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  • Defining Your Journey With Ayurveda To Good Health

    Defining Your Journey With Ayurveda To Good Health

    Are you in good health? This is a question that comes up often in surveys while rating yourself on a scale from poor to excellent. If you were to ask a group of people for their definitions, you would probably get a variety of opinions on the matter. Some people base their health on numbers on the scale or lab results, some by how many pounds they can bench, and some by their food choices. Many of us are striving for excellent or very good health, but what does that really mean? The answer is that health is multi-faceted and if we look back thousands of years, we can find a very good definition.

    Sushruta is regarded as the father of anatomy and surgery and defined health back in the 2nd Century A.D. as follows:  

    समदोषः समाग्निश्च समधातुमलक्रियः || 

    प्रसन्नात्मेन्द्रियमनाः स्वस्थ इत्यभिधीयते ||४२|| 

    Sama doṣaḥ samāgniśca samadhātumalakriyaḥ 

    Prasannātmendriyamanāḥ svastha ityabhidhīyate 

    I want to break this down one piece at a time, so let's talk about the first bit. Sama doṣaḥ, or balanced doshas sounds like a simple goal, right? Unfortunately, most of us are running around with one or all three doshas out of balance, and as much as we try to maintain bodily harmony, factors like food, hydration, weather, sleep, travel, or even our time of life can wreak havoc on our individual doshas, or bodily constitutions. 

    The 3 Ayurvedic Doshas to Balance your Health 

    Here is a quick refresher, or maybe an introduction to the doshas, depending on where you are in your Ayurvedic journey. The doshas are based on the elements, and each of us contains all  the elements, but in different proportions. Vāta dosha is made of air and space. Pitta dosha is comprised of fire and water, and Kapha dosha is made of earth and water. Usually, there is one prevalent dosha, while some people are dual-oshic, and in rare cases, a person might be tridoshic. It is also a possibility that one may naturally be more balanced or may more easily return to balance. (Having imbalances of each dosha does not mean that one is tridoshic). 

    One of the most beautiful aspects of Ayurveda is that this system acknowledges that each person's combination of doshas is unique and does not use generic or one-size-fits-all methods. It seeks to treat each individual based on his or her doshic makeup and imbalances. The goal is always to restore the body to a balanced state. 

    What does Balanced and Imbalanced Agni do to your Body? 

    Agni is the Sanskrit word for digestion, but it also means fire, which is the principle of digestion and transformation. Sama agni refers to balanced digestion and a healthy metabolism, and for some people, this may be a lifelong quest. Here are some basic signs of balanced and imbalanced digestion: 

    Balanced 

    Imbalanced 

      

      

    Feeling hungry for meals 

    Low or no appetite or excessive hunger 

    Feeling satisfied and energized after meals 

    Feeling sluggish after meals 

    Can eat almost any type of food 

    Very sensitive digestion/unable to process 

     a variety of foods 

    Regular and effortless daily elimination 

    Constipation/diarrhea 

    No noticeable discomfort in the GI tract 

    Abdominal pain, gas, bloating, acidity 

      

     

    Once a person recognizes that he or she has imbalanced agni, and understands which dosha or doshas are at play, they can adjust their eating habits accordingly in order to attain a more balanced digestive system. 

    Samadhatu: The Seven Dhatus in Ayurveda 

    The next part, samadhātu means balanced tissues. In Ayurveda, we learn about the seven dhātus, and each dhātu or tissue nourishes the next. This means that if any of our tissue systems are undernourished, it can affect our entire body. Here is a brief description of the dhātus: 

    Dhatu 

    Function 

    Components 

    Rasa 

    Nutrition 

    plasma, lymphatic fluid 

    Rakta 

    Life-giving 

    red blood cells 

    Mamsa 

    Covering 

    muscle 

    Meda 

    Lubrication 

    adipose tissue (fat) 

    Asthi 

    Support 

    bones and cartilage 

    Majjā 

    Filling the spaces 

    bone marrow, nerve and connective tissue 

    Shukra /Artava 

    Reproduction 

    male/female reproductive tissue 

      

    Because Ayurveda is so focused on longevity, when our tissues are nourished and balanced, we will feel healthy and strong in our entire bodies well into old age.   

