacred books, study rituals and oblations. Devotion to virtuous acts, far- sightedness and courage. Authoritative behavior and speech. Able to perform sacred rituals.
Free from mean and conflicting desires and acts. Having initiative, excellent memory and leadership. Free from emotional binds, hatred, ignorance and envy. The capacity for timely action.
Free from mean acts. Exhibition of emotion in proper place. Observance of religious rights.
Courage, patience, and hatred of impure thoughts. Liking for virtuous acts and purity. Pleasure in recreation.
Possession of wealth, attendants and luxuries. Expertise in poetry, stories and epics. Fondness for dancing singing and music. Takes pleasure in perfumes, garlands and flowers. Full of passion.
Pitta dominated Rajasikas, intellectually oriented but vulnerable to temptations, are very human in their character and approach to life.
Rajasika Subtype Qualities
Indulgence in self-praise, bravery, cruelty, envy and ruthlessness. Terrifying appearance.
Excessive sleep and indolence. Envious disposition. Constant anger, intolerance, and cruel behaviour. Gluttonous habits.
Unclean habits. Cowardly, with a terrifying disposition. Gluttonous habits. Fondness for the opposite sex. Abnormal diet and regimen.
Sharp reactions. Excessive indolence. Frequent fearful disposition. Brave or cowardly attitude depending on situations.
Excessive desire for food. Envious character. Excessive greediness and actions without discrimination.
Full of passion. Unsteadiness, ruthlessness, and excessive attitude for food.
A dominant Vata ensures that Tamasika individuals are the most down to earth, concerned about fundamental questions of practical existence, specially when confronted by more spiritual and less physical issues.
Tamasika Subtype Qualities
Lack of intelligence, forbidding dispositions, envious nature. Excessive sexual indulgence and sleep.
Unsteadiness, constant passion, and cowardice. Excessive desire for water intake.
Indolence. Excessive indulgence in food. Deficiency of intellectual faculties.
- Saptadhadhu – the seven body tissues
The Sapdhatu Theory
The dhatus are the basic varieties of tissues which compose the human body. The word “dhatu” comes from a Sanskrit word which means “that which enters into the formation of the body”; the root Daa (dha) means “support, that which bears”.
Agni plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of body tissues (dhatus). The human body is made up of seven basic tissues or vital substances called dhatus. The meaning of the sanskrit word dhatu is ‘that which binds together’. Dhatu is the element which constructs our body. Dhatu is the base of growth and survival. Dhatus take different forms in our body to maintain life. Different organs (sharir avayavas) and different body systems (strotasas) are made out of dhatus. Our nourishment and development is fully dependent on dhatus.
Ayurveda believes that there are seven dhatus in all.
They are: life rasa (rasa), blood (rakta), muscles (mansa), fatty tissue (med), bones (asthi), bone marrow and nervous tissue (majja) and semen and reproductive system (shukra). Each dhatu has its own agni i.e. dhatu-agni. Our food intake is converted into life sap by agni of rasa dhatu and rasa dhatu is produced. Likewise, agni of rakta dhatu prepares rakta out of rasa and so on. Every dhatu is a precursor of the next dhatu. Rasa is transformed into rakta, rakta prepares mansa, mansa is further transformed into meda, meda is used to make asthi, asthi forms majja and majja produces the ultimate dhatu i.e. shukra.
The primary Dhatus are seven in number. They are:
• Sukra dhatu (reproductive tissues)
• Majja dhatu (bone marrow and nervous tissues)
• Asthi dhatu (bone)
• Meda dhatu (fatty tissues)
• Mamsa dhatu (muscle tissues)
• Rakta dhatu (formed blood cells)
• Rasa dhatu (plasma)
The most unique feature of Ayurvedic histology (concept of tissue formation) is that each human tissue is formed from the previous tissue in ascending order of complexity. Thus when food is ingested it is digested until, in the small intestines, it becomes a liquid, chyme-like material known in Ayurveda as ahara rasa, or food essence. With the help of ahara rasagni (each dhatu has its own agni), this ahara rasa is converted into Rasa dhatu (blood plasma)–the first and most simple tissue.
Now, Rasa dhatu–catalyzed by Rasagni–is transformed into Rakta dhatu (formed blood cells), the second fundamental bodily tissue. Rakta dhatu in turn, with the help of raktagni, becomes mamsa dhatu (muscle), and so on.
Sukra dhatu (reproductive tissues)
Majja dhatu (bone marrow and nervous tissues)
Asthi dhatu (bone)
Meda dhatu (fatty tissues)
Mamsa dhatu (muscle tissues)
Rakta dhatu (formed blood cells)
Rasa dhatu (plasma)
Ayurveda researchers must have observed that food is the starting point of life. Food enters the body from the inlet— the mouth and the end products come out of body through the outlet— the genitalia and anus. The second important observation must have been that any living creature (including human beings) survives and grows with food and dies without it. They must have seen that starvation retards growth of the body and destroys the body in the end. Thus, this theory of dhatus must have arrived from these observations.
Dhatus protect our body from external encounters. They are responsible for our immune mechanism. If there is wasting (kshaya) of dhatus then the body construction collapses and ultimately life ends.
Ayurveda recognises shukra as the most important dhatu. It states that one needs a hundred drops of blood (rakta) to produce one drop of semen (shukra). Shukra is the essence of all the body tissues and is that creation of mother nature which has the capacity to produce new life. In any case, it should not be wasted without substantial reason (i.e. reproduction).
Disorder in doshas (vaat-pitta-kafa) affects dhatus. These affected or defective dhatus hamper the quality of life. Proper diet (ahar) and proper life style (vihar) help in maintaining the balance of doshas and in producing healthy dhatus.
To summarize, dhatus account for the ayurvedic explanation of the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Our body processes consumed food and transforms it into life sap, which in turn creates a chain of further body tissues i.e. dhatus. Their gain gives quality to our life and their loss destroys life.
Together, the dhatus and upadhatus make up the physical bulk of the body. The upa dhatus include hair, nails, ligaments, etc.; they are important structurally but usually are not implicated in disease conditions of the body.
Each dhatu consists of countless infinitesimal paramanus (cells) which are units of structure and function. Each paramanu contains innumerable suksma srotas (channels, pores) through which it receives nutrients and subtle energies and eliminates waste materials. Because dhatus are saturated with pores, the human body can also be said to be filled with pores (srotomaya). The srotas of each dhatu are unique in their structure and function and in the materials which move through them. The state of health of each dhatu as well as its relative vriddhi/kshaya (excess/deficiency; increase/decrease) is assessed by the physician.
- Tri Malas- the 3 body wastes
The Trimala Theory
Malas are the various waste products of the dhatus produced during the normal metabolical process.
The three primary malas being Purisa (faeces), Mutra (urine) and Sweda (sweat). Ayurveda clearly states that only a balanced condition of doshas, dhatus and malas is arogya (good health or disease free condition) and their imbalance is the cause of ill health or disease.
is the waste left back after nutrients of digested food have been absorbed in the small intestine. While water and salt absorbed in the large intestine, the residue now converted into solid faeces, leaves the body. The consistency of the faeces depending both on gastrointestinal mobility and nature of diet.
The tridoshas must be in balance to ensure normal evacuation. Pitta and kapha help digestion and vata governs the mobility throughout the process. Any discrepancy or imbalance between these can lead to various symptoms of abdominal heaviness or pain, flatulance, constipation or diarrohea. It may also give rise to diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, low-back pain, asthama, bronchitis as well as stomach ulcers and irritable bowels.
is derived during the course of biological processes within the human body. The first stage of urine formation begins in the large intestine where fluids are absorbed into the system. The entire urinary system (kidneys, uterus, bladder and urethra) takes part in the formation and elimination of urine, regulating the fluid balance in our body and also maintaining blood pressure. Any imbalance of increased or decreased urine, may result in disorders as kidney stones urinary infections, cystitis, abdominal pain and bladder disorders.
is the third primary mala, and it occurs as a waste product during the synthesis of meda dhatu (fatty tissue). Eliminated through skin pores, it controls body temperature and helps to regulate the electrolytic balance. The channels responsible for bringing the sweat to skin surface are known as sweda vaha srotas. It is essential that normal formation and flow of sweat takes place as otherwise it may lead to skin infections, itching/burning sensation over the body, loss of fluid balance and reduced body temperature.
Sama dosha samagnishcha samadhatu mala kriya prasanna atma indriya manah svasatya itya bhidiyate .