    Malakriyah: Eliminating the Toxicity from Your Body 

    Malakriyah means the movement of waste. Ayurveda describes the three mala (wastes) as urine, feces, and sweat. As much as the word toxins get mixed reviews in the wellness community, Ayurveda uses the word āma to describe the toxic buildup that can occur when our body doesn't eliminate waste properly or completely and/or when agni is disturbed and undigested food is stagnant in the body. 

    According to Ayurveda, āma is the root cause of many diseases, so it's imperative that we are mindful of our digestion and elimination of wastes. Proper hydration is the best way to manage the elimination of urine, and the color and frequency of urination are the best measures of proper hydration. Clear urine is the goal, and a properly hydrated person will usually feel the urge to urinate every two to three hours.   

    Here in the West, many people are uncomfortable talking about bowel movements and the elimination of feces, but this is a huge measure of health. We don't want stagnant waste in our bodies, and Ayurveda recommends having a well-formed (banana-shaped) bowel movement every day that passes without a lot of effort or straining. Anything less is generally considered constipation. A couple of ways to help with the movement of sweat are to exercise, enjoy a steam room or sauna, or get outside during summer. It's incredible how much better a person will feel once they are able to manage this aspect of health. 

    Peace of Mind, Soul, and Senses 

    Now that we've broken down the physical processes that lead to good health, it's time to address the rest. In Sanskrit, the next word (Prasannātmendriyamanāḥ) that appears very long is a combination of three words joined together. Prasanna means peaceful and contented; ātma means self or soul, and indriya are the senses. The next word, mana, means mind. 

    This phrase describes a person who is peaceful and content in his or her mind, soul, and senses. As anyone with anxiety, insomnia, or depression can tell us, disturbances in our senses, souls and minds can lead to imbalances in our bodies and disrupt our health. It's often a vicious cycle when our mental state causes health troubles, which then leads to increased anxiety and depression, among other conditions. 

    During the ancient times when the Ayurvedic texts were written, many of the chikitsas or treatments involved yoga, meditation, and herbal remedies. In these modern times, many other avenues toward calming the mind and senses are available, in order to achieve a balanced mind, body, and soul with the goal of attaining good health. 

    Stay Healthy with Ayurveda  

    In Sanskrit sutras, the word order is quite different from the syntax that we use in the west, and the last section includes the word svastha, which means health, and the phrase ityabhidhīyate, which means "thus, is called." One way to translate this would be "A person with a balanced constitution, balanced digestion, properly formed tissues, proper elimination of wastes and whose mind, soul, and senses are peaceful, and content is called healthy." 

    Conclusion 

    This may seem like a tall order, but the science of Ayurveda encourages mindful living and moment to moment awareness. This awareness can lead us to acknowledge and correct any imbalances in our bodies toward the goal of better health and longevity. For some, it may seem overwhelming to make dietary and lifestyle changes, but sometimes even the smallest change, like drinking warm water with lemon before consuming any food or other beverages, can make a huge impact on digestion and elimination. 

    If you'd like to learn more about Ayurveda and achieving a more balanced lifestyle, please check out the all-access subscription to our wide variety of courses. 

    References

    Sharma PV. Sushruta Samhita Text With English Translation. Vol 1. Varanasi: Chaukahamba Visvabharati; 2018. The specific citation for the definition of health is annotated like this Su:Sū:15:41, meaning it's from the Sushruta Samhita, Sūtrasthāna Chapter 15 verse 41

    Written by: Heather B., a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Yoga Teacher, and a Licensed Massage Therapist. She's interested in all kinds of therapeutic/healing modalities and is one of The Ayurveda Experience's in-house Ayurvedic Practitioners. She lives in Albuquerque with her two cats and loves to cook! 

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