Balanced Doshas (humours), healthy Agni, a good state of tissues and their metabolic end- products lead to a balanced state of the senses, mind and spirit, all of which lead to health.
Tri Agni – the digestive capacities
The Concept of Agni
Agni in Sanskrit means fire. In Ayurveda, Agni is the digestive and metabolic “fire” produced by the doshas that grabs the essence of nourishment from food, feelings, and thoughts and transforms it into a form your body can use. Agni helps various tissues of the body produce secretions, metabolic reactions, and other processes needed to create energy and maintain and repair the body. Agni is also part of the immune system since its heat destroys harmful organisms and toxins. The activity of agni varies throughout the day and maintaining the strength and natural ebb and flow of your digestive fires is needed for good digestion, good immune function, and resistance to disease. Agni is needed to form ojas.
- Agni is the fire inside our body. Agni is the body which governs living beings physically and mentally. We can describe it as an element related to our general body metabolism. We have seen in the last article that Agni is the successor of pitta (one of the tridoshas i.e. the basic body constituents) and pitta is the successor of Divine Fire (tej) (one of the five supreme powers). Agni plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of dhatus (body tissues). There are seven types of agnis for seven different dhatus.
- Agni is related to both the body and the mind. It initiates digestive activities in the digestive tract and generates thoughts, emotions and decisions in our psyche. Agni contains heat which helps in the digestion of external elements that enter our body. The food which enters our digestive tract is converted into life sap with the help of agni. This then goes on to ensure our survival, growth and recovery from illness.
- The knowledge of the external environment which enters our body through our special senses is transformed into memories with the help of agni which further initiates thoughts, generates emotions and helps in taking decisions.
- The main function of agni is the break down of external stuff and its conversion into body stuff. Agni works with and for every body tissue. Agni gears the dosha-dhatu-mala cycle and thus life goes on.
- Agni also helps in destroying ama (toxins). These are produced if there is an imbalance of doshas. In other words agni helps in maintaining the status of health and in interrupting the disease process. Thus agni is a statutory body which governs our immune system.
- Agni protects us from both external as well as internal problems. It saves us from attack by external and internal ‘terrorists’. Agni keeps a careful watch on the body functions. A wide range of functions (from digestion of food to giving color to the skin) is taken care of by agni.
- Impairment of agni suggests that the basic balance of the tridoshas has been hampered. Affected metabolism, compromised immunity and lowered general body resistance are all results of impaired agni. If agni is impaired, food will not be digested properly. It will not initiate the chain of formation of the seven dhatus (from rasa to shukra) in a proper way. Instead of creating a life sap, ama (toxins) will be created and these will accumulate in the body. The body channels will choke and life will enter a state of illness.
To summarize, ama indicates a diseased body. Ama is produced when agni (body fire) is retarded, which in turn is a result of the imbalance of tridoshas (vaat-pitta-kafa). Agni’s functioning depends on the food, clothes and shelter we use. It also depends on the things we see, hear, smell, taste and touch. If these things are pro-life then we will also be healthy. If these things are anti-life then we may acquire ill health.
Being the biological fire that governs metabolism, agni encompasses all the changes in the body and mind from the dense to the more subtle. Such changes include the digestion and absorption of food, cellular transformations, assimilation of sensory perceptions and mental and emotional experiences. Agni therefore covers whole sequences of chemical interactions and changes in the body and mind. Digestive abilities being related to the strength of agni.
Agni and pitta are closely connected. While both are hot and light, agni is subtle and dry. The heat energy to help digestion contained by pitta is agni. Pitta is therefore the container and agni the content. Agni is acidic in nature and stimulates digestion. It is subtly related to the movement of vata. In every tissue and cell agni is present and is necessary for maintaining the nutrition and auto-immune mechanism. By destroying micro-organisms, foreign bacteria and toxins in the stomach and the intestines.
A balanced agni therefore is vital for health. The strength of the body to resist disease and also its physical strength are directly related to its heat energy determining the metabolic processes of the body. Disturbances to Agni are usually the chief causes of disease.
As per Ayurveda there are thirteen types of Agni in the body and mind
According to the conversion and the transformation made. The most important of them is the Jatharagni, the gastric fire, responsible for digesting food eaten by correlating hydrochloric acid in the stomach and the digestive enzymes and juices secreted into the stomach, duodenum and the small intestines. If digestive agni is low and the capacity is impaired, one may experience pain, discomfort, feeling of heaviness or gases gurgling, constipation or loose stools.
Being one of the panchamahabhoota, agni (fire) has the characteristic that it cannot exist without a base. In the body it exists in pitta dosha.
Agni is responsible for the following functions:
Digestion – indigestion (Pakti- Apakti)
Vision- absence of vision (Darshanam- Adarshanam)
Degree of heat (Matra- Amatratvamushmanala)
Normal -abnormal complexion (Prakrit – Vikarit varnam)
Prowess- fear (Shaurya- Bhaya)
Anger – exhilaration (krodham- Harsham)
Confusion- clarity of mind (Moha- Prasadan)
For the metabolic processes in the body, there are three main groups of biological factors, probably exhibiting enzymatic functions (agnis).
Jatharagni or Koshthagni:
Present in the pachak pitta. It is responsible for the digestion and the absorption of nutritious substances during this process.The process of digestion (ahar pachan) is divided in three stages, which collectively is called awastha paka and can be divided in the following.
Amavstha (Madhuravastha) Paka – in stomach
Pachymanavastha (Amlavstha) Paka – in ‘grahani’ (Duodenum)
Pakavstha (Katuavstha) Paka – in small and large intestine
As the rasa changes in different phase of digestion these phase of digestion are called avsthapaka. At the end of the digestion the digested food have their original rasa which is in accordance with the rasa of the ingested food. This is called as Nistha paka .It is also called popularly as Vipaka.
Types according to taste:
Madhur rasa & Lavan rasa have Madhura Vipaka
Amla rasa have amla vipaka and Katu
Tikta & Kashaya rasa have Katu vipaka.
In ayurveda it is believed that everything is made up of five elements and so is the body. These five elements are the panchmahabhoota and are responsible for constituting every living being in the world. Agni transforms the Asharir Mahabhoota (external mahabhoot) to Sharir Mahabhoota. Example – When we drink water Jala Mahabhoota (water) dominates and later the water is transformed by Jala Mahabhoota agni to the Sharir Jala Containing five types of biological factors, it is responsible for the processing of the five basic elements into a composition useful to the body.
The third group contains seven types, each for the assimilation of the seven tissues .This assimilation takes place successively. From the absorbed nutritious substance, plasma (rasa) is produced first; from plasma, blood (rakta) is formed, then muscular tissue (mamsa), adipose tissue (meda), bony tissue (asthi), bone marrow (majjan) and the reproductive cells (shukra).
Besides performing all the metabolic functions agni takes care of digestion (ahar pachan) and in the absence of ahar it acts on the ama pachan i.e. properly metabolize the improper metabolites. When ahar and ama are absence Agni does the function of dhatu i.e. rasa, rakta etc. Digestion of dhatu is a fatal condition in which dhatus are broken down to get energy. The reduction or deficiency of the quantum of dhatu in the human body leads to the disease called ‘Kshaya roga’.
In ayurveda it is believed that all the pathology occurs due to the impairment in Agni (Kaya). Hence the correction of Kaya i.e. Agni is called the treatment or ‘Kaya Chikitsa’ in ayurveda.
Agnis are also classified into four categories according to how they manifest in the human being:
Mandagni – mild,
Vishamagni – irregular, and
Samagni – regular or Balanced.
According to Ayurveda everything in life is composed of the Panchamahabhutas – Akash (Space), Vayu (Air), Jal (Water), Agni (Fire) and Prithvi (Earth). Omnipresent, they are mixed in an infinite variety of relative proportions such that each form of matter is distinctly unique. Although each element has a range of attributes, only some get evident in particular situations. Constantly changing and interacting with each other, they create a situation of dynamic flux that keeps the world going.
Within a simple, single living cell for example the earth element predominates by giving structure to the cell. The water element is present in the cytoplasm or the liquid within the cell membrane. The fire element regulates the metabolic processes regulating the cell. While the air element predominates the gases therein. The space occupied by the cell denoting the last of the elements.
In the case of a complex, multi-cellular organism as a human being for instance, akash corresponds to spaces within the body (mouth, nostrils, abdomen etc.); vayu denotes the movement (essentially muscular); agni controls the functioning of enzymes (intelligence, digestive system, metabolism); jal is in all body fluids (as plasma, saliva, digestive juices); and prithvi manifests itself in the solid structure of the body (bones, teeth, flesh, hair et al).
The Panchmahabhutas therefore serve as the foundation of all diagnosis & treatment modalities in Ayurveda and has served as a most valuable theory for physicians to detect and treat illness of the body and mind successfully.
*Creates natural void in the body
Produces softness, lightness and porosity
*Light, clear and dry.
Creates dryness, lightness and emaciation.
*Rough & bright eyes
Helps in digestion, maturation, improves eye sight
*Heavy, immobile, compact & rough.
*Increases firmness & strength of the body
*Cold, heavy fluid
The Concept of Prakriti
Know Thyself – The Prakriti
Your personal constitution, which is your individual metabolic make-up, helps determine how your mind and body will instinctively react when confronted with and how much effect any stimulus, as a specific taste or emotion, will have on you. This inborn metabolic pattern is called Prakriti. The personality traits most prized or the qualities disliked all equally arise from these tendencies inherent in your prakriti.
Determined by the doshic state of your parents at the time of your conception, your constitution is influenced by your parents’ genetics also. And once set along with the tendencies, it cannot be altered. However, one can learn to adjust so as to reduce distortions, prevent imbalances and treat them when necessary. Also learn the whys and hows of dealing with others. Knowing your own constitution thus allows you to understand the workings of your mind and body better, thereby allowing greater control over the traits through planned and adequate changes incorporated into your lifestyle.
Test your body type
The chart given below is designed to help you assess your personal constitution. Be honest and observant and choose based on how you are not how you would like to be. Mark yourself for trends that endure and make the assessments in relation to ethnic background. Take time to reflect on the questions and remember no one is purely Vata, Pitta and Kapha. For each factor, from the options given, put a tick over the doshic description that matches what you are or have been for most of your life.And remember, that there are no right or wrong answers.
Submit to our mail . You may have a combination of prakriti there by you present with attributes that are of mixed prakritis .
Characteristics of body types
V- Voice is weak, low or cracked, speech is fast with interruptions.
P- With a loud, strong voice and precise, convincing speech
K- Pleasant, deep and resonant voice with low, slow, rhythmic speech
V- Creativity ~ Enthusiasm ~ Freedom ~ Generosity ~ Joy ~ Vitality
P- Ambition ~ Concentration ~ Confidence ~ Courage ~ Enthusiasm for knowledge ~ Happiness ~ Intelligence
K- Caring ~ Centeredness ~ Compassion ~ Contentment ~ Faith ~ Fulfillment ~ Groundedness ~ Patience ~ Sense of being nourished ~ Stability ~ Support ~ Tenderness
MENTALITY AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ATTRIBUTES
– Vata people have restless minds and weak memories.
– They avoid confrontation
– Have active and sensitive natures and express themselves through sport and creative pursuits.
– Likely to be artistic and creative with a good imagination, they will sometimes overindulge in pleasures.
– Fearful, worrisome and anxious they are into questioning, theorizing and over-analysis.
– Often dissatisfied with and unable to sustain friendships, they spend money quickly, often on trifles
– Pittas have an intellectual and precise disposition due to a very alert, focused mind
– Sharp and knife-like in anger, they are irritable, jealous and aggressive by nature.
– Discriminating and judgmental, they are articulate, learned and proud.
– With a developed sense of responsibility, they can take decisions and organize affairs well.
– Argumentative, but with a sense of humor, their selectively excellent memory makes them fast learners.
– Moderately passionate in their sexual pursuits, they spend moderately, usually on luxuries.
-Kapha predominated people are calm, steady, considerate – stable, patient personalities they are slow to anger.
-Not easily provoked, once angry they do not calm down easily.
-They are honorable, true to their word and avoid lies.
-Loyal, forgiving and understanding, they can be lethargic, even lazy, if not driven by others. –
-Learning may be slow but memory will be strong.
-Excellent in logical analysis, they take time before reaching conclusions.
-Long hours of deep sleep and a strong, enduring sex drive come naturally.
-While they do save money, it does get spent on food.
-And there can at times be an element of dullness, given that a kapha mind is usually too content to seek fresh mental stimulation.
For a better understanding of your Ayurvedic constitution and to cross-check the results of the test, listed below are the principal physical and psychological characteristics of persons with predominantly single dosha constitutions.
Physically such people are either very tall or very short, non- muscular, with thin and bony limbs and have a quick gait with short fast steps. Skin is generally thin, darkish and cool. The hair is thin, dark, coarse and either kinky or curly. The face is usually long and angular, often with an underdeveloped chin. The neck is thin and scrawny. Nose is small and narrow. May be long, crooked or asymmetrical also. Eyes tend to be small, narrow or sunken, dark brown or gray in color, with dull luster. The mouth being small, with thin, narrow or tight lips. Teeth are irregular, protruding, or broken, set in receding gums. And while the voice is weak, low or cracked, speech is fast with interruptions.
Creativity ~ Enthusiasm ~ Freedom ~ Generosity ~ Joy ~ Vitality
Vata people have restless minds and weak memories. They avoid confrontation. Have active and sensitive natures and express themselves through sport and creative pursuits. Likely to be artistic and creative with a good imagination, they will sometimes overindulge in pleasures. And are sexually the most active. Fearful, worrisome and anxious they are into questioning, theorising and over-analysis. Often dissatisfied with and unable to sustain friendships, they spend money quickly, often on trifles. With light, interrupted sleep of 5-7 hours a day.
A moderately well developed physique with mascular limbs and a purposeful, stable gait of medium speed. With a loud, strong voice and precise, convincing speech. The skin is fair, soft, lusterous, warm, and tends to burn easily in the sun – has freckles, many moles, and a tendency to rashes. And the bodies are hot and sweaty. Characterised by fine and soft, either fair or reddish hair that tends to gray soon. Face is heart-shaped, often with a pointed chin. While the neck is proportionate and of average size. A neat, pointed, and average sized nose matches the average sized eyes that are either light blue, light gray or hazel in color, with an intense luster which get red in summer or after bathing. The mouth being medium, with average lips and medium-sized, yellowish teeth.
Ambition ~ Concentration ~ Confidence ~ Courage ~ Enthusiasm for knowledge ~ Happiness ~ Intelligence
Pittas have an intellectual and precise disposition due to a very alert, focussed mind. Sharp and knife-like in anger, they are irritable, jealous and aggressive by nature. Discriminating and judgemental, they are articulate, learned and proud. With a developed sense of responsibility, they can take decisions and organise affairs well. Argumentative, but with a sense of humour, their selectively excellent memory makes them fast learners. Moderately passionate in their sexual pursuits, they spend moderately, usually on luxuries.
A thick, broad, well-developed frame and large, long limbs go well with a pleasant, deep and resonant voice with low, slow, rhythmic speech. The skin is usually thick, oily, pale or white and cold. Plentiful, thick, wavy, lusterous and generally brown hair is set on a large, rounded and full face. The neck is solid, with a near tree-trunk quality. A large, rounded nose and large, attractive, blue or light brown in color eyes are found in a mouth that is large with big, full lips. Teeth too are big and white and set in strong gums.
Caring ~ Centeredness ~ Compassion ~ Contentment ~ Faith ~ Fulfillment ~ Groundedness ~ Patience ~ Sense of being nourished ~ Stability ~ Support ~ Tenderness
Kapha predominated people are calm, steady, considerate – stable, patient personalities they are slow to anger. Not easily provoked, once angry they do not calm down easily. They are honourable, true to their word and avoid lies. Loyal, forgiving and understanding, they can be lethargic, even lazy, if not driven by others. Learning may be slow but memory will be strong. Excellent in logical analysis, they take time before reaching conclusions. Long hours of deep sleep and a strong, enduring sex drive come naturally. While they do save money, it does get spent on food. And there can at times be an element of dullness, given that a kapha mind is usually too content to seek fresh mental stimulation.
The combination of mixed characteristics signifies the mixed prakriti which are again of 3 types when we do permutation of vata , pitta & kapha viz. vata-pitta, pitta- kapha & kapha – vata .The mixed combination of all the 3 doshas may be seen very rarely & is termed as tridoshaja prakriti when all the 3 doshas are in equilibrated state.